Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 30, 2014

April 30, 2014

Luigi Russolo’s “art of noise” is probably the most profound pieces of music I have ever heard.  To me, it is the genuine soundtrack to a horrible century. The beauty that is destructive, yet all of us are attracted to the disaster as a moth is drawn to a flame.  Become too close to the heat and the wings will burn off.  I often felt that love for the great 20th century art, cinema, can lead one to leap into the void. It is not a question of cinema itself, but also all the by-products that goes with it.

It has been pointed out that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were devoted to the cinema, and especially to its actress Marika Rokk.  Hitler was at the same time a fan of Mickey Mouse.  What he saw in the mouse is something that I am not clear about.  Nevertheless, Goebbels gave Hitler 12 Mickey Mouse cartoons as a Christmas present in 1935.  Eva and Hitler had their own private screening room, but to me that becomes part of the problem.   Going to a movie theater is fantastic on many levels, one, being that you’re in an audience.  Being with an audience is so different from watching a film by yourself or with another person.

The first time I went to a movie theater was to see a Brigitte Bardot film in Larkspur, but the one screening I remember the most is when my dad took me to see a James Bond film called “Goldfinger.” The most exciting part of the movie was being at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Bouvelard.  Oddly enough, I have seen all the Bond films at least twice, except for “Goldfinger.” I can’t imagine watching that film in any other location except for the Chinese theater.  To see that film now, at another location, would be like removing one of my arms - “Goldfinger” will be always attached to the feelings and sensations of going to the Chinese theater.

I have a faint memory of seeing Tod Browning’s “Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi and David Manners, at the Chinese Theater and hearing that there were actual bats inside the theater.  I was led to believing that bats often fly across the projected screen, but I have never seen it happen. However, to this day, it is one of the first things I think about, while in the theater, and waiting for the film to start.

I am also touched to know and have seen the hand and foot prints of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, outside the theater.  One can imagine the angels that pranced around the property, where in Hitler and Eva’s theater, with the lights out, demons feeding off on the darkness.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Rear Windows: An Inside Look at Fifty Film Noir Classics" by Norman ConquestP

Can be purchased here:

Two words together that always brings me great entertainment: Norman.  Conquest.   Here he does the ultimate tribute, which is also a meditation on the classic film noir.   In Norman’s point-of-view, one must have a window to see out, but more likely to look out of the small containment that is a room that expresses a troubling series of moments.   “Rear Windows” is a quiet book, but it is also probably the most truthful book on Noir that’s out there.  If one is placed in a prison cell, the window in that cell represents many things to the confined prisoner.  To look out, or to project one to another place, like outside the window.  These windows are not made to look into the space, but as a spiritual exit out of that space and time.  “Rear Windows” is a book of remarkable wit, and also a sincere tribute to the visions that are noir, and projected on the screen, and then bounced back to our head.

April 29, 2014

April 29, 2014

Oddly enough I wasn’t paying that much attention to the trial regarding the Rodney King beating in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department.   I figured they would be condemned, but more likely forced to resign or be transferred to some other part of the world.   When they were found ‘not guilty, ’ it was like someone kicked me in the stomach.  I wasn’t angry, but just deeply confused and hurt by the verdict, and again, if I was upset, I couldn’t even imagine how others will take the news.

I didn’t exactly feel the pain, but I could smell the smoke from our apartment in Hollywood.   It was kind of like having a zit that needed to be popped.  There is something so disgusting regarding the zit, that of course, one would want to squeeze the pus out of the pore.  The violence in the air was a perfect combination, or a cocktail of despair and the lust to let loose.   What surprised me the most, was that valley girls were coming in and looting stores on Melrose.  It seemed the passion was electronic goods, like TV sets.  The irony of all that is that there is nothing on TV.   Even my co-worker was giddy with excitement.  She hit the streets to observe, like it was a festival - and I guess in the religious sense, it was a festival.

My number one concern was the random acts of violence, especially against those who were Asian, due that I’m married to a Japanese woman.  I didn’t want her to drive around the city.  The air was thick with the random acts of cruelty, that seemed to be part of the festival feeling as well.   A friend of my wife, just came to Los Angeles from Japan on that specific night, and he didn’t speak a word of English.  He found himself in downtown Los Angeles, and he clearly noticed that no one was on the street.  He didn’t know why?  A Black American woman with a car full of kids saw him wandering around the streets, and told him to get right into the car, because it is too dangerous to walk around at this peculiar time.  He didn’t understand what was happening, but he got in the car, and him and her family had dinner together.

