Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014

Basically it has been all downhill since Abraham Lincoln died. Some declare that it was the John F. Kennedy assassination, but for me, it’s Lincoln’s death that has caused me a great deal of depression and regret.  Which is strange, because surely I wasn’t even alive when Lincoln died, but still, sentiment is sentiment and it’s hard to lose that feeling of disappointment.  Friends (the few I have) have commented that I’m such a sad boy, but in actuality I do find enjoyment in the little things in life, for instance I think back to my first real love, Lita.

We were briefly married, but it didn’t last long.  Mostly due that we didn’t share any interests, besides the sex.  When I married her, I was 35, and she was 16.  It caused a scandal at the time within our social world, but in my point of view, love is love, and it is really no one else’s business besides ours.  But alas, in our world, we don’t maintain on love alone.  When I first met her she was employed in the May Company make-up counter, and at the time, I was very much into the new romantic look, so I would shop for my make-up there.  The look I was going for was the Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Tramp’ look.  I didn’t have the mustache, but I did purchase this old suit and I carried a walking stick with me at all times.  When I walked around the make-up section, I felt like Alex from “A Clockwork Orange, ” with my cane resting on my shoulders as I peacefully paced around the area.

Lita showed me eye make-up, and when she got around the counter to my side of the world, I felt a charge when she applied the eye liner around my eyes.   I grabbed her hand and then asked her if she would go on a date with me.  She said yes, and I swear to God, I didn’t know her age at the time.  Her ability to wear make-up totally made her look older than her actual age, but still, my history shows that this is not the case.

I have not previously been comfortable with women within my age bracket.  I’m not sure why?  I think it may have to do with the way young people look at the world.  Some are sad, and most naively so. But for me the depression at my age is quite crippling, and this is one of the reasons why I was attracted to the presence of men wearing make-up.  I wanted to disguise my aging, or at the very least, have the ability to laugh at the cruelty of the aging process.  In my twenties, I never even thought about it, but once I reached thirty, it became a huge concern of mine.  Younger girls always were attracted to me, and it may be due to my interest in their culture.   But who knows?  I never seriously considered ‘why’ they would be interested in me.  I was only grateful that I got the attention that I desperately needed.

When we got married in Mexico I was concerned what her parents would think, but it seemed at the time that my new bride could care less what they thought, and that made me happy at that specific time.  Nevertheless, time caught up with us, and we realize that perhaps the marriage was a mistake.   I remember taking her to the Egptian theater to see Chaplin’s “Gold Rush, ” which by the way, has always been a favorite of mine. Since childhood, when I saw this film on a morning TV show, I developed a crush on his leading lady at the time.  It never left me that feeling, and it was after the screening that I told Lita that it is perhaps best for us to obtain a divorce.

As I sit down trying to work on a book about Lincoln, I am thinking back about our marriage, which surprises me that I don’t even have a photograph of Lita or any of the possessions that we or I owned at the time.  I gave her everything, and once the papers were signed I never saw her again.   As with the make-up, I still add a little rouge here and there, and in the night, once in bed, I do think of my health, or lack of it, as time marches on.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14, 2014

April 14, 2014

I haven’t mentioned this to anyone, but it seems I’m a sleepwalker.   For the past two years, and this happens maybe twice a year, so we’re talking about at least four times, I found myself getting out of bed sometime in the dead of night, and walking down my hill to Astro diner on Fletcher where it meets Glendale boulevard.   I have no memory of this, but I did talk to people who had witnessed me in this state.

It seems I do the same thing all the time.  I either go into the counter and sit, with a daze look over my eyes, or even worst, I tend to sit down at a booth when it is either full of people, or just two people in the area.  I have been made aware that I always go to the same seat.  One time at the counter, I was trying to sit on a seat that is already occupied by a customer.  It seemed that I was trying to sit on his lap.  Or if it is in a booth, I basically sat down and pushed the other person aside.  Either way one looks at this, I tend to go into a booth that is full of police officers from the K9 unit. Not once have they woke me up, and they just usually contact the management there.  The odd thing is I never woke up.   The waitress who works at Astro, knows me slightly and she also knows where I live.   The only saving grace is that my wife notices when I’m gone, and comes after me to take me home.  She then directs me back to bed, and then I sleep normally.  By morning, when I woke up, I have no memory of the previous night walk.

Freud once commented that sleepwalking is fulfilling sexual wishes or at the very least, a desire to go to sleep in the same area as the individual slept in childhood.  As far as I know, I never slept at Astro’s diner as a child, and my first visit there was as a teenager.  But alas, that’s not true!  My mom told me yesterday that we as a family used to go to Astro’s a lot, and mostly in the late evening.   As a child, I would always fall asleep there after eating an apple pie and then laid my head on my mom’s lap.  My mom indicated to me that it was a real pain to wake me up from my nap at Astro’s, that they finally decided that maybe it isn’t a great idea to take me there in the late evening.  Nevertheless, I have no memory of any of this.  What my memory tells me is that I went there as a teenager, and I had for sure had a strong crush on one of the waitresses there.  She was much older than me, and there wasn’t a chance in hell, that I could get anywhere near her, except to order another cup of coffee.   But going there as a teen for the purpose of seeing her, did cause me a sense of dread, anxiety, and excitement all in one package.

