Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oscar Levant Show-Complete with Fred Astaire

There is nothing better on this planet than Oscar Levant.  Here is a complete show with the king of cool, Fred Astaire.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 17, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday May 17, 2015

I walk, therefore I am. The eros of the trees and concrete call out to me.  Since I don't communicate that well with my fellow human beings, I tend to do all my serious conversations with objects - both living (plants) and dead (concrete/buildings).  Architecture never comes to life to me, till I see a figure passing a window inside their home or apartment.  I wonder what life is like behind that window or window shade. What kind of eros takes place in the rooms within that specific space?  

What I do know is that I'm part of the equation.  I'm there as a visitor or a passenger of a certain time and moment.  I tend to over think these things as I walk pass various windows, showing life as it happens.  I remember many years ago, walking around Amsterdam and being surprised by the huge open windows of one's daily life in their homes.   It seemed that the typical Dutch person doesn't believe in having a curtain.  So you can see the entire first floor where you can see the kitchen, the living room, and the dinning area.  Often I saw the wife cooking, while the husband/male is in the living room watching TV or reading a newspaper.  There is nothing to hide, but then why be so exposed to the outside world in such a manner?

There is an area in Amsterdam that is their red light district.  It's the oldest street in Amsterdam and it is called The Warmoesstraat (Warmoes street).  Walking down this street is like a girl market, where all the whores are placed in windows.  Since I'm a shy fellow, I have a hard time making direct eye-contact with the woman placed in the open windows - but they for sure try to make eye-contact with the walker.  Or, as you stroll by, they knock on the window to get your full attention.  

Here in Los Angeles, everything is covered up.  When I walk around my neighborhood, the windows are usually covered by a curtain or shade.  I never look through the shade or window of course, but it is odd that in Amsterdam you can see a whole life taking place in front of you - and here, at my home, it's covered up by the owners or renters of that structure.  The irony is that I do most of my writings by two large windows, so anyone who walks by can see me typing a way. 

Everyday people walk by here, walking their dog - but on Sunday, there are a lot more people passing me by.  Some I know being in the neighborhood, but some are a total mystery to me.  A lot of pretty girls come by here, with their dogs.  Even the dogs are beautiful.  A good looking dog usually has a good looking human attached to the other end of the leash.  

It's odd to look at people as they walk-by, and they don't look through my window.  If I was in their place and position, of course I would want to look in and see what that guy at the window is up to. 

My daydream is to be able to sit on a street bench, maybe a bus stop, and just have a glass of wine while watching a family through big windows doing what they normally do on a regular basis.  There is something very Jacques Tati about it all - where the citizen or consumer is doing their duties, which to me, seem like a theater piece.  I would like to take a Sunday, while the family is at home, and watch them from mid-morning till nighttime.   

Not long ago I went to MOCA to see Andy Warhol's 8 hour film "Empire," which is one long shot of the Empire State Building in Manhattan.  The shocking thing that happens is when the screen goes dark when night approaches, and then all of sudden, the lights go on.  It is probably one of the greatest moments of being in a movie theater for me.  The whole audience (the eight of us in the theater) gasp at the same time.  I would feel that way, watching a household as it approaches darkness, and then suddenly someone turns a light on in the living room or kitchen. 

As I get older, I feel life is getting more intense.  I sense colors as like I never had before.  Walking through Amsterdam is one experience, but I also feel the difference between Los Angeles and Amsterdam is a location of eros.  There is the obvious erotic pull of Amsterdam, but Los Angeles is more secretive, and perhaps more of an eros minded culture and structure.  I like Amsterdam a lot, but I love Los Angeles. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday, May 10, 2015

A week without Sunday is a week without oppression.   A day of rest and perhaps prayer, but in fact it's a day to reflect on the horror of the coming week.  My anxiety is one where I refuse to look at a calendar.  The thought that Sunday is coming upon us is something that paralyzes me, like a deer caught in a car's headlight.  The first time I realize that there was a Sunday, was when I was a child, and the family first got together on every Sunday.  It seemed the minutes became hours, and then forever.  I soon realized that this was going to be the schedule in our family, and every Sunday it seems that the minutes spent, were exactly like the one last week and, so forth.   Sunday, oh hell. 

When I became school-age, that went up to my teenage years, I suffered greatly under the tyranny of a Sunday.  Friday late afternoon and evening were a sense of relief that I made it through the school week.  Saturday I let myself go and be fancy free - but then came Sunday, and my mood became the color black.  

Now that I got a full-time job, I find myself OK in the work-week.  Like my school years, I turn off the pain of the day, and try to think of either the color blue or black.  Two colors where I can put myself in a zone or place that doesn't exist. Once there, I can make the reality of the moment (i.e. work day) disappear as well.  But Sunday I can't do the focus thing at all.  It is like I'm exhausted from the actual work as well as the mental space that I put myself in.  To be honest, even though I'm very tired on Friday, I feel a sense of relief that I don't have to work the next day.  But comes Saturday night, and I just spend my time reflecting on the coming Sunday, and how that will affect me. 

My favorite Sunday record album is Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom."  It's a sad sounding record. But of course, there is humor within the grooves as well.  Wyatt to me, is the most reflective and saddest singer in the world.  Not a sound of regret, but the pause of life standing still.  When he reflects, I feel that the world come to him in slow motion.  For me, I can put my left toe in his bathwater, but I don't get the full effect of Wyatt's world.  It's not the music or him, but the fact that I'm totally involved with only one person - me.  

