Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday March 22, 2015

Sunday No. 11

Sunday March 22, 2015

In my many moments of pure crisis, I often find myself at the Santa Monica Pier - not only for the view of the Pacific Ocean, but more importantly, Zoltar the Fortune Teller.   I tend to make the wrong choice at the worst times in my life, so I choose to let fate take a hold of me, by giving my role of chance to Zoltar.   Like others in my troubles, I tend to look at a higher power to lead me out of the darkness into the lightness.  For whatever reasons, I have always been attracted to the Santa Monica Pier, not due to its tourist attractions, but the darkness that seems to lurk in the shadows between the arcade games.   It is one thing to be here in bright daylight with others, but to be surrounded by the machines themselves in the dead of the night, is almost a spiritual re-awakening.  I have to admit I felt fear when I'm here alone in the arcade, but also feel that I'm only a foot away from my existence, and therefore feel more alive than anywhere else or time. 

The Santa Monica Pier opened in 1909, which was a very much different world then.  The extension from land or beach to the sea, must have been a sign of significant meeting - in that one is honoring the horizon that the ocean represents.    For me, when I look out at the edge of the pier to the vast amount of water, I think there is no turning back once one makes that journey beyond the shore.  So, instead of going forward to the horizon, I turn my back to the ocean, and head towards Zoltar. 

This particular vending machine only cost a quarter, and lucky they had a change machine near-by.  I put my quarter in, and received a fortune from Zoltar saying: "You are a strong believer in fate."   At that moment, that belief was extremely strong.  I looked into Zoltar's eyes to see if I can receive a recognition of some sort.  Oddly enough, I couldn't get a fix on his eyes.  It seemed that he was looking away from me, perhaps as far away as my past.  "You feel you have no control over your destiny."   No shit Zoltar!  I often wander around the pier after midnight, hoping to see a sign saying 'don't jump into the ocean."   

Instead I look at my fortune card that came from the vending machine, and it tells me that my lucky numbers are 10, 12, 13, 2, 1.   Since today is the 22nd, and I didn't see 22 as among my lucky numbers, I felt I was on very dangerous ground.  All I could hear was the hum of the Zoltar machine, and the waves hitting the pier.  For whatever reason, I thought of a piece of music by Edgar Varése "Arcana."  The original arrangement consists of an orchestra with 120 musicians, and yet, here I can just hear Zoltar and the ocean.  Both have an organic quality, and I always thought of Varése as a composer tied closely with rural and urban sounds.   And here I'm, standing by the fortune vending machine, and only feet away from the majestic ocean, which is calling out to me.

As I was very much alone, I felt more romantic.  It started to rain, and I had no desire to hide myself from the tears.  Alas, I read the last part of my fortune, which reads "fate will be kind to you and you can expect your life to run on a smoother pattern."  I looked back at the ocean, and immediately realized that my destiny lies not there, but with Zoltar.   I made a promise right there, that I would never leave the pier, nor will peer pressure will ever make me jump into the ocean.  My thoughts, my life, are an island of contentment. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday March 15, 2015

Sunday March 15, 2015

What I find fascinating about nature is that I have no interest in it.  Also I wonder, living in Los Angeles, if I can fully go into 'nature. ' Where I live, I'm surrounded by parks and mountain trails.  Yet, as far as I can gather, these trails were made by humans. So the very nature of either building a road or making a trail is already changing what is once 'wild' nature.   Most people don't even think about what is or what isn't nature, but for me, it's important to make the distinction between 'real' nature and 'man (woman) -made' nature.  Is the reflection we see, is that real or not real?  As I get older I crave to see or feel something that is real.  So far, when I take my walks in the hills of rural Los Angeles, I feel I'm on a movie set, than say a natural landscape that is untouched by human hands.

While reading up on the history of Griffith Park, I was surprised to learn that there was an Indian tribe called "Gabrielinos" (now called the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe) that lived in the area.  It seemed that Corporal Jose' Vicente Feliz was rewarded with a Spanish land grant in 1775.  Colonel Griffith J. Griffith acquired the land in 1882 and eventually gave it as a gift to the city of Los Angeles in 1896.  In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built retaining walls, hiking trails, access roads, maintenance, and restored some of the structure that are in the park.   The CCC camp, after Pearl Harbor was attacked, became a prison of sorts for Issei (Japanese people who immigrated to a new country), who were considered by the FBI to be 'enemy aliens. ' Griffith Park Detention Camp could hold around 70 men.   It seems that the major crime by these people, was the fact that they were part of the Japanese race.   As of today, Sunday, I can find no trace of this world.

