Thursday, July 31, 2014
A quick and easy introduction to Boris Vian, but not in great detail. Nevertheless, it is nice he's getting some attention in the big media. Sadly (and not surprisingly) there is no mention of my press TamTam Books, which pretty much presented Vian to the English reading world.
July 31, 2014
Last night I played Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord” which is a recording made in 1888, and it is considered to be among the earliest surviving recordings of music. It is likewise the best. One just has to presume that either Thomas Edison or Adelbert Theodor Edward Wangemann produced or recorded this haunted melody on their phonograph cylinder. It’s a beautiful piece of music, but the only version I like is this one. The sadness of time passing appeals to my sense of loss. I have a phonograph cylinder, and this is the sole piece of music I have for it. I tend to play it at least once a week, just before I go to sleep. It is just like a peaceful death, where I wander into my dreams in hopes of a better world.
Sullivan was an interesting man in that he had an affair with Rachel Scott Russell as well as her older sister Louise. He dumped both of them and ended up with an American socialite by the name of Fanny Ronalds. She was an amateur singer, and it has been noted that her favorite song was “The Lost Cord.” When Sullivan died he left her an autographed manuscript of that song to her. He would also record his sexual acts with her, which strikes my fancy, because I too am obsessed with making lists of all sorts.
Sullivan is now famous for the operas he wrote with W. S. Gilbert, but what I find interesting is how he enacted with the first recording. Edison sent his phonograph to London so that George Gouraud could play Sullivan’s “The Last Cord” to a press audience in 1888. Sullivan commented on this recording by saying “I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening's experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever. But all the same I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery. ”
As one’s notice, it seems that Sullivan may also be the earliest record reviewer in existence as well. Nevertheless I had the strangest dream last night, which I believe to be due to this song. I was on a luxury liner, and I sense that it was slowly sinking, but no one was commenting on that fact or appeared to be overly concerned. In fact it was peaceful, and I do believe I was hearing “The Last Cord” at this moment in the dream. Including the sound of decay and destruction of the wax cylinder. As I looked over the ship onto the ocean I saw a faint image of a body floating, and I am not sure if that specific body was swimming or a drowned corpse. Others saw it as well, but of course, not reacting to it or the situation. As I woke up this morning and watched footage of the bombings in Gaza, I felt totally numb to the visuals. Also it struck me funny that as the United States condemns the bombings due to the death of civilians and children, and demands a ceasefire, it is also selling arms to Israel at the same time. I won’t be on this planet forever, but I wonder the one’s who comes after me (if they do) what would they think of such a joke, when they see antique recordings of a disaster such as taking place in Gaza. Perhaps it will be entertainment, but then again, there is something beautiful about cheap music like “The Lost Cord” as well as how one sees their entertainment.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Ah!, the summer of love. I was 12 years old when I first went to London with my parents, and that trip for me was like traveling through Alice’s rabbit hole. I have gone back to London numerous time, but like the first kiss, the first trip was the magical one. For one, I met Alexander Trocchi with my parents at his flat somewhere in the capital. At the time, I had the faint knowledge that he contributed a piece to my dad’s art/poetry/journal “Semina,” but that is about it. I knew nothing else about him. What impressed me the most, at the time, is when he began to shoot up heroin into his arm. At that point and time (I was 12 remember) I never saw anything like that in my life. I was intrigued because he kept the conversation he was having with my parents while he prepared his gear, and eventually shooting the dope into his arm. At the time, it was shocking to me, because I never ever even seen a needle in that sense. As a child I had to get numerous shots through school, and I always looked away when the needle went through my skin. Having a shot in the arm did not bother me personally, but the worst part of the whole procedure is standing in line with other kids and their parents, and hearing the child in front of me scream their heads off. As one got closer to the screened-off room in the gym, the worst the knots were in my stomach. Here in London, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him and his arm. I remember his arm also being scarred with scabs and other markings. The odd thing, is that he didn’t excuse himself or asked if it was OK, he just did it in front of his guests.
It was obvious to me my parents were not happy to see this in front of their eyes, and I think were concerned that I was in the room as well. But the official policy in a sense, was not to hide me from anything unpleasant. Although oddly enough, the only thing I was’t allowed to watch or see was the Tod Browning film “Freaks.” Which of course made me want to see the film even more, but at the time of my youth, that film only existed as film stills in various Monster fan magazines that I used to devour each month. I was intrigued by the thought of actually seeing real live side-show freaks, because to me, it was just an illusion and I wasn’t sure if they even existed. It wasn’t till I was in my mid-twenties, when I actually saw the film. I’m happy to say that the film was worth the long wait. Around that time I went to a donut shop on Melrose Avenue, here in Los Angeles, to get some morning coffee. To my surprise I stood behind a man who looked exactly like the Elephant Man. His face was deformed with huge tumors, and his mouth was misshapen as well as the rest of his head. Even now, I feel it was a dream, but the truth is I did see this man. It was a strange setting to see him in a donut shop, early in the morning. I remember the girl behind the counter was sort of freaked out, and it was hard to understand what he was asking for, due that his voice was affected by the way his mouth was deformed. It was sad, horrifying, and weird at the same moment.
