Monday, September 1, 2014
In The Words of Sparks...Selected Lyrics ARTBOOK | D.A.P. 2013 Catalog TamTam Books Books Exhibition Catalogues 9780985272401
In The Words of Sparks...Selected Lyrics
Published by TamTam Books
Edited by Ron Mael, Russell Mael. Introduction by Morrissey.
Sparks--the long-running duo of Ron and Russell Mael--are among the most respected songwriters of their generation, their songs ranking alongside those of Ray Davies (The Kinks having been a formative influence), George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Formed in Los Angeles in 1971, Sparks have issued over 20 albums and scored chart hits with songs such as “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us,” “Cool Places” and “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth.” While their musical style has changed dramatically over the course of 40 years--embracing the British Invasion sound of the 60s, glam rock, disco (they teamed up with Giorgio Moroder for 1979’s “No. 1 in Heaven”) and even techno--their work has consistently stretched the boundaries of pop music and the song form. Sparks continue to break new ground: they are currently working on a project with filmmaker Guy Maddin and are soon to embark on a world tour. Now, for the first time, the Mael brothers have chosen their favorite Sparks lyrics (to some 75 songs), editing and correcting them for presentation in In the Words of Sparks. As James Greer--novelist and former member of Guided by Voices--comments, “Sparks-level wordplay is a gift, and more than that, an inspiration.” This book also includes a substantial introduction by fellow Los Angeles resident and longtime fan, Morrissey.In The Words of Sparks...Selected Lyrics ARTBOOK | D.A.P. 2013 Catalog TamTam Books Books Exhibition Catalogues 9780985272401
September 1, 2014
Adolf Hitler in October 1939, signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to September 1, to his words:
“Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. med. Brandt are charged with the responsibility of enlarging the competence of certain physicians, designated by name, so that patients who, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod] after a discerning diagnosis.”
The program ran from September 1939 to August 1941, and 70,273 people were eliminated at extermination centers located at psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria. That’s the official termination of patients, unofficially there were 200,000 additional deaths.
The real issue with the authorities was how to do this with respect to economy and technology The key architect of the T-4 Euthanasia Program was Doctor Karl Brandt with great assistance from Philipp Bouhler, who actually organized and placed the system in place to eliminate the sick, the weak, the chronic alcoholic, and so forth. Like all men with a vision, he also wrote a book called “Napoleon - Kometenbahn eines Genies” (Napoleon - A Genius’s Cometary Path) Doctor Brandt was Hitler’s personal physician.
Doctor Brandt was very much influenced by a German psychiatrist named Alfred Erich Hoche, who was very much against the psychoanalysis theories of Sigmund Freud, and was renowned for his writings about eugenics and euthanasia. He believed the health of society as a whole and that its weakest citizens must be eliminated for the betterment of the entire society. So in Doctor Brandt’s mind, this means that these poor helpless creatures should be granted a merciful death. Ironically Hoche, also a published poet, was privately critical of the Nazi euthanasia program, due to a relative of his that was murdered under that program. Nevertheless, Hoache wrote that the killing of the mentally ill and what he calls “mentally or intellectually dead” since birth or early childhood is quite suitable in one’s society. Basically he believed that “the killing of patents which he claimed had neither value for society, nor for themselves should be allowed.” As quoted Hoache “that perhaps one day we will come to the conclusion that the disposal of the mentally dead is not criminally nor morally wrong, but a useful act". The one day came with the arrival of Brant and Bouhler’s Nazi euthanasia program.
First of all the act of multiple killings was a great concern for both Hitler and Brant. For Hitler, he just wanted to know “what is the most humane way?” Brandt suggested the use of poisonous gas. Bingo! The headquarters for the T4 was the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Heil- und Anstaltspflege (literally, "Charitable Foundation for Curative and Institutional Care"). In Germany, the theory of Eugenics was very popular. Basically the theory is to “advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of people with desired traits (positive eugenics), and reduced reproduction of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).” As Hitler wrote in his number one bestseller “Mein Kampf” : “He who is bodily and mentally not sound and deserving may not perpetuate this misfortune in the bodies of his children. The völkische [people's] state has to perform the most gigantic rearing-task here. One day, however, it will appear as a deed greater than the most victorious wars of our present bourgeois era. ”
What followed this was at first was compulsory sterilization for people who were chronic alcoholics, schizophrenia, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, and of course, “imbecility.” In 1939, the parents of a severely deformed child wrote to Hitler asking his permission for their child to be put to death. Hitler thought this was a reasonable request, and created the “Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congental Illnesses.” In charge was our good friend the doctor Brandt, Bouhler, and Viktor Brack. The three of them were authorized to approve applications from parents who wished to end the life of their deformed children. After awhile, the authorities totally forgot about the ‘guardian’ consent, and focused on killing children with disabilities. There was a law placed where all doctors and nurses had to report children being born with severe disabilities.
What they would do is to be contacting the parents to let them know that they must be taken to a hospital or center to receive ‘proper attention. ' They were executed by injection of toxic chemicals and then their deaths were recorded as pneumonia. Brain samples were taken during autopsies, and the parents are told that the samples will be used for medical research. A lot of the parents of the deceased felt better knowing that the program had a genuine medical purpose.
Next step was killing the adults. The first mass-killings of adults with disabilities were Poles in Poland. Then they killed or sterilized people in Germany. One well-known individual who was killed in Germany was Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler. She was a painter who suffered a nervous breakdown, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was forced to have a surgical sterilization in the Dresden-Friedrichstadt woman’s hospital with respect to the Nazi eugenicist policies. Afterwards she never painted again. She was murdered with the majority of the other patients, with the official cause of death being “pneumonia with myocardial insufficiency". In actuality, she was gassed in an institution that was once noted for its humanistic traditions.