Of course she doesn’t work there anymore, and I (in my waking hours) go there maybe once a month for a Sunday breakfast, but still, that sense of disappointment has stayed with me for many years.  In fact, it is so disturbing to me that I try not to think about it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

Being an only child and surrounded by childhood friends who either had a brother or sister, left me with fantasies of being part of other families.   Oddly enough, I never fantasize about the families that I knew, but more with the families I have seen on TV at the time.  I was drawn into “Leave It To Beaver” at an early age, and the show which ran from 1957 to 1963, was about a middle-class white family somewhere in the United States (not Southern California, that’s for sure) where the parents had two sons.  The youngest son was Beaver, who had a child-like curiosity about the world, and therefore I identified with him, because of his struggle to comprehend his world and the emotional landscape that his parents live in.  The other son is Wally, who is someone I would want as a big brother.

I have been caught many times by my parents when I talked to my imaginary brother Wally.  At first they thought it was either charming or cute, but my discussions with the empty space near me, got stranger and stranger to them.  I, on the other hand, was quite comfortable with my relationship with Wally.   As I grew older, many things changed in my life, but never my bond with Wally.  I often ask him for advice, and for years I had a scrapbook that just focusses on the images of Wally, who was played by Tony Dow.  At first I pretended that it was a family photo scrapbook. The illusion became reality as I got older.

When I was in my early 20’s, and by chance, I met the famous French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who was a friend of Andre Breton and the Surrealists.  In his later years, he was collecting photograph prints, and he contacted me because he had heard that I had a large collection of images by Pierre Molinier, who was known for his erotic self-portraits of himself either dressed as a woman or posing with prosthetic limbs, stiletto heels, dildos and an occasional confidante.  On one of my trips to Paris, I asked if I could bring up a delicate matter to his attention.  He listened to me as I talked about my obsession with my invisible older brother Wally.  At one session, we watched together at least five episodes of “Leave It To Beaver.” He was fascinated that I actually based my imaginary brother on a popular TV show.   Not only that, but a show that focuses on what looks like a “normal” American family.   He knew I had an interest in writing and he asked me who I like as a writer.  I told him that my two favorite writers are Georges Bataille and Samuel Beckett.  I didn’t know at the time that he married Bataille’s wife, and was actually a good friend of the writer as well.  He was proposed that maybe I should write a narrative with me and “Wally” as the main characters, but base it on a prose style by Beckett.

For the past thirty years, I have worked on one long piece, which I guess is a novel, about me and Wally going on a trip to France to locate images by Pierre Molinier.    The dialogue between us, is very much based on Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” as we wait in a train station for Molinier to pick us up for some unknown destination.  This is where the problem lies, because I don’t have the foggiest idea where that destination will lead us, but I feel that my brother need to hold my hand and direct me to the light, from the darkness of my mind.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12, 2014

April 12, 2014

I often just think about my life as “Little Toot, ” the tugboat child who all the other tug boats feel is useless because he (I presume it’s a he for some reason) prefers to play and make figure 8s in the bay.  Eventually the tugboat community forces Little Toot to leave and finds himself adrift in the vast sea.  I imagine myself in that role quite easily.  At one time I was working at a bookstore, having a great time there, and eventually let go, due that I love being around books, and I just wanted to play, which actually, in my point of view, was my actual work there.  Nevertheless, some disagree with my philosophy, and I was sent out adrift in the world of my own imagination.

As a teenager, I briefly met the entertainer and singer Tiny Tim at a party at Billy Gray’s house in Topanga Canyon.  I was taken aback to meet him, because I wasn’t sure if he actually exists or not.   At the time he was a star for being on “Laugh-In, ” but also was taken as a joke, due to his appearance and his rather eccentric mode of focusing on songs from the 1920s and beyond.  Also the fact that he played the ukulele and sang with a falsetto/vibrato voice.  He wore white make-up, red lipstick, and had long hair.  Tiny Tim sort of look like he was borderline homeless or even insane.   So many thought he was likely to be a comedian and he was taking the Tiny Tim character as a fictional role.   To be honest, I was confused at the time.  When I met and observe him at this gathering, I can see he was genuine and not at all, a character that was set up for the masses.  At the time, I purchased his first album “God Bless Tiny Tim, ” and recalled that I really liked it, and for sure it wasn’t a joke thing at all.  Very recently I learned that he was also in Jack Smith’s “Normal Love.” Like Little Toot, Tiny Tim wasn’t really accepted by his audience, because he was thought as a freak or a humorous figure.  In fact, he was a genuine musical archivist and more likely one of the great minds in 20th music.  Yet, I feel he was abandoned by the entertainment world, once they thought the joke was old.