The only thing I connect to is an image of Smokey the Bear.   Smokey has been around since 1944, so he was ten years old when I was born in 1954.  Throughout my life I was aware of Smokey, and he is the one consistent figure in my whole life.  So as I enter the park, he is the one that greets me.  It has been reported by the Ad Council, that Smokey is recognized in the U.S. BY 95% of adults, and 77% of children.  I have memories of having a Smokey the Bear lunch box.  The message that became very clear to me, was “only me, can prevent forest fires.” Whenever a fire breaks out in a forest, to this day, I feel responsible for the destruction.

Living near Griffith Park, I feel that it’s my almost private playground.   Although I do share it with a million other people at the very least, I still feel like it’s a reflection of my life.   My wife and I walk up to the Griffith Park Observation to look over the magnificent landscape that is Los Angeles, which as we all know by now, is the greatest city on the West Coast.  It is interesting to note that the Observatory opened up in 1935, around the same time that the CCC was building up the park.  A utopia vision of the mixture of nature and the stars - the perfect partnership.  Being a long-time fan of “Adventures of Superman” TV show, I was happy to discover that they used the Observatory as Jor-El’s laboratory on the planet Krypton.   We went inside of the Observation to see the Foucault pendulum as well as the refracting telescope, Zeiss. The song "Lost in the Stars' came to my mind as we sat there and watch the stars appear on the ceiling.  Someone behind me made a 'moo' sound, and at first, it annoyed me, but I followed him up by doing a rooster.  It was a full audience, and it seemed everyone looked at us in the darkness or one or two voices saying "shut-up."   We did, and speaking for myself, I just pretended it didn't happen in the first place.

When we walked out of the Observatory, I noticed a statue or a bust of a face.  I walked up to it, and I admired the way the sculpture captured the hairstyle of the person's face.  The next time I get a haircut, I want to bring this bust with me to show to the barber what type of haircut I want.  It's very difficult at times, to communicate with a hair-cutter in exactly what you want.  For instance, if I tell them that I want my haircut to be a combination of Elvis 1956 mixed with touches of Bowie's Ziggy haircut of 1972, I would mostly get a blank stare.   But here, bringing this statue, I think would solve that problem.  A photograph would be helpful, but bringing an object that is 3-dimensional I think is better.  That way, the hair-cutter can see the object from all sides and angles.  Then again, maybe I'm putting too much thought on to all of this.

As we walked down the hill taking us to Los Feliz boulevard, we ran upon a pack of coyotes that were eating something that was once alive.  I wasn't sure if the victim was human or beast, but we just walked down the street and paid no attention to the carnage in front of us.  Griffith Park means many things to people, but for me, it is a reflection that is life, but life as being projected by yours truly on a very warm Sunday afternoon.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Sunday Series : Sunday March 8, 2015

Sunday No. 9
Sunday March 7, 2015

As I sit here looking at my tree outside the window, I notice that the seasons play havoc with its leaves, and therefore so does nature with my beard.  I never liked to shave, due that I find the daily procedures boring.  I have a thick beard, and if I wanted to be totally clean-shaven, I need to do it every morning.  Sometime ago, I decided to only shave once a week.   Only on Sundays, I would shave.  But the weekly process of trimming the beard and then getting a razor was like being in school. I don't like to be told what to do -either by teacher or nature.  It wasn't that long ago that I started to see a barber for a hair trim and shave every Sunday.   A shave and trim costs $60, while just getting a full-shave is $35.   I have this thing where I detest odd numbers coming up on my bill.  So just to avoid that, I always throw in a trim as well to make the total into an even 60.

I like to think my haircut is as precise as my personal life. Neatness is a sign of a civilized man, and to this day, I'm bothered to see if some male is either wearing his hairstyle wrong, or the clothing is off.    Socks to me is the real test.  They should match with something that you are wearing.  Shirt or even, a hat is good if it's the same color or pattern as your socks.  It's a little gesture, but the actions will take you far.  Also it serves as a mental exercise as well.  To locate the right pair of socks with the correct shirt can be a treasure hunt, but if you're good at it, the awards are plenty.  I have noticed that most women are aware of the sock and shirt combination.   The best or as I call it, my masterpiece is the argyle sock that matches the sleeveless argyle v-neck sweater. Powered blue button down shirt, either opened at the neck or buttoned up - your choice.  But the color combination is a real winner.

Every Sunday I do my best to dress as the best I can before I see my barber in Echo Park.   He knows me well enough (not my life, but what I prefer in a haircut and shave).  I remember the first time I saw him, and it was a joyful experience.  I got into his barber chair not knowing what to say exactly.  I always felt it was beneath me to show an image of the haircut I wanted.  To articulate your desires verbally to your barber is the best form of communication.   I told him that I wanted a haircut that was short as possible on the sides, and a tad long on the top.  He asked me if I wanted a "1" or a "2" for the sides I told him that I didn't know the difference.  He cut my hair to a "2" on the side, and then showed it to me.  It was long.  I told him a "1."  He then suggested a 1 and then a "2" and will cut half-an-inch on the top.   That sounded perfect and that is exactly what he did.