On the other hand, the liquor shop down the corner from me was being broken into. The occasional gunshot could be heard from that location.   It was sort of like zombies attacking living flesh, they didn’t stop arriving, and it was all sorts of people looting these places.   When I went on the balcony to get some fresh air, I heard my neighbor across from me yell “Hey man don’t point that gun at me, cool it!” I sort of did a backwards moonwalk back into my living room and got down on the carpet floor.

I crawled towards the TV set to watch a VHS tape of Maya Deren and Alexander Hamid’s “Meshes in the Afternoon.” It is one of those timeless works that I can watch anytime and anywhere.  For me, this was the true image of Hollywood, not what I was going through when I walked out onto my balcony.   To sleep that night  I put on Duke Ellington’s “Chloe (Song of the Swamp), which I think is my favorite song, and also worked as an inspiration for Boris Vian’s L’écume des jours (“Foam of the Daze”).  I can’t stop the world, or what’s going on outside, but inside my head I always turned back to art, and that is what saves me at the end of the night.

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 28, 2014

April 28, 2014

I know I’m being naive, but to see such horror in such a horrifying context is …. Horrible.   As a meditation, there are those who turn away from horror thoughts, but I choose to go into the pool of such imagery, to attempt to make it not as worthy or to remove its importance to my life. Benito Mussollni’s death, at the hands of his fellow citizens is a series of images that are hard for me to erase in my mind.   In 1945, him and his mistress Clara Petacci, were shot to death in Mezzegra, and then taken to Milan, where their bodies were hung upside down in front of a gas station.  The crowd there vented their frustration and rage, and it is shocking to see Mussollni’s body like it was slaughtered meat at a butcher’s shop.  The execution of Saddam Hussein now comes to mind as well.  Is it justice, or is it the brutality of our times being expressed over and over again?

The dialogue between Saddam and his executioner is almost like a Noel Coward comedy, except within minutes we see the body of Saddam with a broken neck, dead, dangling far from the ground.  The cell phone footage makes the death even more obscene.  I’m so disgusted with images such as these, yet, I feel obliged to watch them, and watch them again.  I feel if I watched them once, it will remain in my mind forever. The shocking aspect of seeing dead bodies, especially being placed in a historical context, makes it even more nauseating to me.   The pornography of violence, whatever it is at a NRA convention or on YouTube is extremely disturbing.  I think what I find depressing is the fact that we accept violence as an everyday occurrence, and in the sense it is part of our lives.  Even though I’m quick to condemn it, I am drawn to the images of destruction, specifically the smashed-in face of Mussollni and Saddam’s image of death in the hands of a crowd that knew the narration and how it will take place in front of the cameras as well in their hearts.  The only piece of art that comes to mind, that expresses the horror is Scott Walker’s song from “The Drift” called “Clara.” Here you can hear the aural sounds of the execution and the beatings of Mussollni and Clara.  It’s a gorgeous piece of music.  Jarring, yet a meditation on evil and the brutality that seem to be married forever in our way that we look at the world.

On the other hand, as like throwing dice against a wall, I appreciate the numbers in my favor coming up, and therefore I like to bath myself in the imagery of Yves Klein, who conveys a certain amount of magic or a blissful state for me.  I can easily focus on that world as well.  When I see his blue paintings or sculptures it is a perfect world to me.   I don’t think of hate, anger, just the pure color of blue penetrating my soul into a euphoric state of consciousness. Klein also did a musical piece called “Monotone” Symphony.  It is a symphony that consists of one note and it is performed by a 10 piece orchestra.   The piece consists of two parts.  The first 20 minutes is the one note being performed, and then the second part is exactly 20 minutes of silence.

If I can somehow take all the ugly obscene images that're inside my head and transform it into a world of Yves Klein, that would be my ideal life.   That, and some Jacques Dutronc music, of course.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" a review

ISBN: 978-0-312-65539-6

A book that took me forever to read, not due to its content (I don't think), but more by design.   I tend to read short story collections very slowly, and almost not wanting to finish them.  I think I read 80% of "The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" in the bathtub.   So if I take a bath everyday, how many baths is that?   Nevertheless it will not have anything to do with Davis' writings, which are precise, focused, and not one wasted word.  In other words, they're sort of perfection in practice.   

