Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 31, 2015

The Sunday Series:

Sunday May 31, 2015

I do not have the foggiest idea why I'm obsessed with Brahms' 4th Symphony.   I'm not a huge fan of classical music - especially symphonies.   I must have first heard Brahms' 4th Symphony in a movie or perhaps music being reproduced in a shopping area.  Nevertheless the melodies tugged my heart in such a fashion that over the years I have purchased every version of this music possible.  My two favorite recordings are Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra and Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra.   Although the same music, the feelings are quite different from each other.  The Toscanini version is more forceful, energetic, and perhaps the pace is faster as well.  The Klemperer is more thoughtful, and therefore more sexual.  Perhaps even obscene. 

Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96 l. Allegro non Troppo

The lushness of the first movement of the symphony always reminded me of a personal loss, that even now, and after so many years, it is even difficult for me to write about it.  So I won't go into the specifics, except that it was a great loss and I will never regain the time or moment when it was mine to grasp.   Toscanini frames the feeling not perfectly, but more of a sketch of the moment together as fleeting.  He's using oil paints to carry out this picture, when Klemperer would use watercolor.   When I hear his opening of the first movement, I feel like I'm slipping on a newly waxed marble floor.  I will fall, and it will hurt, but the elegance of the surroundings is what I wish to be surrounded by.  I feel that I'm falling in love, but not a living being, but with a spirit.  Or perhaps with someone I don't know or never will know.  Love letters handed back and forth, and besides me and my lovers fingerprints, will be the fingerprints of the mailman delivering the letter to my mailbox.  Toscanini's letter smell of a strong perfume scent such as Estee Lauder Youth-Dew Eau de Parfum, while Klemperer's letter will be the faint fragrance of Mugler Cologne, which has been reported that the scent disappears within fifteen minutes after putting it on. The heavy coating of the arrangements for the NBC Orchestra, is one where it is quite warm, and you want to take your coat off.  Yet, Toscanini refuses to have the musicians to remove their clothing - while Klempperer is actually 'insisting' that you do so. 

Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96 ll. Andante moderato

The faint battle cry of the opening of the second movement is like being on the back of the paper plane, and one is drifting on the air current of a hot and very still summer afternoon.  Though Toscanini's conducting, it feels like an angel is flying beside you, but we both know that the paper will evenly be torn from the sky and gravity will force it to crash into the pavement.  With Klemperer, one will still crash to the earth, but it more likely into a field of irises.  It is a reflective piece of music, that one feels being pushed into the flames by Toscanini, and you will clearly die in Klemperer's hands, but he will poison you first, and then once dead, throw you into the flames.  In both versions, it's the french horns that inform you what will take place.  But the big difference here is one saying 'Hey buddy," and the other is saying "hey friend."   A big difference, but that is the nature of translating one language into another language - and that goes the same when interpreting a piece of music. 

"Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96  lll. Allegro glocoso"

It's murder. Toscanini is committing an act of murder in front of his orchestra and his audience.  It is like he's wearing a cloak with a dagger in his white gloved hand and he's stabbing each musician in the NBC Orchestra.  Blood flows as my ears warm up to his intensity.  I have sat in the high seats at the Disney Music Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, and felt like I was going to slip out of the seat onto the stage.  The stage, the seating and even the music gives me vertigo.  Klemperer's version is more of a fore-warning.  There is a hesitation as if he is holding the melody in his hands gently.   Yet the listener is cautious that he may drop the melody onto the floor.  Also, listening to his take on the third movement, I feel like I'm speeding in a car in the darkened woods.  Only the headlights from my car are exposing what is out there.   The 'there" that I both fear and crave.  

"Symphony No. 4, Op. 98 in E Minor, Op. 96 lV.   Allegro energico e passionata"

Forlorn.  It is unlikely to succeed or be fulfilled.  I have often felt like I was thrown in front of a speeding automobile.  I try to grasp her gloved hand, to keep my balance, but alas, I'm left with tire-marks on my face and my clutched hand containing the loose glove.  As I glanced back, I can see the members of the NBC Orchestra mocking me as I try to breathe on the smooth pavement.  Each member of the orchestra come by my broken body, and smashes me in the face with their chosen instrument.   As I lay on my hospital bed, I listened to Klemperer's version of the last movement, and what I find is a purity that soothed my broken body and spirit.  It is like if someone spread out a bed of feathers on the wooden floor, where I can't touch the foundation with my feet.   I feel embraced by the arms of Otto Klemperer, and I can sense the fear by his touch.  History will treat both Klemperer and Toscanini in a different manner. Yet they, and me, in other words, we, will always have Brahms' 4th Symphony.  