My memory of Alex was that he was charming, but there was something terribly off about his behavior with respect to his heroin use. I have met many junkies in my life, but never witnessed one shooting the works in their system. Also besides me and my parents, he had a small child roaming the flat as well. He or she must have been around 1 or 2 years old. Nevertheless, as I got older I would run into Alex’s work in the most strangest places. He was a writer who showed up in moments of critical incidents or times of world literature. The Paris Review, the Situationists, the Beats… he just appears like a ghost, and then if you look again at his direction, he disappears. Totally fascinating.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
July 29, 2014
My first step into the world of alcoholism is by watching William Powell in the Thin Man film series. If this was a drinker, then sign me up. I loved how he focused on martini drinking and solving a mystery between drinking sessions. My day is pretty well-arranged, that by 9pm in the evening I’m drunk. The beauty of the day is the rhyme and timing of moments passing, participating the first sip of the martini. Drinking is not the most important part of the day for me, but to know that “it” will happen, excites me to no end. I often feel that after a great writing session and basically being alone with my torrid thoughts, the award of the grueling work will be the taste of the combined elements of vodka, vermouth and olive. On special occasions (at least once a week) I like to have a martini around 1pm if the morning is going well. So the buzz in the afternoon is a pretty good introduction to the full-throttle of serious drinking in the evening.
When I’m writing I imagine myself as two different people or maybe the same person with poles apart characteristics. I haven’t really worked that out yet. Nevertheless, I feel my brain is kept separate from my fingers as I type. What comes to bear in mind is the story of “Archy and Mehitabel” in which the cockroach writes free verse poetry by hurling himself at the keys one at a time. Due to that practice and his very size, it’s impossible for him to operate the shift key on the typewriter, so all his writings were written without capitalization or punctuation. I kind of go through the identical procedure myself. Of course I’m too big to throw myself onto the keyboard, but nevertheless there is a coordination I have to continue to focus on between my brain and typing.
I’m working on a novel about a family that is born wealthy and therefore wealth comes naturally to them. Its take place in an era where new wealth is made due to an individual’s genius in making something new, or the ability to look at the world as if it was a map, and building or inventing items that can be used by the masses. The tension is not due to wealth alone, but the class structure that produced old money against “new money.” As my leading character says: "Don't you think being things is 'rahthuh bettuh' than doing things?"
My behavior is like a Professor Irwin Corey in front of the typewriter. I’m just trying to make sense of a world that I really don’t have an understanding of. I just know it tastes like a stale martini left on the bar for way too long. If I can just imagine staying focused and keep to the schedule I think it will work out OK. The drinking part is what keeps me in-tuned to the day. Like the sun arising and going down at dusk, I know the martini will take me to another place, where I can wander and be free for at least a certain amount of hours per day. Not to be restricted to the gravity of the Earth and in front of my typewriter, but to expand my drunk consciousness onto an expressway or at its worst, in a garage in Pacific Palisades, with a car motor running. But once I’m on the highway, I usually avoid the exit signs.
Monday, July 28, 2014
July 28, 2014
As a little boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old, I went to the Pasadena Museum for an opening for a Frenchman by the name of Marcel Duchamp. Once I got there, I had an instant “like” for the exhibition, because one, I feel this is art that was totally kid friendly. For instance, a bicycle wheel on a stool. What child couldn’t relate to that! Also I have a faint memory of a snow shovel that was placed on the wall, and I thought that was pretty neat as well. It was the first art exhibition I’ve been to, where I felt the mystery was being preserved, yet totally inviting. Someone, I believe it was Walter Hopps introduced me to Duchamp. I remember him being tall, but of course keep in mind that any kid thinks of a grown-up as being tall. What impressed me is when Walter announced my name, Duchamp slightly bent his waist in a formal manner and shook my little hand. I got the impression that he came to me, and approached me as not as an equal for God’s sake, but worthy enough to reach out for my hand.