There was concern that the German public would not accept the killing of large numbers of Germans with disabilities, so Hitler told Bouhler that “the Füher’s Chancellery” must distance itself from the actions, in case anything goes sour. There was resistance from families, and once they suspected what was happening or about to happen tried to get their family member out of the hospital or transferred to a private medical institution, where the Nazis didn’t have any pull or influence. But at the end of the day, most of the doctors agreed to co-operate with the program, due to either ignorance, or agreement with the eugenicist policy, or more likely the fear of the regime. Nevertheless, it didn’t end in a happy note.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
|"The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding" Poems by Tosh Berman. Introduction by Kristine McKenna. Afterword by Ruth Bernstein. Published by Penny-ante Editions. November 2014.|
August 31, 2014
Power. I love power. There is something so beautiful about the nature of power in that at the end of the day, all that matters is… power. The people who tend not to like power are the one’s that usually are not fit in that position or have a role in power. Also oddly enough they appeared to be getting fucked on a regular basis. They’re almost wearing a sign around their neck saying “Kick me.” But also keep in mind in the role of society, you need these pathetic people, because they will always take abuse, and on times, thank you for it. They can usually survive due that they can always find another loser among the ranks that will help them out. One thing that weak people are good at is finding other defenseless people. What they share is their hatred of those who are entitled. In fact, it is virtually a mania for these people. The more that they express their hatred for the powerful, the more powerful I get. It is just like a broken water pipe during a drought. They blame the neighbor watering his lawn too much, but meanwhile they sheeply accept the real-power-to-be and actually become bullies themselves. It never fails, in that they are totally frustrated by those who control their lives, but they will take it upon themselves to make a fellow citizen feel the blows of their world.
It is usually the huge gesture that makes the powerless feel even more powerless. Public, almost random, executions always drive them batty. They basically run back to their shabby homes and frown in front of their computers. If you overload them full of rotten images, they usually become numb to them. Excess is my perfume, for another it can smell like shit. Nevertheless my role is intended to be an entertainer of sorts. Dishing out punishment as much as favors. My philosophy consists of keeping them guessing. It is sort of like being behind a mammoth recording mixing board, and you control the sounds in that room. More vocals, but to do that you just have to lessen the cello player’s input. He or she will complain, but when the moment seems almost too bleak, throws them a bone. They’ll gobble it down with pure happiness and a sense of regret.
They say power adds a certain amount of isolation. This is true. I have put numerous prisoners through solitary confinement, and the irony is, I too put myself in that state of mind. I basically like people to have sex with, and the ability to master their lives. This gives me great comfort at the end of the day. For Love, I have assorted animals that I am quite fond of. I never mistreat an animal in my life, because I know by their nature that they will, if they are given the opportunity, eat me up. On the other hand, people reason themselves for survival and therefore rarely strike back in a consistent method. If you consistently push and push a crowd or a group, they will eventually fight back. The thing is the fact that they are so frustrated and so full of false pride, they will do something quite futile, like using a useless weapon of some sort. Once they are doing that, then I can bring the army in and crush them. Not enough to destroy them, but enough for them to experience the power of my will.
I allow elections and a governing body into my reign of ‘pleasures. ' However, I make sure that they are either voting for Heckle or Jeckle. The best policy is to ensure that each party fears the other. Therefore a voter will vote out of fear for the other person, and they will never vote for what they desire. In a democracy, even a fake one like ours, people tend to vote in a negative fashion. They fear the other politician because so-of-so, but the fact is both parties are the same thing. Which again, by the end of the day, is intended to support yours truly. All I can say is let them hate (me) so as long as they fear (me). Whatever becomes of me, it will just be my body gone, therefore, and for all purposes, I live.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
December 30, 2014
All artists aim at creating their own world. What makes them a good artist is their ability to be pleased with their vision when it now comes to life. I have consistently been intrigued with Victor Frankenstein, because he had a vision, and he failed. Decay is an interesting subject in itself. I often buy fruit, such as a banana, not to eat, but to see it die. Although technically fruits are dead when they arrive in your kitchen or at the market, but to me to see it in such a beautiful shape and then, over a short period of time, turn ugly, and ripe with goo, which is almost like blood, and it's a fascinating process for me. Frankenstein appears to be not that much into life, but more of watching the decay in action, and having that figure (his monster) commenting on the decay of life.
One of Doctor Frankenstein’s major influences was Paracelsus, who lived in Swiss Germany from 1493 to 1541. An occultist, but one who didn’t study from manuscripts, but from nature and life in front of him. He gave zinc its name, and also discovered that some diseases are rooted in psychological illness. With that inspiration, Frankenstein collected body parts from various grave yards, to see if he can bring dead tissue back to life. He eventually succeeds, but alas, his sense of the aesthetic and design was bad. The “creature” turned out ugly. Very ugly.
Seeing his invention come to life, and not to his liking, he flees the creature. In a true sense he’s the father who leaves the child, but even worse, he doesn’t provide for the creation that he created. Alone, Frankenstein’s “monster” demands that he makes him a mate, a female that he can be with. He does, but the “good” doctor destroys his creation, realizing that he started a new race. With that in mind, his monster swears that he will destroy him and anyone he comes in contact with. So what we are confronted with is revenge, stupidity, and passion to create something that wasn’t there before.
I’m often jealous that I have never created a character (besides myself) that either makes their own world, or at the very least, have some importance to the world out there. I never loved Robert Crumb, but I have consistently admired the fact that he presented a landscape that is so full of his characters, and even has a soundtrack attached to those images. Eros becomes one’s world, if they just focus and concentrate on making that world. I don’t accept a lot of his imagery, but that is perfectly fine, because one can enter or leave the entrance to one’s desire. There is always an exit, but unlike Victor Frankenstein, he didn’t make a proper exit for his invention.