- Tosh Berman

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 24, 2015

The Sunday Series:

Sunday May 24, 2015

Books.  I have a lot of books.  Every book I have is a great book.  But due to space and finances, I need to surrender some of my books to the outside world.  I set this Sunday to make final choices.  Which books to keep and to give-up.  The truth is I don't want to give up any of my books.  If I could, I would keep my books intact as a collection.  So when I die, it will be either sold or put up in a museum as the "Tosh Collection."   I'm one of the few that believe that looking at someone's bookshelf, you are truly seeking a self -portrait of that individual.  Clothing is another option, but in reality, it is the book that you read, that makes you what you are. 

The first book I became aware of is more likely one of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.  The need to go somewhere else, or anywhere else from home, is a pleasant way to see the world, as imagined by another person.   I set my work space, or writing- room, as a window or a port to travel.    What I fear now, is to get rid of a book, that may be a passage to the other world.  Once gone, I'll be stuck here, sitting in front of this Macbook Pages application.  

I have quite a few of P.G. Wodehouse titles, and through those books, I'm exposed to a world that is much better than mine.   I have often tried to visualize having Jeeves at my service.  My needs are taken care of in such a fine manner, that I don't even have to ring the bell that is placed on my work table.  He knows when to arrive, and I can sit here and just 'desire' something.  

Tearing this collection apart is like death.  A young man wouldn't have to do this, but as one gets older, they have to inventory their goods - and decide what must go and what must stay.   I then had the thought of photographing every book I own - just the cover.  That way, if I'm on a trip outside my house, I can in a sense carry my collection with me.  Logically I can't re-read the books, so do I keep them?  

I would say third of my collection are used or second-hand books.  For each used book, I think who owned it, and why they had to let it go.  The most common, especially if they're vintage paperbacks, were owned by a student.  Most, if not all, are underlined in specific sections - more likely used for a classroom.  Then there are books that are clearly owned by an older individual.   One wonders if death came upon them, and the family sold the books to the second-hand shop.  And since I own books that the original publication goes back to the twenties - all those must have been touched by the once-living.  I feel that way about vinyl albums and 45rpm singles as well.  There is not only history in the grooves and paper, but also surrounding the object.  

When I go to a used bookstore and they have new stock, I can tell it came from a specific collection.   Especially when you notice new titles in the poetry section.  Readers tend to stay with a certain school of poetry.   I was intrigued some years back, when I came upon a lot of French Surrealist poetry on the shelves.  I became curious to know who the original owner of these titles.  The bookshop owner didn't want to give out a name, but told me he was a TV producer, who created "Father Knows Best."    I didn't need to know more.  I was satisfied that a reader of Surrealist poetry, was also the mastermind of an all-American inane family living in the suburb of everyday 1950s America.   

As I'm about to give up my book collection, I have to decide to either open up my own library - or to toss it out to the world.  I have come to the conclusion, that when I die, I will give my house to the town of Silver Lake, where my belongs and books will stay intact.  There will be a $5 admission to keep the property and home in a good shape.   The "Tosh Berman Library" will be used for scholars as well as the 'everyday' curious to see what my life was like, which is basically the reflection of the books that I own.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oscar Levant Show-Complete with Fred Astaire

There is nothing better on this planet than Oscar Levant.  Here is a complete show with the king of cool, Fred Astaire.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 17, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday May 17, 2015

I walk, therefore I am. The eros of the trees and concrete call out to me.  Since I don't communicate that well with my fellow human beings, I tend to do all my serious conversations with objects - both living (plants) and dead (concrete/buildings).  Architecture never comes to life to me, till I see a figure passing a window inside their home or apartment.  I wonder what life is like behind that window or window shade. What kind of eros takes place in the rooms within that specific space?  

What I do know is that I'm part of the equation.  I'm there as a visitor or a passenger of a certain time and moment.  I tend to over think these things as I walk pass various windows, showing life as it happens.  I remember many years ago, walking around Amsterdam and being surprised by the huge open windows of one's daily life in their homes.   It seemed that the typical Dutch person doesn't believe in having a curtain.  So you can see the entire first floor where you can see the kitchen, the living room, and the dinning area.  Often I saw the wife cooking, while the husband/male is in the living room watching TV or reading a newspaper.  There is nothing to hide, but then why be so exposed to the outside world in such a manner?