The best part of the haircut is when he focused on the hairline above the ears.  I was obsessed that he cut it in a way where the skin was shown, and that the whole area had to be 'clean' with no hair whatsoever going over the ears. He also spent time tracking down all the hair on my ears as well.  One of the things I hate the most is finding hair in or on my ears.  I hate to see it when I'm talking to a male person, and the first thing I notice is the hair either on the ear, or worse coming out of a nose nostril.  I do have poor eyesight, but still, the details are extremely important.  At home, I have a check list of things that must be looked at on a regular basis - which includes hair on the ears, coming out of the nose, and hair on the nose.  And eyebrows must be trimmed at all times.  Bushy eyebrows cannot be helped, but surely one can keep them trimmed and for God's sake don't allow hair between the two eyebrows.  One doesn't need a bridge between the left and right eyebrow.

The beauty of having a shave is being in someone's power.  As soon as the shave starts, my eyes are closed shut.  To this day, I have never seen a straight razor blade approaching my face.  The first thing he did was put a lotion on my face, and then a hot towel covering everything except my nose.  Once removed he forces my head to one side and starts to work on the neck and on up.  I can actually feel every hair being cut on my neck. Not exactly painful, but there is the feeling of something being cut off your neck and face.  The slight pain is part of the procedure, because every time you feel the tinge of pain or discomfort, you get an award of a soothing cream or hot towel or both.  When I shave I always shave upwards, but not once does he do that.  It is all downstrokes, and the whole procedure takes at least a half-n'-hour. It never fails, that I think of Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street while feeling the blade against my throat.   Somewhere in that procedure he put on something that stung me slightly, but the smell was Royall lime.  I remember the scent of the after-shave, because my Dad wore it all the time.  There was one time he picked me up from the ground to kiss me, I must have been three or year years old, but I clearly remember the smoothness of his face right after he shaved as well as the royal lime scent.

As I was sitting in the barber chair, I was suddenly in another place, location and time.  The music being played over the barbershop sound system was Charlie Parker, when he was making recordings for Dial records in Glendale, California.  A sound that was very much part of my childhood at the family home.  So the combination of the scent, the hot towel and the memory of the smooth skin of my dad brought me into another dimension.

The images that were in my brain eventually became a black and white 8mm film, and once the towel was removed, and I opened my eyes, the world was in Technicolor.  The first time, the first trip is always the best, and after that, you're just trying to capture that lost moment.  Although my face is right, the hair perfect, and the shave as smooth as that girl's ass - I'm feeling out of time.  Like a stray dog knowing where his food is, I go back to the barber shop every Sunday to get my emotional fix for the rest of the week.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tosh Berman Reads & Discusses the "2014 Series" at Alias Books East on Friday March 20, 7:30 P.M.

Here's a quick peek at the cover (one of four colors) of June 1, 2014, one of the pieces Tosh Berman will read Friday the 20th at Alias Books East. 7:30pm. Punch & Pie Served.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 8 (March 1, 2015)

Sunday No. 8

Since today is Sunday, this is the day where I’m going to build my ideal record shop within one of my rooms in our house.   I often dream of living in a record store - but not just any record store, but one from the 1950s or early 1960s.  The mid-modern interior plus music is a seductive image for me.  In my dreams, I have often looked at out-of-print albums and just being amazed that I’m holding them - but alas it is only a dream.  But as they say, “dreams can happen.”  

For the vinyl, I basically sold everything except the house and clothes I wear on a daily basis.  The artwork was sold, as well as my car and the wife’s car as well.  I also went on a diet of just eating one meal a day, to save money to purchase not only quantity but quality vinyl as well.   I went to various dealers at the Pasadena Swap Meet in the Pasadena City College - and purchased a great deal of vinyl.  Around 3,000 pieces.  I have a sizable classical section, which is mostly the label Columbia “Masterworks, ” series; the so-called six eye label. Then of course, the complete Dial Jazz recordings as well as Miles’ Columbia releases (of course, and again, the six eye label) as well as every release from Reprise Records, the label started by Frank Sinatra in 1960.  And for good measure most of the releases from Capital Records 1950s era.   Then I have a sizable section of Factory Records, and of course, The Beatles Apple releases - but not the actual Beatle recordings, but the other artists who had albums issued on that label. 

The actual room which will now be a record store is 100 feet by 100 feet.  It’s a decent size room and it used to be our living room.  Using vintage photographs of authentic record shops from the 1940s to early 1960s, I pretty much have the design for my dream room.   I had to re-do the walls and floor, and I actually covered up a window by placing it with a giant image of the Columbia six eye label.  I went for the art deco meets mid-century retail interior look for this room.   Since the windows were removed, I could put up album displays on the walls, and then I built a long counter, where I placed the turntable and register machine.  Even though it’s a real register, there is not any money in it.   I also built a magazine rack and filled it with vintage 16 Magazine, Tiger Beat, old copies of NME, Melody Maker, and the first two or three issues of Rolling Stone Magazine (when they were still situated in San Francisco).   The turntable I purchased for the space is The Thorens TD 124, which was first introduced in 1957, but mine is actually from 1966.   The additional Goldring 850 cartridge with the Rega II tone arm made this the ultimate turntable. It’s very important that when playing vintage vinyl that you also use a vintage turntable as well. 

