Monday, July 25, 2016

Season Finale!!! Transitions Episode 14: Conversations with Lun*na Menoh

"The Undiscoverable Reading" an essay by Tony Duvert

ISBN 978-1-58435-135-1 Semiotext[e]

"The Undiscoverable Reading" an essay by Tony Duvert (Translated by Bruce Benderson) with drawings by  Eli Langer (Semiotext[e])

Tony Duvert is a very hard sale. Due to the fact that he has an interest in pedophilia and criticized modern child-rearing. In the 70s, due to the sexual moral times of that era, he could get his work published, but since the 1980s he was pretty much ignored by the mainstream press and even from the Underground.  Which is a shame, because Duvert is a very interesting writer and thinker.  Semiotext[e] the brilliant press are the only one's that are publishing his work, and the booklet I have just read, "The Undisoverable Reading" is hard-to-find.  It's a 40 page chapbook, with no bind, but I read it twice, because I found it to be difficult and enticing at the same time.   In this essay, Duvert writes about the nature of literature and how reader's perceive literature - both as someone who may write books, as well as its readers.  The reader in a sense, meets the author.  He starts off writing about an ad selling classic literature to a normal family, and gives a funny picture of that type of ad- and then he goes into the advertisement of a company selling a service in 'how to write,' and gives a picture there of a young girl about to start her novel or some sort of creative writing.  From there, he digs into the deeper world of why people read, but also the nature of avant-garde literature when it mixes with the mainstream world of books.   The writing is very dense and one has to concentrate - but as I said, I was compelled to read it twice in a row - and each read was enjoyable experience.   This work was part of the Semiotext[e] box set that was sold at the Whitney.  I think the whole collection is sold out, but I think for sure, worth the trouble to locate this box of chapbooks.   As a brand, you can pretty much trust the Semiotext[e] publishing house to always, or at the very least, put out interesting titles.  

- Tosh Berman

Gilbert & George "Bend It"

Cut Piece ✂ by Yoko Ono

Yves Klein "Anthropometries of the Blue Period" y "Fire Paintings" [1960]

Francis Bacon Fragments Of A Portrait - interview by David Sylvester

Marcel Duchamp 1968 BBC interview

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Evening Series: Volume 3

The Evening Series : Volume 3

When the sun goes down, and the stars come out, it is at that moment I put on Elvis’ “Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits: Volume 1” on the turntable.  The recordings are in Mono, and what I have here are the original Mono mixes.  The sounds bounce out of the speakers with a certain amount of intensity.   I met Elvis once when I was a child.  He and his buddies used to play touch football in our neighborhood park every Saturday when he was in town.  “Town” being Los Angeles.  To be specific I’m talking about Beverly Glen Park on Beverly Glen Blvd .  He would show up late afternoon, and they would play till the darkness came.  They left at dusk in a series of expensive looking cars, and it was like seeing ghosts during the daylight hours. 

The last time I saw Elvis was not long ago.   I was at the Four Oaks cafe having a beer, late at night, you know around 11ish.  That’s late for me. I have to get up early for work, especially on the weekends.  He came in by himself, and there was no one else in the cafe.  He took the counter seat across from me.  He told the waitress behind the counter that he wanted to have a coke in a bottle.  She served him the coke by getting it out of the fridge and sliding it across the countertop - and he caught the bottle before it was about to fall off the end of the counter.  He said to her “Thanks Mam.” He looked at me, and I looked at him.  She looked at her dish towel while drying a dish or two.

As I was finishing off my beer, he called out to me ‘hey do you want another?” I just smiled at him and said “sure.” He then got the waitress’s attention, and said “give Tosh another beer.” I was surprised that he knew my name, even though we have met briefly in the park, it was some time ago.   “Tosh, do you mind if I sit with you?” I said “sure, come around.” I then asked afterwards saying that, “or do you want me to come over there.” He smiled, and made a gesture to get up, but then sat down again.  As I got up, he then got up, and I sat down.  We did this for a few more seconds, and we began to laugh hysterically.   He then said, “tell you what, I’ll meet you half-way.” I said “OK.” “I’ll count up to five, and we will both get out of our seats at the same time.” I counted one, he counted two, I counted three, he counted four, I counted…. Five!  And we both got out of our seats by five, and we sat in the middle of the counter bar. “Wow that was something.” Elvis had a funny way of phrasing the most obvious thing, at the right time and place. 