With nothing better else to do, I decided to go out for a walk.  There is the philosophy that walking can clear the head and put things in a perspective.  For me, it magnifies my feelings that become overwhelming at times.  Nevertheless, I go out this Sunday to feel what the world can offer me.   I find myself at the Echo Park Lake, walking around the giant pond, and at the same time watching the various bird families that sun themselves on the side of the lake.  I wish I could let myself go, and lay there and sun myself as well.   

There is something about a body of water that makes time stand still.  It is here that what I desire is a world without time.  Death must be interesting in a way, where time doesn't creep up on you.  Nothing is the thing.  I can deal with "nothing." 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 3, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday May 3, 2015

Due to a medical condition, I need to walk as much as possible.  Usually one has a route where they go from "here" to "there."  I decided not to follow that sort of logic, and I kept my mind free of distance or direction.  I just walked down my stairs and turned in the direction of the wind.  I almost get a vertigo feeling looking down the long street. It's hot, and I try to stay as much as possible in the shade.  I have sensitive skin, and I do have a fear of aging.  There is one part of my body that really bugs me, and that is the inner elbow area, where I have this ugly aging wrinkling skin.  No one notices it except me, and it is the one thing I think about when I'm wearing a short-sleeve shirt or t-shirt.  

To focus, I look at the pavement while walking.  To be honest with you, I prefer concrete to nature.  I'm fascinated with the way the street-walk is paved in squares, like a puzzle.  The shadows that reflect on the pavement are also beautiful to me.  I wonder what it would be like if someone painted the shadows on the sidewalk, so they are there all year-round.  That type of perfection appeals to my aesthetic.

I come upon a fountain in the front yard of a house on Franklin Avenue.  Due to the fact that there is a draught in Southern California, it is rare to see these fountains with running water.  So what is left is just the statue itself.   The bottom level is three baby angels (I presume that is what they are), holding up another level with two other angels grasping a stone, where on a good day, water would be coming out.  There is something fantastic about watching water flowing from a fountain.  Small or large, it doesn't make a difference, but just to see water flowing is like life going on.  Without the flow, one feels close to a state of death.

About two blocks from this fountain, I see another statue on a lawn, except that this lawn and statue, with the house, is huge.  In every sense, I try to imagine living in this house.  No doubt, I would hate to cut the lawn, but if you live here, more likely you can afford a gardener or an army of gardeners to cut the lawn for you.   The house itself is not beautiful, but just big.  It seems obscene to be that huge, yet I can imagine myself living there alone, so I can wander through each room without a care in the world.  If I died there alone, it would probably take days for someone to find my body.   Oddly enough, that gives me a sense of comfort.

The statue on the lawn, besides the house, captures my attention.   Again, there is an angel motif, and she (it seems to be that gender) is help supporting the bigger version of the angel, or is it just a woman?   Does this statue have any real meaning?  Or is it just something decorative on the biggest front yard I have ever seen in person.  I projected the image that I'm sitting in the balcony, reading "Against Nature" and glancing at the statue from its behind.  Being an 'ass' man, I fully appreciate the back side of a good statue.

As I walk on Franklin, heading west, I see a small home that has a pair of lions looking over the entrance to the house.   Compared to the fountain and statue, this lion is chipped and in need of a paint job - but part of its charm is in the state it is in.  The expression on the lion's face is not one of danger or 'beware, ' but a sense of peace or understanding.   The more I look at it, the more I find the bust of this lion beautiful.

Further down the road, I located another home with a lawn, but this one has nothing but weeds. Yet the house seems to be in order.   A mansion in terms, but there seems to be something more homey compared to the palace I just saw back a little ways.  I imagine the person who lives here has done so for many years.  Perhaps a recluse who is so close to civilization, that he or she can just breathe through it, by opening their windows.  My guess these windows haven't been open for many years.  Or perhaps there are children in there - maybe a brother and sister, and they don't know the outside world at all.

Two or three doors down, there is a home that seems Mayan-style, and I can imagine sessions of torture and pain being done in that location.   In theory the design of this home wouldn't fit in the neighborhood, but alas, it does.  It seems perfectly natural to be here on Franklin.  When I walk by, I can feel the difference in temperature.  There is a chill in the air, and once I pass it, the weather gets warmer. I walk back to it again, and yes, for sure a chill hangs in that area like a woman wearing a heavy dark dress in the winter of Los Angeles.

As I glance at the entrance and its staircase, I feel that it's possible that one entered here, knowing that they will never leave.   The beauty of the place is seductive, but then so is death.  Once you embrace the body of your killer, then you know, or at least, hope there is a better life somewhere else.   As for me, I just walk on.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Irma" an opera by Tom Philips. Music by Gavin Bryars. Libretto by Fred Orton (1978) Obscure Records. Produced by Brian Eno.

"Irma" Obscure Records, produced by Brian Eno

"Irma: An Opera by Tom Philips.  Music by Gavin Bryars.  Libretto by Fred Orton" (1978).  Obscure Records.

April 28, 2015

I spent the day on the ninth floor of the federal court building on Temple and Spring.  I was on jury duty in a murder case, and I didn't get chosen, due that I wasn't paying any attention to the case on hand or the procedure or rules.  For one, I had a flask with me, and was drinking from it from the jury box.  The Sheriff took the flask away from me, and at one point I was falling asleep while being questioned by one of the attorneys. It was kind of embarrassing if I think of it, but like other unpleasant experiences, I like to store them away in the back of my head.   As soon as I was dismissed (they kept the flask), I walked towards the library on fifth and Flower.  On the way there I went to the Last Bookstore, not for their books, but their vinyl department.  My timing was perfect because I found a perfectly fine used disk of "Irma: An Opera by Tom Philips" in stock.  The price of the album is $19.95, and I immediately took the recording into my arms and paid for it.  Once I got home, I put on my "audio-technica air' headphones on, and went into another world with this album. 

