Sunday, June 26, 2011

Clip from Mon Oncle

The beauty of the front lawn or opening to a house.

Jaques Tati - Mon Oncle (Kitchen Scene)

A tad of genius goes a long way. Jacques Tati is a beautiful artist.

Richard Prince's "American Prayer"

A collector to me is always someone who exposes him or herself via their obsession or collection.  Richard Prince is an artist who totally focuses on the importance of the image and how that image is used in various contexts.  So its fascinating how he takes on something so personal - in other words his book collection.  And it is a book collection to end all book collections.  He has many signed rare editions, but also loves the nature of the pulp paperback - but even that has a rare quality to it.

The books he mostly collects are editions that were produced in 1949 to the year 1984. "1984" being one of his favorite novels, which was written in 1949, and by chance also the year of his birth.  So this is a collection that defines Prince as an individual and an artist.  This beautiful book has tons of book covers - but more importantly documents various titles.  For instance he has every version of "On The Road" possible, but beyond that he has editions that are signed by Kerouac to various greats - William Burroughs, Ginsberg, Vidal, etc.  And the fact that he somehow got these signed books is surely a man focused on the communication between the writer and his readers/friends.   He also collects Jimi Hendrix letters - which as far as I know have never been published before - but that's fascinating.

But the meat and potato of his collection is 20th Century classics - and how those classics talk to him as an artist is really something.  This has to be one of the great books on an artist and his muse - books.  And  the fact that we get some great excerpts is a plus as well.  A book that can be in the art  as well as in the literary criticism section.  Love it.

Sparks, Garbo Sings from The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman

Right now (and maybe forever) the most beautiful song ever.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day: Wallace Berman and an indifferent Tosh

"Morrissey Shot" by Linder Sterling

I just purchased this book from one of my two favorite used bookstores here in Los Angeles. Alias East! So that's a much deserved plug for that store! But back to our subject matter "Morrissey Shot" (which comes to mind is a very Morrissey like title) is a selection of photographs by Morrissey's consistently close friend Linder Sterling on his "Kill Uncle" tour of 1991. The height of Morrisseydom! 
But as any Morrissey fan knows, there is no low peeks in this man's work. Some songs are better than other songs, some albums are better than other albums - but one has to look at Morrissey's entire career - and that is a magnificent opportunity to see the entire culture of one man's obsession. Which is....Morrissey. 
Which is not a bad obsession at all. I learned a lot of culture by listening to Morrissey's music, but even more important, his visuals. One can't separate his visuals from his music - its essential and equally important. And this book is a must for all Morrissey fans. One because it is obviously approved by him, and two, it has a very nice introduction by Michael Bracewell, who is currently one of my favorite writers out of the UK. But Linder, the photographer, is interesting as well. Music maker, visual artist, and of course photographer. I don't know her work as a photographer, outside the Morrissey portraits. But her collages I do know, and I do know some of her music. 
So the book candidly captures the tour of 1991. From Japan to the U.S. to the U.K. - and what of course strikes one is the relationship between the performer and his audience. It is almost like the audience is part of the Morrissey band. And its fascinating to view the connection between the two. Mozipedia is the essential Morrissey book, but this is a must-have as well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oriana Small's "Girlvert: A Porno Memoir"

