Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday July 26, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday July 25, 2015

A peaceful Sunday.  That is all I want.  I go to a movie theater in the suburb to see a comedy or even a comic book movie to take my mind off my troubles.   Many times I go to see a film and haven’t the foggiest idea what I have just seen.  Mostly I allow my thoughts in my head to be projected on the large screen in front of me, and I don’t even wish to dwell with what those thoughts mean or what they represent.   Most movie theaters these days only process digital images than film.  As of last March, 38,719 screens (out of a total 39,789 screens) in the United States have been converted to digital.   So in truth, am I even seeing a film?   Or a reproduction of a film?  Or should the credits now say “A Digital Production by Judd Apatow. ”

The beauty of modern theaters is how they convey the feeling that you’re in a first class compartment of an airplane.  The seating is very comfortable and one can even push back to recline and place your head facing the screen upwards.  A holder for your drink, and plenty of room on the armrest on each side of the chair to place your elbow or even arm.   It is also pleasant to be in a darken theater to see the projection of the latest digital release.   

The one thing that does bother me is the customer that comes in and seems nervous.  I have always felt that was me, in a sense, that I come to a movie with thoughts or problems, and the purpose of me being here is to leave my troubles outside the theater, for at least a couple of hours.   But I can feel that customers irritation or oddness, which totally destroys the experience of seeing a movie in a theater.  I thought that I should contact an employee of the theater to let them know that there is a customer who is giving out bad vibes, and therefore I’m not experiencing the enjoyment as fully as I should be entitled to.  

He keeps changing seats.  First he is sitting in my row, and I’m in the middle of the theater.  He then moves in front of me, and idiotically he sits in front of me.  He has a role of seats he can sit in. Yet he chooses the seat right in front of me.  I moved a few seats down, and when the coming attractions come on, I tend to watch him than watching what is on the screen.   Now I notice he have an object in his hand, and it seems he is looking at the object instead of the digital projection.  It isn’t a cell phone.  What is it?  

He puts it back in his pocket.  The film is starting.   The dialogue is funny.  Yet he doesn’t laugh nor does he look like he is paying any attention to the film.  Once in awhile, I see him glancing at me time-to-time.  I make sure that I don’t capture his eyes when he does so.  I sometimes wished that the cinema was totally blacked out, except for the screen.  The whole idea of being in a cinema, at first, was to be part of the audience.  But the reason I’m at the cinema is really the size of the screen, and the fact that one can lose themselves to the images in front of them, as well as being surrounded by the digital projection’s Dolby sound.  

The disturbing aspect of this environment is the customer mouthing off to the screen, but I can’t fully hear him, due to the volume of the movie being so loud.     I wonder if he feels he’s being pulled into the narrative of the movie, or is he living in his own narrative with its own unique soundtrack?    The weather is so hot today, and all I want is to lose myself in an air-conditioned theater, yet, I can’t focus on my comfort, due that this guy is making me totally uncomfortable.   If I was a normal guy, I would go up to him and tell him to shut-up, or please leave the theater, but I’m fearful of approaching a stranger.  When you are part of the audience, one hopes that we are all on the same wave length - yet clearly this ‘gentleman’ is on another planet.

If I just close my eyes, all of this will go away.   My thoughts are projected on my eyelids.  I see abstraction from the lights bouncing around the screen.  I find this to be the perfect cinema.   Not digital, but human.   No one exists, except me.  I, alone.  Finally.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday July 19, 2015

The Sunday Series
Sunday July 19, 2015

This is Sunday. The day my life changed.  Hopefully for the better.  I have joined the circus last week, and my first performance will be today at the Hollywood Bowl.  Ever since I was a teenager, I had an obsession about being a juggler.  I even considered to go with my friend Robert Greene to a clown’s school in Italy, where they teach you the fundamental or basics of juggling.  I didn’t want to wear clown make-up, due to my fear of clowns as a child.  I find it slightly creepy, and I never out-grew that feeling of fear, when I come upon an image of a clown.  There are many groupings in life, and the Clown Gang is one that is the scariest of them all.  I remember as a child, walking down Venice (California) street called Electric Avenue, and seeing a group of clowns in make-up, but oddly enough, wearing street clothing. They were just sitting on the street and drinking out of a brown paper bag.  They were also smoking, both cigarette and marijuana, which made them even more sinister looking than normal.  

When I walked by them, one of them yelled out something to me.  I pretended not to hear them, but then as I tried to pass them on the street, one of them touched my shoulder and tried to force me to the ground. I kept on walking and I heard them yelling behind my back.  I refused to look over my shoulder, and I just kept going straight to my destination. It was then that I saw a brown paper bag fly over my head and shattered against a building’s wall.  I still cringe, when thinking about that moment and time.  It is odd, that now at the age of 60, I want to join the circus.  

“Cirque Musica' is a new traveling circus, that is nothing like the circus of my youth.  For one, they use a full live orchestra for their music, as well as having a school based in Southern Florida, where they trained all their performers.  They flew me there from Los Angeles to the South Florida Circus Arts School, and I never been to Florida before. In fact, I have never been to a Southern state in the United States.  Once I got there, it reminded me very much like California.  Yet, the weather was very high with respect to the humidity.  I never liked to sweat, and since I started training as a juggler, I sweat a lot. 