The role of the dandy is to re-make the world into their own vision. This is sometimes not a workable solution, nevertheless, an adventure does come out of the process. The art of it is to embrace your creation, and feed and entwine oneself around it no matter what the cost is. For inspiration, I look upon Joan Blondell in “Gold Diggers of 1933. A citizen of the depression, she makes efforts to embrace a new career in illusion, which is the essence of show business - to make a world that really doesn’t exist, to actually exist. Every day, every hour - I work hard to exist, and I appreciate the spirit that wants to create, but again, it is the art of living. Some are masters, and some are just failures. But one can learn from both positions.
Friday, August 29, 2014
August 29, 2014
Very rarely has my father dealt with his memory of a place or time. He looked at the world as “now,” and history I think meant a lot to him, but he was a person who existed for the present. So one would never ask him what it was like being in a recording studio with Charlie Parker. My father is dead, and I’m curious to know these things now, for instance, what did Parker say or do in that recording studio in Glendale, California? To hold that much culture on one’s shoulder, one would think someone has a need to share that information. Alas, as time marches on, the faces and names get cloudy, but surely Charlie Parker is important enough to share that tib-bit of information regarding what it was like to be in a room with Charlie Parker.
It comes as no surprise that I feel like Pinkie in Graham Greene’s novel “Brighton Rock, which was also a wonderful film starring Richard Attenborough. I’m so full of anger, that I just take out - anything, anyone, anywhere. I want to destroy so I can be destroyed. My existence is so full of holes, that if you drew it on paper, you would need to have a mouse sticking his head through one of the cheese holes. Because that is what my life is like, Swiss cheese.
Then again I should relax a bit more. One thing that is important in order to live is to laugh. I sometimes forget how significant it is to be able to walk into a movie theater, hopefully a comedy, and just putting your angst aside and just laugh what’s on the big screen in front of you. What’s in back of you can wait till the film is over. The thing is, I project Pinkie’s face over everyone in the film. I laugh, but it is like swallowing air and it makes me sick to my stomach. I’m searching like a manic that there is some humor, either being said, or implied. For all I care they could be showing “Night and Fog” and I would be laughing my head off. I sit in the theater and I feel my scar on my cheek. I remember when I got into the fight, and he slashed my cheek. It didn’t hurt for some reason, and when I went into the bathroom to examine the wound, I was intrigued by the cleanness of the cut. I took my thumb and little finger on my right hand, and open the cut to see if blood would come out. It reminded me of a woman’s vagina, as I opened and closed the wound on my face. Thinking about the cut on my cheek in those terms made the pain bearable. It seemed like it didn’t happen. I often dream at night that I have a loose front tooth, or an open scar on my body that is bleeding in front of the public, and when I wake-up, I feel that those physical dreams are quite real. It takes me at least five minutes to recognize that I was dreaming and the fact is that I don’t have a loose tooth or a scar on my cheek. Yet, I play with my cheek, thinking that I have such a scar.
I wonder at times if I’m actually here or not. I often felt that I’m in someone else’s dream or vision of a life that is not exactly mine. Perhaps Charlie Parker didn’t exist, nor did my father. I feel I have seen something, and I can remember the scent of my father’s shaving cologne, but as one gets older the senses get duller, and you eventually just have a memory of having the experience of smelling such a scent. I imagine Joan of Arc, who heard voices from another world, as she knew the game was up, and had to face the bonfire, that she had no choice but to follow the voice that came within, and surely not from another source outside her body. At the very least, I have the physical copy of the album cover that my father did for Dial Records, which is the first time Charlie Parker has appeared on a disk. That’s real, and my memories are really a movie, as if it was directed and written by Preston Sturges.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
August 28, 2014
Some days I wake up in the morning and I just can’t bear the world -mine, their’s and yours. I remember seeing there was a commercial on TV many years ago when the adult, in bed, woke up with a smile on his face, due to the smell of fresh coffee being made or a bowl of cereal waiting for him in the kitchen. I never had that type of morning. Instead I get a wave of anxiety that I just have to set aside, or I will never get out of bed. In a way I live in separate compartments, where one room is total despair, and I have to suck that feeling out of that space and put it aside or put it in another part of my brain. There is something wrong when one wakes up and is in a moment or two of pure panic. What I feel is “knowing is not enough; we must apply. "Willing is not enough; we must do. Generally I do not give in too much to feelings. An overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth. ”
Every morning I do an inventory of everything I did badly the previous day. One horrible blunder after another. As a child, I remember we had a statue of a female in our backyard. I would spend a great deal of time touching her face, feeling that somehow I could capture the emotion she’s expressing, but also I was drawn to the coldness of the marble. It would give me comfort, and when no one was around, I would embrace the statue and just stand there with my arms wrapped around its head. At times, I could have sworn that her marble face would change an expression. Either it was unmoving and non-judgmental, or it could have a faint smile on her lips. “Raising a child is a creative endeavor, an art rather than a science.” This is exactly how I was raised, and I grasp anything that will keep me on balance in a world that has pits, holes, and rings of fire at every step.
The Velvet’s “White Light White Heat” maybe the greatest song ever. Every time I put it on my turntable, I can feel the power of the words taking me to another place, but yet, I’m totally aware that I’m still here, in a place that has no room for me. I like to read fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, because I think they put the reader right in the front of a headlight of an oncoming car, and I think any child would learn to jump away from the blinding light. I tend to embrace the light, and I think it is one of the reasons why I love the song “White Light White Heat.”
