27 November 2009

Brian Eno, and the fine line between clever and stupid

We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness. (via)
So, this is a decently perceptive comment, altough I doubt very many people are taking advantage of the ubiquity of culture to access Hildegaard of Bingen, to use his example. Or that it's made her more or less "cool."

Why is Brian Eno, of all people, framing things in terms of cool/uncool as if he was a tweener from Dubuque?

Celebrating the end of the division implies that it mattered, once.

And it should never matter to genuine adults. (You could cite the exception, perhaps of  marketers and the sellers of culture who could make money out of the notion that consuming something makes you cool.  But that's not paricularly cool, either.)

26 November 2009

Crazy Uncle Bill's Thanksgiving Prayer

From Mr. Bridge, by Evan Connell


That night he was sleeping when he realized his heart had stopped. Instantly he opened his eyes, and just then it resumed beating. He laid both hands on his chest, licked his lips and waited for what would happen next. But his heart pumped along, and after a while he dropped his hands on the blanket and shut his eyes and tried to sleep, but sleep would not come.

He could not stop thinking about his heart. He did not think there was anything seriously wrong, yet these seizures were occurring more and more often. He resented the fact that his heart was not in perfect order; and because he was unable to sleep or to forget about it he got out of bed and sat down in a chair beside the window where he plucked at his wrinked pajamas and meditatively observed the dark street.

Leaves were dropping from the maple trees, fluttering like butterflies in the night wind. He watched them and it occurred to him that they were trying to tell him something. As a leaf flattened itself against the window beside his head and leaped away into the darkness, a feeling of profound despair came over him because everything he had done was useless. All that he believed in and had attempted to prove seemed meager, all of his life was wasted.

(photo credit: unknown -- did a tineye search and didn't find the source -- if you know, please note it in the comments.)

24 November 2009

From Mr. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell

(From the brilliant novel, just a scene or two to give you a hint of the book. In this one, Mr. Bridge's daughter as asked him for $250 so she can accompany her friend to Tijuana. It's the late 1930s.)

Then he inquired, jokingly, why her friend wished to go to Tijuana, and Ruth answered that her friend was going to have an abortion.
Before he knew what he was about to do he jumped up from behind the desk and slapped her across the mouth; then he sat down again as though nothing had happened, and ruth walked out of the study. He noticed with astonishment that the hand which had slapped her was dancing around on the desk as if it was attached to a string. He seized it with his other hand and bowed his head. 
He could not believe he had struck her. His fingers burned at the memory. When she was a baby he had held her in his arms while she was falling asleep. There were nights when nothing more than the knowledge of her existence had been enough to waken him so that he had gotten out of bed and gone to the crib to watch over her.

20 November 2009

toulouse lautrec


The Moulin Rouge is celebrating an important anniversary this year. Today, the actual club is hard to find behind all the German, Italian, and Dutch tour buses parked out front, and, last I checked the prices, was too expensive, even for a spendthrift like me.  Dauntingly prosaic, but, you know, it's still holding up, a kind of trashy glamor seeps out of the doors. Like a girl with torn stockings.

off stage


17 November 2009

James Wyeth

Pumpkinhead, by James Wyeth

If once in your life

If once in your life you have slept on an island, James Wyeth

The Author Speaks

 “Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.”

— Mr. Cormac McCarthy

From an interview in the Wall Street Journal

13 November 2009

The Oxford Project

Peter Feldstein photographed all 600 residents of Oxford, Iowa, in 1984. In 2007, he went back and photographed his subjects again, at least, the ones who were still alive and willing. The second time, a writer went along with him to interview the subjects. Their stories appear between the '84 and '07 portraits, a tryptich of time past, time recalled and present time.

You find out, for example, that this man was a buckskinner, some kind of alternative lifestyle where you lived as in the olden days, hunting with muzzle loader guns, fishing, skinning animals. He was born again and became a preacher. He has visions of demons and angels. He wrestled a demon once in a hotel room, a literal demon with horns. He also preaches on a public access TV.

It's moving and not a little frightening to see how time wears on people, mangling them, twisting them, and in some cases, purifying them -- making them more individual. (Before, of course, it obliterates them and us into anonymous molecules).


This guy's 38. On the left, you see him as a rodeo star. Now, he says, getting up is like warming up an old car. It takes time to get everything moving again.

The first time, Feldstein only used one shot to capture each person. This lead to happy/spooky accidents that make many of the earlier portrait that much more effective. One set is told by a man who was an infant in the first picture. You see him held by a large, bearded guy, but the man's face is blurred, just as his face must be slightly blurred in the memory of that son who was too young to form much more of a memory of him beyond a voice, a smell and the feel of his beard.

It's currently showing at the Belger space, in Kansas City where I saw it.

The show reminds me of one of my favorite books, Winesburg, Ohio, a series of linked short stories that make up a novel by Sherwood Anderson. One of the themes of the book is the secret and surprising interior lives the characters have -- it's set in a small town, a town like Oxford, probably. You'd think the stories would be banal. Each character, though, has a rich or surprising secret life. Among the 25 people shown you meet in the Oxford Project are: a lesbian, a mystic, a rodeo star, a vet who liberated Buchenwald, a Vietnam veteran, a devout Buddhist, and some more ordinary men and women.

In some respects, it's much like Michael Apted's documentary series 7-Up, where you meet a set of people at distinct moments in their lives. Only this is compressed: a moment, a short bit of narrative, a second moment. It gives you the chance to contemplate, to wonder, and to fill in the blanks. To shake your head, once more, at the ceaseless noise of time.

Check out the Smithsonian Magazine article.

Mr. Raft

“I must have gone through $10 million during my career. Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses, and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly.”

-George Raft


03 November 2009

photo -- smoking

Sean Marc Lee

Guy Richie's Nike Commercial

I don't care about Nike or commercials. But this is hard to resist in all its butchy glory.

02 November 2009

Worth remembering, here and there

The ever-cadverous Mr. Cage and the dentally challenged Mr. McGowan sing it.
I'm sending this out to a special person. And she knows who she is.

01 November 2009

Jerry Lee Lewis, Original Punk

(Sid with his mommy after stabbing Nancy.)

It is more punk to start your own band than to be in a boy band put together by a producer.

It is more punk to make up your own music than to play along with whatever the band's doing.

It is more punk to marry your 13 year old cousin and have two of your six wives drown in your swimming pool than to stab your girlfriend.

It is more punk to make a piano shake, rattle and roll than to wank on a bass.

It is more punk to believe you're going to hell because of your music, and play it anyway instead of being some bargain basement atheist.

It is more punk to be original in 1957 instead of copying the Ramones in 1977.