28 January 2010

Quien es mas macho?


Like the writer of the blog, The Rawness, it took me a second to realize that the swaggering stud in the blue jacket above is a woman.  And, following the Rawness' lead, I've juxtaposed that photo with the typical hipster couple below. The male below doesn't have a fraction of the bravado or force of the woman above. He's literally in the shadow of his mate, and despite the stubble, seems emasculated -- neutered. Mild as warm milk.

As Ricky Raw points out, it's rare in bobo or even boho crowds to see any guy exuding the cock-of-the-walk insouciance and traditional masculinity of the woman above (let alone the style). He goes on to say:
I have no proof to back up this claim, but I bet that Allison Michael Orenstein, the dapper dan butch in the first photo, is the more hardcore lesbian while her mate, kissing up on her cheek, Simone Saint Laurent, was probably straight for much of her life and got ”turned out” by Orenstein or a butch similar to her.  The reason I assume this is because of what a butch lesbian who excelled at “converting” straight women once told me: that metropolitan straight women, living in this world of feminized bobo whimpsters, are getting so starved for traditional masculine swagger to activate their primal lust triggers and make them feel safe to be a submissive woman that they’re even increasingly willing to turn to another woman to get their dose of macho swagger.  This butch claimed to me that the sensitive wuss has been the biggest boon to her lesbo recruitment game, and looking at the two pics I believe her.
He ends up with some advice for his male readers -- basically, butch it up like the lesbian and learn a few skills every man should know.

This is good as far as it goes. And if more boho/hipster fellows took the recommendation, the world would be a better place.

I'm all for trying on masks and poses.  When it's done consciously, with originality, it can be wholly artful and stuff of true rebellion against the conformist mass. I think of the public poses of Quentin Crisp, Gerard Nerval, Patti Smith, Robert de Montesquiou and so on. What people mistake for sincerity or naturalness is often just an excuse for laziness. "I am who I am." Right -- putty in the hands of your parents, your friends and the milieu you never thought to question.

The poses, once adopted, harden into habits.

I haven't thought much about gender behavior for a long time. For one thing, I'm butch enough -- not butch as in bullfighter/boxer/bouncer/ macho, but within the narrow context my day job and my filmmaking, I'm macho enough.

For another, self-presentation becomes less of an issue as you age.

But: Is it masculine to worry about looking masculine? The real men I've known tended to focus more on character or moral qualities rather than presentation. That is, they were focused on mastering skills, on demonstations of bravery, on stoicism. On humor, too -- you'll never hear more jokes than on a blue-collar worksite.

Essentially, it's a question of virtue -- virtue in the old Roman/Latin sense of the word, which my dictionary tells me is "virtūt- (s. of virtūs) maleness, worth, virtue, equiv. to vir man (see virile )."

So, to amplify rather than dispute Ricky Raw, I think anyone who wants to butch it up should focus on qualities like bravery, chivalry, and toughness and let the swagger extend from that. Remembering, too that you tend to become what you pretend to be.

Male. Or female.

(both the photos are from New York magazine).

RIP JD Salinger

"I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can."

26 January 2010


Heart of a dog

Moscow's stray dogs exhibit signs of returning to their wolvish origins. The strays are smarter, stronger, and tougher. They ride the subways, knowing which stations to board and where to get off.
Moscow’s strays sit somewhere between house pets and wolves, says Poyarkov, but are in the early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. That said, there seems little chance of reversing this process. It is virtually impossible to domesticate a stray: many cannot stand being confined indoors.
Read the full story from the Financial Times

The wit and wisdom of George Best

One of the all-time soccer greats, Belfast born George Best was as nimble with his words as with his feet. He was fond of booze, smokes and women.

I’ve stopped drinking, but only while I’m asleep.

In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol - it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.

People always say I shouldn’t be burning the candle at both ends. Maybe they haven’t got a big enough candle.

It’s a pleasure to be standing here. It’s a pleasure to be standing up. (On being made Footballer of the Century, 1999)

Because I saw an advert on the side of a London bus inviting me to “Drink Canada Dry” (On going to play for Vancouver Whitecaps)

They say I slept with seven Miss Worlds. I didn’t. It was only four. I didn’t turn up for the other three.

Reporter Sue Mott, taking Best’s mobile phone number: “God, do you realise half the women in the world would pay good money to get that number?”
Best: “Half the women in the world have got it.”
I used to go missing a lot…Miss Canada, Miss United Kingdom, Miss World.


Small Victories

Sarah Sharp's Small Victories  via


Russian soldiers mounting a performance, 1916

22 January 2010

Folies Bergere, 1881

by E. Manet

I never quite understood what's happening in the right side of the painting -- is it a memory or a wish?