There is an area in Amsterdam that is their red light district.  It's the oldest street in Amsterdam and it is called The Warmoesstraat (Warmoes street).  Walking down this street is like a girl market, where all the whores are placed in windows.  Since I'm a shy fellow, I have a hard time making direct eye-contact with the woman placed in the open windows - but they for sure try to make eye-contact with the walker.  Or, as you stroll by, they knock on the window to get your full attention.  

Here in Los Angeles, everything is covered up.  When I walk around my neighborhood, the windows are usually covered by a curtain or shade.  I never look through the shade or window of course, but it is odd that in Amsterdam you can see a whole life taking place in front of you - and here, at my home, it's covered up by the owners or renters of that structure.  The irony is that I do most of my writings by two large windows, so anyone who walks by can see me typing a way. 

Everyday people walk by here, walking their dog - but on Sunday, there are a lot more people passing me by.  Some I know being in the neighborhood, but some are a total mystery to me.  A lot of pretty girls come by here, with their dogs.  Even the dogs are beautiful.  A good looking dog usually has a good looking human attached to the other end of the leash.  

It's odd to look at people as they walk-by, and they don't look through my window.  If I was in their place and position, of course I would want to look in and see what that guy at the window is up to. 

My daydream is to be able to sit on a street bench, maybe a bus stop, and just have a glass of wine while watching a family through big windows doing what they normally do on a regular basis.  There is something very Jacques Tati about it all - where the citizen or consumer is doing their duties, which to me, seem like a theater piece.  I would like to take a Sunday, while the family is at home, and watch them from mid-morning till nighttime.   

Not long ago I went to MOCA to see Andy Warhol's 8 hour film "Empire," which is one long shot of the Empire State Building in Manhattan.  The shocking thing that happens is when the screen goes dark when night approaches, and then all of sudden, the lights go on.  It is probably one of the greatest moments of being in a movie theater for me.  The whole audience (the eight of us in the theater) gasp at the same time.  I would feel that way, watching a household as it approaches darkness, and then suddenly someone turns a light on in the living room or kitchen. 

As I get older, I feel life is getting more intense.  I sense colors as like I never had before.  Walking through Amsterdam is one experience, but I also feel the difference between Los Angeles and Amsterdam is a location of eros.  There is the obvious erotic pull of Amsterdam, but Los Angeles is more secretive, and perhaps more of an eros minded culture and structure.  I like Amsterdam a lot, but I love Los Angeles. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday, May 10, 2015

A week without Sunday is a week without oppression.   A day of rest and perhaps prayer, but in fact it's a day to reflect on the horror of the coming week.  My anxiety is one where I refuse to look at a calendar.  The thought that Sunday is coming upon us is something that paralyzes me, like a deer caught in a car's headlight.  The first time I realize that there was a Sunday, was when I was a child, and the family first got together on every Sunday.  It seemed the minutes became hours, and then forever.  I soon realized that this was going to be the schedule in our family, and every Sunday it seems that the minutes spent, were exactly like the one last week and, so forth.   Sunday, oh hell. 

When I became school-age, that went up to my teenage years, I suffered greatly under the tyranny of a Sunday.  Friday late afternoon and evening were a sense of relief that I made it through the school week.  Saturday I let myself go and be fancy free - but then came Sunday, and my mood became the color black.  

Now that I got a full-time job, I find myself OK in the work-week.  Like my school years, I turn off the pain of the day, and try to think of either the color blue or black.  Two colors where I can put myself in a zone or place that doesn't exist. Once there, I can make the reality of the moment (i.e. work day) disappear as well.  But Sunday I can't do the focus thing at all.  It is like I'm exhausted from the actual work as well as the mental space that I put myself in.  To be honest, even though I'm very tired on Friday, I feel a sense of relief that I don't have to work the next day.  But comes Saturday night, and I just spend my time reflecting on the coming Sunday, and how that will affect me. 

My favorite Sunday record album is Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom."  It's a sad sounding record. But of course, there is humor within the grooves as well.  Wyatt to me, is the most reflective and saddest singer in the world.  Not a sound of regret, but the pause of life standing still.  When he reflects, I feel that the world come to him in slow motion.  For me, I can put my left toe in his bathwater, but I don't get the full effect of Wyatt's world.  It's not the music or him, but the fact that I'm totally involved with only one person - me.  