It’s very hard to stay true to one’s self, when the world either ignores or ridicules you in a fashion that yells out ‘you’re not important.’  Yet, on a daily basis, the struggle to work or play is almost like sending a spit against the wind, it hits you in the face again and again.  We are often placed in a world that is none of our making, and yet, everyone demands that we operate in that landscape, and do what we are told.  I remember reading about the teen idol David Cassidy and his frustration to be taken seriously, yet, his image, even his peculiar fame, worked against him.   The crisis is trying to define oneself against what the others say you are.   With that in mind, whenever I put pen onto paper, it is a weapon against those who wouldn’t allow me to flourish in my own fashion.  Nevertheless, if you keep your vision intact, there is nothing that they can do in order to destroy you.  And yes, you drift in that vast ocean, but also there are endless possibilities where one can even visualize an Atlantis in front of them.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014

Like Marcel Proust commenting on the cookie that brought up memories, the Sony transistor radio serves the same role in my life.  It was probably the first real serious object that I owned.   I haven’t the foggiest idea what the radio originally cost, but it was a magical entrance to another world.  As I was going through my storage boxes I ran across the radio, and I couldn’t believe I still had it.   For me, the first time I seriously listened to music was on this hand held machine.  The sound or the reception was never perfect, but it somehow added a sense of magic to the process.   There is what you heard when you see musicians play live, and then there is music you hear in a recording studio, and then of course on the turntable, where we had one huge speaker - mono only in the mid 1960s.  But the transistor radio had its own sound, which was tinny, and of course thinking of it now, it would be really annoying to listen to music that way.  But alas, my earliest impression of contemporary music that I liked, was on the transistor radio.  Also it was the first medium or tool for me to use that separate me from my parent’s taste.  Otherwise, I would get my music from my parents record collection and turntable.  My radio allowed me to wander into another world, where only I, can decide what to hear and when to hear it.

The two radio stations that were important to me were KHJ and KRLA.  The latter was actually more important to me because it appeared to be more Beatle related than KHJ.  That was likely to be an illusion on my part, but also the radio station had a newspaper called KRLA Beat, that was sort of like Rolling Stone for the teenage mind.  It was in this publication where I first started reading about music or I should say rock an’ roll stars as they were happening at that time.   KHJ was more personable due to it's DJ, specifically the Real Don Steele.

When I was close to 11 or 12, I went camping on the beach, which was a total horror show for me.  I can never understand the allure of nature for people. It is like they actually prefer dirt than a nice clean lighted place.  The point of time when the hot afternoon turns into a bitter cold evening is disgusting to me.  I remember spending most of the time in the tent that we brought with us.  Even that, the temperature was just so hot, but still, I didn’t want to be outside. So I put up with the heat to read the comic books that I brought with me to fight off the boredom of sand, blue sky, and ocean.  The transistor radio brought a sense of relief for me, because I used it as an object to block out the noise on the beach.  But what was really beautiful to me was playing the radio in the night, and I often would go off by myself near the ocean to sit on the cold sand.  I put the radio by my ear and it was like getting messages from another world.  I couldn’t imagine life without that radio.

Also the use of my imagination kept me alert during our beach holidays.  I imagine myself as Boy, the son of Tarzan.  Often I would imagine that my dad was the King of the Jungle, instead of Johnny Weissmuller.  I would have these elaborate narratives running through my head that I saved my dad and Jane (actually my mom) from some horrible circumstances that went beyond their control.   Those fantasies came with the soundtrack that was on the radio, and I remember actually listening to a program called  “The Shadow” while on the beach as well.  Hearing a show like that was very mysterious and a tad scary -especially in the nighttime on the beach.

Ironically I played “Boy” to Taylor Mead’s Tarzan in an Andy Warhol film, but that’s another narrative.  Nevertheless I am always thankful for Sony for bringing the magic of another world to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10, 2014 (100th day)

April 10, 2014

The shock of the new for me is when Paul McCartney announced to the world that he was leaving The Beatles.  I was a teenager at the time, and of course, like most American teenagers I was totally wrapped up in everything that was the Fab Four.  It was the first time that I experienced the feeling that things can’t last forever, and their breakup caused a major head-fuck for me, because I couldn’t understand at the time, why they had to break up.  I mean, couldn’t they just talk it out.  What was worst was reading the John Lennon interview in Rolling Stone that year, where he just exposed all his inner-feelings about Paul to the public.  I was not only shocked to read this interview, but I actually hated him for letting his true feelings out.  I have great faith in a world where one has the illusion of a perfect domain, and that they should with all their power, keep that world intact.   Here, Lennon was shitting on the Beatle world, therefore my world as well.

