May 3, 2014
I was listening to Isidore Isou’s short sound text piece, “Rituel Somptueux pour la Selection des Especes, ” this morning and I thought how remarkable it is to be aware of one’s existence in a world that has no meaning whatsoever. I am listening to something in French, a language I don’t know, and yet, I can appreciate the sound poem, without fully understanding its meaning, if there is even a meaning behind the work. I woke up this morning, since it is May 3, with the image of Goya’s painting “The Third of May 1808.” Is it a creative work of art, or just reporting an incident or even an image. I seem to be confused between the artificial and what is real.
I read various newspaper accounts of Emmett Dalton, who was part of the legendary Dalton gang of bank robbers during the wild west. Emmett was shot 23 times during a robbery that failed of course, but he did recover from his wounds and ended up in prison. The governor gave him a pardon, where Dalton eventually ended up as an entertainer with a message for his audience. He made a film in 1912 called “The Last Stand of the Dalton Boys, ” which was made as three-reeler. Emmett played himself in the film, and not only that, but he also toured with the film, giving a speech before and after the screening. His basic message was that crime doesn’t pay. To quote “the biggest fool on earth is the one who thinks he can beat the law.” The irony is I think he did beat the law, or used his past profession as a new profession. He died in 1937 in South Central Los Angeles, which ironically enough is the same neighborhood that Western legend Wyatt Earp also lived and died. They say there are no second acts in life, but alas that is not true.
One has to keep in mind what Niccolò Machiavelli has said “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” This is profoundly true on so many accounts. Personally people approach me as what they think I am. The truth is I’m not that person whatsoever, but I never tell them that. I let them decide or define who I’m. Emmett was an individual who played with his image, and to confuse that identity by being in a film or even in a book is role playing. I'm more impressed with people like François Coty who was a French perfumer, who didn't hit it big with his product till he accidently dropped a bottle of perfume in a busy Parisian department store. His empire was built on a smell, an odor, yet it was the scent that built up a right-wing force in 20th century France. He eventually purchased Le Figuro, the national newspaper, and when he did he remove "Le" from the title, and it became the voice for right-wing causes. Although a horrible racist, he was also a brilliant business man who realized that a scent doesn't always have to appeal to a certain price or even class. He made various versions of his scent, at different prices and therefore it was a scent that went around the world. He also owned all aspects of his perfume production, by owning the flower fields that originated the scent as well as the printing presses that made the labeling and the delivery vehicles that brought the product to the stores and distributors. In a sense, he had it all, and he defined the world in his own image. Not that far off from someone like David Koch, who not only was a libertarian but also made sure his name was on every building that he made as well as his various hospitals and medical centers that he had built. The powerful are often the most honest, and Machiavelli knew how to worm inside such a person's head to make him or her insecure.
The most honest man, with respect to his art or presence is Bing Crosby. A superb vocalist, but what he contributes to the world was the multitrack reel-to-reel tape machine. He was likewise the first person to pre-record his radio shows and put them on magnetic tape. Therefore he can choose his first love, golf playing, and not having it interfere with his ‘radio’ work. The beauty of all of this for me was that he could destroy the sense of actual time, and make one up, or give an appearance that everything is placed in “real time.” Which comes back to “The Third of May 1808, ” is that reportage or is that a work of art?