The opening was a lot of fun and it felt special. There was something in that room that just got the people there jazzed and excited. Every Los Angeles artist was at the opening, and it was sort of like if the King and Queen of somewhere came to town, and it was a private engagement for that royalty couple. In the small world that I lived in, it was obvious that this Frenchman was someone important. Probably my favorite artist as a kid at that time was Salvador Dali. Due to mostly his appearance and his painting skills. It wasn’t till I became a teenager or late teen and realized that Dali was the Kiss (as in the band) of art. I out grew that artist but never lost my appreciation of Marcel Duchamp. Speaking of (or writing)Dali, there was this amusing tale I read from John Cage, when he was hanging out with Duchamp in the late 50s, and Duchamp requested that both of them should visit Dali, who was staying somewhere in New York City. Cage couldn’t imagine why Duchamp would want to visit Dali, to be honest, I think he felt that Dali was below him and Duchamp. Which is most likely the case, but Duchamp actually liked Dali. Not sure about loving his art, but he liked him as a character or person. Cage went with him, and Dali did most of the talking, and Duchamp basically sat there and just smiled at him. Cage didn’t really get it. I think a lot of people didn’t get Duchamp because they really didn’t understand his zen like attention to accept almost anything.
When I began to write poetry, my main influence was Tristan Tzara, because to me he was the craziest writing poet on the planet. But when I got older, I began to appreciate the poetry of John Ashbery. What impressed about his work, as a young poet, is the absence of ego in his poetry. It didn’t seem to be about him, but something else, but of course, it is really about the poet. I often pretend that I’m not an egoist, by practicing a look on my face that says “I’m listening to you with all my senses.” In actuality, I am not really listening, but thinking about my writing or a picture of a pretty girl a friend sent to me via e-mail. What I love about poetry is that there is a platform and one needs to work within its borders. With that restriction, I feel more alive and free. I imagine this is exactly what it is like to participate in S&M practices, where you either control someone or accept the fact that you are being controlled. I can understand that relationship fully. Ashbery strikes me as a poet who is very open to the world, and takes it all in, but of course he edits the images he comes upon, and therefore his poetry. One thing that stays in my mind is a quote from Ashbery (from an interview in The Paris Review) “I write with experiences in mind, but I don't write about them, I write out of them.” Also I am very much in tuned to his ear and eyes. I don’t find Ashbery obscure, but in fact, he’s just more aware than others. Another quote by him that stays with me, and I feel it could have been from Duchamp as well: “It's rather hard to be a good artist and also be able to explain intelligently what your art is about. In fact, the worse your art is, the easier it is to talk about, at least I would like to think so.”
Sunday, July 27, 2014
July 27, 2014
I write. I publish. I don’t do anything else. I make a separate identity, in which I have a paying job. I work at a bookstore, where I talk about books, but never talk about my writing. In conjunction with my work at the store, I also publish, but that, like my writing, never brings in any money in. Two or three times, I have been asked to participate in an awards ceremony in the hopes that I would win such an award. I refuse to do so. On the grounds that I write, and I refuse to participate in the games where one is competing against another writer. In essence, it is putting a group of people (writers) in a cage and seeing which one will win out in the end. That, as a writer, I find disgusting. The only prize I would accept is the Nobel. For the sole reason it is the most ludicrous prize, that it is almost meaningless. To quote the eminent (ha) Alfred Nobel "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” The key word for me here is “ideal.” My whole life is spent to avoid the “ideal” To satisfy one’s conception of what is perfect, is simply absurd.
The problem with Dash Snow is that he didn’t have a day job. I’ve been studying him and his work for a writing project, and his sad death conveys an artist who chooses to participate in the art game, by pretending not to be part of it. The freedom he had was one within the borders that were set up by others. Like me, Kafka, Julien Grecq, we can fuck with the structure by actually not participating in the game. Even being questioned for the media is taking part where one is exploited, and where in fact, your writing and work should speak for you. What is there to know about me, except what I write.
One of my favorite pieces of art (and I use that word for all the disciplines of its practices) is “Café Müller” by Pina Bausch in which the dancers crash into the furniture on the stage. The dancers are told to close their eyes, which cause a sense of tension in the audience. Or at least for me, because I imagine it is the same when one writes on a blank paper, and you let the spirit enter you. It’s the only moment where I feel that I’m not part of a machinery that’s single purpose is to sell you to an audience or readers. To consume is surely a paradise of sorts, but to roll the dice, and see if you come up, is surely the dynamic of being successful. But that type of outcome is consistently being ‘framed’ in a fashion by the media and our culture. If I can wipe out what is out there and start from the beginning, I feel I can just do what I do best. Which is to write, publish and to dream.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
The Death Instinct
Published by TamTam Books
By Jacques Mesrine. Introduction by Robert Greene. Translation by Robert Greene, Catherine Texier.