The one illusion that was important to me was the TV series “The Rifleman” starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his son, Mark McCain.   It was the first show to portray a widowed parent raising a child by himself.   Lucas’s character is that of a rancher who purchased a ranch and is making a concerted effort to make it all work, with his son helping out with the daily duties of running a ranch.  McCain was also a excellent rifleman, and had a specially made rifle which could be fired rapidly.   But the heart of the show is the relationship between Lucas and his son.  In fact, I never have seen such a relationship before on TV or in a film.  Whenever I watch the series I felt a great deal of comfort, because the Dad here is very decent, very powerful, and is basically concerned about his son’s welfare.   Scenes where McCain is without his son, or being tortured by a villain, were extremely disturbing to me.  Looking at the shows now, they do have a sub-text of S&M, at least emotionally so.  But at the time I was totally caught up with the relationship between Dad and Son.  I felt that way about The Beatles as well, because in my thoughts, here is a gang that won’t never let each other down.

Relationships are extremely important to me, and when something unexpectedly goes wrong, it disturbs me to the very core of my being.  I often can identify with the main character in Alain Resnais’s film “Last Year at Marienbad” written by Alain Robbe-Grillet.   The man approaches a woman at a social gathering at a baroque hotel, convinced that they have met the year before, and both agreed to meet the next year.  Now that the year has passed, he sees her, but she claimed to never had met him before.  In a sense he had a ‘false’ hope that this relationship will happen, but alas, it becomes an illusion of sorts.  My expectation of relationships, through the personal, as well as through the media of film and music, is one where I find myself wanting to assume that what I see on the screen or hear is true.  And it is true in my heart, but alas, the world moves differently in another dimension.

The great American composer Martin Denny portrayed a world that was beautiful and exotic through his music.  In the 1950s travel became a huge industry, and there was a need to find and visit exotic lands, for instance Hawaii.   Denny conveys a world that is Hawaii, but now I’m not sure if that is a correct representation.  I never been to Hawaii, but I know Hawaii through Denny’s music.  My Hawaii is very much expressed in Denny’s album “Exotica.”   There have been numerous times where I could have gone to Hawaii, but I always turn down the trip because I am deeply afraid that the Hawaii that I will come upon will not be the same as Denny’s Hawaii, and I wouldn’t be able to take the disappointment.

So the fact that Paul left The Beatles left a major scar in my psyche.  But also gave me the gift to observe that I live in two lives.  Almost in another dimension, in there is a world where things work out perfectly such as Martin Denny’s Hawaii landscape, and "The Rifleman."   On the other side is the Beatles split, and the disappointment that is the heart of “Last Year at Marienbad. ”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014

If I had to live a life besides my own, I think my choice would be Charles Baudelaire.  Even though he suffered greatly through his life, his suffering sort of became his set-piece or art.   I have read so many biographies on Baudelaire, but in truth, who will be willing to read my biography?  Yes, I can hear the shattering silence even from over here!  As I finish up my childhood memoir, the one Baudelaire quote that gets me started, is his “genius is childhood recalled at will.” When I turn on my computer and go to the page that I am writing on, well, that’s the first thing I see before anything else.

I have been in Paris, and walked around with Baudelaire's image in my head, as well as Guy Debord.  I mix the two up as I left my hotel room, and the only decision I make is either to turn left or right.  Being me of course, that decision took me 20 minutes or so, and there I was but standing outside the entrance of the hotel looking towards my left, and then slowly to my right.  I made the decision due to the fact that I’m left-handed, so therefore I must turn left.  It was a good decision, because I ran across a series of gorgeous girls as well as interesting architecture on Rue Saint-Michel.

 But here in Los Angeles, a city that is deemed to be un-walkable, I wonder through this sleepy city like a man starved for attention.  I find myself feeling like the French actor Michel Simon, in the great Jean Vigo Film “L’Atalante, ” as the sailor who was born to wander the seven seas and every land that hit the ocean.  My curiosity goes overtime when I’m walking around 5th Street and Spring, because each building appears to have a mystery for me.  If I stand on the corner of 5th and Spring, and stare at the Alexander Hotel long enough, I feel I can see the ghosts coming in and out of that building.   It is never Rudolph Valentino or Charlie Chaplin, but just people from the early 1920s carelessly strolling in and out of the entrance.  I wanted to go in, but I felt that my thoughts in my head were more correct, and I didn’t want to expose them to something “now” or even anything that will defuse my imagination.  To imagine is much better for me than say a reality.  That my faithful readers, is a let-down for me.

Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s “À bout de souffle” (Breathless) strikes me as the same type of me in how I deal with the everyday world and all its citizens that react in that specific world.  Belmondo sees the world as a film, and when I wander through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, I feel more alive with that thought in my mind. Actual history and the architecture are important, but what is even more important is how we look at history and its buildings, and to alter it to serve our own creative impulses.  I can understand the need to be aware of facts, but I want to know why those facts happen, and that alone is a narrative.  In other words, what I see is the real to me, and therefore that will be my narrative for today and perhaps many days afterwards.

