Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 7

Sunday no. 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

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

Sunday No. 6 (February 15, 2015)

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

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

Sunday No. 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

Sunday No. 4

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

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

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

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

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