Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

I have a problem.  A writer’s problem to be exact.  I have an urge to document and write on the Trump administration or White House.  It’s my nature to write satirical pieces.  I like to observe the world and somehow make it more absurd, to bring out the reality or the substance of that reality out to the open.  When I try to write about President Trump, I fail.

Also, I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. I have seen excellent reporting on Trump’s world, but the observations or making humor seems to fail on a regular basis.   I read all the commentary in various publications, both from the Left and Right, and all fail.  I can’t speak for them, but since I have the same problem, I feel it’s the foundation is not settled under my feet.  It shifts like sand on a windy day on the beach.  Whatever ridiculous thing I write about Trump, the ‘great’ man himself seems to top it.   The truth is Trump is hysterical.  No one can touch him with respect to humor.   He’s the type of guy who has a knife on someone’s throat, and everyone says “please drop that knife, Don.”  Then he cuts the guys throat just because he wants to do it, or show that no one has any control over him.  He doesn’t care about the guy whose throat got cut, but cares deeply about how people see him, and even more important, that they don’t control him in any fashion or manner.

Trump is not like Conrad Hilton, who started off working in his Dad’s general store in New Mexico, which eventually he turned that general store into a ten room hotel, and of course, ultimately, the Hilton Hotels around the world.  Trump was very much born into his situation of wealth and followed his daddy’s footsteps into the world of property.   I would like to say that Trump is brilliant at branding, but in no way or fashion have I ever wanted to wear a Trump tie or eat a Trump steak.  I have always considered him a low-life bottom feeder of a tycoon and one with no original creative vision.   Howard Hughes was born rich, but at the very least he had an impressive vision of aviation and owning a movie studio.  Trump never did anything creative in his life. Everything he touches turns into mediocrity.  Including his family and now, the White House.

There are great characters around Trump, for instance, Steve Bannon.  But even writing something satirical about him is hard, due that like his soul brother of sorts, Trump, he’s impossible to make fun of due that he makes himself into a fictional figure.  For one, no one likes Donald Trump.  Bannon, I’m sure, thinks of him as a fool, and of course, every Republican secretly and (sometimes) publicly hates him as well.   I seriously doubt that Jared Kushner likes Trump.  I’m going to presume he wants his wife, but his father-in-law.  No.  He can be made fun of, due to the corruption of his very soul.  Trump and Bannon have no soul.  Kushner does, and he knows what he’s doing is bad.  Therefore a chance for a writer to comment on someone like Jared.

For example with Trump.  Him pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Apparently, a man who is in the wrong job, but loves the position of power, in the same sense as a boy who likes to be chosen hall monitor at their high school.   Does Trump like or care for Arpaio?  My guess is no. He's just a prop for him to use, and he will throw him under the bus if the mood hits him in the right place.  Arpaio is a man with a vision, a plan even.  Therefore a perfect subject matter for a writer to comment on humorously.  Again, if I was going t focus on Trump, I will come off as a failure.  At this moment and time, it's imperative for writers to comment on their time and era.   The thing is, it's a tough job when you're dealing with a psychopath.  I don't have the skills of a true crime writer, but perhaps one is needed when writing about the Trump administration.

On the other hand, I'll still work on it.   All of us should do so.  I just wished that there was someone like Preston Sturges around.  Where is he when one needs him?

- Tosh Berman

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Evening Series - Monday, August 21, 2017

I recently purchased a window shade, where it will keep the sunlight out, but if you’re outside the window, you can see yours truly as a shadowy figure moving around in my living room.  Day and night.  Privacy has never been an issue with me.  I don’t see the point in it.  Some people I know have shredders so they can cut up their bills and health notices as well as other personal papers before they throw it in the trash.  I, on the other hand, post all my bills, including notes from my doctor as well as sensitive tax notices on my Facebook page.  I figure the best way to hide something is to put it all in plain sight. 

It has been an open secret that every night I have a performance by our window.  Although we do have shades, the image on the curtain looks like images from a Lotte Reiniger film.  A German Filmmaker who was the pioneer of the silhouette animation.  My “shadow play” is never planned out in advance.  It’s everyday life in Tosh’s household, and that seems to bring an audience out in the evening.   The only thing I do in an organizational sense is to leave my trash cans out in front of the garage.  One for regular trash and the other is for recycling waste.  The show during the summer months starts at 9 PM.

Tonight, I’m planning on doing a version of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1895 play “Anatol.”  It’s theater about a bourgeois playboy named Anatol, who is obsessed with the thought of a lover being unfaithful to him.   It’s a common problem around me, and it’s a play that I take to my very heart.   Through the theater, one can project their anxieties in such a state, where it is healthy.  The lighting of the piece needs to be perfect.  I have to set lights within the living room to project the images to the outside world.  I hired a well-known lighting expert for the stage, Hassard Short, who came recommended by a friend of mine, Billy Ladd, who is a chorus dancer on Broadway. 