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 Instinctwhile serving time in the high-security prison La Santé; the manuscript was smuggled out of the prison and was later published by Guy Debord's publisher Gérard 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.
Lun*na Menoh: A Ring Around The Collar
Published by TamTam Books
Introduction by Leslie Dick.
For 14 years, Los Angeles–based artist, fashion designer and musician Lun*na Menoh has been exploring the many unexpected possibilities of the dirty shirt collar, producing paintings, sculptures, music, DVDs, performance art and fashion shows inspired by this lowly, ubiquitous aspect of clothing. The collar is a fashion boundary--the dividing line between what is hidden by clothing and the body that emerges from the cloth--and the stains commonly found there often confound sartorial panache, a fact which Menoh takes as the mischievous starting point for her work. Lun*na Menoh: A Ring Around the Collardocuments the paintings included in this series, as well as Menoh’s performance art and fashion shows. Included with this book is a flexi-disc with two songs by the artist’s band, Les Sewing Sisters, and an introduction by acclaimed author Leslie Dick.
July 26, 2016
Ever since I was a child, I was drawn into the nighttime world, which the Blake Edwards’ show “Peter Gunn” expressed my need for shadows and cool jazz. As a teenager, I imagine my life as Gunn, where I had a beautiful mid-century apartment, with a gorgeous fuckable girlfriend who seems to visit him in the middle of the night. Gunn seems to be only active in the night, where he frequents a jazz nightclub called “Mothers” in a city that is not defined, but it appears to be a dock town. The surroundings strike me as being unnatural, even fake-like, which made me love the TV series even more. Throughout my life I tried to find a jazz club like “Mothers, ” but realized that’s impossible, because here, the imagination rules, and I follow the rules of dream logic than the waking man’s reality.
I love the idea of a contained environment, for instance the Korova Milk Bar, where one goes to get loaded on milk laced with drugs, where one can drink the milk with knives in it. It will sharpen you up. I went there to take mescaline, and as I sat on a couch that resembled a woman’s ass-cheeks and back, I let my mind wander into a shapeless world, and just waiting for my ego to break down. That, will never happen. Nevertheless I left Korova and went to the Owl Drug store on Beverly and La Cienega to look at the displays of shampoo, hair creams, combs, and all sorts of beauty products. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I felt I was really seeing these objects in a new ‘enlightened’ light. “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up. Till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” The essence of moving among the buildings in the night, clearly I was looking for happiness, but one knows that “happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”
Around 3:30 in the morning I arrived at my home, which over time, I tried to design it as Peter Gunn’s apartment, but I neither have the money or the shopping skill to make this work. Yet, my attempt to reproduce what I saw on television, it became a new interior. Not even influenced by, but more of a tribute that only I can see. I put on the song “Sonny” on the turntable which was written and performed by Bobby Hebb, but I much prefer the Manfred Mann instrumental version. Hebb wrote it as a reaction to the John F. Kennedy assassination but also to his brother who was killed a few days after the Kennedy death. He was inspired to write something that was ‘light’ and uplifting when his world (and others) went to hell. I admire the beauty of someone changing their perception of the world, because if there is going to be a real change, one needs to start with themselves. Or, we flow with the crowd, but that I don’t recommend whatsoever.
Friday, July 25, 2014
July 25, 2014
Throughout my early career as an illustrator for various companies like Colgate, Fisk Tires, and numerous publications, I resolved to quit doing commercial work, and devote the rest of my time doing paintings. I would hire young women who I have met through various social circles to be my models. Occasionally I would use myself as a model, because I have been informed that I’m quite beautiful in my own fashion. Nevertheless I have used various models on a regular basis for some years now. In my work, I have a definite idea of the perfect landscape, and the coloring of that world is extremely important to me. For my paintings, I would build landscape models on a large table, and use different lighting effects to capture the right combination of the mountains, the lake, and if there are any actual structures, I would also make an exact replica of that building. Mostly my work is neoclassical, and the nude bodies that are in my work (including yours truly) are usually androgynous, but placed in these fantastical settings.
Susan Lewin worked for me not only as a model, but also as my assistant. There is the cliché about the artist and his model, and I have to say in this case, it is perfectly true. For about five years, I painted her in various positions of her, but mostly when she’s in the nude. When I used myself as a nude model, I have her photographed me so I can distance myself so I can be added to the painting. The distance between us became less and less, as I demanded her attention as her employer. For years now, I would pay her in cash on a weekly basis, usually on Fridays, by placing the money on the side table by the entrance of my studio. There is not anything else on this table except for the money. Over time, this table has become almost an erotic object between me and her. Even when I have other models here, I paid them differently, usually by check. A check is very non-personal, but cash has an intimate effect, and when she leaves for the day, and picks it up before she exits, it gives me an erotic jolt.