21 January 2010

Folies Bergere, 1940


You can hear the murmurs from the audience, German-accented French whispered in voices rendolent of  Veuve Cliquot and blood, elle est jolie, nicht wahr?

These pictures beg to be framed by a b-movie story. The comic is fatally in love with a dancer. He joins the resistance to get her attention. When the Gestapo takes him away, she finally realizes. Alas, too late. Guest appearances by Paul Morand and Coco Chanel.

Or, a dancer has a lover in the Resistance on the side, but the Colonel has his eye on her. Hijinks ensue involving wardrobes, pissoirs and corsets. In the final scene of this movie, she is shorn by the mob who thinks she collaborated -- but little do they know she kept secret documents for the red orchestra safe up her ass (and was nearly discovered by a kinky captain with a taste for sodomy).

Or, an innocent country girl who loves Ste. Jeanne d'Arc, and is only there to make money to save her family's goat farm in the Massif Central is seduced by an older woman. The older woman, is, of course, an admirer of Germany and learned awful things in Berlin. When her money starts going for ether and morphine instead of to home, her aged grand-pere tracks her down.. She sees him on the street, outside, the Boche spitting on him and making fun of his beret. She realizes in an instant the errors of her ways, and goes home to join her old boyfriend in the macquis.

In all of these movies, veryone is screwing everyone, of course. It's not only show biz, it's the end of everything normal, so why not?

Robert Bothner (1899 - 1967). Paris under occupation.
Images of revue and cabaret shows in Folies Bergère, Paris. 1940

20 January 2010


See also, David Foster Wallace:
"T2" is thus also the first and best instance of a paradoxical law that appears to hold true for the entire F/X Porn genre. It is called the Inverse Cost and Quality Law, and it states very simply that the larger a movie's budget is, the shittier that movie is going to be. The case of "T2" shows that much of the ICQL's force derives from simple financial logic. A film that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make is going to get financial backing if and only if its investors can be maximally -- _maximally_ -- sure that at the very least they will get their hundreds of millions of dollars back [11] -- i.e. a megabudget movie must not fail (and "failure" here means anything less than a runaway box-office hit) and must thus adhere to certain reliable formulae that have been shown by precedent to maximally ensure a runaway hit.
Read the rest of  his essay here

19 January 2010


Kenneth Josephson, Polaroids
via la contessa


18 January 2010


We went to a concert by our local orchestra. It's a pretty good ensemble -- and, with the overabundance of well-trained musicians, even hick burgs like ours have a lot of very skilled graduates of the best conservatories, happy, I'd guess, to have a job doing what they enjoy. The program was ingenious -- a modern piece sandwiched by burn 'em down selections from Berlioz and Tchaikovsky, all centered on the theme of love.

The middle section was a new song cycle by Peter Lieberson using texts from Pablo Neruda. It's gotten a lot of attention. At least, as much attention as any new music does. The soprano, the lovely Kelley O'Connor, sings beautifully, a rising star. Her singing moved me deeply -- not something that happens with a lot of concert vocalists. The song cycle is almost unbearably poignant.

(And as a side note -- when did female opera singers get so sexy? There are an astounding number of very attractive women, real women, singing today. Elegant, bejeweled, they drift on the stage with ripe bare shoulders, and then knock you out when they sing.)

Anyway, this is a great, accessible program. Tickets, starting around $7.50, are dirt cheap for decent seats.

And hardly anyone was there. The audience that attended mostly seemed quite old and frail. Not simply old, but aged, relying on canes, on oxygen tanks, on Lord knows what combination of pharmaceuticals and iron will to navigate the lobby and seats. Inspirational, but also, slightly depressing. You can't help wondering what the golden years hold in store for little you as you recoil from some wet, catarral cough.

During intermission, I was thinking about Neruda's striking line, "our little island of infinity." Just at that moment, a squad of paramedics with a stretcher came into the lobby. Perhaps someone just left the island.

I'm usually happy to be places where baby boomers aren't. In general, they're rude and poorly dressed. Now that they're aging ungracefully, they don't really have much to reccommend themselves. But I can't see how an orchestra can last without some connection to an audience younger than 75.

(And all my innocent pleasures seem to be disappearing quickly. Bars with ashtrays and without TVs. Record stores. Second-run movie theatres. Cafes where people talk to each other. Bookstores -- who knows how long they'll last? I don't want to see professional concerts go, too).