There was a juke box in the corner of the cafe. I asked him if he minded if I played a song. He said “sure go ahead.” I went over and found a song by The Cramps called “Human Fly.” I put the quarter in, and the needle hit the vinyl, and I began to shake. I started to dance for about a few seconds, and then Elvis got up and started dancing with me.  We danced really close without touching each other.  He took out his comb, which was like a switchblade. He opened it and began to comb his hair while dancing.  He then handed me the comb and I put it through my hair as well. I can sense the hair cream on his comb, and it felt good to put it in my hair.  After the song was over, we went back to our seats. 

I bought him another Coke.  I immediately thought of the Frank O’Hara poem about drinking Coke.  Elvis knew the poem and he said that he loved it.  He started to recite it to me:

“Having a Coke with You
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy…”

I told him to stop there.     

We sat there for a while without saying a word to each other.  I still had his comb in my hand, and I gave it to him.  He took it, and put it through his hair, just once.  He drank down his coke in one gulp, sort of burped, and he then smiled at me.  He got up, and rubbed my two shoulders, and said “I’ll be seeing you.” And I said, something like “Yeah.” He walked out of the cafe, and went straight into the darkness outside. He disappeared.  I finished my beer, and I got up, and I too went into the darkness.  Who knows what we will find in total darkness?  

- Tosh Berman, July 23, 2016 (7:30 PM to 8:30 PM)  (Poem by Frank O’Hara)

"The Ongoing Moment" by Geoff Dyer

ISBN: 978-1-4000-3168-9 Vintage

I tend to love books that dwell on a subject matter and ramble on afterwards.  Geoff Dyer's subject matter is photography and photographers.  Here he captures various moments by either European or more likely, American photographers at work.   The book really focuses on the works of Alred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evens, André Kertész, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, and my personal fave, William Eggleston.  A lot of these photographers have focused on the same subject matter or weird visions of Americana as it was found or happened.   Personally I have never come upon a photo of a landscape or a park that doesn't make me feel sad.  In a sense, it's the passing of time or even death in certain situations.  What we have here is actually a very focused view on the photograph and its artists.   The one's I listed above, I think you can get a clear picture (no pun intended) of what this book is about.  Very enjoyable read, by a really good writer, on a subject matter that is sometimes hard to write about.  

- Tosh Berman

Annette Peacock "I'm The One" RCA Records (1972)

Annette Peacock "I'm The One" (RCA Records)  1972

I'm approaching this album as a David Bowie lunatic-fan.  And beyond that, more likely through a Mick Ronson (Bowie's guitarist in the Ziggy years) connection.   Annette Peacock put out an album in January 1972, called "I'm The One" on RCA Records.   In 1974, Ronson made his first album, and on that record he did a version of two Peacock tunes,  "I'm The One," Seven Days", and oddly enough, an Elvis' "Love Me Tender," which is more of a cover of Annette Peacock's version of the Elvis classic.   So many years later, it was astonishing to hear Peacock's album.

When hearing the album now, one can hear slight traces of the Bowie/Ronson sound, but also Mike Garson, the long term keyboard player for Bowie, also appears on this album. Perhaps before his association with Bowie?  Nevertheless, it can be just a matter of taste, but I do believe there is a link between this album and the world of Bowie.  Besides the obvious, like the Ronson connection, this is a very strong soulful jazzy avant- pop with an unique way of handling a moog.  Great jazz players on this album, like her husband at the time, Paul Bley, makes this a fascinating listen.  The first minute or two of the title song is simply majestic, due to its orchestration, and it reminds me a bit of Bowie's "Sue."   Not surprising, because this is music once heard, will stick in your DNA for awhile.   And it's like three different tunes wrapped in this one song.  And again, the arrangement is multi-textural.  The moog playing with the horns and the voice (which I believe she sings through the moog) is both soulful as well as being futuristic, in that 70s sense, sound.   There is likewise a Nina Simone touch throughout the album.  A perfect hybrid of jazz, songwriting pop, Brazilian music and avant-garde flourishes here and there.

