Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two Albums I Purchased Yesterday (at Mono Records)

I used to own this album in 1977 (the year it was released) but had to sell it to Moby Disc for money for some reason I totally forgot.  Nevertheless, it has been in the back of my mind for 35 years of so. As I was taking one of my strolls down Glendale Blvd, I found a copy at Mono Records.  A great record store.  The best thing about a record store is when you go in to look for a specific album, and you find something else instead.  And usually something much better than the other record you're looking for.  The above John Cage album fits that category.  Prepared Piano pieces on a double album, and on the great Tomato Records label.   Beautifully mediative as well as intense.  How does two work together is sort of like enjoying a Tom & Jerry cartoon. You need the violence, as well as the pairing of the duo. 

On the same record store visit, I found this fantastic album by Jack Scott.  Recorded in 1958, as well as in Detroit (I didn't know he lived or made music there).   This is a fantastic rockabilly album of great strength .  Jack wrote most of all (except one) of the songs on this album.  "The Way I Walk" of course is the masterpiece here - and the extra happiness is that the recordings are in mono, which gives it that extra concentrated punch over the speakers.  Released in France, this album must have been on a steam liner, and then crawled to Glendale Blvd.  I'm happy to have it in my home.  Also the combination of Cage and Scott is rather good.  Again, going back to Tom & Jerry, the perfect yin and yang.  Separate, but yet, together. 

- Tosh Berman

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Our Trump by Tosh Berman

The beauty (and I'm using that word 'very' loosely) of Trump is that one can't really comment on him.   You can expose him, you can look at his tax returns, break into his e-mail account, interview every woman he may or may not harmed, go through his business records, and re-visit his older quotes, and you will get zilch.  Because we already know all the answer to all above.   Trump doesn't have the higher moral ground, so therefore, he does not have to follow any moral code, except his over-the-top egoism.   There are no rules in his world, because such nouns have no meaning in his life.   He's a combination of a good James Bond Sean Connery era villain and a character out of an Alfred Jarry work of fiction.  In other words, he's a mess, and he does not give a damn.   He does whatever he does, because he can.

In a way, he is like a reflection off a mirror.  You want to read these things in and on him, but that is virtually impossible.    At times, I think he clearly wants to lose the election.  He has the ability to say the most ridiculous things at the right time (for him of course).   His recent comment on Russia should search and locate more of Clinton's e-mails is almost DADA like, in that he is only reflecting on the fear of the Democratic Party world and throwing it back like Nero as he lights his interiors to start the big fire.

To be honest, he himself is not that interesting.  What's interesting is how such a figure can single handily destroy the Republican Party.  It's not an issue of money, but more of a talent he is, to surf on the surface, and somehow makes it profound to his audience and enemies. And Trump, not only desires love, but also hatred.   To him, it's equal, and a win-win situation.  He is for sure, thin-skinned, when it comes to criticizing him, but he looks at the bigger picture, which is, people are talking about him.   The thing is, and this is a true oddity, you can't really make fun of him.  Because no matter how outrageous the parody is, he's way beyond the parody.   Or, when one makes a speech against him, it comes off just plain, compared to a Trump performance.  And make no mistake, he's a performer like any politician, but he is actually more of a genius type than say Clinton, who is just normal.

Normal is OK.  If we are honest with ourselves, we actually crave normalcy.   To get up in the morning, and make it to the evening, that is what we all crave and want to happen.   Trump hates that.  If he can throw in a wrench at a machinery part, so it will break down - that makes him happy.   The fact that the Democratic Party likes to dig a deep hole in the ground, and put their heads inside that hole - with respect to the ills of the world, Trump doesn't care to do that route.  He adores destruction.  Trump sensually embraces chaos.  Call him names, make fun of him, it's all a sense of beauty and entitlement for Trump.  The highest of the high is to get a piece of property, build something on it, and then stamp it with your name on the top floor.  So everyone can marvel that building, as it is. Which is a self-portrait of Donald Trump.  And of course, there is nothing but interior rot and decay within that structure, but who will notice that?

He doesn't have an ounce of deepness and or a sense of irony (or perhaps he does, we will never know).  But like Shakespeare's work, we can look into the world that these characters' make, and see perhaps a vision of who we are.   So in a nutty way, I'm grateful for Trump destroying one-by-one the other contestants in the Republican race, because one, he exposed their hypocrisy.   These others, think exactly like him, but Trump's genius was to expose his thoughts without any filtering.   So, what we have is a monster of sorts, but one that is clearly visible.   The danger is, not him specifically, but the fact that there are other monsters lurking in the shadows.