There is no narration to speak of, but more of either a snapshot of a series of moments taking place, or observing something both remarkable and unremarkable.   When I read this collection, my first thought is "wow, this is a real writer."   There is something almost scientific in the way she constructs her works, which I think is quite musical.  I never heard her read her stories in public, but I imagine it would be a performance where you have to pace yourself, and allow a certain amount of silence to come in and out.    People have gone on about the length of her stories, but I don't that itself is important.  That is kind of like looking at the tree instead of the forest type of issue.  When you look at the whole book, it is very much a maximum wide-scope 70mm film, but focusing on small moments, that more likely will lead to something larger or life-changing.   It's funny, recently I have been reading off and on Wittgenstein, and either I'm imagining all of this, but I see a connection between his writing and her writing.  Maybe they're not meaning the same thing, but there is concern, or the ability to use text as sculpture of some sort.  It is not restricted to writing, but it is also craving or shaving off the excess to make the statement or the words more maximum.   I can't imagine anyone who is a writer would not be interested in Lydia Davis' stories.   Such a mega-importance to have in one's house or in their hands. 

April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014

It’s amazing how you can meet just one person and that individual can change your life forever.  But at that time, I didn’t know how important Teddy was to me, in that he gave me a direction in life, that he wasn’t aware of.  Actually he thought I was giving him some sort of direction.  The truth is I think we were on an equal footing, with respect to our relationship.  At one point, we even shared the same girlfriend. This you would think would have ended badly, but the pleasure that came out of that relationship was fantastic, and to this day, I love them both.   

My friend Teddy gave me a collection of Iceberg Slim books to write an article on for a porn magazine called “Dirty.” He was one of the editors of the magazine, and it was either his sense of daring or maybe a sense of humor to hire me to write a ‘literary’ column for the smut magazine.   I took this opportunity as if I was an alcoholic in a magnificent bar.   If I did well on this piece, it was for sure I would find myself in a position to also take over the section of the magazine dealing with reviewing porn videos, which at the time, held a certain amount of fascination.  For instance, I was intrigued not by the sex or even the women in the films, but more with the environment that these “actions” took place. 

There is one series where the producer would take a woman to his bedroom for the purpose of shooting porn, and he interviews her regarding where she came from, is this her first time (always is), does she have a boyfriend and is he OK with this shoot (always is), and this discussion is exactly the same over and over again.   Even the sex is exactly the same.   The blow job, doggie style, missionary sex position, and then back to blow job, and then usually the doggie style.   What I found kind of erotic was the mechanical approach to the filming that lead to the sex becoming almost machine-like.  Here was a producer who didn’t want to mess with schedules or work procedures. 

For about 12 months, I would go to Teddy’s office to pick up a slew of porn videos (VHS of course) and also I could write about the culture as I see it.   I can’t imagine anyone buying Dirty magazine would have the slightest interest in my writings, but the whole experience was such an eye opener for me.  Teddy had an interest in black American culture of the 1960s and 1970s.  The Iceberg Slim books were at that time was published by Holloway House, a small press that was devoted and focused on black American literature.  The odd thing about these books is that one could buy them in black neighborhoods, but rarely do they show up on the radar, for instance, if you go to your local chain bookstore outlet in Woodland Hills.   But one could also buy these books at the newsstand on Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevard.   Reading them opened my eyes to a culture that I wasn’t fully aware of.  Also, Iceberg, was a man out of his time, and even though my experiences in life are totally different than his, I feel we share that aspect where life is lived, yet we are not in our time. 

Wittgenstein quoted Kleist “what the poet would most of all like to be able to do would be to convey thoughts by themselves without words.” We both agree that is an odd thing.  Nevertheless when I read Iceberg I get the idea that his world exists as a snapshot of a specific time.  But of course the issues are the same ones, but his approach to that era was seen as being old-fashioned or a tool of the system.  Porn life is also restrictive, in that it has its own codes and rules.  But there is also a sense of satisfaction to be in such a world. 

My girlfriend at the time was only a fleeting moments of time, yet, a profound one at that.  We still lived together after our affair was over, but Teddy moved in a month later.  I knew he felt bad about it, but I never felt that he should feel guilty about it.  These things happen, and also I wasn’t interested in her in that fashion.  But again, what impresses me is the interior when I had my fling with her.  The entire apartment was painted black, and had black thick curtains covering the windows.  When I woke up, I wasn’t sure if it was daylight or nighttime. All I know is that I would bump into someone on the way to the kitchen or bathroom, and it was always Teddy.   I appreciated those moments, as well as the opportunities he gave me for writing or exploring another world.  In essence, he was one of the most influential men in my life. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26, 2014

April 26, 2014

I woke up this morning with a thought “don’t think but look!”  It startled me at first, but as I slowly gained conscious  by focusing my gaze towards the bedroom window, which at times, and really depends on the time of the day, and if there is sunshine, looks like the painting by Eugène Delacroix, specifically his “Basket of Flowers.” I drained every thought from my head and just focused on the flowers that are on the window sill.  Even if I have an appointment in the morning, I always take my time in stepping out of bed.  I don’t even stretch, or make a noise, but just noticing the flowers and how that petals react to the breeze or wind outside.  Also I have a large tree outside the window, which also causes a distinctive degree of lighting that makes shadows against the ceiling, as I lay on my back.  It is just my version of going to the cinema, but without the narration nonsense.