I spent the day making articulated cut-out figures, one representing me as Anatol, and the rest are all the women characters in the play.  Each cut-out female is based on an actual woman I know.  I have asked these particular 'models' to come over to the house, where they have to remove all their clothing so I can trace their body onto paper to do the cutting that will fit their form.   Being a heterosexual male, I was, of course, attracted to the female forms in front of me.  As part of my body reacted to what was in front of me, one of the models was kind enough to trace on the paper so that it can be part of the cut-out figure of my character.  I expect when I make my appearance as a cut-out, with the help of my model, I will get a standing ovation from the audience.  

When one prepares to put together a show for an audience, it seems that the preparation is more important than the actual performance.   I have had dreams where I'm a viewer instead of one who is participating in the narrative of the dream.  Now, that I'm conscious I make dreams happen.  It's the payoff that keeps on paying.  

- Tosh Berman

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Arbitrary Stupid Goal" by Tamara Shopsin (MCD/FSG)

ISBN: 978-0-374-10586-0

A hard book to put down.  Each page is a bite size narrative that is so well written and often profound, that you just want to take another page in, and then after that, another, and so forth.  Tamara Shopsin, besides being a wonderful prose artist, is also an illustrator and designer.   Some of the text is only a few paragraphs long on a page, to full page - but this is an epic history of her family, their friends, and the main star of the book, New York City, specifically Greenwich Village.   

Every page is a reflection of the classic New York landscape. One that I often imagined in fiction, films, and music.  Reading this memoir, I have The Lovin' Spoonful as a soundtrack in my brain.   No mention of the band within its pages, but that is what I bring to the text as a reader.  The Shopsin family are well-known in the Village and beyond, due that they had a food market, which turned into a legendary diner.  I've been there twice, and the food was incredible, but beyond that one goes there for the spectacle; the theater that comes with the restaurant.   I can't think of another diner that is so enjoyable, as well as entertaining.  The chances of being insulted by the owner (the author's father) are in the 70% bracket.  Of course, it's worth taking a chance, because it's an amazing show.   And again the food is great.

Tamara Shopsin's book captures the flavor of her family which in turn means classic New York City.   Every page has a wisdom or philosophy either made by Tamara, or by the mom Eve, or dad Kenny.   This is the book to have when one is feeling down or depressed.  The life that comes off these pages is rich, brilliant, and hysterical.  The sad thing is Manhattan has changed into a huge shopping mall mentality.  Shopsin captures the moments why one would want to visit NYC in the first place, as well as a focused snapshot of life being lived at its intense pleasure.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Evening Series: Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Evening Series: August 16, 2017

I need a pre-amp for my stereo hi-fi, and at the moment, my right channel, or speaker is not working.  It’s OK if the album is in Mono, but most of my vinyl is in Stereo.  So, in my living room, I have to stay close to the left speaker, which is awkward, because our dining table is closer to the right speaker.  That is where I like to sit and stare at the album cover or read the liner notes while listening to music. 

I had a record listening party, and that too was odd because all seven of us had to sit around the left channel speaker.   I had to get chairs from another room, and what was worse, we were listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and I can be wrong, but I feel we’re missing some of the sonic aspects of this specific album, by listening only to the left channel.  We often look at the right speaker, and all of us, shake our heads. 

Since we’re on the second floor, and due to the weight of our bodies by the left speaker, we noticed that the floor was squeaking more.  And when we had our dance party the night of the listening party, close to the left speaker, the floor collapsed.  Of the seven, four died.  I was saved due that the left speaker fell and got stuck between the hole, and therefore by holding on the speaker I survived this ordeal.  Sadly we had to cancel the dance party that night.  

For me, it was touch and go.  I had to decide to save my life or spear the speaker being damaged in the fall.  Luck had it, we managed (the speaker and me) to get ourselves stuck between the wooden beam and ceiling.  Due to the kindness of our neighbor downstairs, he brought the speaker successfully down from the wooden beam, and my wife pulled me up from above.   After checking to see if the Hi-Fi was OK, I then checked on our guests.  Like I reported before, four died.  It’s a tragedy.  The scratch on the left speaker will always remind me of that evening. 