  I have gone on and on about the drone issue.  But think about it.  We have a presidency that uses the drone on a regular basis.  He himself has shown fears of future presidents misusing the drone system.  And he, himself has killed many.  One can argue he killed the bad guys, or even perhaps people who deserve to die - but that is a form of judge, jury, and executioner.   If you like Obama's approach, and if that is fine with you, then great.  But if the drone system under the eyes and heart of someone like Clinton or Trump - will you be OK with that as well?  And not to be a buzz-kill, if we can operate drones, then we have to presume others can as well.  I walk around my neighborhood, and I often see amateur drones in the air.  Annoying things, to hear and see when you walk among a beautiful landscape.   Then one starts to think what can be attached to these machines.  Cameras, and the unthinkable.

It seems that we are quite pleased with a well-intended speech.  The beauty of a velvet voice embracing our battered emotions, is not a bad thing at all.    It's a seductive device, because that is basically what a speech is supposed to do - especially in the public space - which is not really a pubic space, but we are allowed to enter, mingle, and listen, and then leave and wander into the evening.  If it's a really good speech, we can forget all the bad things, except fear.   Because we do need the fear to motivate ourselves.   It is a sexual instinct of sorts.  We desire things that we can't have, but we can fantasize and almost taste its fruit.  To taste fear, is like eating Trump alive.  If we can munch on him quickly, we hope that will feed the fear, or at least, contain it for awhile.  On the other hand, Trump still doesn't care.   Win or lose, it's the ride that is important to him.

  The Democratic Party, and I have to imagine the Republican Party, it's the win that is the goal and the great importance.   For the first time in my existence, we are facing a gentleman (ha) who cares not at all what we think of him, just as long as we have Trump coming out of our collective mouths.  If the political parties lose, they will consistently find blame somewhere else, beyond their mistakes or lack of vision.  The rotten thing, is that now the pandora's box is opened, there will be more Trumps on the horizon.

- Tosh Berman

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lun*na Menoh and "Bolero" on KCRW

Lun*na Menoh discusses Maurice Ravel and Bolero and her upcoming performance of performing Ravel's Bolero this coming Saturday.  Hear it here:

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

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!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Disappearance of Dennis Cooper's Blog

Over two weeks ago, Dennis Cooper's longstanding blog, The Weaklings, disappeared into thin air.  One would want to visualize it as disappearing into the mist, or smoke.  The truth is he opened up his computer and simply couldn't access his account on Google. His G-mail and his blog on Google’s Blogger platform were totally gone.  All he (or we) could see is the sentence: "Sorry, the blog at has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs."  Like it never existed.  And to this moment, this is the only message from Google regarding the disappearance and perhaps the loss of Dennis Cooper's work on his blog. 

I have been reading it on a daily basis for the past ten years or so.  Not only did his blog exist, but many writers and artists were attached to reading his daily thoughts on all sorts of culture - but all seen through the eyes of Dennis Cooper.  He has a sixth sense, with respect to others who are doing new and fascinating work in various mediums.   There are certain individuals, such as Dennis, who are sign-posts for those who share a taste, or at the very least, an interest in the experimental arts. On this blog, we were invited to make comments, not only about the contents of the blog, but also to Cooper, regarding his work, or taste in music, literature, and cinema. For a long time, his blog was a popular destination for those who write or read the kind of experimental literature that is not always Publisher's Weekly friendly.  The sex and violence in Cooper’s work are often disturbing, but never taken for granted, and always commenting on the culture they arise from.  Dennis used his blog as an on-going canvas to express, think, and offer art in its many forms.  In a way, visiting and reading his blog is like going to a classroom with a very brilliant teacher, except here the teacher listened to his students and their  their thoughts were equally weightedThere are zillions of blogs, but there is only one Dennis Cooper blog, and to say it was (or hopefully "is") unique is putting it mildly. 

Many authors/artist benefited from Cooper's creative work and in-turn, having their work on his blog. That his blog has been zapped out, is an act of cruelty, not only to Dennis Cooper, who has had ten years of his creative work vanish, but also to his readers, who often contribute to this website.   
Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram exist because they are private property of sorts.  We, the public, are invited to participate in these platforms for free, but alas, we have to give them something back.  If not our souls exactly, at least our personal information.  It's a pact made with a digital Satan.  Most of us feel that the work we upload on these platforms belong to us, but perhaps that is not the case at all.   They don't use the “material” for their purposes, but also, they really don't have any respect for the content that the viewers and users bring to that platform.  They clearly understand that they need the “content” to attract attention, but in the end of the day, it is their property that we live in, and for some reason we don't pay the rent, or perhaps in this case, post works that are questionable (to a certain viewer or audience) then they have the right to tear it down.   