The school trains you under the hot sun, and I think they want to make sure that you can concentrate with all the bowling pins in the air.  The act itself is not that difficult, but the concentration is the art.   One must focus on the amount of objects you have above you, and not to get distracted either by who or what is walking by you, and of course, including the glare of the sun.  There is a zen-like peacefulness I get when I juggle alone. 

The powers-to-be at the circus suggested that I change my name to Beni Hasan, which had a nice exotic touch, and therefore I will appear in performance with that name.  Along with clowns, jugglers are looked upon as the type of performers of base morals or even dealing in witchcraft.  Believe me, if they actually saw my act, they will know that this is not the case whatsoever. 

I can’t count the times that I hit my instructor in the head with a bowling pin, due to my so-called skills as a juggler. While flying back to the Burbank airport (sometimes called Bob Hope airport) from Florida, various administrators from the circus school suggested that I may be more interested in working in the merchandise table at the Hollywood Bowl tonight.  The fact that my performance will go on tonight is making the entire school sick to their stomach.  I said “no deal.” I’m Beni Hasan, and I’m going on the Hollywood Bowl stage this Sunday night.  For an artist, when one is told that you won’t make it, or you can’t - well, that is like putting a red cape in front of an angry bull.  Of course, I am going to head towards that red cape as if it is an opening to another universe. 

My 60 years on this plane is pretty much of a joke.  No one is laughing, except me, and I laugh hard.  Even in my bed, wide awake from thoughts of failure, I pretty much mapped out the performance in my head.  Some count cows jumping over a fence, but for me, I’m counting the balls that are floating above my head, till I fall asleep.  In my dreams, I imagine myself in a show in front of an audience of old girlfriends and they’re watching me fail all over again.  I threw one bowling pin up, and then the next - and finally I have three in the air.  But the women in the audience are calling out my name to distract me from what I’m doing. I break out into a sweat, almost a panic, and then I let one of the bowling pins fall down to the ground.  I hear laughter from the audience and I wake up in a sweat. 

As I wait backstage at the Hollywood Bowl, I notice my fellow performers are ignoring me. I’m nervously throwing the pins in my little practice area, and basically dropping each one to the ground.  It is a remarkable moment when you either realize you don’t have the talent you think you may have, and when people around you clearly know that you don’t have the talent.   I put on my make-up on.  It has been decided by the powers to be, that if I was going to go on, I need to wear clown make-up.  The thing is if I drop the pins, it would look like a comedy clown act. Everything is a performance here, including my life.  I feel the need to drink water, but then the spotlight goes on the stage, which is the signal for me to enter that light, and clearly and with nothing but fear in my stomach and head, I run into the spotlight. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday July 12, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday July 12, 2015

Today being Sunday I just heard the news that the bid I put in for Detroit's Fisher Building (1928), as well as the near-by Albert Kahn (1930) building was the top price - and I have both buildings for 12.2 million dollars.   A tad beyond my budget, yet, it is always wise to jump into the flames than run around it.  First of all, the Fisher Building is located on 3011 West Grand Boulevard, not far from the Motown Museum.   Like the other building with his name, Albert Kahn designed The Fisher Building.  The building was built and commissioned by the Fisher Brothers, who had a company called "Fisher Body" who made the bodies for automobiles.  The building mostly consists of office space with retail on the bottom two floors.  There is likewise the Fisher Theater, which is an elaborate 2,089 seats - mostly focusing on Broadway related musicals.  Now, the building housed the headquarters for the Detroit Public Schools - which I may just have to kick out, because of my plans for the space. 

The building is 28 stories high, and I plan to have my living quarters on the top floor.  To wake up in the morning (or even in the evening) and to look over Detroit, will make me feel like a king or emperor.   A little over a week ago, I visited the Fisher Building, where I walked on every floor - room to room, office to office, and even through its various storage rooms. I wonder how long would it take for me to use every toilet in this remarkable building.  For my entire life, I had an empire in my mind, but now the palace will be in front of me.  I can even bring over guests. 

With some assistance from the "Welcome to Detroit" website, I'm hoping to invite a few hundred over for dinner and drinks.  It is important to welcome the citizens of Detroit to my new home.   I know it must feel strange to have a stranger move into such an iconic structure such as The Fisher Building - and on top of that, also the Albert Kahn building, which is in walkable distance from the Fisher as well.  

The Albert Kahn Building was built and commissioned by Fisher Brothers as well.  It was completed in 1931, and is ten-stories high.   There is an underground tunnel connecting the two buildings together.  At one time, Saks Fifth Avenue department store had the grand floor - but alas, that was in the past.  In fact, a lot of things were in the past.  There have been many mistakes, and promises broken, but now, it is time to look at the present and perhaps even in the future. 

To be truthful, I have never cared for people.  On the other hand, always was fascinated by architecture - especially skyscraper buildings.  I love the idea of a structure that comes from the imagination, and therefore an ideal portrait of a human.  Living day-in and day-out and accepting one's limitations strikes me as an act of cruelty.  To stand a few miles away from your structure and thinking 'it is mine, ' is surely one of the higher moments one can experience.   In real estate, 12.2 million is not that much.  Yet for that amount, I get giddy with excitement that is similar to removing my pants in front of a beautiful woman.  To stand erect in front of a beauty, is surely a series of moments that I treasured.  I at one time, many years ago, was wandering around Grand Avenue, and since no one was around I did just that - I removed my trousers.  As I felt the blood racing in my loins, I looked up at the Fisher Building swearing one day that it will be mine.