And again, it's enchanting that Mick Ronson cover three songs from this album, on his first solo effort.  Ronson is for sure a musician who loves arrangements.  And this album is very much about jazz orchestration as well as being off-kilter pop.  A great record.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"Necrophilia" by The Rolling Stones (Bootleg vinyl picture disc)

The Rolling Stones

For me, due to the inner-world I live in, this is the Stones album for me.  And oddly enough, it's a bootleg.   "Necrophilia" is sort of the bastard version of their collection "Metamorphosis" but of course, much better.  I don't really know the history of this particular bootleg, except I think at one time this was going to be released as a rarity album of goodies - why it didn't happen, I don't know.  Still, it's my favorite Stones album.   

Some of the material on this album sounds more like the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra with Jagger on vocals - or perhaps session musicians (Big John Sullivan & Jimmy Page?) but clearly some of the recordings here were meant to sell the songwriting of Jagger and Richards to other artists.  "Neocrophilia" captures the band between being a R&B band and popster songwriting duo.   Even the 'hits' that we know are different on this album.  "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby" is either an early mix, or more stripped-down version. It has always been one of my favorite Stones cut.   It is like hearing a blending machine mixing your favorite ingredients for a drink.   Pure cocktail of sound.  Trumpet? Blaring in the background, echoy vocals fighting out with the background vocals, and it is simply wonderful.  

This album is sort of the negative version of "Aftermath," in that I'm sure it was recorded around the same time, or in a sense the "Aftermath" notebook.  Notes for an unfinished album.  The nature of recordings that are bootlegs is to see the wizard behind the thick velvet curtain at work.   It is like we are in the studio but invisible. "Hear It," is the mystery cut.  The beauty of this particular song is that it sounds like a soundtrack to a film, but discarded.  Lot of guitar pickings, and then this beautiful string section takes over, but it goes back and forth with the guitars.  Somehow I don't feel this is a Keith Richards guitar.  Brian Jones related production?   Or maybe Jimmy Page?  A beautifully arranged piece. 

"Some Things Just Stick In Your Head" is a throw-away song, but that is also its charm.  It is a country arrangement with the full pop Jack Nietzsche arrangement.   The song is not that hot, but the production and arrangement are amazing.  "Aftermath" is a jam session, and I'm sure I can hear Phil Spector's voice in the background.  So this maybe the Spector/Gene Pitney gets together with the Stones

"I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys" is the classic Mick and Keith song.  This is where they show their true worth and sensibility.  I often felt that the best love songs by Mick and Keith were really about them.  The sexual energy in that band is not going outward, but very much inward.  It is more of a yearning to be within one's gang then out with another 'girl.  "Andrew's Blues" song is about sucking. And I believe this is also Phil/Gene and I want to point out the Motown influence in the early Stones - especially during this period.

An early period of "Street Fighting Man" but here with different lyrics and called "Pay Your Dues."   The height of the Brian Jones sitar, strong bass playing by Wyman, and the great Nicky Hopkins.  It's magic really.   Now comes my favorite of the favorites, "Each & Every Day of the Year."  The slow built-up is almost Roy Orbison intensity, with his sort of lyrical world and melody.  It's a beautiful song. Majestic.  It is so good, I suspect that it isn't the Stones, but Mick with session players. "The Sleepy City" is another fave of mine.  It appeals to the Situationist instinct in me.  To walk in an urban area in the early morning - perhaps after a long night out, or just waking up to this beauty of a landscape.  I often walk around the town here, with this melody in my head. 