Although Hugh Hefner is not by any means a Charles Baudelaire to me, but I still admire how he changed his reality into something more desirable, for himself of course, but for his audience as well.  The image is what we know of the man, and rarely do we need to know more.   So when I take my walks, now mostly in downtown, I look up to the surface, and within my soul I start building downwards to make a foundation for the image that makes my heart weep.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014

Last night I made the decision to become a professional writer, instead of the amateur writer of the past.   Which means, I will now be paid in currency for my services for writing these pieces.  I have informed Facebook that they are now permitted to offer me a salary as a professional writer for Facebook.  I have just heard back from them, that they will hire me as their official Facebook columnist and therefore we agreed on a salary, which will also include health insurance, and paid vacation time.  I also request that they employ me an assistant, and that it needs to be a she, and she alone will work for me, with of course, Facebook paying for her wages, health insurance and paid vacation leave.   Once that was agreed upon, my new assistant showed up this morning at my home around 9:00 A.M.

When we met, she asked me where the office will be.  I told her that was a very good question, and I was seriously thinking of maybe having a nice outdoor work space right outside of the Richard Neutra office building on 2379 Glendale Blvd.  There is a parking lot there and close by is the Silverlake Coffee as well as the Ralphs market down the street.  Once we agreed we got two fold-up card tables, one for me to sit and write with my laptop, and one for her to use for business, as she is about be be sitting directly across from me.

The location was ideal, because I often write about music, and Rockaway Records is located on the same lot, that they share with the nails salon as well as the Silverlake Wine shop.  Location is extremely important when you set yourself for work.  In fact it can sort of make the day for you if you place all the right ingredients in, the magic works, and the writing comes quite natural.  I also brought a huge beach umbrella to protect us from the harsh California sun.

There is a perception of discipline in place when you work outside in a parking lot.  For instance we don’t have any power, so I have to depend on my battery on my computer which lasts exactly six hours.  So the work is equally using the computer to write for those six hours, but also the additional two hours, is working my thoughts on a series of MUJI notebooks that I brought with me on my recent trip to Japan.

So now I have my assistant, my work, and our two card tables, and the first thought of the day is the fact that we wished we had space in the Neutra Office Building.  That, was obviously not going to happen, due to the angry looks from the residents of that specific space.  Which is totally understandable, because even though I wear a suit, and my assistant is wearing an office skirt and blouse, designed by Vivienne Westwood,  the  make-shift office I have to admit is rather an eccentric set-up.  Nevertheless I started to work on my first column for Facebook.

My first thought of the day was the great Belguim songwriter and performer, Jacques Brel, and surely he would be a great subject matter for my initial official column for Facebook.  The thing is I know little of Brel and his work.  Mostly through the music of Scott Walker, and the great “Seasons of the Sun” by Terry Jacks, which is music by Brel, with his lyrics translated into English by the poet (and singer) Rod McKuen.  I asked my assistant to bring me any images of Brel she can find in Rockaway Records.  She came back within one hour with a 10” French album of his songs performed by the great man himself.  The only problem was that I couldn’t read the French liner notes, because I don’t read French, and two, we didn’t have a portable turntable at our make-shift office space.  It will seem I would have to improvise my thoughts and feelings for M. Brel’s work by the end of this workday.   I was looking at the front cover, and try to imagine what the record sounded like.  I imagine it was a tad dirty, perhaps even romantic, but not in the conventional way of romance, but more about the passion itself, and all of its murky after-effects.  I looked across from my card table and I noticed that my assistant was quite attractive. I went back to work, dated the column as April 8, 2014, and went to work.

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014

Billie Holiday was such a presence in my family household, that I suspect that she may be the first, at least in my memory, black american face I have ever seen.  My dad and mom had framed portraits of certain heroes on their living room wall in San Francisco.  They were Jean Cocteau, Anton Artaud, and Billie Holiday.  The very first recording that I think I heard was Lotte Lenya singing from “The Three Penny Opera. ” But surely the second most played recordings were by Billie, and to this day I can’t remember what songs they were or from what album.  My first impression of her is her voice, which as a kid, I found it very foreign and strange sounding.  Now come to think of it, my parents had weird sounding recordings at home.  I was raised on the music of Edgar Varese, Paul Bowles recordings of various Moroccan tribes, and the music of Moondog.  Which all three to this day, is still perfectly weird to me.  The only mainstream albums that my parents owned were classical albums, mostly the recordings of the eccentric (another weirdo) Glenn Gould and the most conservative of all, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons. ”

My father had a direct connection to Billie Holiday because he used to visit her at Jazz clubs in Central Avenue when he was a zoot-suit wearing teenager.  In fact, he told me that he once purchased a glass of coke cola for her, during one of her appearances in Los Angeles.   I can’t imagine what the effect was on a white jewish teenager when meeting the titian of jazz singing Billie or better known to her fans as Lady Day.   I have heard many jazz singers in my life, but there was something about her that made her stand out.  Now, I can appreciate her genius and her ability to express herself through song, but as a child it totally alienated me in a sense.  Her misery that is expressed through her music was quite foreign to me.  On the other hand, I had an instinct total understanding of music from the Walt Disney films, which by the way, I have never seen.  Only from the Mickey Mouse Fan Club TV show or the Disney hour that was on every Sunday night.  I didn’t really like the show, but culturally I connected to it, maybe because every kid in my world was in tuned to that world.  The Sherman brothers wrote the most famous Disney songs, and that of course, sticked in my mind like glue.   By instinct, and seeing how my parents were affected by Billie, I knew she was the better artist - or as they say on the street - “the real deal. ”