The album is on Obscure Records, which are a label started by Brian Eno, during the mid 1970s.  He produced 10 albums for the label.  Now it doesn't exist.  If one is a collector, there is a need to have all ten albums.  If nothing else, for the design.  All of them are fantastic albums, and my favorite one of the bunch is "Irma."  

"Irma" is an opera by Tom Philips, but it seems when it came to the recording, Gavin Bryars took over, not only the opera, but also had Fred Orton write the libretto.  So, I'm not sure what is left of the Philips' version.  All I know is that Philips wasn't pleased with the results of the album that was released on Obscure Records.  Then again, Philips based his opera on a visual motif - 93 random phrases from the 1892 novel "A Human Document" by W.H. Malloch.  On the other hand, the album is excellent.  

The composer, Michael Nyman is on the record, and his piano playing to me is always uniquely his.  He can only play 'charm' that is his signature on a recording.  To me, he's the Noel Coward of serious (sort of "ha") music.  His playing is always witty and quite sophisticated.  "Irma" of course is all sophistication.  Although Obscure Records are thought of as releasing 'experimental music, ' there is nothing really experimental about "Irma," at the very least, the Obscure recording headed by Gavin Bryars.  Perhaps a touch eccentric, but what isn't eccentric in the works of a British citizen? I imagine if Lord Berniers was alive, he would be part of the Obscure Record label world. 

I was called back into Jury Duty, and beforehand, I made a MP3 of the album, so I can listen to it while in the courtroom.  The case, if I'm not mistaken, is about a police shoot-out with some other gang or another.  Not to my taste, really.  So hearing this album makes the time go faster and forces the tedium of a long arm of distance. The thing is I have to make sure the deputy or the judge does not see my earplugs.  

Portrait of Brian Eno by Tom Philips

As I watch (I really didn't listen) witness after witness giving some sort of tedious information, I started to think more about this recording of "Irma."   I find the music to be very soothing, but not in the 'new age' way - more in tuned with the beautiful melodies that are within this piece.  Tom Phillips wrote the opera as a conceptual piece, but Gavin Bryars turned that concept into a beautiful piece of music.   When you hear the word "opera" one thinks of a staging or a theatrical experience - but as far as I can tell, "Irma" is a music piece - and it is performed as a concert work - but not with actors -unless one thinks of the vocalists as acting out the libretto by Fred Orton.  The libretto was taken from the victorian novel, it has a romantic feeling, although one is not sure if that is the purpose of the piece or not.  The way I listen to "Irma" is totally emotional, and I'm impressed with the romantic sweep of its emotions.  Overall, when I hear a work by Bryars, it is usually emotionally tainted, in that it conveys a sense of romance and lost.  

Gavin Bryars

I have been listening to this album over and over again.  I never tire of it, and I often sing the phrase "love is help mate."   To me, it sounds like Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart."   Both equally doomed, and therefore music that is essential to one's health and being.  On the other hand, I suddenly noticed that the lawyers on both sides of the case are starting to look at me with some sense of contempt.  The judge's eyes are like darts aimed towards my heart.  Other jurists are looking straight ahead and pretend that I don't exist.  The lawyers are called to the bench, and I suspect that I won't last for more than three minutes. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday April 26, 2015

Sunday April 26, 2015
"Reed Steams" by Terry Riley

I just wanted to travel as far as I can, but without luggage or even a toothbrush.  It is one of the key reasons why I love music so much, because it takes me far, yet, I can travel lightly.   I woke up in the afternoon hearing a female voice saying "wake-up Tosh."  She said it only once, and it was a voice that I wasn't familiar with.  I tried to imagine the voice of the body, and my educated guess (because I have been around the block, if you get my drift) is that she is a beauty.  Alas, she did not exist and perhaps she never did.  Yet, I did what the voice said, and I was lifted from the living room couch to wander the inner world of yours truly. 

Today being Sunday, I downloaded an album by Terry Riley called "Reed Steams."  It's early work and recordings by the so-called minimalist, which personally I find that term very short-sighted.   Riley to me strikes me as a maximalist.  I hear everything in the world within the grooves of his music.  There is a piece here called "In C (Mantra) that reminds me very much of the Rolling Stones "Sing This All Together."   Only in parts, and I actually think the Stones came first - but this is not a rip-off, but merely a reflection of one's other work.   Compared to other Riley works, this is very much a 'rock' piece.  It builds and builds, and I suspect that the method is by Riley, using tape machines, looping instruments as they play.  So in that sense, he's Eno before Eno was doing this type of work.  On one level it sounds like a jam, but the fact is there is something compositional about the work.  I think the more you listen to this piece, the more melodies one gets.  Textured like a multi-layered cake, each taste brings a new sensation or flavor.  It's a wonderful way to wake-up in the late afternoon -surely the woman who awakened me was thinking of this specific recording. 

The only frustration I have with this album is that I downloaded it from I-Tunes.  What I miss is the liner notes, the packaging from Tom Recchion, and as an object to hold.  I do not think that this music was ever released on vinyl, only CD. Nevertheless I can play it anytime I want to - but I believe that it is the property of Apple computer and their side-business, I-Tunes.  There are so many ways to listen to music these days, but the best is when it is on vinyl, and you have to force yourself to get up and turn the record over.  That is a part of the process of listening to music.  I-tunes, streaming - that is art without any effort - and it seems that our culture is very much doing serious stuff without effort.