Photo by Dennis McGrath

Oriana Small is a big talent as a writer. And one of great charm as well. And it is unusual (for me) to find great charm in the world of Porn. Nevertheless "Girlvert" is a journey into the heart of the valley (San Fernando Valley to be exact), the headquarters that is everything Porn. 
I used to work on Sherman Way in Reseda in the 80's and I would see many of the sex club workers, porn actors and actresses as well as all the other by-products of that field and era. "Boogie Nights" captures that time, place and period quite well, and "Girlvert" also gives me a birds-eye view of porn filming and living. Although the world in the book takes place in the 21st Century, it still seems very 80's like. Some things never change.
Oriana Small is a porn actress who goes by the name of Ashley Blue, and appeared in hundreds of films. One becomes numb reading one sex act after another, but the tedious aspect of such a life is so well developed by Small's talent as a memoir writer. She is only 29 (at the time of writing this book) and yet wise way beyond her years. In her glory period as a porn actress, she was very much focused on the moment, and the book comments on the need to stay stoned or in some sort of high. What struck me interesting is that it can be any type of job where you have to perform - and the strain of keeping that lifestyle or drug use up just to make it to the next day or even moment is a fascinating process. Her lifestyle becomes bizarre in the sense that she couldn't fully see the big picture, but the details were being focused - but only for that moment or two. Therefore, due to the drinking/drug input and just having a great deal of cash around - the focus is only for the next 12 hours or so.
Small specialize in doing all the hard-core porn performances and her approach to doing these scenes are interesting in that she is always rebelling against something out of her past. Her family life was messed up and that is totally not out of the norm, but she had to do something to make a mark on this world. And at that time it was her talent to do porn. And porn is an interesting medium because there is something else being played out besides the erotica or the erotic impulse. The power shift between the partners being filmed or directed. A lot of it is just to produce a product to sell, but there is also an art to it as well. But one can watch these films as a weird fantasy land, where one acts out their sexual/violent impulses – or is it a world that is designed by the producers/actors/director – or how much imput does it come from its viewers/audience? There is a mechanical aspect of porn that leaves me numb, but then again, may be the numb part is an aesthetic of some sort.
For her "Girvert" film series, she sees herself as more as a performance artist. Small has no regrets for the life she had lived (and still does in a sense by working with her talented porn director/photographer & husband Dave Naz) because she sees it as an unique life experience. This is not a book of woe, but more of a personal journey into an unique and very specialized world. Porn, in general is boring, but when you have a character you care about or find interesting, or at times the way it's shot, it is something else above the average viewing of bodies mixing together.
Also the design work on this book is top-notch. Its a beauty of a production, and Oriana Small fits in pefectly with the elegence of the design. As a writer, I think we will read her works for many years to come.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Television: Marquee Moon" by Bryan Waterman

I have strong memories being a total Television obsessive before hearing one note of their music. Their visuals got me. A band looking this cool, I knew had to sound great. When I first bought the single "Little Johnny Jewel" it was like a dream coming to life. I knew this song was an odd choice for a single, and the author Bryan Waterman brought this up - but then again, one can tell by the visuals that Television were never going to play by the rules. If Tom Verlaine and company were animals, they would be under-fed house cats. Totally proud, and happy in their own world. But once they find food, they're going to tear into it like wild animals. 
And their music conveys that tension to me. When I heard the first note of "See No Evil," the opening song to their album "Marquee Moon" it was like being stabbed by electric guitars in a dark alley. Very violent, and very poetic. To this day, and many years after, it still gives me goose bumps. And "Marquee Moon" is perhaps one of the great rock albums ever. I want to say the greatest of the greats, but ..... is that too dramatic of a statement? 
As a music movement (which it wasn't really) the CBGB years were magnificent. I don't know if it was in the NYC water system, but it seems like the early to mid- 1970's brought out the genius of various folks there. The Ramones of course, but also Richard Hell, who is equally brilliant as Verlaine. The fact that both of them were in the same band drives me insane. Its too good! Besides Hell needed to have his own outlet -and he too made an incredible classic album "Blank Generation." 
And these two guys - Verlaine and Hell - were (or are) incredible poets. But focusing on "Marquee Moon," it is such a beautiful record with stunning songs. The ultimate guitar rave up album, but with the touch of "French Symbolic Poetry" thrown into the mix. But what Verlaine adds (besides his name) is a contemporary POV that is haunting and deeply romantic. But passionate in a very very cool way. 
Waterman's book is a good one. He touches on all the greatness in the band, and his focus on the lyrics is much needed. You may have read all the gossip in "Please Kill Me," but this is a much more reflective look into the mystique and wonder of Richard Lloyd, Fred Smith, Richard Hell, Billy Ficca, Patti Smith, and Tom Verlaine.