I grant them that Google is a private company, yet one hopes that as an internet-landlord, they will give you good reason if they terminate your lease.  My feelings are multifaceted: For one, I'm a huge fan of Cooper's work as a writer, and his blog is an incredible portal to his mind. And again, as viewers and participants, we were allowed to show our work on his canvas.   Now all that work is seemly gone with no explanation whatsoever.   The second thing that bothers me is that I too have a Google blog, but now I’m concerned that when I take a nap Google will trash the contents. Like Dennis, my work would simply stop existing.  I think any writer or artist that uses either Facebook, Google, or any other platform would feel the same.  It sends a chilling message that technology giants can stomp on your work just for the sole reason that they can.  

For further updates on the issue of Dennis Cooper's blog - go to Facebook page:

- Tosh Berman

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Music Listened to on July 12, 2016

Such a beautiful record.  I love the fatality of it all.

It is like you are taken to the cliff's edge, and your looking down, and the person behind you, pushes you over. 

Jacno, a total mystery to me as of last year.  I'm thrilled to discover him.  This specific album is superb.  On the surface he's a combination of Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc, but I suspect he has his own thing going.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Elyse and Stanley Grinstein

Not to be so cliché, but hearing about the passing of Elyse Grinstein, was like Proust's character biting into his cookie, and the memory is unleashed. I don't remember my first meeting with Stanley and Elyse exactly, since I was a mere child, but I guess it was at their Gemini G.E.L. - either in their office, or perhaps an opening at their premise. What I do remember is the big picture. The Technicolor memory of their numerous parties that took place in their home in Brentwood. Thinking back, a lot of my most pleasant memories are located in that house. I don't think my parents ever turned down an invitation to their home. To be invited, and to actually be there, was a very good thing.

The Grinsteins' were the focal point of the artist's landscape - which included of course, the artist, but also anyone associated within that world. It wasn't a private club. Their parties were way much more than that. To enter their home, one is exposed to other artists from other parts of the world, and also to experience something you wouldn't have, without the assistance of Stanley and Elyse Grinstein, this would or could not happen. In other words, it wasn't solely a party for Los Angeles based artists. It was a portal hole to another world.

Elyse and Stanley collected art. They collected art because they obviously loved art. They also loved artists. Their relationship with artists was magical. My father and mother, Wallace and Shirley Berman, often went to their home for either dinner or the parties. Stanley and Elyse were consistently doing fascinating things, or going to interesting places. My mom told me that she went over to their house with my dad to see Elyse's photographs of her trip to China, which I think was focused on that country's architecture. The only other person there beside the Grinsteins and my parents was David Hockney.

Parties are meant for the purpose for relaxation but also for people to meet-up. My memory is in a haze, but I clearly remember being in the presence of The Dalai Lama, Robert Raushenberg, Jasper Johns, Judy Chicago, the entire Los Angeles art community, a traveling SUMO wrestling team from Japan, Bryan Ferry, The Tubes, Toni Basil and the Lockers, and every major curator/museum/gallery owner on the planet. To be in a room full of strangers can often be awkward, but for some reason, once you go pass their doorway, it becomes a home. They had an active juke-box full of dance music, and the dancing got crazy. I have a faint memory of Merce Cunningham dancing near the jukebox as well.

The common sport-love was basketball and the Lakers. The Ginsteins had season tickets, and often invited artists, such as my dad and mom, to either go with them, or just hand them out if they couldn't make it for some reason. I can't speak for the other artists, but Lakers season tickets are not something normally that my dad could afford. So, the games were an incredible luxury and treat. I clearly remember Wallace being incredibly buzzed about going to the game. In fact, Wallace purchased two life-sized posters of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlin, that was hung over my parent's bed. There were also pick-up games in the parking lot of Gemini G.E.L. as well. At times, artists would come over to the parking lot, to take a rented van to the Laker game.

Even now, and I'm feeling terribly sad about Elyse's passing, the memory of her life, was in one essence: fun. Whether they were doing either community political work, or just hanging out - it all had a very serious purpose - and that purpose was to have fun. I don't think I have ever been in a more joyful existence than at the Grinstein's home. Everyone who was invited, was put in a world that was in one word, perfect. The food that they served was consistently low-brow - but incredible. Huge Italian sandwiches, tailor-made to feed hundreds. I remember a lot of finger-food, and of course, the bar seemed to never be empty. Nor the food.