By my bedside I have a 1950s era Califone 42V, Promenade II direct drive portable turntable and I only play one album on this, and that is a recording by Ma Rainy, the mother of the blues.  In the 20s, she made over 100 recordings, which for me, define that era.  Some feel the blues or jazz is only good for evening life, but I totally disagree with that theory.   The ability to kick life at its shin, is a good way to begin the day.  I prepare breakfast, and rarely do I change the food or procedure.  I only like to eat English muffins with peanut butter from Whole Foods Markert and sugarless jam of assorted flavors.  I tend to have at the very least, ten different jars of jam in my 1950 Frigidaire refrigerator.   I like to sit in the kitchen on a stool by a portable card table, facing the window above the sink.  Due to the building across the way, I don’t get direct sunlight in the kitchen, but that’s perfectly OK with me.  I only like the sunlight in my bedroom.

I only take baths, and never a shower.  What I like to do is sponged my body before I enter the bathtub.  The water has to be the correct temperature of 101 F or 38 C, considering that the average body temp of a man is 98.6 F. Once I put in a few drops of avocado oil in the water, I step in.  This is where I either do my meditation, besides my mental bedroom window procedure, or read a book.  What I strongly recommend is “Culture and Value” by Ludwig Wittgenstein (translated by Peter Winch).  It’s a fantastic collection of remarks that are beautifully written.   One quote that comes to mind is “I never more than half succeed in expressing what I want to express.  Actually not as much as that, but by no more than a tenth.  That is still worth something.  Often my writing is nothing but ‘stuttering.’ “ I often reflect on what he is saying here. Well, only in the bathtub. Nevertheless I often feel that my thoughts are not possible to express verbally, and often I find this frustrating.  I spent a great deal of time in front of a blank notebook, just trying to fill the blank pages with thoughts that can’t be expressed on a page.

I don’t read French and I have never read A. E. van Vogt, but I do have a copy of his novel “Le Monde des Å” (The World of Null-A) in French, which is translated by Boris Vian.   Me, being such a hardcore Vian fan, I needed to not only own the book, but I often try to read it, even though I can’t even pronounce French words.  But I like the thought of reading this book in French.   I have heard that the French sub-culture youth group Zazous, used to carry English language books to look more cosmopolitan, and that is something that I totally concur with.  Not only that, but I feel text can be not only read, but also felt in an emotional sense or even on another dimension.   When you get down to it, I only want to face the world in my ability to see what I want to look at, but also, and if possible, through vocabulary.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Sparks-Tastic" reviewed in The Flaneur website

A fantastic review of my book "Sparks-Tastic" by Susan Adele Wiggins on "The Flaneur" website. 

April 25, 2014

April 25, 2014

In m lifetime, I only lived with two dogs: Rover and Pi.  Rover was a mutt and Pi was part collie and coyote.  Pi moved in with us because her family was moving out of Topanga, and once moved, she found herself back home at our house.  We adopted her or just kept Pi, because she was always hanging out with Rover.  My relationship with dogs is very laissez-faire, and I rarely ever think about them either as pets or objects in front of me.  All I know is Rover and Pi lived with me, and they liked their stomachs scratched and petted.

I remember watching “Lassie” on our black and white TV, and Rover was totally intrigued by the show one night.  Especially when Lassie barked, or made a sound.  He would sit in front of the set, cock his head towards the left with his ear up.  Eventually he would walk around the TV set to determine what was happening in the back of the set.  Rover was just thinking logically if Lassie was actually in the TV set, which makes perfect sense to me.

As a boy, I totally identify with Timmy on “Lassie” and Rusty on “Rin Tin-Tin.” So when I was with Rover and Pi, I didn’t really think about the dogs, but instead I projected myself as the boy who is surrounded by his dog, who also appears to have been tuned in to my needs and concerns.   Getting love from a dog is without a doubt one of the greatest love relationships on this planet.   There is the famous story of Hacikō, the akita dog who would go with his owner, Hidesburō Ueno, a teacher, to Shibuya station in Tokyo, and would come back to see him there when he arrived from his work.  One day, the teacher dies at work and of course never returns - but Hacikō without fail, would wait at the meeting spot in the Shibuya station every day at the same time.  Hacikō waited for seven years till death came and took him away.