The version I have is a vinyl picture disc.   I wish that there was more concrete information about these recordings, like who plays what and so forth.  On the other hand, the mystery is extremely appealing.  Sometimes the information that is in my head is totally wrong, but yet, enjoyable.  Nevertheless a superb collection of songs that are lost in the Stones world. 

Dennis Cooper and the case of the disappearing blog on Press Play with Madeleine Brand

Dennis Cooper and the case of the disappearing blog on Press Play with Madeleine Brand


Four by Yoko Ono

Dick Higgins & Something Else Press publications, Artpool 1993

fluxus festival 1962

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Evening Series : Volume Two

Evening Series: Volume 2

One night I was in the desert, on my way to Las Vegas, when all of a sudden my car died. I didn’t want to get out of my car, because I felt that it would be like walking on Mars without a spacesuit. The car’s battery was dead, or it was playing dead - either way, I sat in my car and pretend this wasn’t happening. My headlights were out of course, so the only reflection of light that came, was a passing car speeding across the two lane highway. There was no way I could flag a car down, because I didn’t exist, due to the speed of the passing car. When I finally got out of the car from the passenger side, I saw nothing but blackness on blackness. Blackness itself was endless and after a while I started to see shapes or something of a 3D effect. I really couldn’t see the hand in front of my face.

When my car died I think it was around 11:00 PM. But I’m not sure, because when I drive on a straight highway I lose all sense of time, due to the road itself as well as the blackness that is out there. One thing I noticed when I stepped out of the car was the sound of tumbleweeds tumbling across the landscape. I didn’t feel there was anything alive out there, yet, I felt logically there must be something breathing on the blank vista in front of me. The air was non-existent. I could breathe easily, but I felt there was no wind or even a breeze. Yet over time, I could feel that there was movement in front of me, when I faced away from the highway.

There were very few cars going by. Due to keep my mind on something I counted up to six cars, but got bored, because there was a lot of time (or that seems to be the case) between cars. I tried to think of a melody, but oddly enough nothing came to mind. I became hyper-aware of the sounds of the desert. Everything was low-volume, but now I noticed that there were consistent sounds.

When I looked up in the sky, there was nothing but stars, and then more stars. There were no clouds and since I was only wearing a white American Apparel t-shirt, Levi 501’s and black tennis shoes, the temperature was quite comfortable. I started to think if I die right now, it will be OK. But I was worried to see the sunrise, because I felt I was trapped here, and I may die under the exposure of the sun. All of sudden, I had thoughts of Dr. John McTeague and his one-time best friend, Marcus Schouler, from the film “Greed, ” fighting to the death under the hot sun and in the desert. I have only read about "Greed," and seen its film stills, but if you asked me at a party if I have seen it, I for sure would tell you I not only seen it, but saw the original five and a half hour version.

As I stood there, leaning on my car, it was the first time I really thought about dying. I had Arrowhead water in a plastic bottle, so I felt I could make it last throughout the night, still, I had a hunch my life would either be totally changed or by morning I’ll be dead.

I started to imagine vultures eating my meat, and I wondered if they peck you while you’re still alive or you have to be dead. I have read that a vulture can’t really eat a healthy animal or human. They usually wait till another animal or larger scavenger attacks the body. After they are finished with the meal, then they go in and take what they need. Also, it seems that they projectile vomit, not as a weapon against another beast, but to unload their stomach so they can fly off easier.

I don’t know how long I stood there and just thought about this. All I know is I looked into the darkness hoping to see myself, or a reflection. But the landscape does not acknowledge you. The viewer is really in the mercy of the landscape. I was thinking of going back inside my car to find a pencil and piece of paper and perhaps write my final words, but all of sudden, I just didn’t care anymore. I finally accepted that I exist in darkness, and therefore I wanted the night to swallow me before the daylight. I have nothing more to say.