What one reads about Elyse and Stanley it is usually the party. Which seems such a surface type of subject matter, but in their case, it was not. It would be impossible not to have a great and memorable time at one of their get-togethers in their home. And again, it was the combination of people who attended their parties. It was usually a theme of some sort - a party for so-so from New York or Europe or even Asia. Or to watch something - either a slide show or maybe a short film. It was consistently a place to obtain information of all sorts. And everyone there, was on a neutral ground of importance. In other words, as a child, who couldn't possibly offer anything to this world, was made to feel at home, and I could wander freely around their house. The artworks they had up were all exquisite and of course by well-known artists, but they were up for the sole purpose of them being excellent works of art. Yet their sophistication was how they lived their lives. They were not just matrons of the art world, but actual people who participate in that world just as much as the artists and art institutions. And it wasn't just a money thing. It went beyond money and into a genuine relationship with them and the rest of the world.

Stanley and Elyse had a lot of artwork by my dad in their personal collection, including "Topanga Seed," which to be exact, was a huge rock, weighing over a ton, and Wallace hand-painted hebrew lettering all over the rock. A beautiful piece of sculpture that was also conceptual in its concept. Nevertheless, it made perfect sense for Elyse and Stanley to buy this work, because he owned and operated a forklift company. So there is film footage (from Russ Tamblyn) of them picking the rock and transporting it back to their home, which to be exact was 11.9 miles, and the forklift was going 3 mph, from the Berman house to the Grinsteins. Wallace and Russ followed the rock, as if it was following Jesus through Jerusalem.

It's a fact that the art community would be a very different type of landscape without the presence of Stanley and Elyse. If you are thinking of terms of art history, one has to imagine that Louise and Walter Arensberg as being the first serious collectors of modern art in Los Angeles, but I feel that Elyse and Stanley even went beyond the legendary Arensberg, in that they really focused on not only the visual arts, but 20th century culture.

Their house was the second home to people like William S. Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg, Phillip Glass, Gregory Corso, and others visiting from New York. It is almost like that there was a secret underground tunnel from Soho New York to Brentwood. That pathway led to a great many things to happen in Los Angeles. I can't really speak for every artist in Los Angeles, but I do know that my father (and mom) treasured every second with this dynamic duo - either separately or together - and I have a hunch that a lot of artists feel that way. I guess physically Elyse and Stanley are not here, but their DNA, taste, and support will always be felt whenever one visits a museum here in Los Angeles. Thank you Stanley. Thank you Elyse.

- Tosh Berman

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Masculine, Feminine, Neuter" by Roland Barthes (Translated by Chris Turner) Published by Seagull Books

ISBN: 978-0857422422 Seagull Books
"Masculine, Feminine, Neuter" by Roland Barthes (translated by Chris Turner) Published by Seagull Books

There are book reviews, and then there are book reviews written by Roland Barthes.  "Masculine, Feminine, Neuter" is a compilation of his writings that deals with the subject matter of literature.  The beauty of his critical thought is that he really gets into the text and culture of the book that he's focusing on.  I have always found his writings on the New Novel, in other words, the novels by Alain Robbe-Grillet, fascinating.  Robbe-Grillet and others, were working in a different format, of being very objective, yet of course, being subjective at the same time.  The writing is factual, but the reporting of that fact will always be subjective.  Which is a reminder how one should read the news these days.  There is also commentary on Marcel Proust regarding his masterpiece, and how that book is really about writing as well.  Life happened, but the writing part is another form of life.   Seagull Books should be congratulated for publishing this series of Barthes' writings that hasn't been issued in english before.  And again, reading Barthes is a bit like having a really good friend whisper in your ear as you are reading a text that he's interested in.   A good friend indeed. 

- Tosh Berman

Lun*na Menoh Premiere Performance : Maurice Ravel's BOLERO at The Velaslavasay Panorama on July 30, 2016

The Velaslavasay Panorama  presents
Lun*na Menoh  premiere performance 
Maurice Ravel's BOLERO  
classical music created with sampled noise from sewing machines
opening act: Les Sewing Sisters with Atsuko Yoo and Saori Mitome
- experimental sewing  pop “we as a sewing machine”

Saturday, July 30th, 2016  7:00 PM $12 ($10 for current VPES members)  
Velaslavasay Panorama, 1122 W. 24th St. LA, CA 90007 (Downtown LA/West Adams)

Monday, July 4, 2016

David Bowie 2002 `America´

One of the many great performances by David Bowie.  It's a great song already, but Bowie adds that magic touch to make it even greater.