The Japanese media picked up the story of Hacikō, and eventually it became almost an urban myth about the loyal dog waiting for his master or owner.  Except this was all true.  Hacikō died on March 8, 1938, where his body was found on the streets of Shibuya.  The dog had terminal cancer and a filaria infection (worms).  They also found four yakitori skewers in his stomach, but that didn’t cause his death.  Hachikō’s remains are stuffed and mounted and kept at the National Science Museum in Ueno, Tokyo.  His burial monument is in the Aoyama cemetery.   But the people’s monument is at the Shibuya station, exactly where Hachikō waited for his master.  There is a statue in honor of the dog, and it is probably one of the best-known locations in Tokyo.

I will never forget the night Rover died.  He was for sure feeling his age, and I remember the night he insisted ongoing outside.  I opened the door for him and that was the last time I saw Rover.  But as I was falling asleep on the couch in the living room, I had a waking dream of Rover in front of my face, barking wildly.   I woke up and of course he wasn’t there, but I never did see my dog again.  Also I never had the urge to get another dog or to live with a dog.  Rover and Pi were dogs who lived with me at a specific time, and one can’t repeat its past.  I had to move on.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24, 2014

April 24, 2014

Most people associate me with stripes.  The funny thing is the fact that they never look past the visual image to see who I really am. Or is there even a ‘real’ me beyond the stripes.   I just try to live my life within the boundaries of stripes, because in a sense it is a world within borders.  There is an outside and then there is an inside.  I stay inside as much as possible.  But I don’t mind sticking my head out between the strips to find out how the world is reacting to whatever that concerns the dear old planet.  In Japan, everyone tells me in English that they think of me wearing only ‘border’ t-shirts.  That is their way of describing stripes, which is totally different how I see the stripe.

I see the strip as a direction or a road.  Not necessary to separate me from another place.  But what I do like about stripes is that they are usually the same width throughout its length, and this offers me a sense of peace.  I once drew a line, as straight as possible, throughout my house.  For instance, right by my bed, the stripe starts, and it leads to the toilet, and then once I get out of the bathroom, I have various stripes to lead me to other parts of the house.  I do reach the “fork on the road, ” where I have to make a decision on which line to follow.  The thing is to obtain restrictions like that actually gives me guidance and of course direction.

Not surprisingly, I do have a thing for Jean Paul Gaultier, and it mostly deals with his obsession with breton stripes.  In 1858, was the first time that the French navy wore striped knitted shirts.  The original design featured 21 stripes, one for each of Napolean’s military victories.  The Saint James clothing company made the Binic ll sweater, first introduced in 1889 in Normandy.  Ever since then it has become the symbol of French design and style.  But it also has its rebellious image, just think of Lee Marvin’s character wearing a breton stripped t-shirt in “The Wild One.” In my bathroom I had a collection of Gaultier perfume bottles with the torso with the strip shirt.  I liked the weight of the bottles. It felt serious in my hands.

It has been noted that I don’t leave the house unless I’m wearing some stripes somewhere on my body.  Without them, I feel not fully me.  Again, it is the line that goes in a certain direction that leads me to and from home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Magazine : Live at Rockpalast 1980 ( Full )

Due to Momus' tribute to everything that's Howard Devoto, I have been listening to that world recently.  A wonderful visit I might add.

April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014

As I learned from Johnny Hyde, never fall in love with your client.  They are many things that make a successful client, but one thing they are not, is an object of love from the agent’s point-of-view.   To be successful, you have to see your talent as an object, and know what that subject is worth the open or even closed market.   Johnny made the mistake in believing in his star client, when instead, he should have admired her from afar, like her fans.  He would gain a better understanding of her appeal and the needs of her fan base. 

What is it about guys who fall for their meal ticket?  They now come to you because they insist on vision and security of some sort.   If you cross that line, you become powerless in front of their eyes.  To be honest, it makes me sick to my stomach to see it happen to my type of guy in my type of occupation. Once I see an artist at work, it becomes a narrative right in front of me.  There is a beginning, a middle and of course an ending.  The thing is to be prepared for that crash in the third act, and make sure your client is comfortable when that time comes.  

I took my client to a nice bar for a intimate drink and to discuss business.  Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely” is playing softly on the jukebox, and I told her that we need to make some drastic, but positive, plans. There was a war photographer who freelances by the name of Lee.  She drinks like a fish and she had the guts to take a bath in Hitler’s tub right after the liberation of Munich.  I knew Lee for a long time, we were pals in Paris before the war, and at the time she was living and working together with another photographer, whose name doesn’t come to the front of my head at this moment.  But she did fashion, and she’s talented with the lens.  