  Drone bombings are a perfect example of doing war, but not being involved.  The Vietnam war and before, one had to take part in the battle or war.  You couldn't really ignore it, due to the issue of getting drafted.  Now that the draft is gone, the army is basically either poor people, or those who are waiting to obtain a green card.  Then the government hires thugs to handle security for the troops and so forth.  At the moment, we have been in a state of war since 9/11, and yet, as citizens we really don't have to worry about being in battle.  We are authorized to fear the threat of being attacked, but in most cases, it is what it is - fear. 

So I approached the music of Terry Riley with a certain amount of fear - perhaps being bored, or wasting my precious time.   Once you get past that fear of not understanding or boredom, your brain really opens up to something new and wonderful.  Terry Riley is such a force, where I now feel kind of bad that I haven't paid serious attention to his work.  I know some of his later recordings - "In C" and so forth, but totally missed out on his early works

"Untitled Organ" has no beginning, no middle and no end.  The recording of this piece is about 20 minutes.  On the other hand, there are shifts, which remind me of two people having a long conversation, where the other is listening to the other participant.  The tempo accelerates, as if one is getting emotional. Then a second voice kicks in, as the other sort of drifts off in an echo.  At times, I forget that this is an organ.  It also sounds like a saxophone.  The sensitivity of the different pitches brings out a unique sound.  The intensity of this piece never wavers. 

"Reed Streams" is an organ and saxophone.   Or is it just saxophone?   The beauty of all three piece on this album is where one sense of reality disappears into something quite different.   For 15 minutes, "Reed Streams" throws me into a timeless state of mind, and I can almost imagine the "girl" coming back to me.  Alas, it was only a dream, but I dream with a certain amount of passion and hopefully, with skill as well. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday April 19, 2015

Sunday April 19, 2015

The only holiday I like is Record Store Day.  Like "Read a Book" day, it is the one holiday where you can surrender your passion to a common cause - which is to keep the local record store open in your neighborhood.  If you don't have a record store in your neighborhood, then that means you live in a place that has no importance whatsoever.  People are fed many ways.  I think most people would consider a 7/11 or Trader Joe's as an essential business to live nearby.  I, on the other hand, would prefer a record store than a shop full of food.  You eat, but then what?  Music has a lasting presence in one's life, and therefore I feel it is much important than a good meat department.

There are those who complain loudly about the negative aspects of Record Store Day, which is hysterical, because there are none.   To stand in line in hopes of getting that specific piece of vinyl that is being released that very day is part of the pleasure as well as the disappointments in not obtaining the sacred item you're in line for.  One wonders while standing there, if there is a possibility of not getting that specific record.  Of course it is, because perhaps the store forgot to order that product, or due to its limited edition status, so there were not enough copies to go around. So yes, I was disappointed when I didn't get the Serge Gainsbourg collection of his soundtrack work - but it was a sense of failure with a great deal of anticipation and adventure attached to it.

I must say it was a shock to me that I found four copies of the "Charlie Feathers" 10" album of his King recordings in the bin.  Originally issued on 7" 45rpm and 78rpm format. This collection is a must if one has even the slightest interest in rockabilly music.  The guitar work of Jerry Huffman is like a series of switchblade cuts on one's body.  When I put the needle on this record, I hear human misery.  So yes, music to me is like putting a mirror in front of my face - it has to represent the inner and deeper feelings in my soul.  Food just keeps me going till the next meal, but music like Feathers, keeps me fed on a spiritual/sexual plane that can't be denied.  Rockabilly music is all fucking, violent death, cheap liquor, and desires being mis-placed at the wrong place and time.  Satan's favorite music.  And one is dying just to taste the bottle that Satan had his diseased mouth over. After playing these four songs, I feel like spitting the blood out of my mouth.

On the same trip to the record store, I found another great 10" album by Chris Barber and his jazz band.  The album is called "Jazz Sacred and Secular."  Barber is a British trombone player, and is one of the key players in the Soho London music scene of the 1950s.  He was famous for having Lonnie Donegan in his band, who later became the figurehead that in a certain fashion, started the British Invasion in the early 1960s.  Shuffle genius and architect to the do-it-yourself type of music, he made a major presence on a lot of British musicians.   The beauty of this recording is that it is like listening to a well-received long distance call.  Although from the UK, it reached out to New Orleans.   Chris Barber actually spent time in New Orleans, and that one visit had a profound effect on his whole life.  This 10" disk is a combination tribute to Duke Ellington as well as the New Orleans life.  The mood is happy, but of course, it has traces of deep sadness.  Music unlike food serves on different levels. If you taste food and it's too bitter or sweet, one may choose to spit it out.  Music, on the other hand, is a texture that one craves for - due to its emotional responses within the grooves of the record.   Barber's version of "Black and Tan Fantasie" is originally from Harlem, but here it is placed in Soho, London.   Even the British spelling of Fantasy gives this recording a sense of being placed out of the storefront window, looking in, and just absorbing the goods in the store although you're outside.   The sense of location changes, but nevertheless they are real places - and each place has a vision or a history.   Even if it is made-up, it is still real, because what you're hearing is a place that is imagined or desired for.