After finishing the decor and getting the inventory together, is to add a very important element in the whole picture.  I needed a very beautiful and sexy girl to work behind the counter as well as help me to keep the records in their sections.   With that in mind I needed to re-finance my home, to raise funds for payroll to finance such a person.   I went to Amoeba to locate the most stunning woman employee there, and believe me there are plenty of beautiful eye-candy material.  But I also need a woman who can talk and think about vinyl as well as looking good in a 1950s vintage dress.   No slacks or casual wear is allowed in my private record store.   Also she must be single, and not be involved with anyone else, besides me of course. 

I choose a girl by the name of Virginia.  She had long straight blonde hair that came to her derrière, and I made sure she wore short skirts, due that she had long lovely legs.   I also insisted that she be barefooted while working in my record store space.  So there was a touch of the Sandie Shaw aspect of her as well.  She totally agreed to everything, and it was an extra plus that she was very much into 20th century classical music and was quite a fan of the composer Luciano Berio. 

The genius touch, was to be able to add a small bar at the left side of the sales counter.  That is where I kept my various bottles of wine, as well as sake (planning to add Japanese showa era pop music) and whisky.  The opening day when everything came together was on Sunday March 1.   Virginia showed up for work in a proper work attire, and I eventually got myself a drink of whisky and water.  I sat down and while she was behind the counter she put on a copy of Berio’s “Sinfonia” with the composer conducting the piece.  As I approach my older age, I realized that one shouldn’t have to compromise their stance in the world.  This privileged place, or room, with Virginia, is and will be my final statement left on this world. 

-Inspired by Lun*na Menoh & Boris Vian.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 7

Sunday no. 7

A Sunday in the park, and who knows what we will see or experience at Griffith Park.  My wife and I wandered through the park without a plan or thought in our head.   We didn’t even do it for exercise, but more of a thought that we can discover something new in our lives.   Even though it was a sunny morning, there was something dark about the way the plants greeted us as we enter its kingdom.   Park Rangers managed to put speakers throughout the park, where they played Brahms 4th Symphony, which I have to say, is one of my favorite pieces of music.   The grandness of the melodies in this specific symphony matched the moodiness of the park itself. 

As we walked past the abandoned or closed merry-go-round, I felt a tinge of fear in my chest. I didn’t say anything to my wife, because I didn’t want to admit to her what I was feeling.  I knew from the very moment I opened my eyes, that we would go for this walk.  I sought to put it off, but she was very convincing that this activity would be good for the both of us.  “a healthy body makes a healthy mind,” someone once said, and I’m not sure if the author of that quote is still here with us.  Nevertheless, the first sense that came to me was the smell of fresh horseshit on the dirt walking path.  I also understand why people walk together in these hills, because for one, it is very easy to get lost, and two, if you fall down a hill, you may stay there till death takes over. 

As we walked on the pathway, I was trying to imagine what is around the corner.  The total unknown aspect was slightly scary to me.   As we walked on the pathway to whatever it is, I kept hearing sounds on the side of the hill.   We stopped, and looked at the direction and I can make out what we think was a human figure behind a tree.  It didn’t move, so we didn’t move.  After awhile, we stood there silently and chose to move on.  Around the bend we saw what looked like a skeleton of a dead animal.  My wife thought it looked like a human’s skeleton, but I thought “No, that’s not possible.” I took a stick to move the bones around, and I was convinced that it was an animal, but it must have been a large animal.  Perhaps an ape?  Are there wild apes at Griffith Park?

As we went further down the pathway, we saw a side of the landscape that looked like it had small tunnels, but were actually holes.  Me, being me, wanted to stick my hand in the hole to see what would happen.   I did so, and I touched something that felt like fur, but also it seemed dead.  By instinct I tried to pull the fur object out of the hole, but it wouldn’t budge out of the tight area.  My wife told me to stop, and after 26 years of marriage I did so.  Still, once I pulled my hand out of the hole, I smelled my fingers and there was a scent on it that seemed like death to me.  Then again, it could have just been the smell of my clear nail polish. 

Nature being natural, always struck me as an artificial world.  Once a human stomps on the side of nature, it becomes a mere representation of what we think is “nature.” When I put my hand in the hole or perhaps it is even a gopher’s entrance to an inner world, I still wanted to touch something that was part of another world. Clearly I don’t belong here.  Nor does anyone else.   For nature to be natural, it needs to be separate from the rest of the urban world. 