I have determined that I have to redefine our relationship where I’m basically the leader, and she’s the follower. What I would do is bring up the idea that the outside world of my studio is a hostile environment, and what I do here is paint beautiful landscapes, and therefore not only are we making our own paradise here, but also supplying the outside world a place of imagination where they can escape to. The thing is, I want to be able to focus on my work, but I want her to do the same, on my work of course. There is still a nagging fear that she will leave me for another occupation or a need to share her life with someone else. I never ask her what she does when she is not working with me, nor do I know about her relationships with other people. For the eight-hours per day that she is with me, she is mine and that is all I care about. Over time, I realized that my idealized world is not only in the imagination, but is actually based on our relationship. What looks decorative in my paintings is actually the way I want the world to be, and therefore, I rarely participate in the outside world. There is a moment, usually before she leaves, that we look at the work that was done that day, and with only the music by Johnny Hodges in the background, I almost want to tell her that I love her, but that can never compare or compete with a finished work of art.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
July 24, 2014
Hopefully by the end of December 31, 2014, I will write myself out. By January 1, 2015, I’ll be empty. The question is can I fill this emptiness with something? Or better yet, just stay empty? Being empty can’t be that bad right? On my first trip to Japan, I found this fantastic book by Junichirō Tanizaki called “In Praise of Shadows” which is about Japanese aesthetic in how one looks at food, architecture and even a woman in a house of prostitution. The underlining theme of the book is change, and also the influence of the West on Japanese traditional aesthetic. Here I’m not talking about the tea ceremony, but more about the lighting of the rooms, and how food looks in such a lighting. Tanizaki writes about the luring beauty of a woman in darkness or by candle light. The reader gets the impression that one is losing an aesthetic over time. Which I consider to be very much true even here in the West. One thing I noticed in Tokyo and other places is that people have a tendency to eat in bright lights now. It is like darkness is not permitted in a modern home or restaurant. Personally I like to eat with a woman almost In darkness. I like the lighting at dusk and just seeing the traces of my dinner companion and food… just barely.
The world is ugly. It is not surprising that I’m attracted to characters like Sherlock Holmes, who lives in a world of their making, but often goes into the brighter world due to financial reasons, or perhaps a curiosity in seeing just how bad things are. If I can live in Holmes flat on Baker Street, that would be the perfect environment for me. I imagine his apartment is on the dark side, with very little lighting, maybe just a tiny area to use for reading. Not surprising, my house is dark in the nighttime, because I don’t have reading lamps or even lighting to see one room to the other. In the daytime, it is quite bright, but I let the night take over the house’s lighting system, where the brightness turns into darkness. I rarely read in the evening owing to the natural cycle of the sun going down, and the moon arising.
To embrace oneself in a womb of darkness, and not using one’s sight, but to depend on sounds that echo through room to room, is quite a nice aesthetic, where I occasionally play a recording by Mick Karn, whose fretless bass playing conveys a sense of one slipping into the blackness that is clearly my soul. Over time, I realize that my writing is in a manner, the ability to edit out things in my life, then adding more that just becomes inventory after awhile. Is it enough, just to focus on the blankness of an empty page, and perhaps leaving that space vacant. To disappear between the shadows, and noticing the various shades of blackness or darkness that one confronts on a regular basis, is not depressing, but more of an enlightenment.
Zelda Fitzgerald has always been fascinating to me, because she seems to be not a noun, but a verb. I think of her as pure light, that is avoiding the darkness. If she stands still, then the darkness takes over. The 8-hour ballet lessons, her manic need for attention, but in a sense, she had a genius for living. The natural instinct which is always at war with the logic, is a human trait to admire. Often I feel my back is to the wall, but due to my natural ability to see the many shades of blackness that is in front of me, I move. And I move fairly well.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
July 23, 2014
I may not really remember the plot of a book, but I always remember the character as well as where I read the book. Raymond Chandler’s “Farewell My Lovely” was read in Taos New Mexico sometime in 1974. Which means I was somewhere between the age of 19 and 20. I remember reading this book because it was the book I took for this trip to Dennis Hopper’s ranch in Taos, for a family vacation. At the time, Dennis wasn’t around, I think he was on location making a film, but what I do remember was the hostility between Dennis’ camp and the citizens of Taos. At the time, it felt like to me that I was placed on the border of the West Bank and Israel. I can’t remember their names, or the main host or person taking care of Dennis’ home, but what I do clearly remember is our first night in Taos, and trying to locate a restaurant for our first dinner in Taos with the Dennis camp. It seemed when we went into a restaurant, it became closed. It was on the fourth try that we found a place that would serve us. I think it was Fonda hotel that served us dinner that night. After dinner, we all got in a van and drove around the town. The citizens of Taos who were on the street sort of gave a dirty look to the van whenever we passed them. We even went past the neighborhood movie theater, which ironically enough belonged to Dennis. It seems like he booked Bunuel films for the theater. What was really noticeable was the gunshots and holes throughout the building, including the lighted marquee. Dennis' friends didn't seem to notice or cared about this fact, but I thought for sure this couldn't be a good sign.
