30 July 2010

What I endeavored for

"I don’t know what all of my fellow soldiers opinions of me as a soldier are. I don’t know. All I wanted to do was be a competent soldier and not be more of a burden to the people around me than I was a help. That’s my goal, is to be on the positive side of that measurement, to be someone who doesn’t fuck shit up for everyone. That, in my mind, should be the method by which all people are judged. That’s what I endeavored for."

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Minor White

Movie Poster for Le feu follet

Le feu follet, poster for the film by Hans Hillman

Dance Masks 1930

Uncredited photo

Cheree by Suicide

The live version sucked -- as a commenter said, Diego Maradona channeling Elvis, so here we are, stuck with the album cover.

24 July 2010

Margaret Hughes

Portrait of Margaret Hughes by Peter Lely

23 July 2010

Bo Bae Kim II

Bo Bae Kim

Bo Bae Kim I

Bo Bae Kim

Ian O'Hara

Ian O'Hara

Brandt: Camden Hill

Camden Hill, by Bill Brandt, 1949

16 July 2010

Prince, Live in Houston 1981

One of the most charismatic -- and, yeah, nasty -- performers of all time. Unbelievably magnetic on stage, in person -- I don't think his brand translates well to film or video. Man, how the girls screamed all around me, one of the handful of whities in that audience.

We used to debate Prince versus Michael Jackson. I suppose on the global/monocultural scale,  there's really no comparison. But for me anyway Prince was always much more compelling, more interesting and less pathetic.

Vanity, Live in 1983

From one of the best shows I've ever seen.

More French Nonsense: Opium

I am such a sucker for this stuff. The price you pay for being a hick from the sticks, I guess.

15 July 2010

14 July 2010



The Master & Margarita

Illustration by Christopher Conn.

Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita is surely one of the most neglected masterpieces of the twentieth century. Russians, of course, know and love the book; it's not so well-known here. It has everything: Jesus, Pilate, Faust, black humor, love, gangsters, Stalinist Russia, witches, literary rivalry, the works. It manages to be funny, in ways sardonic, slapstick and ironic, as well as deeply moving. What

Bulgakov's other works are all well worth reading. His biography of Moliere, a kindred spirit of his, is more along the impressionistic Euro-essai end of the scale instead of the American academic timeline, but I learned a great deal from it. His satire, The Heart of a Dog, is savage and very dark. He also makes fun of Stanislavski in A Dead Man's Memoir -- apparently, Bulgakov's experience with the Moscow Art Theatre was not a happy one, and he took his revenge the best way a writer can.

A few film versions of the novel have been made, including mini-series in several Eastern European countries. Roman Polanski was rumored to have a script of it ready and would have filmed it if he could have found the financing -- that would have been a potentially great marriage of sensibilities. (But now I can make the damn film without his blocking my way, ha ha). It's also been adapted for the stage and performed in the US, Britain as well as Russia and the other Slavic nations.

The Master and Margarita, beyond its literary qualities, is one of those books that inspires cult-like devotion: it can take over your life and your imagination. If you meet someone else who's read it, it's as if you're sharing a passport to the same kingdom (or People's Republic).

It's available what I'm told is a fine translation by the dynamic duo of Pevear and Volokhonsky -- try to buy it from your local bookstore.

12 July 2010

Francoise Dorleac


The Swiss saw through the petty vindictiveness of the Javerts over in the LA District Attorney's office. So, the guy on the left is a free man, once again.

10 July 2010

Paris notes

On my summer vacation, I went to Paris. I've been lucky to live there, and luckier to return for several times. Here are my completely random, unscientific notes.

(my snap from the gay pride parade)

Up until five years ago, only sailors, punks and prisoners had them in France, pretty much like the USA until 1989. Now you can see ink on the kids, mostly limited to one or two -- not too many elaborate sleeves, tramp stamps or back-wide murals. I couldn't see any real trends in the tats.

The single-chair coiffure/hair salon by our apartment was run a fifty-something lady with an elaborate hairdo and who favored leopard patterned skintight pants and stiletto heels -- sort of a Jersey girl who somehow washed up on the Seine -- closed. It's now an acupuncture studio.

The very everyday cafe on one corner relaunched as "Le Murmur", all chocolate and butterscotch with a snotty gay waiter. No more drunks at 5:30 am knocking back an eau-de-vie in that joint.

The red-light sections continue to shrink, nearly domesticated, with only a few very sad looking old whores loitering -- almost as if the government paid them to stand around and kill your boner. A far cry from my first few times there where it was more like a hallucination out of Henry Miller, filled with whores from Africa, Algeria, white girls, white boys, black boys, groups of pacing, hot-eyed men, furtive guys in business suits, the doormen of the clubs grabbing your sleeves if you paused for a second. Now, it's dead. One cheeky doorman did offer us a family rate for the show; we declined. (No more drug dealers, either, or maybe I'm too respectable now to be approached.)