As I write, I ‘m surrounded by plastic plants, because I like the idea of nature, but I prefer the representation of it.  For one, these artificial plants will never die.  And two, the death of nature is very disturbing to me.  I walk in the park, and all I see is death.  Beautiful death, but nevertheless, death.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 6 (February 15, 2015)

Sunday No. 6 (February 15, 2015)

I look back so far, that I can’t see what is in front of me.  Whenever I go to a concert, I’m totally focused on who is there, meaning in the audience.  Even when the music is being performed and the musicians are dancing on the stage, my eyes are still wandering around the theater, in the hopes that I see someone I know.  A concert has no meaning unless you fill it up with people you know.  The best part of the show is talking to friends online about how excited you are to go to the event, and then getting there a little bit early to hang out in the lobby of the theater - to both check out the merchant table as well as seeing friends.  The actual show starting is a combination of excitement, and disappointment at the same time.  The truth is we are excited to sit down and to see the show, but in reality we just want to communicate to others how excited we are being there, and want to celebrate the communal feeling that we all have.  For instance, I purchased a new suit for the concert, and I really want my friends to see me in my outfit.   It is not unusual for me to totally not remembering the actual show on stage, but I of course, have a crystal clear memory of every transaction that took place right before the concert.  I even enjoy getting in line for security.  There is something thrilling about having a pair of hands checking out your leg and torso for hidden weapons of some sort.   If it was me separated from the crowd, I would be offended.  But to be with the others, and sharing the experience of being man-handled, is actually quite superb.  We often get together and complain about the same things.

I started to appreciate music when my best friend brought me a copy of Sparks “Kimono My House” to my home.  He puts it on my turntable, and we immediately began to talk about girls.  At the time, he was going on a date with a girl that I liked a lot.  He knew it, and he loved to tell me sexy stuff about her.  He got great enjoyment in sharing their intimate moments with me.   I remember feeling jealous, yet turned on at the same time.  It was at that moment, when there was silence between us, that I noticed the music on the turntable.  I ask him whether he likes it?  He said “of course. I brought it for you to hear.” Which makes perfect sense.  It’s funny that I had a turntable in the house, because I only got it, because a friend demanded that I get one.  He claimed that if you like music, you must have the proper gear to listen to music.  At the time, I told everyone that I loved music, but in truth, I only liked to hear music either at parties or in nightclubs. I would never think about listening to music in one’s own home.  What is the purpose of that?

My appreciation of music comes specifically from friends or people I’m interested in.  I often join music online chat groups, mostly if not fully for the reason of the people themselves.  There was a girl that I fancied and she told me she was a fan of a group called “The Hollywood Stars, ” who no longer exist.  I think they made one album, and even that, I’m not sure if that’s the case or not.  Again, I joined the chat list to stay connected to this particular girl.   I learned about the band through her, and I guess they came from Los Angeles sometime in the 1970s.  She gave me a cd-r of their music, but I never took the trouble to play it - but I told her that I liked the music anyway.  She told me that the cd-r was a recorded rehearsal for one of their shows - or maybe it was a demo tape they gave out to promoters.  Nevertheless, she thought it was pretty hot and rare, and I acted surprised and honoured to have received such a gift.   Through her and others, on the chat line we became a real-life sociable group, and would often go out to concerts together.  I never discussed music in detail with these people, but I would let them know that I do own the cd-r of the Hollywood Stars, and by this time, I think everyone in the group got a hold of it.  Damn, I even made several copies for my friends, now come to think of it.

All three of us met at my house, and as we wait for UBER to pick us up, I reflect on how grateful I am of culture and what it brings to my life.  Without it, I wouldn’t have the friends I have now.  At times, I feel that they don’t really know me, but I know them quite well.   As we get in the car and head for darkness of the night, my heart actually gets brighter for me.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 5 (February 8, 2015)

Sunday No. 5

As a writer I have two interests.  Writing and going to Amoeba Music.  Nothing else really has a hold on my life.  The presence of my writing, which to be honest, blows me over.  To celebrate a perfect sentence or two, I usually go to Amoeba to celebrate my day of work.  Or to be honest, my half-n’ hour work in getting that sentence or two down on paper or computer screen.   The fact is right in the middle of the sentence, I’m already thinking about taking the bus to Amoeba.  I have the ability to think about two things at once.  My writing and the need to get to the record store.  I should stay home and finish the paragraph at the very least, but art is calling me, and like the salmon swimming against the tide of the river to reproduce, I too have a need to get to the record store in such a manner.