When we got to the house later that night, and prepare for sleeping, I became aware that everyone living there was armed. It seemed that there have been gunshots towards the house over the last few months, and luckly no one was hurt, but the feeling was that there was consistent danger of someone coming into the household and killing everyone. At least that was my thought as I tried to enter a world of sleep that night. A few days before I left for Taos, I purchased a used copy of "Farewell My Lovely" from a used bookstore in Santa Monica. It was a cool mass market paper back from the UK and according to the copyright page it was published sometime in the late 1950s. The edition and author were perfect for the car trip as well as something to read at the Hopper compound. Well, that was the first thought, the truth is I held on to that book as something that may either save me from being shot to death, or better yet, an escape route from this hellish family vacation.
Dennis’ home used to be owned by Mabel Dodge, who was a wealthy patron of the arts, and eventually moved to Taos to start an arts colony. She died in 1962, at her home. One of her famous guests was D.H. Lawrence, and they had a fraught relationship. She wrote a memoir about her years with Lawrence called “Loreno in Taos.” So one could feel the vibrations of the house but it was in total conflict with the outside world. My mother mentioned that she saw an old woman standing by the drive-way one day while we left to pick up breakfast. She later recognizes her as Mabel Dodge, due to a photograph of her that was in the household. There is something very spiritual about the Taos landscape that I personally find terrifying.
I picked up one other book that I found in the Hopper residence, and that was "The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception" by the Christian occultist, astrologer and mystic, Max Heindel. I was drawn to this book because I found it in my bedroom, and it was obviously ancient. When I was looking at the copyright page, it was dated 1909. I read bits and piece of it, but it wasn’t Raymond Chandler, that’s for sure. The most interesting part of the book is when he wrote about the “invisible plans, ” which there are many. There is our life on this planet (i.e. Taos) and then there're different forms of consciousness that transcends the known physical universe. Nevertheless it did seem to me at the time to be the perfect book to have in Taos. I gained the impression that I was living among a cult or worst yet, several cults. The only place that I felt safe was the Fonda Hotel, just because it appears to attract people from outside the state and they seemed (to me) perfectly normal.
I counted the moments and seconds till we left the area. I never felt more secure and alive when we headed back towards Los Angeles, a city of dreams, and a city that Max Heindel spent a great deal of time as well.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
July 22, 2014
I couldn’t sleep last night so I just got dressed and went to my diner on Greenwich Avenue, to have a cup of herbal tea. In case, I can go back to sleep later. I was worried by yesterday’s meeting I had with Doctor Menninger, my psychiatrist for the past three years. I suffer from depression that just doesn’t stop. In the middle of the night, while I’m in bed, I often started crying for no reason, at least in my mind I can’t find the source of this misery. He has given me a prescription and I have been taking it on a strict basis, but still, I can’t remove the darkness that seems to be tattooed on my brain. Being a rather vain man, people, especially girls, have commented that I have developed bags under my eyes, which are a pretty new visual for me. The utensils at this diner are very shiny, and I can see my reflection on the back of the spoon, and the first thing I notice are the bags. My face is very pale, and the darkness under my eyes disturbs me. Doctor Menninger, thinks I should think of other things besides yours truly.
The situation is I only know myself, and I don’t know that much about anything else. When I feel anything, emotionally speaking, it is always a bad feeling. If I had one philosopher or writer that I followed, it’s Amy Vanderbilt. Her “Complete Book of Etiquette” is as close to the Bible for me as possible. In the book, I found this quote that rings true to me: “Good manners have much to do with the emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.” That and “do not speak of repulsive matters at the table” pretty much rules my thoughts on how one should interact with the world today. The problem with me is how far can I go with my emotions in a public space? My awkwardness just gets in the way, when I wish to express myself in a certain fashion, and usually I have to re-think how I should say or convey my feelings, so it won’t disturb or put people off.