I understand, or can guess, at some of the reasons for the declining -- vanished, actually --- audience. Concert music isn't taught in school, so unless you have parents that care or the increasingly rare music program in school, your not aren't going to be drawn to classical concerts. They have a burden of stuffiness, of classism -- stuff the Marx brothers made fun of 80 years ago.

Attending any live event requires effort. On the downside, you have to sit and listen. The risk of boredom is large.

On the upside, you have to sit and listen. You finally have the luxury of doing only one thing, letting the music roll over you or listening with full attention, following the A theme, the B theme, the bridge and so on. But you have the chance of being moved, of experiencing something worthwhile.

You can see the orchestra is taking steps. The musicians no longer wear tuxes and evening dresses. The conductor does talks to open the music up, to explain to people what's going on. If I were in charge, I'd:

- Pay black kids a shitload of money to play the big emotional composers. Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky. For a few hours a week, some steezy cat in an Escalade blasts the stuff out of his windows. At high volume. Make the music dangerous -- as it is. Make it big and part of the landscape. Create mental associations with black people, who will make anything cool in the eyes of white suburban kids.

- Make the concerts more formal. Put the players back in snappy tuxes and tails. A lot of snobs dig the ritualistic nature of this now exotic practice. Witness the popularity of "English Teas". Don't mess with this audience -- those suckers have cash to burn, and, it would be foolish to throw away the prestige value of the place for the parvenues.

- Add informal concerts. Most people now have experience music in bars and clubs. No reason why smaller ensembles, break-out SWAT teams, can't deploy throughout the city away from the mothership concert hall.

- Mix up the music. I look at the Kronos Quartet as the model here. Play some weird stuff, some old stuff, music driven by rhythm instead of by melody -- that could open people's ears up to the incredibly vast amount of music out there. Check out which film director is ripping off what classical music piece for her film and throw that in the mix.

- Teach the musicians how to look cool. I know this is incredibly superficial, but we trying to find an audience here. Our culture is driven by design and appearance -- design, is, in fact, one of the few areas boomers have improved things. So it makes sense to consider the visual look of the players. Anyone who has spent all of their youth devoting themselves to a difficult and archaic art are, by definition, nerds. They are focused on lofty things. They are men and women who have chosen the high road, instead of slamming out the jams and scoring chicks. They do not know how to look cool. Give them some rock and roll hair cuts. When they're out playing clubs, show them how jazz musicians dress, at least, and make them wear those clothes. Or, I dunno, the cabaret punk look might work.

- Take some of the budget and get the musicians in school early. Do Sunday afternoon lectures. SWPL parents love culture as a marker of status -- they're dragging their wee brats to art museums -- figure out ways to tap into this. It's risky. But as many kids that are turned off by this, at least some might catch the virus.

I know it's all doomed. Only the Asians and a few Euros really care.

But you shouldn't go down without a fight.

15 January 2010

Weekend plans w/T

Quiet weekend ahead. Some baking. . . .

. . . do the laundry

. . .catch up on some magazines

... spin a record or two. . .

Go for a quite night out....

And, oh, maybe some other stuff. We'll figure something out, I'm sure.

09 January 2010

"A naked woman my age is just a total nightmare"

Lucian Freud painting via

Climbing Everest  
by Frederick Seidel

The young keep getting younger, but the old keep getting younger.
But this young woman is young. We kiss.
It's almost incest when it gets to this.
This is the consensual, national, metrosexual hunger-for-younger.

I'm getting young.
I'm totally into strapping on the belt of dynamite
which will turn me into light
God is great! I suck her tongue.

I mean -- my sunbursts, and there are cloudbursts.
My dynamite penis
Is totally into Venus.
My penis in Venus hungers and thirsts.
It bursts and drowns.

My dynamite penis
Is into Venus.
The Atlantic off Sagaponack is freezing black today and frowns.

I enter the jelly fish folds
Of floating fire
the mania in her labia can inspire
Extraordinary phenomena and really does cure colds.

It holds the Tower of Pisa above the freezing black waves.
The mania is why
I mention I am easily old enough to die.
And actually it's the mania that saves

The Tower from falling over.
Climbing Everest is the miracle -- which leaves the descent
And reporting to the world from an oxygen tent
In a soft pasture of cows and lover.

Happening girls parade around my hospice bed.
The tented canopy means I am in the Rue de Seine in Paris.
It will embarrass
Me in Paris to be dead.

It's Polonius embarrassed behind the arras.
And the arras turning read.
Hamlet has outed Polonius and Sir Edmund Hillary will wed
Ophelia in Paris.

Give me Everest or give me death.
Give me altitude with an attitude.
But I am naked and nude.
I am constantly out of breath.