Like my writing, I don’t like to consider what I’m going to write about, until the very first sentence is written.   So in that spirit I go into the record store without a thought in my head.  Overall I know what sections the store to go to at first, because I started to have an appreciation of classical music.  The thing with me is I crave new sounds.   But I only like ‘old’ sounds, so what’s older than classical music?  Like most people of my generation, I discovered the classics through Stanley Kubrick.  If it wasn’t for him, I would more likely never heard of Beethoven’s music - although I knew the name, and often lie to people that I knew his music as well.  The fact is I discovered Beethoven through Wendy Carlos’ soundtrack to “A Clockwork Orange.” At the time of the original release of the film, there was nothing happening.  When you see Alex staring at you from the huge screen at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Bouvelard, one becomes transfixed by that image as well as the music in the background.  Often when I write, I always have music in the background.  I avoid music with words or lyrics, because that would throw me off of my work on hand, but a nice drone or classical piece is like putting gasoline in my engine. I’m ready to roar with the appropriate sounds.

I purchased the latest Bob Dylan album “Shadows in the Night” and Glenn Branca’s “Lesson No. 1.” The Dylan is his album of standards, and Branca is one guitar rave-up.  On one level, it is just like the last part of a Yardbirds song, when all the guitars go crazy.  Glenn Branca is that part but with no chorus or words.  So it’s very hardcore and right-to-the-point type of music for me. At times, I just crave that guitar sound - and when you have at least five electric guitars going at once, well it is sort of like heaven.

Today being Sunday, I'm finding myself totally not motivated in writing a piece.   I wouldn’t say I exactly have a writer’s block, because I did write two perfectly fine sentences earlier today.  No, it’s not the writing, but more of a reflection problem.  I look at the window, with the Glenn Branca music blaring behind me, and I look at a tree, and oddly enough that image of the tree stays the same.  I look at it and think of it as a human body made out of wood, but that’s stupid.  A tree is a tree.  I of course start thinking of the tree as a “tree of life.” But no matter how long I look at it, and I even went outside to get another perspective, it is obviously a tree is nothing more than a tree.

I came back in, and got in front of my laptop.  Slowly sitting here, I am starting to realize that a whole world is opening up to me.  As I write, I’m in my living room.  I’m surrounded by my books as well as a decent, but not high-end hi-fi system.  Through the internet, I can order food to be delivered, so there is no reason for me to leave - like ever.   I’m feeling a certain amount of content of just being, and not thinking about it.  My existence is both, important and non-important.  If I die while writing, more likely it will take several days for someone to discover my body.  Therefore it’s imperative to always dress well, even at home.  Not only must I have clean underwear (of course), but also to make sure I dress like it will be the final day of my life.   The things around me, the objects on my work table, must tell the definitive narrative of my life.  With that intensity how can one possibly be ever bored!

Sunday represents a day of rest, but I can’t allow myself that form of thinking.  Everyday, including Sundays, are to be regarded as time passing, and how one deals with the aspect of a series of moments going by - is the art of living.   So yes, that tree outside my window is essentially both important and not important, but what is important is that I notice that tree.   And I think of you as well, my dear readers.   When and if when I do die at my table working on my Sunday piece, I’m thinking of you, till my last dying breath.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Robert Greene discusses his and Catherine Texier's translation of Jacques Mesrine's "The Death Instinct" at Skylight Books

ROBERT GREENE discusses his and Catherine Texier's translation of JACQUES MESRINE'S THE DEATH INSTINCT

The Death Instinct (Tam Tam Books)
France's Public Enemy Number One from the late 1960s to the end of the 1970s--when he was killed by police in a sensational traffic shootout--Jacques Mesrine (1936-1979) is the best-known criminal in French history. Mesrine was notorious both for his violent exploits and for the media attention he attracted, and he remains very much a public media figure in France and Europe. In 2008 there were two feature-length films based on his life, one of them starring Vincent Cassel in the lead role. Mesrine wrote The Death Instinct while serving time in the high-security prison La Sante; the manuscript was smuggled out of the prison and was later published by Guy Debord's publisher Gerard Lebovici (who briefly adopted Mesrine's daughter, Sabrina, before being assassinated, a few years after Mesrine). The Death Instinct deals with the early years of Mesrine's criminal life, including a horrifically graphic description of a murder he committed early on in his career and a highly detailed account of the workings of the French criminal underworld--making this book perhaps one of the most intriguing and detailed anthropological studies of a criminal culture ever written.
Praise for The Death Instinct:
"Jacques Mesrine was a modern Robin Hood. Modern in the sense that his story includes violence, spectacle, and that he is not just a figure of legend. He did not let the tabloids write the only version of the story. He wrote this remarkable book. About the only thing Guy Debord and Michel Foucault ever agreed on is that this book is a top read." --McKenzie Wark, author of The Beach Beneath the Street
"Unputdownable, incendiary real-life noir. With a touch of Belle-Epoque anarchist criminal Bonnot, nurtured by disposition, pathology and war. No wonder Situationists admired this escape-artist-sociopath, whose sense of honor and justice was matched only by his contempt for society. In literate and lucid contraband prison prose which, as Mesrine says, mixes all the genres: “burlesque, gore, violence, friendship, and fugitives on the lam.” Too bad this "man of a thousand faces" isn't around to help deal with present-day bank corruption, or, for that matter, the prison-industrial complex."--Woody Haut, author of Heartbreak and Vine and Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War
Robert Greene is the author of five books: The 48 Laws of Power (Penguin), The Art of Seduction (Penguin), The Strategies of War, (Penguin) The 50th Law (co-written with the rapper 50 cent, Harper Books), and Mastery (Penguin)He is currently at work on his next book, The Laws of Human Nature (Penguin). He has previously translated from the French, Considerations on the Assassination of Gérard Lebovici, Guy Debord (Tam Tam books). Robert Greene lives in Los Feliz.
Robert Greene photo by Susan Anderson
Event date: 
Thursday, February 12, 2015 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los AngelesCA 90027
By Jacques MesrineRobert Greene (Translator), Catherine Texier (Translator) 
ISBN: 9780966234688 
Availability: On Our Shelves Now 
Published: Tamtam Books - November 2014 