I learn lessons from all my mistakes, yet I can’t correct anything. Basically I hit the side of my head and go ‘Hey dummy, ’ but that’s about it. My life is like holding a bowl of burning flaming liquid on the top of my head, and I’m just trying to avoid all the sink holes on the ground. I just want to contain everything I have, and not spill it out on the pavement in front of me. But most of all, I just want to rock. And. Roll.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
August 27, 2014
They are having a double-bill at the Beverly theater tonight, showing “Rock, Rock, Rock” and “Play It As It Lays.” Both films starring Tuesday Weld, who I first saw in the TV show “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” To this day the perfect little squeeze for me. I have a tendency to date women who look like Tuesday, because she’s my ideal beauty. There’s the icy blonde, and then there is the blonde who can raise the temperature of your coffee, just by being there in that room. There is something vulnerable about her, and I imagine that she is socially awkward in social gatherings. I can see myself parked in a car by her apartment, and talking about things with her. I would want to embrace her, but I know that would be wrong. Well, this is all in my head. Nevertheless I have had relationships with women who very much look like Tuesday.
Each man has their “type” and where that comes from is a very mysterious place. To be honest, my feelings for that type are always visual to me. It is not due to if she’s smart or interesting, but more to do with the thickness of her lips, and how her blonde hair flows over her eyes or not. My obsession once hit a peak, when I was going on a date with a girl who had dark hair. I bought her a blonde wig, and asked her to watch various Tuesday films, to see if she could imitate her. The fact that she’s “fake” made the sex with her very exciting to me. Of course a relationship like that, can’t possibly last long. But for me, it is not just the length of time, but the quality - and even now, when I think back, I smile.
Having this private obsession, I tend to ‘smell’ out others who may share my obsession with a certain type of woman. I don’t have any serious money, but I like to collect art books by Man Ray. Both his sculptures, paintings and especially his photographs. But to be honest what I love most about him is his taste of women. Lee Miller, Kiki, and of course his wife was all beautiful, and more than that, incredibly sexy. Over the years I have purchased books with respect to his photography, and I cut out the images of women he photographed. I would think that he had sexual relationship with every girl he photographed, no? What I did was to collect the images and put it in a scrapbook, that I hand-made by myself. Whenever I look through this scrapbook, I would get such an erotic charge. It is like the image is coming off the paper and grabbing my genitals.
Also I was intrigued by Man Ray, because in a sense he made his character up. I find that fascinating especially when you throw in sexual identity in the mix. I often wonder if I made up my desire for Tuesday Weld, or it somehow came naturally, which thinking now, must be impossible. I’m intrigued by people who go out with the same looking people, or they have a precise physical requirement - for instance they must be blonde or redhead and so forth. I don’t know where or when my identity started. I don’t think it came naturally. It was more of a choice of some sort. But where did that ability to make choices come from?
Like Man Ray, I also take an interest in mechanics and how things can work. As a hobby I made myself a rhythmicon, which is basically the first electronic drum machine. The composer Henry Cowell invented it with Léon Theremin, with the hopes of using it for his music. It can use 16 different rhythms and I find it fascinating to build something from nothing and then having it become something. Imagination can lead one to new ways of looking at the world, yet I didn’t alter the machine whosoever. I kept the same model as Cowell and Theremin, because I wanted to be in their shoes. I didn’t want something that I made-up, but borrowed. For me, desire is what I know. The more I know it, the more control I have over it. I’m going to enjoy the Tueday Weld double-bill.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
August 26, 2014
I wrote a perfect book of poems called “The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding” 25 years ago, and for the life (or death) of me I can’t write another poem since then. The truth is the fact that it took me years to get to the point in writing that book, which didn’t take that long for me to write. Maybe in six months? I wrote most, if not all, while I was in Moji-Ko, Japan. What excites me about poetry is the intensity of both the practice and the form. It’s a snapshot of the world, where one doesn’t have to continue to worry about narration. All my early poems were in a sense the basis of the poetry in the Plum book. It didn’t happen, but I had to go through the process of writing every day in countless notebooks, to get to the point, where it made sense to me. It is equally odd that I had to leave my country to focus on my language. Which is exactly what happened when I was in Japan.
I couldn’t speak a word of Japanese, yet I made sure that I kept as far away as I can from the English language. The distance from my own language and country made me super aware of my limitations, which acted out as an inspiration for the Plum book. Yet, I did have a mass-market English dictionary, which also had a small atlas in the back of the book. With that as a guide, I plunge myself into writing “The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding. ”
My most useful tool is my memory. The beauty of it is the fact that it doesn’t have to be a correct memory. In actually, I prefer the act of memory, and somehow get the facts wrong. Some years ago, I read Jules Romains’ “Donogoo Tonka or The Miracles of Science” which had a huge effect on me, due that the location of a city in South America was totally made up by the author. For me, a writer needs to be bigger than life. When I was a teenager, I discovered Guillaume Apolliinaire, because I like the fact that he was writing poetry in such a fashion, that was so ‘new. ' To honor him and his work, I tried to write a poem from my memory, but alas not having the book in Japan, I had to re-invent the work. A lot of my poems are really is my memory working to remember a piece of literature, or if it is something first-hand, such a conversation, then it is trying to remember what that person said. If I was a journalist, I would be a total disaster, but as a poet, every accident becomes a port hole to another world.
Collecting art to me is a form of writing poetry. Just not on paper. I was very impressed with Peggy Guggenheim, because here is a woman who made her world, in her own fashion. Combining the artists and their work and having it contained in a location is a must. Art lives on no matter what, but with the focus of how one displays that work, and with another artist, it becomes a dialogue of sorts. Writing poetry works the same way for me. I choose words that hopefully will go together, not to make a specific sense, but actually to bring one’s imagination into focus. As much as possible I want to avoid the real world and what I want to do is make it into an artificial paradise. To mis-phrase Donald Rumsfeld: “There are things out there, that we do know, but it is the unknown we need to know, and what we know, is not really knowledge, but a slight misunderstanding on what we think we know. ”
When I saw the film “Blow Up” I was struck by how easy reality can be altered by another medium - for instance in that film, with the camera. Writing poetry serves the same purpose in that one is not recording what’s real, but what’s the subjective view of that world. With that in thought, I’m a freed man.