A naked woman my age is just a total nightmare,
But right now one is coming through the door
With a mop, to mop up the cow flops on the floor.
She kisses the train wreck in the tent and combs his white hair.


By losing time, I gain it.
By trying to holding on to it, like a miser with his pennies, I drain what life there is away.

Frauen Warte

Not so different from magazine covers today, except they'd fix the teeth of the girl in the foreground.

06 January 2010

New York


After reading about one of the great losers of the silent film era, I thought I’d turn to one of the great winners, Charlie Chaplin who’s autobiography has been on my list for a long time. But, that’s not entirely true either. He also ran into sexual scandal for marrying a 16-year-old. His politics – which from his memoir seem pretty tame – ended up forcing him to live in Switzerland. (A lot of our best film artists seem to end up in exile, of one form or another: Chaplin, Kubrick, Tourneur, Welles, an internal exile, forced to beg for money from that colossal idiot, Stephen Spielberg who turned him down).
Chaplin writes well, as you’d guess. For once, the cliché “Dickensian” applies exactly, both in his diction and in the story he tells. The son of an alcoholic father and a mother who lapses in and out of insanity, desperate poverty and hunger, long periods of abandonment: maybe Dickens would have softened the edges. Reading it, you’re reminded of how tough and resourceful young children can be as both Charles and Sidney scramble to make a living in the music hall theatre. Success comes at 14: he's engaged as player and goes on tour. His brother helps him memorize the scripts because Charlie's practically illiterate. He makes it in England; still a teenager, he heads for the US. He works seven days a week, several shows a day. He loves touring. You get a sense of just who wide open the United States used to be - reminiscent of You Can't Win, with brief peeks into rowdy red light districts.

Between the lines and under the insouciance, you can see why he made it. A ferocious work ethic. A never-ending curiosity and willingness to adapt, to play with, to invent.
His memoir, predictably, loses a lot of its drive in the latter parts as he starts dropping names. Ironically, none of the noble lords and ladies he mentions are remembered now; it’s only their association with the one-time street rat that’s preserved their names.

Anyway, here's a slice of Charlie, still funny after nearly 100 years.


The natural busyness of our lives is being amplified by the networked gadgets that constantly send us messages and alerts, bombard us with other bits of important and trivial information, and generally interrupt the train of our thought. The data barrage never lets up. As a result, we devote ever less time to the calmer, more attentive modes of thinking that have always given richness to our intellectual lives and our culture—the modes of thinking that involve concentration, contemplation, reflection, introspection. The less we practice these habits of mind, the more we risk losing them altogether.

02 January 2010

Katie Roiphe says young American male writers are pussies (sort of)

Compared with the new purity, the self-conscious paralysis, the self-regarding ambivalence, Updike’s notion of sex as an “imaginative quest” has a certain vanished grandeur. The fluidity of Updike’s Tarbox, with its boozy volleyball games and adulterous couples copulating al fresco, has disappeared into the Starbucks lattes and minivans of our current suburbs, and our towns and cities are more solid, our marriages safer; we have landed upon a more conservative time. Why, then, should we be bothered by our literary lions’ continuing obsession with sex? Why should it threaten our insistent modern cynicism, our stern belief that sex is no cure for what David Foster Wallace called “ontological despair”? Why don’t we look at these older writers, who want to defeat death with sex, with the same fondness as we do the inventors of the first, failed airplanes, who stood on the tarmac with their unwieldy, impossible machines, and looked up at the sky?

You should read the whole thing -- she's, of course, more literal and subtle than my headline would imply. But she manages to slice up Eggers and Foer with an elegant stiletto.

In DFW's case, his incomprehension of Tarbox could be a result of the anti-depressives he was taking. A common, well-documented side effect is impotence and loss of interest in sex. I dont' know what the other guys' excuses are, although she offers up some plausible ideas.

01 January 2010

And for good measure. . .

Fuck off, cell phones. Fuck off, texting and instant messaging. Fuck off, iPods. Fuck off, Twitter and Facebook. Fuck off, internet porn.

The Decade Gone By: Dark Side

I'm happy to see it go. I'd be ecstatic, except that it means another 10 years of my life are over, and I'm that much closer to decrepitude and the grave. Here's what sucked the most:

The dot com bust
Yes, it's hard to work up much sympathy for a group of cosseted employees who received too much money and far too many perks. I understand. But a big fat paycheck and a free chair massage every Friday were both delicious, and I miss them.
I also miss the quixotic, illogical and entirely grandiose projects we worked on. Everyone had an idea that would Revolutionize (fill in the industry here) As We Know It. Staid-looking fellows in khakis would reveal themselves to be dreamers on a grand scale. Charming.
None of it made any business sense, but who cared?