The way she pronounced her words while singing is one thing that took me awhile to grow into.   I realized later that the best art is the one that where you have to struggle at first and then somewhere down the line you accept it.  I’m that way with Van Dyke Parks’ first album “Song Cycle. ” But that’s another story!   As a writer I’m intrigued by accents and how words are incorporated in the popular song.  Lately I have been giving thought to Lord Buckley and his use of wording when he did his stand-up act, if it is even an act!  I have a hard time telling what’s real or not real with respect to someone on a stage (or for me, on a TV show) that the border becomes hazy as I watch a performance.

Recently I watched an old video tape of the journalist Walter Winchell, who apparently was a terror and a man who many feared to cross.  Also it has been reported that the J.J. Hunsecker character in the classic film “Sweet Smell of Success” was based on Winchell.  Nevertheless, what impresses me is not his politics but his manner of presenting the news, either by the page, and even more impressive, his vocal style while ‘reading’ the news.  He was known to come up with his own language of sorts that is called “Winchellese.” He used a lot of sexual terminology within his ‘talks.' My favorite being “trouser-crease-eraser, ” which I gather is a man with an erection. He also has some great sayings for the act of marriage: “lohengrin it, “handcuffed, ” and of course “Mendelssohn March. ”

As of now, and of course, these two individuals: Holiday and Winchell, are so far apart on so many levels, but I now have a craving to hear the phrasing of a singer inspired by instruments as well as Winchell’s playful use of language.   Perhaps both are the children of Hugo Ball?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6, 2014

April 6, 2014

Some years back, while I was on the bus returning from work at Book Soup, I noticed a very beautiful young girl reading one of my favorite books of all time.  Alberto Moravia’s “Contempt.” Now to me that was strange enough, but what made it even more attractive to me was that she was reading a mass-market movie-tie of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt” with of course Brigitte Bardot on the cover.  I have never ever seen this edition of this book before, and it was obvious by the design that it was made available in America around the time of the film’s original release here in the States.     In fact, just now, I tried to find the cover on the Internet, and failed in finding this edition.  I didn’t approach her, because the moment was too abnormal for me.   But what made it odder is that I saw her a week later on the bus. On the same line, and she was reading Andrew Loog Oldham’s “Stoned, ” which is another one of my favorite books of all time.   How is it possible that this beautiful young girl is caught twice on a public bus line, reading my favorite books, and not only that, but reading either very rare or difficult editions to get.  For instance, one can’t just pop in a bookstore and buy either of those two specific books.  I was convinced that she was aware of me being there, and she was using these two books to get my attention.  Of course, me being me, I totally ignored her.

Obviously, this is the same thing that happened to the Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch, when he came upon Laura, a woman he didn’t know, but saw in the church of Sainte-Claire d’ Avignon in 1327.  Petrarch wrote many poems to and about this woman, who he didn’t know, and Laura pretty much ignored him and his work.  On a side-note, she was an ancestor of the Marquis de Sade!  A perfect woman to be obsessed with!

Anita Pallenberg must have shared some traits with Laura as well as the girl on the bus.  Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones met her while she was working as a model, and they became an iconic couple, but eventually she left him for Keith Richards, his co-player in the Stones, and some say she had an affair with Mick Jagger.  I was taught in a very young age never play in one’s playground for too long, and in this case I think the Stones put all their marbles in one place and all suffered from it, but on the other hand it was good for their art.  This I believe works for all relationships with respect to the artist who is influenced by a muse or a woman/man/ or even child, when you think of Lewis Carroll or Thomas Mann with respect to his short novel “Death in Venice.”

The Brussels-born cult comic artist Guy Peelaert was very much inspired by the French teenage singing sensation Sylvie Vartan for his erotic comic strip “The Adventures of Jodelle.” In fact he based the visual image of Vartan and made it into his “Jodelle.” I often wondered if seeing the girl on the bus was a message for me to use her as either as a muse or an inspiration to do my writing.  From those two sightings of her, she has become an ideal beauty or is that even true?   Would I have noticed her if she wasn’t reading those two rare editions of my favorite books?  Art operates in mysterious ways, as well as the affairs of the heart.  Eros, passion, and good reading material goes hand-in-hand.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Captain Cap: His Adventures, His Ideas, His Drinks" by Alphonse Allais (Translated by Doug Skinner)

Black Scat Books ISBN: 978-0-615-84340-7

Locations are important to me, and there is nothing like reading a book in my bathtub, and this book, "Captain Cap: His Adventures, His ideas, His Drinks" by Alphonse Allais is the perfect text while deep in soap suds water up to the chin.  I know very little of Allais, but it seems he was way ahead of his times with respect to music and art.  He wrote a musical composition in 1897 called "Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man," which was nothing but silence.  Surely John Cage was influenced by him!  He also did a painting called "First Communion of Anemic Young Girls In The Snow," which was just a blank piece of paper.  So naturally I would be interested to read the adventures and thoughts of his good friend Captain Cap, who not only knows his way around making cocktails (detailed recipes throughout the book), but also got into absurd adventures of all sorts.