I had a script with me that is based on Shakespeare’s “Richard the Third.” The movie was going to be original by updating the narrative to contemporary times.  Yet, keep the Shakespeare language intact.  I didn’t know if this would work or not, but my client did Shakespeare in her school, so I figure this would be a natural for her.   As I told her more about this project, she seemed to get less interested and was fidgety, and not drinking any of her drink as well.   She then asked if I would take her to an address in South Pasadena.  She just wanted to show me something there.   The address that she gave me was on 1071 South Orange Grove Avenue. 

When we arrived it was dark already, and it seemed to be a charming sleepy neighborhood in South Pasadena.  She indicated to me that there used to be a house here, not this one, but another one, that was destroyed by an explosion.  The house was the property of a scientist who worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was known to be as an explosives expert.  He and his wife were getting ready to move to Mexico to work and live, but he accidentally dropped some chemicals, which in turn, caused an explosion and therefore his death.   Also both of them were under the tutelage of Aleister Crowley.  She mentioned this all to me, and just wanted to bring this story onto the big screen.   Me, being me, tried to link a Shakespeare theme or narration as she told me this very minimal but nevertheless interesting Mise-en-scéne.  At least that’s the way I looked at it.  We both sat in the car and stared at the property, not saying anything to each other.  I had the motor on, and over the radio we listened to Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64., Suite No. 1, Op.64c: Monagues and Capulets.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"The Adventures of Jodelle" by Guy Peelaert & Pierre Bartier

In one word: Superb.  This is not only an over-sized version of the comic strip "The Adventures of Jodelle," but also a mini-retrospective on the works of Guy Peelaert, who among other things, worked with Serge Gainsbourg, William Klein, and was totally in tuned with the American pop art scene of the 1960s.  Which by the way, the comic strip reads like a manifesto of the times - and to this day, the graphics are at least as fresh as youth going for their first kiss.  It's a remarkable book.  The first part is the comic strip by him and gag writer Pierre Bartier - and then one gets more detailed information about his works - such as the comic strips, set design, costume design and film.   So in other words, this is more of an art book than a graphic novel, or the graphic novel with something extra.   A lot of extra!   It is almost like a classic DVD set from Critierion, where you get the making of the film, but also sees the beginning of the drawings, the ideas as they are being worked out.  

I first heard of Guy Peelaert from his "Rock Dreams" book that he did with the great Nik Cohn, in the mid-1970s.  His comic strip work is totally different from the Rock Dreams art, but both works are iconic and they both share an awareness of culture of its time and past.  This book is very much an essential object to own - especially if you are interested in European 1960s pop world as well as exceptional graphic design work.  A beautiful book!

ISBN: 978-1606995303

April 22, 2014

April 22, 2014

April 22, 2014

Yesterday I wandered around Mono Records and purchased a Paul Chambers album “Whims of Chambers” and a Charles Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um.” I found myself in the mood to hear bass, so it was the perfect moment at a record store.  I also found this old recording by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and Benjamin Britten playing piano for the surviving inmates of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after its liberation in April 1945.    The recording is rough, but a very intense performance, and of course it came to mind that as a child, Menuhin lived with the Boris Vian family somewhere in the French countryside, during the depression that was hitting Europe at the time.   Also I knew the name of Britten, but never heard his music till yesterday.  Very sad, yet majestic.  

With the new music around me, I am struggling with a book I am writing, regarding Bette Page’s life after being used as a model.  It struck me that perhaps I’m not the right man to write such an intense life as Bette’s.  It is not the bondage images of her that I find attractive, but just her nude model shots that express a certain mood, and as I look at this image now, it is nice to have a soundtrack by Paul Chambers, whose bass playing skirts around the melody, and I feel I’m doing the same thing with Bette. 

As I get older I realize I have a strong melancholy attitude towards my life, and at times, I try not to think of it.  I focus on music or even literature, but of course, and with me, those two mediums are just a window to my soul.  One of the reasons why I like jazz so much is due to the foundation there, and the musician plays with the landscape to make it suitable for their temperament or pleasure.  I often hear a piece of music in my head, and I slowly eliminate certain instruments, where eventually I have just the skeleton of the melody that’s left over.  

Jack Nitzsche’s great score to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” stays in my mind as the perfect arrangement and the delicacy of the glass harp on the main theme is even more heartbreaking than the film.  I remember the grin on Jack Nicholson’s face, but nothing else in the film, except for the soundtrack, which remained with me for some reason.  I often find myself drifting into that gray cloud, and I’m watching down, and I think “surely there must be a better place.” 