Who could have foreseen the financial collapse of Detroit?  It seemed that I wished it upon this great city, so I can obtain the building of my dreams.  The capitalist mode of production is where one can lose everything and where one can win all at the same time.  I have lost, with great intensity, but I never lost sight of my goal.  To obtain a vision, that will clearly be my self-portrait.  The Fisher Building will now be known as "Tosh Towers," or "TT."   I'm clearly thinking of having the whole building to myself.  So I can wander from floor to floor without seeing another - and perhaps I would hire a small crew to handle the elevators. It would be nice to come here in the morning or evening if there is a need, and have them greet me as I enter the grand door. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks) live in Paris (26.06.2015)

As anyone who knows me, I'm a hardcore Sparks' fan.  Recently they teamed up with Franz Ferdinand to make an album (it's excellent) and are now touring the world.  Here is a recent concert done in Paris, France. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday July 5, 2015 (Detroit)

The Sunday Series
Sunday July 5, 2015

I wouldn't say he is a hero, but clearly the blood that runs in Henry Ford's veins are the same as mine.  I too have a passion to run an empire.  To organize a series of assembly lines to produce a product or better yet, a beautiful piece of machinery, is like kissing the devil on the lips.  I never liked working for anyone, because I don't like to be told what to do.  I like to do the telling.  No boss over me and watching me sweats over his dreams.  There is only one dream, and that dream is mine and mine alone.  There is nothing more beautiful than an industry making sounds in a factory.   Day-in-day-out is poetry in rhythm.  The meditation of eight or so hours spent in a large room with your employees making a vision - not their's, but your vision, which is pure poetry.  The kind of balladry that is popular and beautiful for everyone.  Today, being Sunday, and I'm in Detroit, I like to look back when I lost control when I came face-to-face with the man who sold the world.  

To be in the mind set of Henry Ford, I have read his four volume set of books "The International Jew."  Nazi Youth leader, Baldur von Schirach, was quoted at the Nuremberg Trials that Henry Ford was the most influential American, a figure that German youth can look up to.  In Hitler's office, there was both a portrait of Henry Ford as well as a well-thumbed copy of the "International Jew" on his desk.   I have spent a great deal of money and capital to obtain copies of books that Ford had in his personal library.   Although personal funds don't allow me to live in his mansion or even the same-size type of house, I can for sure make my bedroom into a tribute to Henry Ford.   Here in Detroit, whenever I walk on the streets, I see his magic on almost every object and structure.  

Antoine de La Mothe-Cadillac, a French explorer and adventurer, is credited as finding "Detroit," in 1701, but it is Ford that made and put Detroit on the map.  Even though the origin of the word "Detroit" is French, make no mistake, that Detroit is all-American.  This city of champions, in everything from making the perfect automobile to the superb athletes who win for the city.   This is where I belong.  With the winners, not the whiners. 

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." I found a tailor in Detroit to dress me close as possible to Henry Ford.  The pictures I have seen of him, I admired the suits that were tailored made for him.  A man without a suit is like a man without a city.  I never like looking at failure in the eyes.  My thinking is "don't find fault, find a remedy."   The one thing I hate about my life is whenever I felt doubt about something.  I can feel it in my stomach.  The sense of feeling displaced either by history or by a group of people, is a terrifying prospect.  I don't even want to go there.  "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."   I need to get on the right side of history, and never balance myself on that moveable line in the sand.  

Detroit is a paradise as a dream.  From my second story bedroom window, i can see the Fisher Building, and one day, I will be able to walk through its golden entrance and the doorman who opens the double door, and the boutique  as well as the gentlemen's shop on the first floor, will know me by name.  "Welcome Mr. Berman, may we serve you."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday June 28, 2015

The Sunday Series:

Sunday June 28, 2015

Till very recently I lived in Los Angeles, to be more specific, in the Silver Lake area, and I decided to move.   I feel I have been good for the city, but in return Los Angeles has been total shit to me.  I held a job for 25 years, and then suddenly, without any prior warning, was let go.  Damned for doing the right things and damned for the wrong.  I have always tried to do the right thing, but alas, like George Raft flipping one of his gold coins, I have to take the bad with the good.  Being human, I couldn't take the bitterness that started from my mouth to the stomach area, I just had to move and start a new life in a new location.  Also living in Los Angeles I felt like I wasn't in America, due to Japan and the rest of Asia was across from the large pond and my occasional visits to New York City, felt like I was visiting Europe.   It was then that I decided to move to Detroit, Michigan.

I got a job as a receptionist in a little recording studio on Grand Boulevard called Hitsville U.S.A. My job there, is to take care of their treasure trove of signed dated contracts, photographs, posters, and correspondence.   The thing is I want to make music and I found myself drawn to the recording studio on the first floor. It is a very small studio, but I have seen the space crammed full of musicians as well as the singer.  In the neighborhood, I found a girl group called "The Primettes.   They were singing in front of the Fisher Building on Grand Bouvelard.  As they were passing the bucket for donations, instead of money, I put in my business card inside the bucket - it read: Tosh Berman, Hitsville U.S.A.