While reading the book, I was consistently reminded of the novelist and poet Blaise Cendrars as well as the American humorist and writer Robert Benchley.  Due that both authors capture an absurdity in life, and have a care-free attitude towards their subject matters.  Yet one gets the feeling that there is something quite fundamental is happening under the surface of the text.  There are lots of references to science, especially with respect to engineering (which also reminds me of Boris Vian as well) and life during the late 19th century.  The translator did a remarkable job in translating the text, which due to its word-playing, must be a very difficult thing to do.  His illustrations are charming as well.

Black Scat Books did a great service to literature by presenting this book.  And wherever or whatever Captain Cap goes, an adventure of sorts is guaranteed.

April 5, 2014

April 5, 2014

Jean-Honoré Fragonard painted an image called “The Swing” in 1767 that has a life-time effect on me.  It’s a painting of a girl on a swing in some idealistic version of nature, with a man down below watching her from the ground up.  I imagine myself as the ‘man’ with respect to seeing something extremely important to him, but only for seconds at a time.  She’s unreachable, but the enjoyment of the distance of her crotch to his eyes, makes it more appealing for me.  Fragonard was famous in his time for painting hedonistic imagery, and of course came to be a problem during the French Revolution due that his most of his patrons were either guillotined or compelled to go into exile.  Life, for only a short time, was pleasing for M. Fragonard.

I often think of artists, both visually and musically, who brought such great joy to the world, yet, the world seemed to turn against them.  Joe Meek produced and gave birth to a new sound that to be honest had mixed results, but nevertheless when he hit on the spot, it was pure bliss. London life in a sense helped kill him, due to the laws regarding homosexual practices at the time, which was put in place still in the 1960s.  If Meek lived now, would he still be significant if he was making music in the early 21st century.  Perhaps not, due to the inner-tension in his life and world at the time.  Knowing that somehow makes his music and records more profound and even beautiful.  “Have I The Right” by The Honeycombs is one of the greatest pieces of recorded music in my lifetime - and I don’t think one could remove the era or the incidents that was happening in Meek’s life at the time.

Lord Buckley also appears to me to be a genius for his period of time and place.   He’s sort of the bridge between American black street culture and the Beats, with a side dish of jazz and the high cultural aspects of Shakespeare.   He even had his own nightclub in Chicago called “Chez Buckley, supposedly funded by the gangster Al Capone.  Nevertheless on the surface an entertainer, but he was much more than that.  He had an understanding of language and other cultures, and in juxtaposition it becomes something different and even daring.  When I hear his recordings, one marvel at his approach to a narrative by Shakespeare, but it also about how language can work, and it is also about the nature of the translation and its translator.   I’m always struck by entertainers that can use language as a medium in itself.  Frank Gorshin’s The Riddler in the TV show “Batman” was another example of using language almost as a weapon of sorts.  The truth is words do hurt, but only by skilled participants.

 When one looks at culture, say like Peter Greenaway, it is like a camera pulling back from a scene that has a great deal going on. I often think what it would be like if Greenaway filmed Fragonard’s painting, which I mentioned above, as sort of a narrative.  Because what we have is a narrative in place, but we don’t have the full story yet.   For instance the painting exposes a specific time, but what happened before the scene or what happens afterwards?  Peter Grant, the brutal manager of Led Zeppelin, I think gave a narrative to the band’s history.   That sense of framing, or putting his signature on the band made them important.  I think the music itself is not as significant in itself, because it needed to be part of a bigger picture.  Meek and Grant came from a time and place that helped define their artwork or what they presented to the world.

When I’m writing I feel all of this on my shoulders, and I just want to express myself in a rather difficult world.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Andrew Loog Oldham President's Lecture at Berlin School of Creative Lead...

April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014

I was born in 1954, and for whatever reasons, which is a total mystery to me, I’m fascinated with an early TV series called “Captain Video and His Video Rangers, " that ran from 1949 to 1955 on the DuMont Television Network.  We didn’t have a TV set in our house at that time, so I only saw some of the episodes when I was a teenager, and for the life of me, I can’t remember the channel that it appeared on.  But what I do remember is that I had really bad reception, so I had to watch the show with the picture going in and out, or seeing the ghost images of objects on my little rabbit ears TV screen.