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014

Not that long ago I went to Loch Ness to hopefully see the Loch Ness monster or known in that area as “Nessie.” I took a boat out in the middle of the night and I was by myself.  I was undergoing a depression, with respect to a novel I was writing, that I couldn’t finish for some reason called “Lascar: A Story You Must Forget.” I thought it might be a nice idea if I just, without thinking, take the boat out and maybe not return.  I didn’t want to drown, but I was hoping that I would be killed by the monster that was reportedly in the deep water.   I couldn’t see anything, but the reflection of the stars on that clear night on the water.  The beauty of being in such an environment is the absolute silence of the water.  Time-to-time, I would put my fingers in the water and slowly dragged them across and onto my boat.  I think I was hoping to be able to attract the attention of whatever was down there, but nothing happened, and the silence that came afterwards was like the big hole I was falling into due to my depression.

The only other time I have been made aware of a water creature was the Kappa, which is a Japanese myth (or they say) where he lived in the once existing river that ran through Tokyo.  I went by the district many times, and I saw an image of the Kappa that deeply affected my psyche.  Basically it is a warning to children not to mess with the dangers that are lurking in the waters.   It is likely to be for that reason why I don’t or cannot swim.  I have a deep subconscious fear of water being contained in large areas - which can mean to be anything from a lake, like Loch Ness, to a city owned swimming pool.

Throughout my life I had the fear of being dragged down by some creature of the deep, and the Loch Ness Monster has been an obsession of mine for many years now.  The Kappa was known to trick children to come to the water, and then eventually they would drown.  In most cases, these are just children playing too close to a body of water and eventually getting carried away by the water’s currents.  But the narrative is very much the same in that a Kappa approaches a child and entices them to come into the water with them.

Now that I am grown up I can see the Kappa as a form of depression, or a body or presence that one can say ‘Ah, you’re the reason for so and so.”   The Loch Ness monster may or may not be that type of phenomenon, yet as I drift aimlessly on that water, the only melody that came to my head was an old traditional country tune by the Louvin Brothers called “In The Pines,” which seemed to fit perfectly on this forlorn boat going nowhere.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton" by Holly George-Warren

I have not previously met a person who didn't like something by Alex Chilton.   He's a cult artist by definition, but he is without a doubt a major work who made priceless pieces of treasure throughout his long career in music making.  Why he didn't play the Greek Theater or the Olympia or Albert Hall on a regular basis is not his fault, but it was  the 'general' audience that was asleep at the wheel, or using their extra funds foolishly by buying 'that' other record.  At this point and time, everyone 'now' knows that Big Star are essential recordings as well as his long and complicated solo career.  And of course, The Box Tops, you can't forget that!

The story of Alex is really the story of the South, and the southern aesthetic in how it played to the rest of the world, as well as the influences that touched the region that Chilton came from.   In other words, it's a Cecil DeMille production, but in reality it was directed by Sam Fuller.  Chilton and Big Star are blessed with some exceptional books.   Rob Jovanovic's biography on Big Star and Bruce Eaton's focus on Big Star's Radio City are excellent titles.  So is this biography by Holly George-Warren, which is well-researched and well-rounded view of this unique figure.   "A Man Called Destruction" (a catchy title, but I feel there is nothing tragic or destructive about Alex, compared to.... Chet Baker or ....etc.) covers all the bases and she, like the other writers, has a feel on Alex, his music, and his world.  The thing is Alex is just one character in this fascinating story - the whole creative and boho culture of Memphis is also part of this story.

I always felt that Alex's genius lies in not only in his music, but in his culture as well.   What you get is black American culture, Elvis culture, and William Eggleston culture as well.   It's an insane world, but one that is totally manageable, but it does have its tragic side as well.   I got the feeling from reading this book and the others that he really felt the death of his parents, Chris Bell, and his brothers - he didn't talk about it, but the silence is pretty loud. Excellent biography.

April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014

It has been a frustrating week. Yet, I was thrilled to get a beautiful gift from a friend of mine in Colorado.   She sent me some flowers, and not only that, but my favorite species of flower, the Colorado Blue Columbine.    I went to high school in that area of the world, and the one thing that stood out for me was seeing these flowers grow naturally around the area.  I almost have a manic need to have them around me as much as possible.  So I was very grateful to obtain this special delivery yesterday.   Right now, I’m playing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit, ” and trying to make plans to visit Germania, one of my all-time favorite cities in Europe.  Some years back, I was invited to give a talk on a panel regarding urban planning of that city, and it always been a point of interest for me, because it seems most cities are planned as they are happening, not as something to look forward to in the future.