The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 4 (February 1, 2015)

Sunday No. 4

It is not my natural mind-set to face an audience or a large group of people in a contained, maze-like space.  I’m doing a signing at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair that is located at the MOCA/Geffen museum.  On one level, it is an incredible fair, with tons of books and art related images from one booth to the next.  And then after being practically over-whelmed with the art books, one suddenly discovers that there is another large room just full of zines and its culture.  To really appreciate the art book world, one needs to spend the entire three days at this fair.  Nevertheless my purpose today is to sign my late dad’s album, which is called “Wallace Berman - In Conversation.” It’s a secret recording of my dad talking about art, curating exhibitions, and cultural life in Topanga canyon circa. 1968.  It’s an amazing document on many levels, but what is shocking to me is that I’m somewhere on that album, but more of a presence that was upstairs from the room where the conservation between my dad and guests took place.  I don’t think you can hear my voice, but I’m there.  And the sense of me being on the recording, in a very vague way, is a sharp contrast for me to be at this fair to sign copies of an album that exists in a world that is placed in my history, which at this point, is only  a memory.  

The serious problem I have of being in a crowd is I fear many things.  One, I’m quite shy, and I’m not really used to be in a position where people need my attention.  And due to the fear, I have a habit of forgetting people’s names - even friends who are very close to me.  There is a name for people who “fear” in forgetting - athazagoraphobia.  So I have that as well as agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces or of being in crowded public spaces like markets, or popular book fairs, like this one.   So the combination of my shyness, agoraphobia, as well as the killer blow, athazagoraphobia, makes this experience quite painful for me.  

I know the face, and I know it very well. The problem is when I try to place a name with that face.  Also most people are usually offended if you can’t remember their name at a specific time, and that can cause great anxiety on my part. I never want to offend someone, but at the same time, I am slightly turned-off by people who feel their title, their given name, is something that is more important than their being.   A name is just a title. It really doesn’t explain who or what you are.  I know who you are, just because of your personality, your looks, and so forth.  A name doesn’t convey the depth of the essence that is “you.” Yet, here I’m struggling at a signing, trying to remember the names of people who are in front of me.  The pure torture of it, causes an incredible anxiety within me.  

At the moment, there is this beautiful woman in front of me.  In fact, I have often had sexual fantasies of her - and for whatever reason, of course due to my combination of phobias, I can’t recall her name right away as I ‘m in the position to sign “For _ love, Tosh Berman."   I want to replace the dash so strongly, especially for her, but the name, the spelling, just doesn’t come to me at the moment.  She was polite enough to slip her name in the conversation during this transaction, but then there is this horrible awkward moment of her knowing that I totally forgot her name.  And I have known her for at least 20 years or so.  20 years of lusting for her, yet when the time of great importance comes upon me, I totally forgot her name. 

I feel a great sense of disgust with myself, and of course besides the hatred, the shame as well.   And now, she has a copy of the album, and when she sees it, she will think of the moment that I forgot her name.  I don’t think she will hate me for it, but for sure, there will be a tinge of disappointment for as long as she keeps that album.  Also, when I think of the album, I will go back to that moment as well.  So, the one thing we will share in the future is the failure of memory and communication.   As a writer, it's the finalized blow to the body. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Signing with Tosh Berman at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair 2015


Sunday, February 1, 3:00PM

Berman will sign copies of The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding, published by Penny-Ante Editionsand Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London published by Rare Bird Books.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

THE SUNDAY SERIES: Sunday No. 3 (January 25, 2015)