Monday, August 25, 2014
August 25, 2014
Every August 25, I fly to London for a meeting with my fellow birthday citizens. It was started some years back by Sean Connery, and since he’s the oldest among us, he’s the one that organizes the event. Basically it’s a dinner with only men who are born on August 25 and who are well-known in their fields of interest. Right now it is very much a small club, which consists of Wayne Shorter, me, Elvis Costello (we’re actually born the same time), Regis Philbin, Frederick Forsyth, Martin Amis, Tim Burton, and the head member of the group Belle & Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch. Sean does a good job in organizing us to have dinner on our birthday, considering that all of us are busy people, but somehow when Sean says “come to dinner,” well, we never turn his invitation down. I’ve been going since I was 23. Now I’m turning 60. As well as Elvis.
It’s a weird group of men in the room when we get together. Otherwise, there is no absolute reason why we would or even want to get together. Sometimes I feel that Sean is secretly laughing at us, for going to our birthday dinner, without our family, for decades now. Time-to-time I believe that it is nothing but a power play on his part and we never discussed this within the group, but I have secretly kept this opinion to myself for years. My wife and other family members have been upset at me for years by leaving them due to the date of my birth. None of us in the August 25 group can say no to Sean Connery. For me, I think it's due to the fact that my father used to take me to see Sean in the Bond films at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. As one gets older, memory becomes more of a shadow, but I deeply remember my dad and I seeing films like "From Russia With Love,"' Goldfinger" and so forth. He always made the point to take me on the very first screening of the film, which at that time was around 11:30 in the morning. It was a ritual between me and my dad.
Oddly enough, one would think I would feel closer to Elvis, if nothing else, due that we were born at the same time and moment. But that fact has done nothing except the emotion of jealousy has crept up on us over the years. This is something that Sean has noticed, and he likes to make fun of us. I can see that it really upsets Elvis, and I just say nothing. The one I feel most closest to is actually Martin, because we are both writers, and both of us have well-known fathers. It is difficult for the son to make his mark on the world, when you have a famous and well-liked father. For him, it is probably tougher, because his father, Amis, was a very successful writer. My dad, Wallace, was a visual artist, so at the very least I never had to compete in the same category as him.
The other writer in the group is Frederick Forsyth, and he’s quite different from Martin and me. He wrote major bestsellers such as “The Day of the Jackal” and “The Fourth Protocol” that is good adventure or suspense novels, and it seems he is very close to Sean. Both Martin and I feel that Sean has probably never read our books, which over time, we both think that’s odd. Perhaps even an insult. Almost every dinner, on our birthday, Sean went out of his way in complementing Frederick’s work, without ever mentioning my writings or Martin’s.
And I feel kind of sorry for Regis, who I think is quite brilliant in being himself in front of a TV camera. Funny enough, I can at times feel more comfortable in front of a camera as well. I did a series of shows called “Tosh Talks, ” where I just ramble on about books. A lot of people hate the show, but for me, it is just a technique for me to say something about what I love in front of an (imaginative) audience. When I do the show, I often think of Regis Philbin, and that puts me in a groove when my assistant starts taping me. Nothing is planned, and I really like that. As the Joker in the last Batman film said:
“Do I really look like a man with a plan? I don't have a plan. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. you know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught one. I just DO things. I'm a wrench in the gears. I HATE plans. Yours, theirs, everyone's. I AM AN AGENT OF CHAOS. And you know the thing about chaos. It's fair.”
So with that in mind I do the shows, and I have read Regis’ two books (both have brilliant titles) “I’m Only One Man!” and “Who Wants To Be Me? When I read them, just for the titles alone, I thought for sure I must have written them. I don’t feel that way with Martin and Frederick’s works, but still, even keeping Regis in mind, why do I go to Sean’s birthday dinner?
Tim Burton, Wayne Shorter and Stuart both stand out, because I have the impression that they don’t care what Sean thinks of them. For them, it is just an amusement in itself, where Martin and the others take it very seriously. I think back what the Joker has said, and at times I really hate myself to be in a world of Sean’s making, and I even start to resent that I share my birthday with him, and on top of that, when I do think of my birthday, I firstly think of him. When Sean started to compliment Stuart by saying he’s the sound of young Scotland, me and Elvis briefly looked across the table at each other, but once our eyes made contact, we both looked away.
I just want to make acknowledgment to the participants:
Sean Connery: 83
Wayne Shorter: 81
Frederick Forsyth: 76
Martin Amis: 65
Tosh Berman: 60
Elvis Costello: 60
Tim Burton: 56
Stuart Murdock: 46
Sunday, August 24, 2014
The late and great Gilles Verlant's magnificent biography on French genius songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Truly one of the great pop music figures on this sorry planet. Verlant spent over 100 hours interviewing Serge as well as doing interviews with all those around him, including iconic figures in the French music and film world. Not only an essential book on Gainsbourg, but also the showbiz world in France from the 1950s to the 1990s. This is the best book on the world of French pop. - Tosh Berman, Publisher TamTam Books
Gainsbourg: The Biography
Published by TamTam Books
By Gilles Verlant. Translated by Paul Knobloch.