Me and the three girls that make up the Primettes had coffee at Stella International Cafe, located on the ground floor inside the Fisher Building.  Since I was the record label guy (of sorts), I paid for their coffee.   For some odd reason, I can still remember how they liked their coffee.  Florence and Mary like it black, but Diana insisted on fresh cream and one little pack of sugar.  Diana stirred her coffee in a very slow and thoughtful manner.  I started to hum a melody in my head, and Florence sort of did a counter-melody to it, and Diane started to make up lyrics right there at the coffee shop.   I thought up of the title "Tears of Sorrow" which strikes me as a good dynamic and dramatic title.  Diane agreed and she started to play with the lyrics against the melody.

"A fresh cream in the tea
In a building of gold,
Can never take you away from me
Tears of Sorrow, Tears of grief
I do follow my heart"

From the coffee shop/Fisher Building, we walked to the Hitsville U.S.A. office & recording studio to see if we could record the song.  I found Earl in the studio and asked him to round up the musicians.  He got Joe, James (an incredible bass player), Papa Zita &Pistol on drums and Joe on guitar.  The beauty of America, is even though I was practically chased out of Los Angeles, but still, I was able to get a job as a receptionist here in Detroit, and there is even possibility of making a hit record.  My gut instinct tells me on I'm on a roll here.

After the successful session (my very first as a producer as well as a songwriter) I rushed the tapes to Archer Record Pressing on Davison Street.  I had to walk there, because I don't drive nor do I own a car.  This I feel is information I should keep secret from other Detroitians.   Within hours, we had our seven-inch single, backed by another song I wrote "Pretty Baby" on the flip side.   I went to the big boss Barry's office to show and play him the single.  Since I was not only an employee at his company, I was also a non-musician composer - in fact, I'm just the receptionist and I don't even have pretty legs if you get my drift.

There is something about Detroit that inspires one's soul - is it their water or air?  No, I think it is due that there is so much manufacturing in this city.  Cars, and of course music.  It is like Cupid took his bow out and the arrow hit bulls eye on the entire landscape of Detroit.  I could never tell if I arrived at paradise as it is opening up their arms to me, or is it the end, and I'm just seeing the rays of love leave the town.  Nevertheless, I'm here with a seven-inch single in my hand and I'm in Barry's office.

First thing he said to me when I entered into his office was "Who are you?"  Which comes to mind, that is a very good question.  Who are we all?  I told him that I'm the new receptionist, but I made a record with a new girl group and used the Funk Brothers as a back-up band, and that I co-wrote the song as well as produced it - all of course at Hitsville U.S.A.   He's impressed of course, so he OK's the release.    Barry as he sat behind his big oak desk, looked a lot like Che Guevara.  Since I worked here, I have seen him drive a diesel van, and I know he kept his gun in quiet seclusion - in many ways a humble man.  He has caused a panic in the air, or at the very least in Detroit.  I greatly admire him.  I wanted to tell him this, but he's not the type of guy to hear compliments from guys like yours truly.  He went downstairs to the studio with me, to meet the gals.

When he saw Diana, he froze.   I got the feeling something happened between them, but as I mentioned, Cupid for sure has his arrows pointed towards Detroit.  If you got that notion, I second that emotion.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Interview with Lun*na Menoh

Interview with my wife Lun*na Menoh.   On her artwork when she was living in Japan.  I'm here as well.

The Sunday Series: Sunday June 21, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday June 21, 2015

Today is one of my favorite holidays of the year: Father's Day.   We would not have father's day if it not was for the work of Sonora Smart Dodd, who in 1910, told her pastors that there should be a day for fathers, just like Mother's Day.    They did celebrate Father's Day in her hometown of Spokane Washington, but after a while, due to the fact that she studied art at the Art Institue of Chicago, the events eventually died down without her participation.  In 1930, she returned to her home town to promote Father's Day, but this time with the backing manufactures of ties, tobacco pipes, and any customary present to the male figure.  With the assistance of the Father's Day Council which was an organization put together by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers.  Citizens at the time resisted the so-called holiday owing to the commercial overtones.    It was in 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers.  Making the third Sunday in June as "Father's Day."  By the 1980s, the Father's Council wrote that the holiday "has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries."

Although I do love Father's Day, my pop is dead.  If you look on the bright side, this means that I don't have to spend any money for a present for my father.  On the other side of the coin: well, he's dead.  He's dead because he was murdered by a drunk driver.  The driver got a six month jail sentence, but was eventually turned loose within two months of his jail sentence to go to his own world of pain and pleasure.  Since I had no father anymore, except the memory of a father, I decided to purchase a bunch of Father's Days Cards at my local Trifity drug store.   What I have done for the past 38 years is sending the drunk driver a Father's Day card once a year.  I would write a personal note in it, letting him know what my life is like that year.  Mostly personal stuff liked romances I had that went south or some that stayed longer.  I also wrote a series of narratives I have in my head - like being with him, and joining his family on father's day.   I wrote to him that I have kept track of his family, including his dad, who seemed to disappear some time ago.  In one of my Father's Day cards to him, I wrote that "I'm very sad about the disappearance of your father. He must have loved you well, by the example of your current life."

I never heard back from him. Nor was I expecting to hear from him.  To be honest, I wrote those notes to him more for myself than him.  Don't tell anyone that.  I don't want anyone to think I'm an eccentric guy.   I know he gets them year - after - year, because I sent them all through certified mail, and he has to sign for them.  The funny thing is that he does sign for all of them.  One thinks that he would refuse this piece of mail, but it seems he has accepted all of them, which I have to admit, makes me warm all over.   I wonder at times if it not was for the death of my dad under his misdirection of using the steering wheel, if we would be this close?