-Tosh Berman (8:30 PM - 9:30 PM)

La Notti Bianche (White Nights) by Luchino Visconti

I saw the most amazing film last night.  La Notti Bianche (White Nights) by Luchino Visconti.   For one, I can't imagine having Marcello Mastroianni and Jean Marais in the same room or scene.   Two different visions of male beauty.   The Mastroianni character is great.  He's sort of the typical Italian guy in a new town, looking for an obsession.  He finds it in Maria Schell, who in turn is obsessed with Jean Marais.   The Marais and Schell characters are much more complexly than Mastroianni - and it's interesting to see how he is placed in this remote yet seductive world.   The cinematography is brilliant, and I believe the story takes place in Venice, Italy.  If so, the landscape of that Italian city is a separate character in the film as well.  Another highlight is a great dance scene in the middle of the film.  When Italians rock, they rock (dance) hard.  I haven't seen such  a great film in a long time - so it was a shock to come upon Notti Bianche, to remind me that the cinema arts is superb.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Evening Series : Volume 1

The Evening Series: Volume 1

Cocktail hour comes at 7PM, just as the sun is heading behind the mountain range.  It is the last moment of my sobriety.  It is at this time that I look forward to my drunkenness.   One of the things I have learned in life is that to be drunk, is better than be sober.   The straight life.  I lift my drink to sobriety as I get my dueling pistol to shoot the soberness in its face.  Which reminds me, I need to replace the mirror in the bedroom.  

I only drink the drink that French gangsters drink.   Henri Bardouin Pastis. It contains more than 65 different herbs and spices.  At least 21 of its ingredients are secret. It is a confidential matter between the supplier and the drinker.   Yet, the beauty of drinking such a liquid is dwelling in its secrets. The purity of having an edge, is when you really start feeling alright.  And I do feel right, man, right in my head.  The clothes on me are weighing me down. I’m by my self, so I don’t see why I need to wear the job uniform that one wears whenever they leave their home.   The steel framed chair feels good on my skin, and I have nothing on except my watch.  It’s important to notice the passing of time.  “My name is Bill and I’m a head case.” What song is that?  Good god, it’s 7:43 and I’m feeling a tad light headed. 

In the room, where I do most (if not all) my drinking, I have two images on my wall.  One is a knock-off print of a painting by Peder Severin Kroyer “Hip Hip Hurrah!” Artists Party at Skagen, 1888.   I like it, because it makes me happy.  It looks like a family setting, where they’re drinking champagne to toast some happy occasion.  The appeal to me, is that it’s not tied to a particular holiday or incident, such as a wedding. It can be just friends out in the backyard (nature?) and enjoying the day without a thought in their heads, of the misery that will come around the corner.  The other is an etching by William Hogarth called “Gin Lane (1751) ”.   A street scene where it is literally hell on earth.  A drunken woman who is sitting on top of a steep staircase is dropping her baby, as another is passed out drunk, with his chest exposed, showing his rib cage.  Food is not part of the Gin Lane world.  These two images remind me of the duality in life.   As I sit there in my chair, focusing on both paintings from a distance, I feel like I’m walking on a tightrope between the two works.  So, the two works of art express the best and worst, within my world.  

The duality I feel that is within me, is like a beast that refuses to go to sleep.  It rests quietly, but I’m fully aware that it's awake.  Drinking combines both parts of me, and eventually it joins as one.  The sense, of coming together, finally gives my anxiety some much needed rest.  I’ll drink to that!

- Tosh Berman (July 18, 2016; from 8:10 PM to 9:30 P.M.) 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Music Listened to on July 15, 2016

When I need to focus on a blank piece of paper, and I need to add words to that blankness, this is the album that I have been listening to.   There's a purity to the sounds that frees my mind up.  I enjoy Steve Reich's music quite a lot. 

The brand new Mick Harvey album is pretty fantastic.  All Serge Gainsbourg covers.  Side two is mostly devoted to the music Gainsbourg did for "Anna."  So, this is the third Harvey album that's devoted to the Gainsbourg world.   Great arrangements as well!  A must-have!