When Serge Gainsbourg died in 1991, France went into mourning: François Mitterand himself proclaimed him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire.” Gainsbourg redefined French pop, from his beginnings as cynical chansonnier and mambo-influenced jazz artist to the ironic “yé-yé” beat and lush orchestration of his 1960s work to his launching of French reggae in the 1970s to the electric funk and disco of his last albums. But mourned as much as his music was Gainsbourg the man: the self-proclaimed ugly lover of such beauties as Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, the iconic provocateur whose heavy-breathing “Je t’aime moi non plus” was banned from airwaves throughout Europe and whose reggae version of the “Marseillais” earned him death threats from the right, and the dirty-old-boy wordsmith who could slip double-entendres about oral sex into the lyrics of a teenybopper ditty and make a crude sexual proposition to Whitney Houston on live television.
Gilles Verlant’s biography of Gainsbourg is the best and most authoritative in any language. Drawing from numerous interviews and their own friendship, Verlant provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of 1950s–1990s French pop culture and the conflicted and driven songwriter, actor, director and author that emerged from it: the young boy wearing a yellow star during the German Occupation; the young art student trying to woo Tolstoy’s granddaughter; the musical collaborator of Petula Clark, Juliette Greco and Sly and Robbie; the seasoned composer of the Lolita of pop albums, Histoire de Melody Nelson; the cultural icon who transformed scandal and song into a new form of delirium.
Gainsbourg The Biography ARTBOOK | D.A.P. 2012 Catalog TamTam Books Books Exhibition Catalogues 9780966234671
"Death cancels all engagements.” Thank God for that. Because I really don't want to go to the party tomorrow. I heard from reliable sources that she will be there. For this entire month, I pretty much hide myself in my study/office/library to avoid most if not all people. Luckly the bathroom is just around the corner from my office, so I don’t really have to look at anyone. I have a game that I play with dice. Every morning I throw the dice against the bookcase, and if the number twelve comes up, then I don’t do anything foolish that day.
To be perfectly frank, I can spend my entire life in my study with my books. I’m intrigued what’s happening outside my world, but I prefer that I read about it, than participate with the outside world, because I don’t see the point in having an one-on-one relationship with a landscape that is so hostile to my way of thinking. Even seeing a man walking down the street with the wrong type of pants can cause me a depression. Even when I walk in my neighborhood and watch, which seem like a painfully slow motion film, the construction of the new apartment condos on the corner of Waverly and Glendale, causes me a migraine.
There is a woman who will be invited to the party tomorrow, that I must avoid at all costs. Her name is Zuleika Dobson, and it seems she welcomes the suicides of men who are obsessed with her. She’s not even pretty, which everyone can gather is less than beautiful, but still, she seems to hold an influence over men who fail to think for themselves. It feels so odd to meet a woman who is actually sexually turned by a suitor’s suicide or suicide attempt. I just have to admit that for amusement sake, I would love to see her in a landscape where I can see men just falling on top of each other just to light her cigarette. When I met her, she seemed to obtain unlimited enjoyment of blowing smoke towards my face. I never liked her, but I wanted to have sex with her.
One time she came to my home, and met me in my library and office. As she was making small talk, she went to my bookshelves and started to pull a book here and there, and that drove me insane. She pulled my collected stories by Jorge Luis Borges off the shelf, read a random page, and commented to me: ‘Hmmm.” She then threw the book on my desk, at the same time she went hunting for another volume of something another, and I kept wondering if her hands were clean. I can’t stand people touching my books, especially a woman like her, who God knows exactly where she had put her hands on. I knew some of her conquests, at least the one’s that are still alive, and I avoid making physical contact, or to be specific, to shake her hand, because I immediately think ‘Oh God she touched so-so’s cock.” Worst yet, I couldn’t bare the thought of looking at her mouth, knowing that so-so’s penis was in that hole below her nose.
I have a small portable turntable in my library and I put on an album by Léo Ferré “Les Chansons d’Aragon” which usually drives certain people nuts, but she seemed to like the recording. She is a woman of taste, but it is the kind of taste that chews one up, and then spitted out against a filthy toilet. While in my room she toyed with me like I was a yoyo and that I was the string that couldn’t come back, due to the lack of strength, to the two disks. I literally held my breath till she left.
It is not obvious to me why I have to go to this party tomorrow. I was told that there was a specific theme to the party, and it deals with that there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. Also the host (hint, hint, the current beau of Zuleika) plans to show his favorite episodes of “60 Minutes.” Also to honor certain guests where 60 is the age for senior citizens in some cultures. I do hope to the powers above me will give me a swift and dignified death before tomorrow.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
August 23, 2014
When I was writing my book on Sparks, which is also a travel journal as well as a memoir of sorts in London, I would always sit on the top deck of the bus and would take the one route that will take me down Albany Street on route to Angel Station in Islington. I would pass the blue plaque for the British composer Constant Lambert, whose music I don’t find interesting whatsoever. What I do find fascinating about the composer is his alcoholism and fear of doctors. Also the fact that he had trouble composing music, so therefore in my category of Heroes: The great failures of their time. I think his greatest contribution, besides his lifestyle and wit, was the fact that his son was Kit Lambert, who was the co-manager (along with Chris Stamp) and record producer of The Who. 197 Albany Street was the last address for Constant, who died in 1951. He lived at this address from 1947 till his death. For me, those were the crucial years of London. Recovering from the war and the ill (and long recovery effects of that war) I think produced great literature as well as art in London. Constant wasn’t a great artist, a skilled one yes, but his genius lies in his life as well as a critic. He has commented that “the whole trouble with a folk song is that once you have played it though there is nothing much you can do except play it over again and play it rather louder. ”
Which to me pretty much describes the nature of rock n’ roll as well as folk music. It is one of the main reasons why I love it so, and not so much Lambert’s music. The world falls apart and yet one can depend on the nature of the rock, that it won’t fail you. In the 1980s, I was pretty much in awe of the band Orange Juice. My first impression is not the music, but their name. I thought it was (and still is) a brilliant name for a band, or even a novel or a poem. The first thing it makes me think of is Frank O’Hara, for no reason, except he brings up an object or a food and he takes off from that and goes into another part of the brain. The lead writer for Orange Juice was Edywn Collins, who was/is an incredible lyricist and as a young man, quite stunning looking. At the time, I took great pride in not owning any albums, whose band names I didn’t like, or their haircut. Very surfaced of me, but I find the surface actually tells a lot about a person. He had one huge mega-hit as a solo singer called “A Girl Like You” which has a great lyric (of course) “This old town’s changed so much/Don’t feel like I belong/To many protest singers/Not enough protest songs.” Or from “Consolation Prize, ” “I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn’s/I was hoping to impress/So frightfully camp, it made you laugh/Tomorrow I’ll buy myself a dress/How ludicrous.” At that time in my life (I was in my 20s) I was more like 17, due to my sense of identity, which honestly (and no one else either) could take seriously.