With nothing better else to do, I decided to go out for a walk.  There is the philosophy that walking can clear the head and put things in a perspective.  For me, it magnifies my feelings that become overwhelming at times.  Nevertheless, I go out this Sunday to feel what the world can offer me.   I find myself at the Echo Park Lake, walking around the giant pond, and at the same time watching the various bird families that sun themselves on the side of the lake.  I wish I could let myself go, and lay there and sun myself as well.   

There is something about a body of water that makes time stand still.  It is here that what I desire is a world without time.  Death must be interesting in a way, where time doesn't creep up on you.  Nothing is the thing.  I can deal with "nothing." 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday May 3, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday May 3, 2015

Due to a medical condition, I need to walk as much as possible.  Usually one has a route where they go from "here" to "there."  I decided not to follow that sort of logic, and I kept my mind free of distance or direction.  I just walked down my stairs and turned in the direction of the wind.  I almost get a vertigo feeling looking down the long street. It's hot, and I try to stay as much as possible in the shade.  I have sensitive skin, and I do have a fear of aging.  There is one part of my body that really bugs me, and that is the inner elbow area, where I have this ugly aging wrinkling skin.  No one notices it except me, and it is the one thing I think about when I'm wearing a short-sleeve shirt or t-shirt.  

To focus, I look at the pavement while walking.  To be honest with you, I prefer concrete to nature.  I'm fascinated with the way the street-walk is paved in squares, like a puzzle.  The shadows that reflect on the pavement are also beautiful to me.  I wonder what it would be like if someone painted the shadows on the sidewalk, so they are there all year-round.  That type of perfection appeals to my aesthetic.

I come upon a fountain in the front yard of a house on Franklin Avenue.  Due to the fact that there is a draught in Southern California, it is rare to see these fountains with running water.  So what is left is just the statue itself.   The bottom level is three baby angels (I presume that is what they are), holding up another level with two other angels grasping a stone, where on a good day, water would be coming out.  There is something fantastic about watching water flowing from a fountain.  Small or large, it doesn't make a difference, but just to see water flowing is like life going on.  Without the flow, one feels close to a state of death.

About two blocks from this fountain, I see another statue on a lawn, except that this lawn and statue, with the house, is huge.  In every sense, I try to imagine living in this house.  No doubt, I would hate to cut the lawn, but if you live here, more likely you can afford a gardener or an army of gardeners to cut the lawn for you.   The house itself is not beautiful, but just big.  It seems obscene to be that huge, yet I can imagine myself living there alone, so I can wander through each room without a care in the world.  If I died there alone, it would probably take days for someone to find my body.   Oddly enough, that gives me a sense of comfort.

The statue on the lawn, besides the house, captures my attention.   Again, there is an angel motif, and she (it seems to be that gender) is help supporting the bigger version of the angel, or is it just a woman?   Does this statue have any real meaning?  Or is it just something decorative on the biggest front yard I have ever seen in person.  I projected the image that I'm sitting in the balcony, reading "Against Nature" and glancing at the statue from its behind.  Being an 'ass' man, I fully appreciate the back side of a good statue.

As I walk on Franklin, heading west, I see a small home that has a pair of lions looking over the entrance to the house.   Compared to the fountain and statue, this lion is chipped and in need of a paint job - but part of its charm is in the state it is in.  The expression on the lion's face is not one of danger or 'beware, ' but a sense of peace or understanding.   The more I look at it, the more I find the bust of this lion beautiful.

Further down the road, I located another home with a lawn, but this one has nothing but weeds. Yet the house seems to be in order.   A mansion in terms, but there seems to be something more homey compared to the palace I just saw back a little ways.  I imagine the person who lives here has done so for many years.  Perhaps a recluse who is so close to civilization, that he or she can just breathe through it, by opening their windows.  My guess these windows haven't been open for many years.  Or perhaps there are children in there - maybe a brother and sister, and they don't know the outside world at all.

Two or three doors down, there is a home that seems Mayan-style, and I can imagine sessions of torture and pain being done in that location.   In theory the design of this home wouldn't fit in the neighborhood, but alas, it does.  It seems perfectly natural to be here on Franklin.  When I walk by, I can feel the difference in temperature.  There is a chill in the air, and once I pass it, the weather gets warmer. I walk back to it again, and yes, for sure a chill hangs in that area like a woman wearing a heavy dark dress in the winter of Los Angeles.

As I glance at the entrance and its staircase, I feel that it's possible that one entered here, knowing that they will never leave.   The beauty of the place is seductive, but then so is death.  Once you embrace the body of your killer, then you know, or at least, hope there is a better life somewhere else.   As for me, I just walk on.