Even the plot of the show was mysterious to me, which I think was a big factor for me being sort of a fan of “Captain Video.” Over-all it is about a group of fighters for truth and justice.  The stories are placed in the future, where there was a certain amount of space travel as well as the characters using a walke-talkie that at the time looked futuristic.  The program was originally performed live and broadcast instantly to the East Coast and then three hours later to the West Coast.   To this day, I think of the time zones as being a part of the future.  When I go back East or especially when I am in Japan, I often feel that I’m traveling to the future, and my life back in Los Angeles is the past.

I believe the show was broadcast from Los Angeles, which appears to me to be the perfect location to do a show like this.  The city itself is a mystery to me, and I often feel like i 'm sleep-walking through the sleepy city.  When I take a walk, I make sure that I don’t have a thought in my head.  I don’t even know where I’m going.  Basically I put on a jacket, leave the house, and go on the first bus that I see approaching me. “Captain Video” strikes me as the same sort of narration as my daily walks through Los Angeles.  The narration of some of the earlier shows were extremely odd, and due to budget problems, within the show itself, they would start showing or inserting scenes from a western or cowboy movie.   The character would explain that these are agents working for the Video Rangers.

The beauty of this at the same time I was discovering a book by Isidore Ducasse, better known to the world as Comte de Lautréamont called “Les Chants de Maldoror."  Written in 1868.   It’s a key text for the Surrealists, who re-discovered the book by chance in 1917, when poet Philippe Soupault found it in a used bookstore, apparently in the mathematics section.  He read it and gave it to Andre Breton, and to this day, the book has not been out-of-print.   “Maldoror” is a prose poem regarding evil.  It doesn’t have a narrative of sorts, but more a collection of images that are startling, and to this day people find it shocking.  There is a famous description of a boy in the book, where Ducasse wrote that he was as “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella.” The Situationists also admired Ducasse because he was the first one, in his last work “Poésies” to plagiarize other writers by inserting their lines in his work.  He was quoted as saying: “Plagiarism is necessary. It is implied in the idea of progress.   It clasps the author’s sentence tight, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, replaces it with the right idea. ”

“Captian Video” strikes me as something that was important to me as reading “Les Chants de Maldoror” as well as his “Poésies” in that inserting a vision that comes from somewhere else is a conscious tool in making art or in the art of writing.  The juxtaposition of me watching a TV show that was made before I was born, on a crappy TV set, that inserted another movie (the western) within the program, strikes me as the perfect formula to see the world in a much different light.  I walk through the sleepy city with my eyes ahead, and my mind looking back.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3, 2014

April 3, 2014

I’m not as good looking as Marlon Brando, but I do look up to him as a remarkable dresser, especially from “The Wild One” era.   The white T-shirt, jeans rolled up cuffs, and motorcycle boots is such a classic and great look.  With me, I believe in the uniform, but I like it better when the wearer can decide what uniform they want in life.  I don’t like to wear a uniform due to occupation or work.   Whenever I look for work, I shy away from occupations where they issue you a uniform.

Although strangely enough there are occupations where the uniform and the man looks good together.  Almost a perfect meeting of the mind and body - and that is the UPS carrier.   I never saw a UPS carrier look awkward in their uniform.  I also like the color brown, despite the fact that many probably find it a bit dull, but to me it’s a color that one can add a certain amount of imagination to it.  Brown is also quite stable where it conveys a sense of comfort, simplicity, and quality.   Also it is a color of being industrious, hardworking and more important to me, being reliable.   Which is what you want in a UPS employee.   Sadly, I don’t have the brown quality in my life.

I’m more of a black and white person, but only visually.  I’m a firm believer that one should live in the grays.  Technicolor is for sure, not me.   Being sort of a 19th century personality, black was considered to be the color for romantic poets, and I’m surely in that bracelet, as my fans know by now.  I see black as being very elegant, but I don’t tie it in with power, death or evil at all.  To me, it is like looking at the color white.   I can project myself there without hindrance or a worry, because I feel I’m looking into the void.

Oddly enough I find white to be a tad sinister.  Also quite obsessive as well.  The first thing I think of is wearing a white suit or white pants, and having either a piece of food or sauce splattered on the pants, or not controlling the urine at the right time.  It exposes one to the world, when in fact, you don’t want to be exposed at the moment or time.  Wearing white is almost like being naked in front of a hostile world.  Also it can reflect one’s mood, and white can either be peaceful or a horror show of sorts.  “A Clockwork Orange” is a film that I believe to be white.  If Alex’s gang wore black, it would have been comical, but the whiteness of their outfits offers a sense of terror or horror.

Brando, I think was not worried about wearing white, because he wanted to show the sweat, the dirt, body fluids, and the by-products of a specific time and space.   He would never wear brown, because surely that is a sign of being stable, and that was the last thing on Brando’s mind was to be fixed or secure.  

Lately I have been wearing a white T-shirt and black jeans.  Black shoes, and white socks.  I’m hoping that it will convey a sense of balance, where I’m looking into the void, but the contrast of the black and white will lead me to a better spot, or at the very least, a comforting one.