Today, being father's day, I decided instead of sending a father's day card which I have done without fail for so many years now, if I shouldn't just pay him a visit and personally hand him over his card.  That may be a shocking surprise for him!   He lives in a large family home in Woodland Hills, and like me, he's getting up there in the age category - but I have heard that he is still physically healthy -he did have a cancer scare, and of course, I mentioned in one of my father's day cards, I wish him the best of health, and that surely he can beat the mighty "C."  Hell, he beat a jail term for manslaughter, surely he can beat the C.

I never talk about him to anyone else.   Sometimes it is too painful of a memory, but I never felt any bad will towards him.   His dad was a rancher in those parts -living more on the hills than the flat land.  When he disappeared about twenty years ago, I was of course, very concerned, and wrote to him in that year's card. "If there is anything I can do, please don't hesitate to contact me."  He never got back to me.  That's OK. We both have something in common is that we don't have Dad's that are around us anymore.  And to be honest, I'm more thankful that I know what happened to my dad, but he....  He will never know, except his dad is not here or more likely nowhere else.

Today I plan to go to his home and if he's up to it, take him out to lunch.  Maybe share a few bottles of brew in remembrance of dads in general.  I have tried calling him, but someone else either answers the phone and refuse to bring him to the telephone, or once or maybe twice, I did get him on the phone.  But he claimed it wasn't him, where in fact, I know it was him at the other end of the line.  I never take offense, because his reaction is totally understandable.  So yeah, I'm going to get into my little GTO and head out to his pad, and take him out to lunch. It is best to do these things now, because who knows what will happen in the future.  Something can happen to me or more likely to him, so it's good to take advantage of the day - this being Father's Day.    Happy father's day everyone.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday June 14, 2015

The Sunday Series
Sunday June 14, 2015

For the past 25 years, I go to Japan every year.  Usually I spend up to a month to two months at a time in Tokyo. The funny thing is I have no visual memory of that country.  What I do remember are the sounds of Japan.  Mostly due to the fact that I own "Sounds of Japan."   It is 34 authentic sound effects recorded in their actual locale. The album was put together by Katsumasa Takasago, who I know very little about.  

The beauty of such recordings is that one doesn't have to leave their home to appreciate another country's culture.   In 1965, I don't think that many American tourists went to Japan, yet here we have everyday sounds of a city that looks back to its past, but alas, very much part of the present life as well.  1965 can be 1975 as well as 2015.  I try to imagine what it must be like to listen to this album in 1965.  You never were in Japan, yet, you're thrown into a soundtrack to a movie that you imagine you have seen, but never actually saw it.

For whatever reason I think of Alain Resnais' film "Hiroshima mon amour," starring Emmanuelle Riva and the Japanese actor Ejii Okada.   The film script was written by Marguerite Duras.  It deals with memory, but like the powers of recall, it is always one's point-of-view, and therefore there is no truth.  So when a tourist approach a 'foreign' country or city, it is from the point-of-the-view of the visitor, who may or may not know nothing about the culture, but at least heard of it.

Listening to this album on a Sunday morning is like traveling through a Japanese city with your eyes closed.   One can easily feel or taste the country just by listening to the album.  The Snake Charmer in Asakusa who is on this album is more likely dead, but surely his son has taken over his spot in that beautiful part of Tokyo.  The snake charmer demonstrates the love making of snakes, which greatly amuse the children that walk by him.   There is something sinister about such a profession, especially when late daylight turns into evening.  In the darkness, there is another world.  Asakusa is the old downtown of Tokyo, and there is quite a difference between day and night there.  In fact, all of Tokyo changes of identity - it is not that dissimilar to Bruce Wayne when he puts the bat-mask on.  Another personality takes over the city as soon as the neon lighting is turned on.

"Last Year at Marienbad" can easily turn into "Last Year at Tokyo."  I want to wonder through the streets of the Ginza to locate the lost love I had there.  Once I find her, will she remember me?    Perhaps not.  The faint texture of being forgotten, left, or abandoned is all part of the Japanese feeling.  When I go by a bar and I can hear the hostess sing float beyond the entrance door, I think of her.  It is never a city of now, but a city of memories.   This album represents memories.  Even when the record came out in 1965, it was already a memory.

"Elevator girls at Takashimaya Department Store" would announce each floor in a high -pitched accent with an ultra feminine voice.  Announcing the goods on each floor, one is in a sense getting a floor show at a supper club, but alas, it is in an elevator.   The perfect choreographed gestures of using their white gloved hands to express what is on each floor and also to announce the upcoming floor number.   One is not encouraged to talk to them. It would be like talking to an actor on stage as he or she is performing.