When I looked in the mirror I tried to imagine myself as Gene Kelly, but the (obvious) truth was that I was fat. But still, I think of Kelly as a role model due that he was recognized as a hard worker who was tough if you don’t follow his stance, which to go for perfection. To be fair, I didn’t go for perfection, either in my writing or physique, instead, I went a notch or two down from perfection. Adequate would be a satisfactory description for yours truly. Still, in my deepest depression, I would dance in the rain and my ability to jump over fire hydrants, usually caused a skinned knee here and there. Oddly enough I would be caught in the rain, while walking around Islington to wait for the Sparks show at the theater.
What I have in common with Lambert, Collins, and Gene is that I attempt to learn from my peers to do better and not follow their footsteps to specific disasters. But no one can be your driver or pilot. At best, you can drive your own car, and have the guidance of the angels to make sure you make it to your destination.
Friday, August 22, 2014
August 22, 2014
Without a doubt, the most impressive meeting I ever had was with the Japanese Cannibal Issei Sagawa. In 1981, he murdered and cannibalized a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt in Paris, while he was a student at the Sorbonne. He invited her over to his apartment for dinner, with plans to translate German poetry for a class. What he did was shot her in the neck, killing her, and then carried out his plan to eat her. After having sex with the corpse, and for over two days, Sagawa ate various parts of her body. He was discovered by the police when he attempted to dump the mutilated body in a remote lake. The police later that day found parts of the body in his refrigerator.
After two years being held in Paris without trial, Sagawa was deemed legally insane and unfit to stand trial by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who himself is quite an interesting character. As an investigating magistrate, he became famous for battling anti-terrorism, specifically the far-lett group Action Directe. He eventually captured the notorious terrorist Carlos (the Jackal). In 2007, he left his occupation as a magistrate to work and support the Nicolas Sarkozy presidential election. Meanwhile, Sagawa was admitted to a mental institution in France, but eventually the French authorities took the decision to have him extradited to Japan. Once he got to Japan, he was sent to Matsuzawa Hospital, where he was examined, and all the psychologists found him to be sane. The Japanese authorities found it impossible to detain him because the French declined to release the court documents on the case. Technically his case was dropped in France. Therefore on August 12, 1986, he checked himself out of the mental institution.
Sagawa’s interest in killing and eating the girl was because she was healthy and beautiful. He, on the other hand, is ugly and slightly deformed. He was quoted as saying that he is a "weak, ugly, and inadequate little man." By eating her, he claimed that he wanted to “absorb her energy.” Sagawa not only killed a girl, but also destroyed his family as well. He is from a wealthy and loving family, but due to his crime, the father and mother lost their wealth and standing in the Japanese community as well as ruining any hope or chance for his brother to obtain marriage. As for Sagawa, as a writer, he couldn’t find a publisher for his writing and has been rejected from over 500 different places of employment. When his parents died in 2005, he was not permitted to attend to their funeral. He did repay their creditors over time, and eventually moved into public housing. It was during this time when I met Sagawa.
My wife and our friend were invited over to his apartment for lunch. It was his birthday that day, and I was asked to go along. I have heard of him of course, but I was totally repelled at the thought of meeting him. Yet, at the same time, I was deeply intrigued with his narrative. Once Sagawa was released he became well-known as a person to interview, if one wants to know the inside brain of a psychotic killer. He could articulate his own crime as well, because he has full knowledge of what he did, and doesn’t blame society, parents, family for his crime. It is all due to his sexual fantasy as well as his self-hatred for himself due to his unhealthy body. He became such a celebrity in Tokyo, that he actually ended up as a food critic for Spa Magazine. Nothing can last occupation wise for him, and the only thing he does have, is his skill as a writer. He wrote two books on his crime. One volume is about the murder itself, and the second book, which I think I would find more interesting, is what happened afterwards. With great temptation, I agreed to go with my wife and friend to his house.
It took awhile to get to his two bedroom apartment in the Tokyo area. Through out the train trip, I was very nervous about meeting him, and even more so, because lunch was going to be served. Once I got there, the first thing I notice is that he had a “welcome” mat by the front door. I knocked, and he answered the door. My friend introduced me and my wife to him. We shook hands, and invited us in. After taking off our shoes, we were led to his front room, which was interesting. By his front table, I noticed a dog sleeping, because you can see it was breathing. It took me a minute or two to realize that this wasn’t a living dog, but a dog-sized doll that is always sleeping. That slightly un-nerved me. Once we took a place on his couch, he sat right by me. He was totally focused on me, because he wanted to speak English and he was very interested in the Obama campaign at the time. I thought to myself “I hope to God no one knows that he’s a Obama fan.”