After fixing the floor (thanks to the landlord Mr. Kushner) it looked new.  When I look at my left speaker, I’m reminded of the tragedy.   Four people lost their lives by dancing to Gary Glitter’s “Rock n’ Roll Part Two”  In one of the ‘yeah’s” in the chorus they went down like a Led Zeppelin.   My wife was spared, if not by God, then by the natural urge to have a drink and to eat some dip on a chip on the other side of the room.   I often think how fate comes in and enhances the scene.  No, I mean life. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Evening Series: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Evening Series: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

As the darkness takes over the sky, I notice the music changes as well.  Michael Nyman’s music works in daylight.  His album of 1990 “The Kiss and Other Movements” is very much a morning piece of music.  It has rhythm and a direction which is onward and doesn't look back.  Which is ironic, because Nyman always has a glance toward the past concerning his music.  Chamber music made for minimalist rooms with a large window.  Birds outside seem to respond to this album in a lively manner.  I like to play music loud, and I usually open the windows up in the room so the sound can travel beyond the four walls.  It maybe my imagination or my fantasy coming to life, but it seems birds come over to our window sill to listen to Nyman’s music.  I have to make sure that they don’t fly inside the room because we don’t have screens on our windows.  Once, a bird did fly in, and it took me the whole afternoon to get it out of our home.  The bird that flew in was a California towhee.  They tend to knock on windows because they are reacting to their reflection.  Once inside the house, they are bewildered. I first, used a broom to try to push it to an open window.  But the bird panics, and eventually goes to even a higher location.  So unable to reach the bird, I just open all the windows, and within time, it finally sees its reflection, and once that happens, they leave through the window.

The late afternoon becomes a horror show.  Particularly in the living room, because by 4 to 6 pm the sun directly hits the space, and although the temperature is not high, it’s very uncomfortable to sit in the room.  I tend to play Serge Gainsbourg in the late afternoon, and especially music he recorded in the early 1960s.  The album of that time of day is Gainsbourg’s “Confidential” which is breezy, swings, but has strong melodies.  Electric guitar, stand-up bass, and Gainsbourg’s voice.  What can be better in a hot, bright room?   The living room is large enough in that I can move around the room to avoid the direct sunlight that comes through the windows.  We have wooden shutters, but they’re original (house built in 1937) and quite beaten up through its years blocking the sun.  Some of them are utterly useless, and the sun comes in invited as well as uninvited.  What’s interesting about Los Angeles weather is very much the same every day, so one can directly predict when the sun will hit the room.  I’m usually dancing with the direct sunlight.  More of a waltz as I move five feet here or there to find shade.  “Scenic Railway” one of the outstanding songs from “Confidential” drifts from the speakers as if it is having a sun stroke.   I like to take naps in the afternoon.  The coolest and most shady is under the table.  So I often lay down on the wooden floor, facing the ceiling, and take a nap for fifteen-minutes.

Around 7:15 P.M., darkness takes over the room.  It’s time for wine.  We have no direct electric lighting in the living room, so light comes from an old lamp in the corner as well as street lighting outside our window. It is a crime light, so it gives out a yellow tint.  My favorite drinking music, and in the evening (mind you) is the NASA Voyager Space Sounds.  These are sounds that come from outer space.  It’s the sound of ionized gas or plasma that is heard outside the Voyager.  The sound is ghostly, even haunting in its intensity.  One can think of it as ambient music, but while listening to it in the darkened room, I find myself being thrown into the sound as if someone throws catnip to a kitten.  I’m drawn to the music as I stick my head out the window to see the stars.

From a distance, walking from house to house to driveway I can see a pair of coyotes strolling down my street.  These two Flâneurs or as I like to call them, boulevardier, and I imagine looking for food.  I don’t have any pets, so I’m not alarmed, but still, I find them sinister.   There is nothing beautiful about them, and their habit of staying in the shadows during the daytime hours, or brazenly walk down an urban street in the nighttime always gave me a sense of dread.  Ever since the drought, coyotes have been getting closer to human’s houses, and of course, the attraction to smaller pets is a magnet for these dogs of the night.  Still, I can’t keep my eyes off them  One of them comes up to my staircase.  I have seen these animals run into people’s yards or entrances, but I have always dreaded the thought that they will come to my property.   I put the music of the Voyager loud, in hopes that the coyotes will realize that humans are living in these homes.  What’s alarming is I hear a sound of a coyote digging outside my front door.  Then the sound of sniffing. After a few minutes of silence, besides the music, of course, I hear a knock on the door.

I  didn’t answer it.  I then heard a yelp.  I stood by and kept an eye on the door. I also went over to the window to close them.  Although we are far above the street level, I had this sudden fear of a coyote jumping from the road to our window pane.  Impossible, but the imagination doesn’t always take logic.  I was slightly tipsy when I went to bed.   As I laid on the bed, and top of the bed sheets and blankets, I kept hearing sounds outside the house.  I got up, and I saw the two coyotes staring at me through the window.

I have read that Freud had a dog that stayed with him during his sessions with patients.  His dog was also aware of time in that the animal would head toward the door when the session was coming to a close.    I now wonder if the two coyotes out there are perhaps waiting for me to leave the house.  Or to guard me in the case of imminent danger?  The truth is I don’t want to think.   I want to live.  I want to think what the night brings to me.  The two coyotes are the answer.

- Tosh Berman

ADULT. - Uncomfortable Positions (feat. Lun*na Menoh) (Official Video)

Lun*na Menoh with the band ADULT.