Sunday No. 3

I don’t fully understand how on one Sunday, Mary could watch her son Jesus being nailed to a cross.  It is the source of pain through duty, which in turns can become a pleasure.  Faith is important, and even important to fight for the vision, but still, one would think they could hustle themselves out of this situation.   If not a direct bribe, then surely charm could have worked.  When I was a child of nine or ten years old I liked this girl at school. She's ‘sort’ of admired my personality, in that she could spend numerous hours on the telephone with me.  She was the first girl I have ever talked to on the telephone, that was my age, and the conversation went longer than the average.  Usually when I was on the telephone, it was just to answer the phone and direct the caller to either my dad or mother.  Here, she called me directly to talk.   I don’t know when eros enters the picture, but without a doubt, being nine or ten, the phone calls were erotically charged.   It wasn’t penis into vagina charge, but more coming out of the pores of our skin as well as our brains.  We were connected, but it was mostly a playtime version of phone sex, without the physical conclusion or release of that conversation.   She would play games with me. For instance she would spell out to me: I.L.O.V.E.Y.O.U. By the time she got to the V. I almost lost it on my end of the line.  I told her that she was spelling too fast, and if she can do it slower.  She did: I…L…O…V and so forth. 

We never saw each other outside of the school.  Our physical relationship was totally on the playground. I have no memory of sharing an actual class with her, and I don’t remember how we first met.  I’m very shy with girls, and especially as a child.  So it makes sense to me that she must have approached me on the school playground.   My mom would make me a bag lunch, and my pal and I often sat together and shared our lunches.   I think she was latina, and the food she brought were Mexican or classic Mexican-American food.   Mine was something out of “Father Knows Best. ” Usually a sandwich, apple and milk or juice in a container.  I was very much devoted to my lunch box, which showed images from the TV show “Man From U.N.C.L.E.  It was my favorite show, and besides the lunch box, I also had a Man From U.N.C.L.E. Spy kit, which consisted a membership card (showing that I’m a member of U.N.C.L.E.) and a plastic gun that can turn into a machine gun.  In my opinion, my name Tosh Berman, was just as exotic as Napoleon Solo.  

One day, I was flirting with her on the school playground.  At that age it is hard to convey how you feel about someone else, when in fact, you are not really clear about your yearnings.  In many ways, I yearned for this girl, without understanding why I felt that way.   She was a perfect package of beauty, niceness and a touch of wickedness.  Cruelty is sometimes a medium of expressing oneself.  I held her hand once or maybe twice.  It was like an electric current hitting my whole body.   Being so vulnerable, and especially in a school setting, with all our peers walking by and noticing us.  Her friends would tease us, and this I can see clearly bothered her.  Instead of being defiant to her school friends, she backed away from me.  That was painful, yet we still communicated, but the nature of our relationship changed. 

When time, things and people change and you feel the pavement under your foot turn into quicksand, you become desperate.  When you get used to being alone, and for a brief series of moments you get the attention that you crave… and then seeing or more likely feel it slipping away, is a pretty horrible existence.  Especially for a small boy.   I was nibbling on an oatmeal cookie that I got from home, in fact, my mom baked it.  I wasn’t hungry, and I was thinking maybe I could re-charge my relationship with her, if I offered half of my cookie, or damn it, just give her the whole cookie.  I went up to her and she was surrounded by her friends, who clearly didn’t want me around.   To be surrounded by a group of people who clearly didn’t like you, was like being stoned in public.  I could never figure out why they dislike me, except maybe for my shyness, and the feeling that I couldn’t add anything to this social group.  Also my hair was quite long, and most of the boys either had crew-cuts or very short haircuts.  Not only was I called a girl by these fellow students, but also my teacher called me one as well when we were alone one time.  I was walking in the hallway after getting some water from the drinking fountain, and walking towards me on the other side of the hall was the teacher.  As we passed each other, he said “girl.” He didn’t even look at me, when he said it, and he just walked on by.   I didn’t feel like a girl. Nor did I feel I looked like a girl.  I like girls, and I want them to like me, but I couldn’t understand why something so simple had to be so complicated.  

Nevertheless feeling shamed in front of her social group, I threw my oatmeal cookie in her face. I told her “it’s for you.” Seconds after that action that to this day fills me with shame. One of the boys in her group came upon me and pushed me to the ground.  As I tried to get up, he hit me in the face.  Again, I was on the ground, and he just kept pushing me down with his foot.  The girl was crying, which made me felt worse than being humiliated in front of the group.  The next thing I remember is the teacher who called me a “girl,” coming by and picking me up from the ground.  He talked to everyone around me, and he gathered that I was the guilty one.   And in truth, I was guilty.   Yet, again, I was hurt that no one factored in the emotions I was experiencing at that moment.  The girl understood my actions, and the boy just wanted to look good in front of her by defending her honor.   The teacher didn’t care for me, so I felt very alone that specific time and place.   To this day, on a Sunday, I look back at my time, and cringe.  The tragedy of the moment is still very much part of me, and who I am.  Yet, with that sense of guilt and feeling being misunderstood, I still look forward to tomorrow, hoping better days will come.