It was proposed to have a large clock in the downtown area of Germania, where as a tribute to the cinema arts, there would have been a statue attached to the clock of a man dangling on one of the clock hands.  Unmistakably a tribute to Harold Lloyd.  The plan never came to fruition, due that there were fears that people may have mistaken this as an actual person on the clock, either stuck there or about to commit suicide.  I tried very hard to convince the city government to follow through the tribute to Lloyd, but I was cut off by the committee at the time.  Nevertheless I did arrange a retrospective of Paul Poiret’s clothing in Germania.   He was recognized as the Picasso of fashion, during the turn-of-the-century.  He basically freed women from restrictive clothing, but like all good things, it had to end sadly.  He lost his business, and died pretty much broke.   He was married for many years, and his wife was his main muse. Nevertheless, that relationship turned very sour, and he never recovered from the divorce nor got his reputation back again.  One can see it now as him being Warhol, and his wife as Edie Sedgwick.

I have had sentimental thoughts regarding Germania, ever since my 50th birthday party there, organized by the Government cultural committee.   Due to my interest in culture, I have brought numerous exhibitions and events to that city, and I guess this was their way to honor me as well as saying thank you.   The gifts they gave me were border-line kitsch, but on the other hand, I appreciated their gesture and goodwill towards me.   So yes, this past week has been difficult on many counts, but still, I look forward to the week ahead.  Also since April is my favorite month, I am listening to April March's recordings throughout the day. I think there will be a change in the weather.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

As a child, I lived not that far away from the legendary and iconic “pink” residence of Jayne Mansfield.   The thing is, even though close to my home, I never seen the place.  I have read about it, and people around me talked about it, but actually seeing the home never happened for me.  I also believe the house was right on Sunset Boulevard.  Where I must have passed numerous times, but I have no recollection of seeing the place.  Now come to think of it Jayne Mansfield, herself was like a phantom figure through out my childhood.  

I used to have dreams about her when I was a child, which was strange, because I knew who she was, mostly through looking at movie magazines at the time.  There were quite a few publications in the local market, so while my parents were shopping, I would dip into the world of fantasy, knowing very well, that is what it was.  I knew the difference between the life in front of me, and the life projected on a huge screen or on my portable black and white TV set.  I think throughout my knowledge of Jayne Mansfield, I thought of her as a fictional character, which is probably why I didn’t ever see the pink palace.  I probably thought it was a made-up location, and often people used Sunset Boulevard as an address, but nothing exists there.  For example, “77 Sunset Strip” is not a real address.  I knew that, so I just presumed that Mansfield and her pink palace were just the work of those whose job was to make illusions. 

I was shocked one day when someone told me that Eliot Ness actually existed, where for sure I could just swore that he was a fictional character on the great TV show “The Untouchables.” At the time it never dawned on me that the show was based on a true story with real characters from the rolling 20s.  I lived a life that had a hard time telling what was illusion and what was true.  For instance I always admired the westerns I saw on TV, especially Wyatt Earp.   It was a shock to me that all cowboys were not dandies!   So, it was a weird position to be a part of life, where one had to decide what was real or not real.   As you can gather, I kept getting the names and stories mixed up.  To me, Mansfield living in a pink palace seemed totally unreal. Yet Hugh O’Brian as Wyatt Earp was totally realistic to me.  Go figure!

For the past two years, I have been looking high and low for an album by the Dudley Moore Trio, which I thought, perhaps this record doesn’t exist.   I was never a huge fan of his films he made in Hollywood, but I did see some footage of him and Peter Cook together, and that got me interested in his music.   I have been told that he was a serious musician and jazz composer.   Yet when I went to a record store, I could never find his music!  I started to suspect that perhaps this was an imaginary or fictional aspect of the Moore narrative.  Or maybe it was a part he played in a film or TV show, and people just presumed that he was also a talented musician?   Today, someone sent me an actual copy of one of his early albums, and presto, he is a musician and a damn good one at that!  So he does exist in that role, and I was wrong about him not playing music.  

Identity confusion is very much part of my personal make-up.  It is one reason why I don’t participate in national or local politics, because I can’t trust my judgement, when it comes to voting for someone or not.  I’m totally swayed by a commercial and I’m often proven wrong by me being so gullible. 

Funny, but the one thing I have seen that cuts through the idea of illusion for me is Bas Jan Ader’s conceptual piece “Broken Fall (geometric).”   Here in stark black and white,  you see the artist trying to fall on a little stand somewhere in a rural area of Holland.  Unless you’re a professional stuntman, it is very difficult to actually fall down on purpose.   Here I see Jan Ader struggling with the idea of falling, but of course, he stops himself, because it is natural to do so.  Finally he does topple over, and watching this short film makes me feel emotional, but not only that, but I also feel I am watching something that is very real.  The thing is I have to basically trust what is in front of me, and allow myself to be driven to another landscape - whatever that is real or not is just something I have to cope with on a regular basis.