It's odd for me to sit here this Sunday morning in Silver Lake, and listen to this album.  Whenever I leave Japan I feel great sadness.  I have almost a fear that I won't stay alive till the next visit.  I never want to think that this will be my last visit to Tokyo.  "Sounds of Japan," is my safety-net.   As long as I have this album, Japan will never leave me.  It is very strange to listen to this album. Even though it was recorded in 1965 in various parts of Tokyo and Kyoto, I still feel that it could have been recorded today.  Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed.  The story of my life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Secret Agent Meets The Saint" Music Composed and Conducted by Edwin Astley

Perhaps the greatest theme song for a TV show I have ever heard is Edwin Astley's "High Wire" (the theme for "Danger Man/Secret Agent").  Even though I watched 'Secret Agent" (starring Patrick McGoohan) as a child I was only familiar with Johnny River's "Secret Agent Man" - later a hit for DEVO.  It was years later, I heard "Hire Wire" I think when I watched the original BritIsh version of "Secret Agent," which is called "Danger Man" in the UK.  It's confusing. I know.  The British/American TV world had their separate standards, but as a connoisseur of everything wonderful, I normally go to the British for the state-of-the-art version.   Today in my six mile walk, I purchased "Secret Agent Meets The Saint."  Issued in 1965, this rare piece of vinyl is ground zero for my interest in British Spy TV soundtrack music.  Ashley was a talented composer/arranger/conductor and his unique way of using the harpsichord as not as a baroque instrument, but something modern sounding was / is excellent. Side one is the "Secret Agent" side and the other is "The Saint."  Both are superb examples of music of that period.  "The Saint" has a fantastic piece of flute/voice with piano scales going up and down.  It sort of reminds me of a British version of a horror Morricone soundtrack.   The thing is Astley likes to swing hard - and basically the whole album is a toe-tapper.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Franz Ferdinand Sparks Album

Franz Ferdinand Sparks (FFS)

Thank god, I don't have to wait longer for the new FFS album. For one, those who love pop music, must love this album. I'm a Sparks' fanatic, and this sounds like an excellent Sparks' album with something extra - Franz Ferdinand. Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos trade off vocals as well as do the blend-in effect effortlessly. The song writing is a text-book example of how to do a song right. Oddly enough, if I have to go to the past, I think "Propaganda" as the closest reference point - but this is Sparks working 'now. ' Franz Ferdinand, I think are the one's that had to change their approach to work with Sparks. Alex got his inner-Scott Walker (Walker Brothers era) vocal work-out going, and he is great as Russell frames his vocals by backing him, and confronting him like Ali fighting Frazer in the ring. The beauty of this album is that it doesn't sound forced - but organically put together. FFS is adventuresome pop in an era that is quite boring. For my ears, this album is 16 (I have the I-Tunes deluxe edition) manifestos for strong melodic overtures in a world that is turning gray. Technicolor never sounded so swell!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday June 7, 2015

The Sunday Series:

Sunday June 7, 2015

The strangest thing happened this Sunday, and it wasn't the small-sized woman who I have never seen before, come upon my back yard to sunbathe nude.   No, I have to say that was a bit odd, but nothing like what happened in this early Sunday morning.  I woke up hearing a strange noise outside the window.  Dawn was breaking, so I had a clear view of what was outside my bedroom window.  First of all, my window faces a busy rural street - we get a lot of people hiking back and forth in front of that window.   I have heavy shades to cover the brightness that comes in the morning, and as usual, when I hear a noise, I sort of peek out, instead of opening the window fully.  What I glanced at was a well-dressed male with a dog on a leash holding a bush open so that another well-dressed individual can depart with their dog on a leash.  

That small area has always been troubling to me. I often wake up in the morning and see either discarded food, and empty bottles.  Also I have come upon used condoms as well.  Yet, I never heard a noise during the night.  It is just something that I come across when I wake up to look outside my window.   The oddness of seeing someone holding a shrubbery apart so one can exit from it -like the vegetation was a residence of some sort.  I closed the curtain, and tried to go back to bed.  But I kept hearing sounds from the same direction, and again, I got up to give another look.  What I saw were more well-dressed individuals - now females as well, with dogs on leashes - and now three or more are keeping the undergrowth open so more of these people can come out with their dogs.

The dogs were all the same species.  Perhaps a pit-bull.  The only thing I could make out is that their eyes were bright red, and I didn't see a pupil - but solid red eyes.  It was a disturbing sight, so again, I went back to my bed.   Occasionally I could hear what sounded like a dog leaping up to my window which was street level.  I tried to fall asleep but the sound of the dog hitting the window pane unexpectedly, was disconcerting for me.   I was feeling cautious and I didn't want to make any waves, especially living in this neighborhood.  I remember I had to call the police regarding noise-making in the middle-of-the-night, and after that someone painted on my garage wall "snitches get stitches."  After that I hesitate to call the police. It was much later I found out that it was actually the police that painted that phrase on my home.

I pulled the curtain a bit, and when I did so, a dog came right up to the window snarling and barking something horribly towards me.  I quickly pulled back and covered the curtain across the window.  I called the police, and once I got a live person, I had a hard time describing what was happening.  Should I just mention that there is a pack of wild dogs outside my window, or should I add that these dogs are on a leash with a pack of mad well-dressed people?  It obviously sounded crazy, so I told them to forget about it, and I hung up the phone.