When I want to communicate, that is the time or moment when I fail to do so. Which of course, triggers off my anxiety which leads to the crippling depression. The Vanderbilt book is an excellent guide for me to follow and also I can obtain information in the book in bite-size portions. Nonetheless, sometimes reading is very difficult, and I tend to read words off a computer or page, and I tend to wander into some abstract zone, where I find myself trapped with (again) the anxiety that seems to rule my conscience. Going to the cinema helps me in that I don’t have to think, it is just sitting there in front of a large screen and focusing on the images, and if I want, I can hear and digest the words coming from the actor’s words. “Taxi Driver” is a film that I have seen at least 25 times. I of course have the DVD, but when it originally came out in 1976, I would sit in a theater and watch that film over and over again. The first viewing I wasn’t practically paying any attention to it, the images off the screen were just background noise, so I can sit in the darkness and think or let my mind wander. Over time, and repeated screenings I started to pick up the anxiety of the main character, and that, oddly enough, helped me through the day.
The only other film besides “Taxi Driver” that had a huge effect on me was the “The Invisible Man” starring Claude Rains, directed by James Whale, and even the great Preston Struges had a hand in writing the script. I think what appealed to me was Rains’ interpretation of the invisible man and how one can be there, but not there. In other words, I often felt invisible to my peers, or in a crowd, and it’s moments like these, where I realize it doesn’t matter if I’m here or not. I often wonder if I should just enter the world, and totally subject myself to a cause or even a position in life, but the truth in the manner, is that I wouldn’t be in it for the purpose of that cause, but more to fill myself with a duty to prove that I’m alive and somehow I can make a difference out there. Then again, perhaps it is appropriate enough that I sit here and look at my reflection off the back of a spoon.
Monday, July 21, 2014
July 21, 2014
To be honest, I’m very much influenced by the misery that is in the world. For what I do, I need despair on a political and criminal level. The horror of the bombings in Gaza as well as the commercial flight being shot down over Ukraine is fuel for my writing. Without it, I do not have a thing to write about. At this level, it becomes pornography. I have seen so many images of death, that it has become meaningless to me. As an artist I rather see a representation of death, then an actual obliteration of a human being, animal and architecture. I imagine being a journalist in a war or disaster area, and telling the story through one’s eyes, has to be a difficult skill. There is a need to distance oneself from what they are seeing to get a clear picture with respect to what that they’re reporting on. Data facts are significant as well. One just has to note the correct number of deaths, and buildings destroyed. If one makes a mistake, it can throw off your whole story.
Often the problem is that we are looking at that singular tree, instead of the massive volume of forest around that tree. This same problem happens when one is writing or doing art as well. It is almost impossible to stay neutral when the world in front of you is being destroyed or changed radically. Also the feeling of things not changing but just repeating itself over and over again, is a frustration in motion. It’s like being trapped in a television show, where you pretty much know what is going to happen at the end of the episode. Yet, we keep watching it because the format gives one some sort of comfort that there is an order out there that will make everything to reach its natural conclusion. The thing is, I don’t believe there is an order in this world. I think every culture has a bit of self-destruction tendencies because it is somewhat embedded in our DNA. This I thinks is what causes strife, horror, or in other words, Pandora’s Box.
I have a fear of doing something that will make things worst. I think a lot of people feel that way. Yet there are a large percentage of people who jump in to something and ask questions later. The impulse to jump into the fire is actually sexy, especially if one is doing it to feel more vibrant or even out of curiosity. So when you do get that beautiful box or container and you know you shouldn’t open it, but alas, you do. Well, that's human nature. Between you and me, I never cared for human nature that much.
Acts of violence are never a good solution to a problem. I understand the violent act, it can be satisfying to step over that line that separates insanity and sanity, but the circumstances of such an act can or more likely cause severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences. I refrain from feeling regret, so therefore I pretty much ignore all my impulses in committing any acts of violence. But on the other hand I don’t mind using violence in a narrative that I am writing or have or will have used in my work. I like realism, but only in the context that it is made in a studio or on the page. The French had a loose film movement called “poetic realism” where one recreates realism in a stylized fashion, and usually filmed in a film studio. This, serves my sense of aesthetic and therefore I want to take the horrors that are out there, and re-arrange them to suit my purpose, either for narration sake or an aesthetic image. As the world crumbles, I believe “art for art’s sake” becomes more important to me.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
July 20, 2014
Happy Sunday Dear sirs and madams. As you can gather by now, I’m a man who likes to surround himself with objects, books, music and videos or DVDs. I really don’t have an interest in the outside world, because it tends to disappoint me on a regular basis. Even going to my local market is an ordeal where I think myself as sleepwalking down the aisles. On the other hand I have a great need for specific images and I don’t need a whole narrative behind those images. I guess what I’m looking for is an image that represents yours truly. If I can notice the likeness on everyday objects, better yet.