A bad day is a world without a turntable and a good pair of headphones.  I live in a very dangerous world - although it is in my imagination, I have the music to back-up that landscape of desire.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tosh Berman at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Rare Bird, my publisher, was kind enough to invite me to sign  my book "Sparks-Tastic" at the Los Angeles  Times Festival of Books this coming Saturday April 18 at 10:30 AM.   Early, yes, but also the best time to visit the book festival before it gets too sunny and hot. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday April 12, 2015

Sunday April 12, 2015

Sickness took over my body two days ago.  I spent two weeks in and out of a court room, which besides holding two defendants and their lawyers, also held germs in captivity. I started feeling ill as soon as I walked in the court room.  With a will of my own making, I imagined not to get sick during jury duty.  After I was released, and not suitable for either one's case (both the defense and the state) I started to feel the strains of a cold.  I of course ignored it as much as possible.  I went to an outside concert in West Hollywood, and it was there that it was obvious that I shouldn't be out on a cool night.  Since then, I have had a hard time concentrating on my writing as well as my daily reading.  I haven't been sick for at least five years.  I tend to think it is due that I gave up eating meat -but I couldn't escape the clutches of justice.

For the past two days, I have been in bed reading about Los Angeles art history of the 1960s.  There are two books: "Out of Sight" and "Rebels in Paradise."   "Rebels" I find it a total gossip narrative which has very little truth.  The stuff I read about my dad (Wallace Berman) were at its worst, just plain silly, but also I was more alarmed that the author didn't have any sources backing up her story regarding my father.  "Out of Sight" I think is the better book, because I sense a real appreciation of the artist's work.  History, especially recent history (the last 50 years or so) is basically based on various individuals, and each one has a specific point-of-view - and if they don't have a point-of-view, they tend to make things up.   As a writer I never trust my opinion, in the words of Truman Capote, I'm not really a writer, but just a typist.

This Sunday (today) I wanted to go out in the sunshine and see a film later tonight.  Alas, my breathing, the night sweats, coughing, is a strong clue that I will stay in tonight.  More likely to be in bed all day.   My eyes get tired when I read, and the Internet bores me.  What I find fascinating is laying on my back on the bed and watching my ceiling.   I imagine that if I die, and I die in my bed, the last image will be the ceiling. I'm hoping that it will be this ceiling, because it gives me immense pleasure.  The lighting fixture for instance doesn't even work. I think we need to change the lightbulb, but for whatever reason, we just refuse to change it.  I like to think it is due to laziness, but I think it has more to do with let nature do the job.  I'm having trouble sleeping, so I look at the ceiling a lot for the last few days.  Both the natural lighting outside and the lamp on my side of the bed add interesting textures to the ceiling.  It is the one area where I can fully meditate and not think of anything.

For the last two days, I haven't changed my bed clothing or the sheets.  Nor have I taken a shower or bath.  In the sense, I'm rotting in the bed, and that also gives me a sense of peace or pleasure.  Since my cold is getting worse, I'm also enjoying the changes in my so-far mild suffering.  It is if life goes on, even though I have stopped everything.    Now, I must stop typing, and focus on my ceiling.  For some reason, I feel that the answer to the world is on that ceiling.  I don't understand what or why, but I do know that the focus is on that ceiling.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos" edited by Mark Webber

9780992837709  The Visible Press

As of this time and moment, I have seen only two films by the Greek American filmmaker Gregory J. Markopoulos.  "Galaxie" and "Gammelion."  If I was a cine-purist, I would have seen these films at the perfect location for his work, which is Temenos in Greece.  His life-time work is to have all his films to be presented in this location, which is outdoors, and some miles away from Athens.   Remote, and probably not that easy to get to - yet the journey itself I'm sure is magnificent, and if the two films I saw are example of his other works, probably more likely worth the trouble.   It is refreshing to come here upon an artist/filmmaker who doesn't compromise their work for....anyone!

  This marvelous collection of essays/poetry/rants/thoughts by Markopoulos is an essential to anyone who is interested in American underground film world.  Specifically in the heights of the 1960s through the 80s.  The source of these writings are from self-published works or Jonas Mekas' excellent publication of the 60s FILM CULTURE.  And some are lectures or introductions to his work throughout the world.  Markopoulos is on the same league as Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger.   An important artist, that the few only know or have seen his works.  As an anthology this book reads well - I think not only due to Markopoulos' writings, but also the editorship of Mark Webber, and the additional overall great design of the book.   Webber has put together tight chapters or sections that focus on his work as a commentator on other filmmakers, as well as focusing on his films and of course, the projection of his complete works in Greece, which is sort of an installation piece.

The two films I saw were pretty hypnotic, not only due to its editing, but also how one is drawn to his subject matter.  "Galaxie" is a compilation of film portraits of various (mostly well-known filmmakers/artists) in the New York world of the early 60s.  It is all an amazing snapshot of a time, but also you can tell how Markopoulos feels about his subject matters as well.  The film is silent, except what sounds like bells in the background, is 92 minutes and not one boring moment was had.   "Gammelion" is a study on a castle in Italy, and one is almost peeking around the corner.   It's a beautiful film and almost meditative in its approach at 'looking' at a structure.  Markopoulos has an eye for beautiful buildings and great looking people ("Galaxie").  The book is a must have if you make a film library, and anyone who is interested in film aesthetics must-have this as well. Hopefully this will not the last word on Markopoulos, but it is clearly the first - and that this book, is an exceptional book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April 8, 1962: Telstar by The Tornados

April 8, 1962

I went to my local record store, Mono Records, to get the new Tornadoes album called "The Original Telstar."  I have heard the song "Telstar" on the radio and I was intrigued with the sound of outer space that somehow landed on KRLA airwaves. Most of my friends go out and buy 45rpm singles, but I have always preferred the 12" or 10" album format.  A lot of times, the songs are not as good as the more familiar hit song by the artist - but I feel I'm getting a full picture of that band or singer's work.  Also at this point I don't have that many albums in my collection.   Maybe 8 or 10 albums at the most.  I would get more, but the cost of albums, which are usually anywhere from $1.99 to $2.99 is expensive for me.   I had a job, but I didn't like it.  I was pumping gas at a Shell gas station on the corner of Fletcher and Riverside, but I found the customers rude - and my feelings get hurt really easily. 