To get some air, I went to my backyard, where it is pretty secured from the outside world due to a high fence surrounding the property.  As I sat on my patio chair, I got the feeling that there was another presence near me.  I looked across from the yard and saw a pretty young girl sunbathing in the nude.   She was on one of the lounge chairs and didn't wear a thing on her, except sunglasses.  The first thing that struck me was how short she was.  At first I thought she was a child with a perfect female figure, but alas I suspected that she may have been in her twenties.   I didn't know her. Nor have I ever saw her in the neighborhood.   I didn't know what to do, because one I didn't know her and two She is in the nude.  Also she was aware of me sitting there, because she was looking towards me, but turned her head when she saw me looking at her.  Finally I walked up to her and asked her if everything is OK.  She took her sunglasses off and looked straight at me, but didn't say a word.  I walked back to my chair and I felt totally helpless.  On one end, I found this strange meeting alluring to me.  She had a lovely body, and I wanted to stare at her, but felt for obvious reasons, that it would be impolite to do so.   I couldn't read the narrative here, if she was expecting me to propose a sexual gesture towards her.  I suddenly heard loud knocking on the front door as well as the door-bell ringing off and on.  I walked to the door, but didn't want to open it of course.   I looked at the keyhole and there were two well-dressed men smiling at me through the keyhole.  I felt awkward that they caught me looking through the door keyhole, so I opened it slowly.  A foot came in to block it being closed.  "May we come in, please?"

Behind them were others with their dogs, so I told them 'Please come in quickly."  Once they came in, one of them started to look around the house, and he was slowly going towards the backyard but of course, I didn't want him to go back there to see the girl.  I asked them both what do they want?  "We're doing a survey of the neighborhood, and you're the only one who didn't fill out a form that was left in your mailbox."  I thought about it, and I sort of have a vague memory of seeing such a form, but like all forms I get in the mail, I threw it out.  I didn't tell them that of course.  I said something of the effect, that I didn't see it.  They both looked at me, and then each other with a smile on their faces.  One had a small carrying case with him, and he opened up and took a form out.  He handed me the form with a pen and asked me to fill it out there in front of them.  I asked if I could do this in another time because I have another engagement I must go to.  They both looked at me again, and just said, "it will only take a minute.  We just need your name, address, phone number and that's it.  Please fill out the form sir."

I have to admit that I felt totally intimated by these two men.  I thought to myself, "what is the harm in filling out my name, address and number - they have it already."   I took their pen and filled out the form.   I then handed their pen and form back to them.  While I was doing all of this, they basically both just smiled at me.   When I hand him over the pen, he immediately dropped it on the ground.  He didn't do anything just stood there and smiled at me.  By instinct, I got the pen from the floor and again gave it to him.  He then dropped the form to the ground.  Again, I went on the ground, to pick up the form and I hand it over to him.  He then dropped both pen and form on the ground.

He then told me "that is all, Mr. Berman, thank you for your cooperation."  They both left the house, but they also helped themselves out.  The odd thing is that they kept the door open, and I was scared to death that one of the dogs would come in.  I ran by the door to shut and lock it.   The form and the pen as it lay on the carpeted floor were like an ugly stain on the floor.   I took the pen and form up from the floor, and went out to the front yard.  To my surprise, the young girl was gone.   I went back in, and found an old empty frame.  I attached the form to the frame, and went up to an empty space on the wall in the front room and hung the frame with the form attached to it.   This I feel, will be the closest thing as a self-portrait.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 31, 2015

The Sunday Series:

Sunday May 31, 2015

I do not have the foggiest idea why I'm obsessed with Brahms' 4th Symphony.   I'm not a huge fan of classical music - especially symphonies.   I must have first heard Brahms' 4th Symphony in a movie or perhaps music being reproduced in a shopping area.  Nevertheless the melodies tugged my heart in such a fashion that over the years I have purchased every version of this music possible.  My two favorite recordings are Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra and Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra.   Although the same music, the feelings are quite different from each other.  The Toscanini version is more forceful, energetic, and perhaps the pace is faster as well.  The Klemperer is more thoughtful, and therefore more sexual.  Perhaps even obscene. 

Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96 l. Allegro non Troppo

The lushness of the first movement of the symphony always reminded me of a personal loss, that even now, and after so many years, it is even difficult for me to write about it.  So I won't go into the specifics, except that it was a great loss and I will never regain the time or moment when it was mine to grasp.   Toscanini frames the feeling not perfectly, but more of a sketch of the moment together as fleeting.  He's using oil paints to carry out this picture, when Klemperer would use watercolor.   When I hear his opening of the first movement, I feel like I'm slipping on a newly waxed marble floor.  I will fall, and it will hurt, but the elegance of the surroundings is what I wish to be surrounded by.  I feel that I'm falling in love, but not a living being, but with a spirit.  Or perhaps with someone I don't know or never will know.  Love letters handed back and forth, and besides me and my lovers fingerprints, will be the fingerprints of the mailman delivering the letter to my mailbox.  Toscanini's letter smell of a strong perfume scent such as Estee Lauder Youth-Dew Eau de Parfum, while Klemperer's letter will be the faint fragrance of Mugler Cologne, which has been reported that the scent disappears within fifteen minutes after putting it on. The heavy coating of the arrangements for the NBC Orchestra, is one where it is quite warm, and you want to take your coat off.  Yet, Toscanini refuses to have the musicians to remove their clothing - while Klempperer is actually 'insisting' that you do so. 

Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96 ll. Andante moderato

The faint battle cry of the opening of the second movement is like being on the back of the paper plane, and one is drifting on the air current of a hot and very still summer afternoon.  Though Toscanini's conducting, it feels like an angel is flying beside you, but we both know that the paper will evenly be torn from the sky and gravity will force it to crash into the pavement.  With Klemperer, one will still crash to the earth, but it more likely into a field of irises.  It is a reflective piece of music, that one feels being pushed into the flames by Toscanini, and you will clearly die in Klemperer's hands, but he will poison you first, and then once dead, throw you into the flames.  In both versions, it's the french horns that inform you what will take place.  But the big difference here is one saying 'Hey buddy," and the other is saying "hey friend."   A big difference, but that is the nature of translating one language into another language - and that goes the same when interpreting a piece of music. 

"Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96  lll. Allegro glocoso"

It's murder. Toscanini is committing an act of murder in front of his orchestra and his audience.  It is like he's wearing a cloak with a dagger in his white gloved hand and he's stabbing each musician in the NBC Orchestra.  Blood flows as my ears warm up to his intensity.  I have sat in the high seats at the Disney Music Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, and felt like I was going to slip out of the seat onto the stage.  The stage, the seating and even the music gives me vertigo.  Klemperer's version is more of a fore-warning.  There is a hesitation as if he is holding the melody in his hands gently.   Yet the listener is cautious that he may drop the melody onto the floor.  Also, listening to his take on the third movement, I feel like I'm speeding in a car in the darkened woods.  Only the headlights from my car are exposing what is out there.   The 'there" that I both fear and crave.  

"Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96 lV.   Allegro energico e passionata"

Forlorn.  It is unlikely to succeed or be fulfilled.  I have often felt like I was thrown in front of a speeding automobile.  I try to grasp her gloved hand, to keep my balance, but alas, I'm left with tire-marks on my face and my clutched hand containing the loose glove.  As I glanced back, I can see the members of the NBC Orchestra mocking me as I try to breathe on the smooth pavement.  Each member of the orchestra come by my broken body, and smashes me in the face with their chosen instrument.   As I lay on my hospital bed, I listened to Klemperer's version of the last movement, and what I find is a purity that soothed my broken body and spirit.  It is like if someone spread out a bed of feathers on the wooden floor, where I can't touch the foundation with my feet.   I feel embraced by the arms of Otto Klemperer, and I can sense the fear by his touch.  History will treat both Klemperer and Toscanini in a different manner. Yet they, and me, in other words, we, will always have Brahms' 4th Symphony.  

- Tosh Berman

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 24, 2015

The Sunday Series:

Sunday May 24, 2015

Books.  I have a lot of books.  Every book I have is a great book.  But due to space and finances, I need to surrender some of my books to the outside world.  I set this Sunday to make final choices.  Which books to keep and to give-up.  The truth is I don't want to give up any of my books.  If I could, I would keep my books intact as a collection.  So when I die, it will be either sold or put up in a museum as the "Tosh Collection."   I'm one of the few that believe that looking at someone's bookshelf, you are truly seeking a self -portrait of that individual.  Clothing is another option, but in reality, it is the book that you read, that makes you what you are. 

The first book I became aware of is more likely one of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.  The need to go somewhere else, or anywhere else from home, is a pleasant way to see the world, as imagined by another person.   I set my work space, or writing- room, as a window or a port to travel.    What I fear now, is to get rid of a book, that may be a passage to the other world.  Once gone, I'll be stuck here, sitting in front of this Macbook Pages application.  

I have quite a few of P.G. Wodehouse titles, and through those books, I'm exposed to a world that is much better than mine.   I have often tried to visualize having Jeeves at my service.  My needs are taken care of in such a fine manner, that I don't even have to ring the bell that is placed on my work table.  He knows when to arrive, and I can sit here and just 'desire' something.  

Tearing this collection apart is like death.  A young man wouldn't have to do this, but as one gets older, they have to inventory their goods - and decide what must go and what must stay.   I then had the thought of photographing every book I own - just the cover.  That way, if I'm on a trip outside my house, I can in a sense carry my collection with me.  Logically I can't re-read the books, so do I keep them?  

I would say third of my collection are used or second-hand books.  For each used book, I think who owned it, and why they had to let it go.  The most common, especially if they're vintage paperbacks, were owned by a student.  Most, if not all, are underlined in specific sections - more likely used for a classroom.  Then there are books that are clearly owned by an older individual.   One wonders if death came upon them, and the family sold the books to the second-hand shop.  And since I own books that the original publication goes back to the twenties - all those must have been touched by the once-living.  I feel that way about vinyl albums and 45rpm singles as well.  There is not only history in the grooves and paper, but also surrounding the object.  

When I go to a used bookstore and they have new stock, I can tell it came from a specific collection.   Especially when you notice new titles in the poetry section.  Readers tend to stay with a certain school of poetry.   I was intrigued some years back, when I came upon a lot of French Surrealist poetry on the shelves.  I became curious to know who the original owner of these titles.  The bookshop owner didn't want to give out a name, but told me he was a TV producer, who created "Father Knows Best."    I didn't need to know more.  I was satisfied that a reader of Surrealist poetry, was also the mastermind of an all-American inane family living in the suburb of everyday 1950s America.   

As I'm about to give up my book collection, I have to decide to either open up my own library - or to toss it out to the world.  I have come to the conclusion, that when I die, I will give my house to the town of Silver Lake, where my belongs and books will stay intact.  There will be a $5 admission to keep the property and home in a good shape.   The "Tosh Berman Library" will be used for scholars as well as the 'everyday' curious to see what my life was like, which is basically the reflection of the books that I own.