One wonders if Mrs. Peel would be invited to Judy Chicago’s installation art work “Dinner Party?” An installation that is endlessly fascinating by the way. The piece includes figures like Sacajawea, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, Ishtar, Petronilla de Meath, and so forth. All females of course, but what is interesting is to meditate on the various individuals and how they link to one another. A party can come upon us in a very clumsy manner, but a dinner party, where one is expected to sit down formally at a table, is a mixture of social skills with insight into the invited guests. One gets the impression that Chicago invited these “guests” with profound thought. Also of great interest is Chicago’s interest in “macho arts” such as auto body work, boat building and pyrotechnics. I can imagine Mrs. Peel sharing the same interests.
Along with Judy Chicago, I also admire the works of Lászió Moholy-Nagy and Nam June Paik, due to the fact that they both have a belief in the integration of technology and industry. Perhaps June Paik’s take on technology and industry is more human-like and individualistic. He has been quoted as saying “Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence." This I think is very true with respect how the world now operates. Drones has taken over the role of physical bodies in war, and even now, death seems more conceptual than reality. Which aesthetically, makes perfect sense to me. Moholy-Nagy made a sculpture that had moving parts that reflected light projecting on nearby surfaces. This kinetic sculpture deals more with the actual relationship between technology and art, but it's interesting when you compare it with something subjective like Judy Chicago and June Paik’s art and aesthetic.
My feeling of alienation in this world tends to overwhelm me, but alas, through art, and especially the artists above, has shown me another world that I can be focused on. It is not the issue of being positive or negative, but the way the arts have described or frame the world in a certain light that makes it bearable for me to go on. One of my favorite films is “Vengeance Is Mine, by Shohei Imamura. It’s based on a true story of the serial killer and con-artist Akira Nishiguchi. The character is interesting because he drifts into people’s lives, and it seems almost he has no purpose or thought, but lives his life in a series of criminal activities. The impulse of an artist is to always create than destroy. Otherwise there is a similar pattern in one’s life with a criminal, but the standards that we set ourselves up with, should be high, ethical as possible, and never fear of the thought of failure. As a man, I usually look up to Mrs. Peel as an inspiration for my own life.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
July 19, 2014
Nothing works here. As a card carrying existentialist I can understand changes in one’s life, but this is ridiculous. Ever since the bombings it has been difficult for me to find kitty food for my Siamese mixed with a Persian. She usually likes meow mix, but lately due to the explosions and the sense of dread around the area, she hasn’t been eating properly. I used to get wet and dry food, but now it is very difficult to find any wet cat food in the market. Usually I would try to get it from Egypt, but even that is drying (no pun intended) up. Her favorite was tender favorites® with real salmon in sauce, but now, if I can find it, she will eat Tender Centers Salmon & White Meat Chicken Flavor, but that as well, is not that easy to find. In fact, even having water for my cat is difficult. I’ve been hearing rumors that the sewerage system either is or was placed on the verge of collapse, that groundwater contamination is in the enclave.
I invested in owning a bird’s cage, because I had birds as well, but under these conditions it’s very hard to keep them alive. Nevertheless the bird cage is suitable for me to put my kitty inside, when I have to continue to move around, in case of bombings or attacks. My cat’s full name is Felix the Cat, but of course I call her Felix. I was inspired to call her Felix because of the cartoon series. Over time, or ever since I was a child, I would lose a lot of property, and I was intrigued by Felix, because of his “Magic Bag of Tricks” that could assume an infinite variety of shapes and forms at Felix’s request. I would imagine if I had to leave my home right away, all I need would be the magic bag. I think Felix (the cartoon character) influenced my interest in having a cat. Also to open up a pet store here in the Gaza Strip.
It’s a tricky business, because let’s face it, what I offer at the store is a luxury item, and without political or financial stability, people are not thinking of getting a bird or a cat. I have approached some parents, especially mothers that a child can find great comfort in owning and taking good care of a cat. Birds are good as well, but their survival rate in the current situation is not all that good. So, my main inventory is cats, but it is a very difficult business. Also with the lack of pet food in general, I'm feeling guilty obsessing over my cat over the other cats in the inventory.
Sometimes I feel like I should let all my cats free, because I don’t think I can stomach the idea that my structure can be bombed and lose all my animals in such a fashion. If somehow they disappear on one night, at least I can have the fantasy that they are somewhere in the area surviving like the cunning beasts that I know them to be. My Felix has a good personality. One can hope that she will use her bag of tricks, and make a flying carpet, so both of us can float over the landscape and marvel a world that is down there, and me and Felix are not part of that world.