The first recession
In the depths of the Great Recession, it's easy to forget how much the first one sucked.

It almost goes without saying -- such a large event, and now so trivialized as to be almost banal. But watching the savage horror of it, and the large dread that followed, marked me forever.

While it is more complex than any one wants to believe, it ultimately signals defeat for the country I though I knew. It allowed the security apparatus to take even larger steps to destroying any privacy and freedom we had left. Seemingly many of my fellow citizens turned into babies afraid of their own farts. I mourn the victims. I despise the cowardice of my government and my country. Now, we seem to be embarked on an entirely psychotic effort to duplicate the fall of the Spanish empire. Too many wars. Too many lives. Too much treasure. All for follies.

Two wars
I suppose what I hate most about the wars -- beyond their failures -- is that war has subtly become normal. The tributes to fallen heros from towns you've never heard of blends in the background, media wallpaper.

Afghanistan? Back in 2001, if you'd handed me a pitchfork and a map, I would have been glad to find Bin Laden. Iraq never made sense.  Now neither of them do.

Man, I hated that hick.

America's answer to Dzerzhinsky, without the charisma. Introduced torture, officially, into the state's bag of tricks, overturning more than 200 years of American tradition. Cunning and cowardly. And the criminal still walks among us.

Male fashion
In 1999, it was hard to imagine how men could be more poorly dressed. Now, we don't have to imagine. Visiting the mall is just a fucking nightmare of  waddling oafs draped in Audigier crap on the high end and snot covered t-shirts on the low end. It seems like a good 80 percent of the country is out to look like syphilictic carnies, but with better teeth.

The complete and utter collapse of the leadership class
Now, I've never had much respect for the so-called betters of society. The "leaders." In some cases, you can offer up some grudging props for the sheer artistry of their cons. Their gall. Audacity.
But by even my cynical, low standards, every significant institution has failed. It takes all the fun out of being a snotty little rebel when your worst charaterizations fall far short of the actual villany being committed.
Clueless, syncophantic generals? Check.
Stealing, rapacious CEOs? Check.
Capitalism as flimflam? Madoff and Goldman Sachs alone boggle the imagination. Even some hard core Bolshevik couldn't make up that stuff.
A craven political class with thier noses buried deep in the ass of their contributors? Yep. Looking at the parade of  pink-cheeked men in rep ties and ladies in power suits parading by would be a feast of comedy, a unending source of fun, really, but. They have work to do, here and there, and don't seem to be able to manage anything serious at all.
Media ever more trivial and reduced to baby-like monosyllabic coverage of such important issues as how many waitresses Tiger scored a, ahem, hole in one with? Hoo, boy.
And the Catholic Church. You know, I read history here and there, and those Renaissance popes weren't exactly saints. And I'll admit that some priest or nun has probably helped out someone.
But to sanction raping boys and then cover it up? Despite my reflexive anti-clericism, I was . . .taken aback. It sounds like some demented Jean Genet play come to life.

The utter nihilism of the ruling class is kind of shocking. If you have a goose, for example, and it's laying eggs, I can see stealing the goose. That, in a crude way, what good con artists and political leaders have done forever. But killing the goose, or driving the poor fowl to near suicidal collapse, now that's special. And that's what the barbarians who have clawed their feckless way up to the top have been doing. Stupid, unless you have some hideout no one can find, complete with a few decade's supply of Dom chilling the basement.

Screen slavery
Once upon a time, a screen belonged to a TV, and you kept it in a corner of the living room or the den. Or you paid some money and watched a silvery one in a movie theatre. People felt shame about spending time in front of it. Now, the screen has conquered, invading cars (GPS), palms (cell phones, iPods), and public spaces (try to find a bar without one). Ubiquity. Surrounded. They've even sucked books into them. I'd like to feel good about all these alternative platforms for delivering . . . what? Oh, yeah, "content." But the sheer weight of the screens' presence, their inevitability, is crushing, depressing, oppressive beyond any good that watching a movie on a tiny palm device can outweigh.

Well, you get the picture.

On the large scale, I don't see much hope for improvement. But you have to go on, take steps. When you have children involved, you have to cross your fingers make wishes.

And take steps.

On the small scale, I'll fall back on Voltaire, cultivate my garden as best I can and get ready for the show.

Because it hasn't stopped yet.

Wile E. Coyote catches the Roadrunner

There's a metaphor lurking in this somewhere, I just know there is.