I still live at home, and luckly my mom didn't kick me out when I reached 21.  I'm 22 at the moment, and I still feel like a new breeze on a hot day.  One day I'll move on, perhaps to a better world, but alas, my mom is a great cook.  She works during the day, so my responsibility is to do the house work, such as making the beds, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and organize the bills that come in by the date that they are due.  I'm sort of like her secretary.  On my free time, I listen to my small collection of recordings.

The Tornadoes are from the U.K. and they're an instrumental band.  Clem Cattini (24) on drums, George Bellamy (22) on rhythm guitar, Heinz Burt (20) on bass guitar, Roger La Vern (24), on piano and some sort of organ, and Alan Caddy (22) on lead guitar.   Together they're The Tornadoes.  Of the twelve songs that are on this album, their lead guitarist Caddy wrote two songs, and their producer Joe Meek wrote four - so I have to imagine that they are both the leaders of the band.  

One of my favorite songs on this album is "Popeye Twist," which uses the melody or theme song from the Popeye cartoon TV series.  Like the title says, they give the beat a twist, and it's a rocking number.  It's the last song on the album (side two) and it's a good way to say goodbye to the listener.  The album starts off with "Telstar" which is the hit off this record.  I imagine if they were making music in outer space, this tune would sound like it came above the clouds.  There is a sense of hope for the future. Yet to me the recording sounds a tad sad.  One thinks that there is nothing but hope in outer space yet, the way we treat people on planet Earth, would we even change our ways once in space?  So maybe that is why the recording is both sad and hopeful for a better world or happiness elsewhere.  

I'm also quite fond of "Love and Fury," written by Duke, which sounds like to me the introduction music to a great adventure story.  When I go to the movies, I try to see an action film, and if possible, in technicolor.  If I pay money for something, I want to be taken away from my everyday life into a world of beauty.  I especially like films that take place in a foreign country or culture.  "Love and Fury" sounds like the soundtrack to that type of movie.  It's bigger than life, and when I listen to it, I feel like I'm being sucked into a very special world.  Due that I share this small house with my mom, I listen a lot to my music on headphones, and this particular recording sounds incredible to my private ears.  

Which comes to mind this is not music one wants to share with others, but more of a private or reflective listening experience.  I sense bold emotions but told in a miniature manner, where a small gesture can lead to a bigger truth of some sort.   A lot of the songs here express a desire such as "Chasing Moonbeams," "Dreamin' On A Cloud," Ridin' The Wind," and "Jungle Fever."  These recordings were made in London, and what I have read is that since the war ended, they are still having difficulties with buildings still abandoned or blown up - and the economy is struggling.  So I have to imagine that these songs appeal to the citizen of London (and elsewhere) where they feel the disaster of the 20th century upon them.  I live in Southern California, where things are not that bad, but at least we got good weather.  So hearing this music in that situation or position, it makes me feel happy that I'm here - but on the other hand I have never heard such strange music like this Tornadoes album.

I know I should be looking for a job, or at the very least, think of my future.  On the other hand, when I hear "The Original Telstar," I feel that the future maybe here already, but I'm just not aware of it at this time.  I dream, and I know this album will be its soundtrack. 

Conversation Between Tosh Berman and Gerry Fialka - Where I give my Opinion about everything...

A two-hour interview where I expose all my feelings, thoughts, and god knows what else.  It's here and the gentleman who is interviewing me is Gerry Fialka.    It's here:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Sunday Series: April 5, 2015

Sunday April 5, 2015

The closest thing I have, that I think are god-like is my parents.  When my father died when I was 21, it was not only a shock of losing a parent, but realizing that a god can die.  It was at that point in my life I realized that I couldn't count on a higher being or a person to help me out.  If anyone is going to pull myself out of trouble, it will have to be me.   One tends to surrender to a higher power.  Whatever that means to that person, but for me, that strikes me as a very dangerous position to be in.   Faith as a noun, is a thing that one believes in.  I understand the need to believe, and also to be part of something bigger than you.  Religion and family are such a grouping where one hopes to find comfort and hope.  Of course, there are even conflicts in both groupings, which do not make it either an enjoyable experience or give one a sense of security.  Throughout my life I remain outside the two categories, due that I find them both faulty as institutions and over-all, leads to either a controlling factor in one's life, or a game of loyalty.  In the city where I live, Los Angeles, I feel that there is a huge presence of gangs. I think of gangs as a family.  Usually there is a parental figure - or a father figure.  One joins the gang, either due to previous family practice, or the need to be part of a bigger group or family.  The Los Angeles Police Department is another gang.  It operates on the same plane as a criminal street gang.   But this is not the subject of my essay here, it's the return of Jesus to our planet on this Easter Sunday. 

There is a man who has lived on the vacant hill next to our house for the entire past week.  He has a full beard and longish hair, and wears mostly a dirty white robe, whose fabric seems too heavy for this warm season.  He has nothing except a lamb that he carries around.  Often the lamb fallows him around, and both creature and man rarely communicate with any other.  He basically sleeps on the weeds, using the lamb as a pillow.  I have seen people with their dogs, but never have I seen a man and a lamb together.  It makes me feel funny about the wool sweater I have in the closet.  I hope to never wear it in front of this lamb.  

Today it's Sunday and it is Easter, and one could easily presume that this gentleman and his pet are part of the holiday.  There's a church down below the hill, and occasionally the patrons of this specific church stand behind the fence that divides the property between the land owned by the Department of Water and Power and the church.  Over the years, there have been disputes between me, DWP, and the church whose responsibility to clean up the mess that is left here by visitors, homeless people and various gang members.   Today, all eyes are on our current guess resident and his lamb.  