There were about five or six people in the house, and it was a small birthday party for him. There was a discussion about food, and there was none in the house. It was agreed that everyone will go to the local market as well as the nearby KFC outlet and bring food back. I was told to stay in the house with Sagawa and keep him company. Once everyone left the house, and I heard the door shut behind them, I felt very uneasy with him. Sagawa is a very charming man, and he noticed my behavior, which I tried to hide, but obviously failing in doing so. He offered to give me a tour of his apartment. In his living room, he had a sizable collection of first edition copies of Yasunari Kawabata’s work. He told me that he went to the Soborne to hopefully translate his works into French. To this day, he has a passionate interest in Kawabata’s writings. Also he had a collection of 19th century French dolls, which were displayed all over the apartment. He then took me to his bedroom.
Sagawa had a lot of things in his bedroom. On the floor he had straight porn mags, and then when you look at his wall, he has images that are carefully curated in sections. First row was pictures of cats and dogs, but photographed with brightly colored bows around their necks. After that, a series of images of J-Pop female teen idols. They appear to have been carefully cut out of fan magazines. Then there is a section of the wall that is devoted to the German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Basically prints of her underwater photographs. Also an autographed self-portrait of Leni, during her world war ll years, scribed to Sagawa. Then after that a series of photographed portraits of numerous German conductors. Sagawa has a great love for German orchestration and no surprise, is a huge fan of Wagner’s music. He's clearly not a fan of Debussy or a modernist like Stockhausen. Looking back now, I don’t think I have ever been to a more fascinating bedroom than Sagawa’s room. In one tiny area of his apartment, I caught the drift of his personality and passions.
Before the other guests came back, he told me that if “the crime” or “incident” didn’t happen, he more likely would be teaching at an all-girl university. When he told me that, I just froze. Thirty seconds later he said to me that unfortunately each student would disappear one-by-one. At that point, I was just trying to show no emotion on my face. He gently hit me on the shoulder, and said he was only kidding. To release his stress, he tells me that his humor is quite dark at times. Also he did so to make me feel more comfortable in his presence. The truth is, Sagawa at least that afternoon, was totally charming. Clearly he was interested in me due that I’m a publisher, and my wife did read his two books, and she told me that they were incredible.
What’s interesting to me about Sagawa is not the crime he committed, but what happens after such a hideous act of violence. After one crosses that line, how does one live. For me it is not a guilt issue or how society sees that person, but more of a situation where all your life you are led to a specific act, and once you have done it, how can one go back to a “normal” life. I think Sagawa clearly thought that once he got arrested, the narration will end there. But alas, life is so full of twist and turns, and it is difficult to navigate one’s fate or direction in a world that is clearly insane. For myself, I usually turn to George Herriman’s great comic strip “Krazy Kat, ” which is about a non-gender cat, a puppy who is a cop, and a no-good mouse. As the landscape changes on a consistent basis in the comic strip, I imagine Sagawa is too traveling in a world of his making, but in a world or landscape that consistently changes, due to its mood. What should have ended for him, to be frank didn't. Clearly and without a doubt, the most fascinating man I have ever met in person is Issei Sagawa
Thursday, August 21, 2014
August 21, 2014
“To you that have grown rich from the sweat of my brow while keeping myself and my family in misery, I ask only that from those profits you find the funds to pay for my funeral. I salute you while I break my pen.” - Emilio Salgari.
After writing that note to his publisher, he committed seppuku, which is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. It’s a fascinating end of a writer who dedicated his life to writing “exotic” adventure stories. All of his books were written in Italian, and were then the basis for such genre as the “Italian Western,” which I guess means it’s all fake. He had commented throughout his life that he traveled widely, but the fact is Salgari rarely steps outside of his native country of Italy. What he should be noted for is using his imagination, and how that broke through various walls and boundaries, either set by borders or the wall that we all adhere to. It wasn’t a mere chance or a fluke in time that Che Guevara read 62 of his books, with such titles as “The Mystery of The Black Jungle” and “The Son of the Red Corsair” among others.
Salgari, for whatever reasons, lived from hand to mouth for most of his life. His father committed suicide. His wife was committed to a mental ward, and he had to support four young children as well as paying for his wife’s medical bills. His imagination didn’t save him, and sadly it didn’t pay well. Sometimes one is born under a black cloud, and there is nothing we can do to break that cloud’s grasp of everything underneath it.
Some years ago I read a really dark novel called “The Bad Seed,” (published in the year of my birth) which is about a little girl, who is truly evil, and it deals with a mother who realizes that her little cute daughter is a murderer. The only way she can address this situation is by giving the daughter a whole bottle of sleeping pills, while mother kills herself with a gun. Of course, the daughter survives, and it is implied that she will eventually kill more people. A bad seed, due that the mother’s real mom was a serial killer. So she had no doubt that somehow there is a “bad seed” and she transformed it to her daughter. I think one can gather that there is no justice in the world, because if you look at the emotional landscape objectively, one notice that shit happens all the time.
The “black cloud” that follows me around, is something that I just accept. I can put up with it, because instead of focusing on that one tree, I look at the forest for encouragement. If there is one school of thought that I belong to with all my heart and mind it is Aestheticism. I’m a firm believer in an art movement that emphasizes aesthetic values more than social-political themes for fine art, music and especially literature. Hell, even ‘real life’ has no source of inspiration or passion for me. I prefer the illusionary powers of art, by such artists as Aubrey Beardsley. He said: "I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque, I am nothing." I find that inspirational, because how one reflects their will or vision on the world, is a great deal the role of the artist.
As a writer, I pretty much distance myself from the horrors of the world, or I use my imagination. More likely I take real life and make a détournement (hijack) and therefore I use it for my own needs and desire. Like Salgari who traveled the world within his own boundaries, such as his imagination, I have a tendency to avoid the evil that is born under that black cloud. What I do is squeeze the darkness out of the cloud till it becomes a white puff of liquid droplets. I do this because I can, and I desire to do so.