It's still a happening city, no doubt. But I miss the old, fierce and occasionaly terrifying piss soaked streets of yore.

A lot more men have gym bodies with tell-tale overdeveloped pecs and biceps and the simian posture that tends to accompany working out the show muscles. The women, thank the good lord above, still have beautiful legs, among other things.

The women tend to go braless more often. My son pointed this out, and after I started paying attention, I had to agree.

Parisians remain among the most polite citizens in the world. The speak softly. If they bump into you, they murmur a discreet "pardon" -- even thugs from the suburbs. They do not take more that a carefully calibrated space, usually directly proportional to their size. They leave you alone on the street. And if you speak French with an American accent while ordering something both pricey and useless, they treat you like a god.

The French still do not understand air conditioning. I used to have mixed feelings about air conditioning. My philosophy was that you should somehow be adaptive enough and stoic enough to do without it. Or move. My perspective changed after the 2003 heatwave. It was so hot, for so long, that it killed 14,000 French people. Once you undergo suffering like that, you realize what a true gift to humanity climate engineers have made. Back in 2003, we searched high and low for any air conditioned spaces we could find. Mostly we failed. The only truly American-style refrigeration was an Irish pub run by some guy from Atlanta who knew the score. The place was packed, and, oh so deliciously cool.

Since then, apparently, nothing has changed. The sun scorched the limestone, asphalt and trees towards the end of the week, cooking the rest of us along the way. I sweated copiously and inelegantly. No air con, anywhere.

Globalization and . . .
The young people look just the same. Well, there are fewer puffy, bloated ones, and the girls are slimmer. But except for a few tell-tale gestures, they could be from San Fran, or Toronto or Chicago -- but from the hipper neighborhoods. Maybe this is a function of my age, and all the young ones are beginning to blend together. Or perhaps it's globalization being fully realized in Nikes and Gap and Puma-clad millenials. But the young women look better -- did I mention that?

(An American tourist wearing cargo shorts, a baggy polo shirt and oversized sneakers is not necessarily any more stupid looking that a Frenchman in capri shorts and a sleeveless shirt.)

. . . Exhaustion
Being in Paris this time made me recall all those gloomy, Spenglerian moans about the death of civilization. It all seemed used up, filled with relics or copies. I know there's supposed to be some techno-driven scenes in the suburbs and hip hop and whatever else, but all that's second-hand, anyway, and cancerous on top of it. That's a simple-minded measurement, but the pop culture seems derivative. (The cinema, though, seems stronger to me). High culture seems irrelevant, a means, mainly, for torturing sclerotic tourists from Tokyo and Columbus, Ohio, who trudge through the museums with grim determination, never spending more than 20 seconds in front of any painting or sculpture. The galleries seem second hand, often -- I don't know why.

But -- where's France? I didn't feel the spine of it this time; maybe my radar was off, but it all seemed to be devolving into ersatz mall culture so quickly that I considered giving the sexy le Pen daughter a call or a donation or something, though I doubt that's the answer. Deporting immigrants and a return to the Church seem both unlikely and ineffectual; the combine grinds on. Our allies are lunatics, mostly, on the fringe, crazy farmers or quiet voiced men in the background, the very deep background, meeting to discuss the influence of Free Masons or whether or not to bring back the Bourbons.

Meanwhile, everyone fiddles with their mp3 players instead of reading, the way they used to.

And. Starbucks?? McDonald's makes a kind of sense, an addition, something new, but Starbucks in Paris is so meta it must make Deleuze's head spin. So many corners seem to aspire to the same perfumed quaintness or quirkiness you have your nose rubbed into in those refurbished centers in American cities. Just stop with that, okay? Stop. You want all that stuff, come over here, or visit Singapore.

I'm cutting myself off here -- maybe I'll write some more in another post. I did strongly feel that we're at the end of an era, maybe the way people felt in 1913. The new era is probably with us already, and we haven't noticed it -- take the obsession with prosthetics, with robotics, with the eye and the finger tip.

And with the apocalypse, as we quietly choke under the hazy yellow skies.

06 July 2010

The Cars

Cutting up stems and seeds or chopping up coke on the album cover.
Twenty years later, I meet the husband (legal) of the model on that cover. I find out about her. Poet. Chanteuse. Novelist.

"I know there are women . . ."

I know there are women, like my best friends, who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I didn’t. I got to admit the truth. It turned me on.

 Karen Hill