I can clearly understand someone who wants to help Jesus, but don't fully understand why anyone would want to 'serve' Jesus.   If one dares to approach him, he does preach to you - and I once asked him why doesn't he just write it down, that way people can read his views at their leisure.   It seems he doesn't work that way, which for me is unthinkable.  Because I like to write, and to this day I rather communicate to people either through a letter or e-mail.  For instance, I don't like the telephone.  Or to be lost in a conversation with someone.   But Jesus (the historical one as this fellow) prefers to dictate their belief through the art of oral narration.   I got the feeling, knowing that I write, would want me to take his dictation down, but that's silly.  There are computer apps and programs that can do that, if he had a computer.  Alas, he doesn't.  He just has his lamb. 

All of us, meaning the neighborhood came to the hill this Easter morning to see what will happen with our guest and his lamb.  We were all shocked to see that Jesus dug a hole it seemed, overnight, and at the moment, he is roasting his lamb over a flame and coal.  First of all, this is obviously a fire hazard, and second, being a vegetarian I was very much turned-off by what was taking place in front of me.  At first, I couldn't believe my eyes.  I thought maybe he purchased or someone donated some big hunk of meat for him.   My eyes and brain started to work together, and then I realized that the head attached to the rest of the body was the lamb.  The creature's face was still recognizable, and had fur still, even though burnt, you can make out the features - but the rest of the body was just meat.  The smell was horrible as well.  I don't understand why Jesus had to do this on our hill on what looks like will be a beautiful morning.   

Jesus had paper plates, and he started to cut the lamb into pieces and placing it on the plate, and he went out to the small crowd and offered each person a plate of lamb, with lemon on the side.   He came up to me, but I turned down his plate, but I was very polite and told him "No, thank you."  What I did notice is that the crowd that was around became very supportive of our Jesus, and the doubters became if not a friend exactly, at least showed some support.  As I stood there, I didn't feel like I was part of the family, so I went back to my house and played the vinyl version of Steve Reich's "Four Organs" on headphones.  For one, the music sounds better on headphones, and second, I didn't want to share the music with the outside world. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Showdown at Forktongue Canyon"

My dad, Wallace Berman, made this poster/flyer for a benefit that took place in Topanga Canyon in 1971.  Hardcore Topanga culture. 

Jean-Claude Vannier and Serge Gainsbourg's Lost Film Score: New CD Box Set.

A holy grail of the Gainsbourg-Vannier catalogue has surfaced after 45 years.
Serge Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Vannier’s music for the 1969 film Les Chemins de Katmandou, thought to have been lost forever after the master tapes were supposedly destroyed, has resurfaced.
Earlier this year a copy of the master tapes was discovered up in an old suitcase by the daughter of Vannier’s former copyist. That’s Vannier in the photo above, holding the newly recovered music. The tapes have since been transferred and mastered, and portions of the score will finally be released on the forthcoming expanded reissue of Le Cinema De Serge Gainsbourg, a 5CD box set compiling the bulk of the influential French songwriter and composer’s music for film.
Le Cinema De Serge Gainsbourg will also include a number of additional previously unreleased score excerpts, including music from 1980’s Equateur (a film directed by Gainsbourg himself), and a newly discovered piece recorded by Gainsbourg and Vannier for the legendary score to Pierre Granier-Deferre’s 1970 film La Horse.
The box set, produced and compiled by Stéphane Lerouge, includes over six hours of music spanning 1959 to 1990, and includes collaborations with noted composers and arrangers Vannier, Alain Goraguer, Michel Colombier, Arthur Greenslade, and Jean-Pierre Sabar. Rare songs recorded with vocalists Jane Birkin, Anna Karina, Nico, Juliette Gréco, and Michèle Mercier will also be included.
The limited-edition 5CD box set will be released by EmArcy/Mercury/Universal France on April 20 (the proximity to Record Store Day is a coincidence). There has been talk of a vinyl release, said to include the Katmandoumaterial, but no details of a release date or tracklist has yet been announced.
Check out the artwork and tracklist for the CD set below. [via Mikey Jones]
1. L’eau a la bouche – Serge Gainsbourg
2. Angoisse – Alain Goraguer
3. Black march – Alain Goraguer
4. Les loups dans la bergerie – Alain Goraguer
5. Cha cha cha du loup – Alain Goraguer
6. Les loups dans la bergerie – Alain Goraguer & His Orchestra
7. Fuite du rouquin – Alain Goraguer & His Orchestra
8. Strip tease – Juliette Gréco
9. Some small chance – Alain Goraguer
10. Rendez-vous a la calvados – Alain Goraguer
11. Wake me at five – Alain Goraguer
12. Solitude – Alain Goraguer
13. Effeuillage – Alain Goraguer
14. Crazy horse swing – Alain Goraguer
15. Comment trouvez-vous ma soeur? – Serge Gainsbourg
16. Erotico tico – Michel Colombier
17. Rocking horse – Michel Colombier
18. Quart d’heure américain – Michel Colombier
19. Rendez-vous a l’eglise – Michel Colombier
20. Comment trouvez-vous ma sour? – Michel Colombier
21. L’escroc – Serge Gainsbourg
22. Scène de bal 1 – Michel Colombier
23. Scène de bal 2 – Michel Colombier
24. Chanson du forçat – Serge Gainsbourg
25. Le mariage de vidocq – Michel Colombier
26. Chanson du forcat II – Serge Gainsbourg
27. A vous de jouer, monsieur vidocq – Michel Colombier
28. Woom woom woom – Michel Colombier
29. Caressante – Michel Colombier
30. Wouaou ! – Michel Colombier
1. Sous le soleil exactement – Anna Karina
2. Jerks en cavalerie – Michel Colombier
3. C’est la cristallisation comme dit stendhal – Serge Gainsbourg
4. Photographes et religieuses – Michel Colombier
5. Boomerang – Jean Claude Brialy
6. Je n’avais qu’un seul mot a lui dire – Jean Claude Brialy
7. Anna – Michel Colombier
8. Le jardinier d’argenteuil – Michel Colombier
9. Les voyages du père la tulipe – Michel Colombier
10. French riviera – Michel Colombier
11. Dénouement et final – Michel Colombier
12. Breakdown suite – Michel Colombier
13. L’une et l’autre – Michel Colombier
14. Elisa – Serge Gainsbourg
15. L’horizon – Michel Colombier
16. Elisa – Serge Gainsbourg
17. Manon – Serge Gainsbourg
18. New délire again – Michel Colombier
19. New délire – Michel Colombier
20. Auto-stop – Michel Colombier
21. No no yes yes – Michel Colombier
22. Oh beautiful america/mister freedom march – Michel Colombier
23. Freedom rock/mister freedom – Michel Colombier
24. L’herbe tendre – Serge Gainsbourg
25. Ce sacré grand-père générique – Michel Colombier
26. Champêtre et pop – Michel Colombier
27. L’herbe tendre – Michel Colombier
28. L’adieu generique fin – Michel Colombier
1. Requiem pour un con… – Serge Gainsbourg
2. Psychasténie – Michel Colombier
3. Un noël – Michel Colombier
4. Joss a la calavados – Michel Colombier
5. Batucada meurtrière – Michel Colombier
6. Cadavres en série – Michel Colombier
7. La chanson de slogan – Serge Gainsbourg
8. Evelyne – Jean-Claude Vannier
9. Paris-bombay – Jean-Claude Vannier
10. Les chemins de katmandou (générique) – Jean-Claude Vannier
11. Jane et olivier – Jean-Claude Vannier
12. Transe party des haschichiens – Jean-Claude Vannier
13. Carte postale du népal – Jean-Claude Vannier
14. La horse – Jean-Claude Vannier
15. L’alouette – Jean-Claude Vannier
16. Western – Jean-Claude Vannier
17. Cannabis – Serge Gainsbourg
18. Avant de mourir – Jean-Claude Vannier
19. Danger – Jean-Claude Vannier
20. Dernière blessure – Jean-Claude Vannier
21. Cannabis – Jean-Claude Vannier
22. Sex shop – Serge Gainsbourg
23. Fontaine des innocents – Jean-Claude Vannier
24. Sex radio suite – Jean-Claude Vannier
25. Moogy-woogy – Jean-Claude Vannier
26. Close combat – Jean-Claude Vannier
27. Un petit garçon nommé charlie brown – Serge Gainsbourg
1. L’amour en privé – Françoise Hardy
2. Projection privée – Jean-Claude Vannier
3. L’amour en privé – Jean-Claude Vannier
4. Ballade de johnny-jane – Serge Gainsbourg
5. Je t’aime moi non plus – Jean-Pierre Sabar
6. Banjo au bord du styx – Jean-Pierre Sabar
7. Zanzibar – Jean-Pierre Sabar
8. Le choc est terrible – Jean-Pierre Sabar
9. Yesterday yes a day – Jane Birkin
10. First class ticket/yesterday on fender – Jean-Pierre Sabar
11. Mi corasong – Serge Gainsbourg
12. Passage a tabacco – Serge Gainsbourg
13. Chanson du chevalier blanc – Gérard Lanvin
14. Emmanuelle and the sea – Jean-Pierre Sabar
15. Goodbye emmanuelle – Serge Gainsbourg
16. Emmanuelle and the sea – Jean-Pierre Sabar
17. Sea sex and sun – Serge Gainsbourg
18. Melancoly suite – Jean-Pierre Sabar
19. Tapage nocturne – Bijou
20. Dieu fumeur de havanes – Jean-Pierre Sabar
21. La fautive – Serge Gainsbourg
22. La fautive – Don Ray
23. Je pense queue – Serge Gainsbourg
24. Dieu fumeur de havanes – Catherine Deneuve
1. Equateur (générique) – Serge Gainsbourg
2. Un cargo vers l’afrique – Serge Gainsbourg
3. Le physique et le figuré – Jean-Pierre Sabar
4. Dorothée (fuir le bonheur de peur qu’il ne se sauve) – Serge Gainsbourg
5. Accéléré historique – Serge Gainsbourg
6. En souvenir de fred a. – Serge Gainsbourg
7. Travelling – Jean-Pierre Sabar
8. Entrave – Jean-Pierre Sabar
9. Trave – Jean-Pierre Sabar
10. Travaux – Jean-Pierre Sabar
11. Charlotte for ever – Serge Gainsbourg
12. Stan/elodie – Serge Gainsbourg
13. La valse de l’au revoir – Juliette Gréco
14. Strip tease – Nico
15. La fille qui fait tchictitchic – Michèle Mercier
16. La noyée – Anna Karina
17. Hier ou demain – Anna Karina
18. Ballade de johnny jane – Jane Birkin
19. Goodbye emmanuelle – Serge Gainsbourg
20. Les chemins de katmandou – Fred Pallem
21. La horse – Marathon Men’S
22. Requiem pour un con – Serge Gainsbourg
Original source for the above information: