Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I've been resisting it . . . but I'm caving in. My top ten films of the year (including re-releases) in no particular order.

Millenium Mambo by Hou Hsiao Hsien
Vendredi Soir by Clair Denis
Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola
Unknown Pleasures by Jia Zhang Ke
Los Angeles Plays Itself by Thomas Andersen
demonlover by Olivier Assayas
Au hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson
Sans Soleil by Chris Marker
Millenium Actress by Satoshi Kon
Elephant by Gus Vant Sant

And applause for the Fassbinder retrosepective that made its way around the country last year.

Holidays at home . . . time to spare . . . watching VH1 Classics, taken aback by the extreme Road Warrior orientalism of Duran Duran's videos. But they were my favorite band in the 5th grade. Was I a Victorian in my youth?

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Au hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson

Has any other filmmaker so delicately balanced cruelty and compassion? Or Schubert and hee-haws? The life of Balthazar, a duende donkey if there ever was one, is one of the great stories of cinema. And Robert Bresson is French Cinema, wrote Jean-Luc Godard, just as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music. Elsewhere Godard called Balthazar “the world in an hour and a half”. If so, pass the hankies, the world is one big sob.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Waggish, one of my favorite literary weblogs, is reading In Search of Lost Time, one of my favorite novels, and keeping a journal. He's reading the English Moncrieff/Kilmartin edition, pre-Enright, which was given the less literal title Remembrance of Things Past, from Shakespeare's Sonnet XXX:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight.

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.

(But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd, and sorrows end.)

Waggish Reads Proust

Since I haven't read the pre-Enright edition, I don't know why the translators chose the Shakespearean title. I'd be interested in finding out why.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Noel King interviews Michael Wood in the latest issue of Jacket Magazine, touching on narrative ambiguity, Luis Buñuel, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Stephen King, crime fiction, Roland Barthes, and the oracular.
I hadn't realized that the Royal Art Lodge has a website. I should've known.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Recent screenings:

Bless Their Little Hearts by Billy Woodberry
21 Grams by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Perfect Blue and
Millenium Actress by Satoshi Kon
La Rupture by Claude Chabrol
The Smiling Madame Beudet and
La Belle dame sans merci by Germaine Dulac
All the Real Girls by David Gordon Green
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne by Robert Bresson

Recent readings:

Buddha's Little Finger by Victor Pelevin
Season of a Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul
Travels by Sir John Mandeville
Some Values of Landscape and Weather by Peter Gizzi
Million Poems Journal by Jordan Davis
He and his man by J.M. Coetzee (Nobel lecture)

I've been wondering about the fate of Harmony Korine. It's been many years since his last film, Julien Donkey-Boy. Last I heard he was starting fights and getting himself beat up at Bergamot Station. (Harmony link via Green Cine Daily)

Monday, December 01, 2003

From the Harper's Archive, Pig Sticking in India, originally published June, 1880.

Every reader of modern English novels is familiar with the term “pig-sticking.” The gallant young officer who has won the heroine's heart, and who goes to India in order that the wicked rival may intercept his letters and destroy his happiness, is always engaged, while in that distant land, in either tiger-shooting or pig-sticking.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Gordon Onslow Ford, the last of the Paris Surrealists, has died.
I wish I had more time to write about the events I’ve attended over the last few weeks. I should have mentioned a trip to San Diego where Manny Farber presented Pickup on South Street by Samuel Fuller and asked us to consider the clean economy of the camera shots; or a reading by Jordan Davis, Christopher Edgar, and Sarah Manguso at Dawson’s Books, where Horatio Hornblower and the man-on-the-moon met in an all-consuming battle of the text (it was a draw); or Delphine Gleize’s debut feature Carnage, which, while overwrought at times, melds Buñuel, Altman, and Almodóvar into a sturdy pig-iron bed frame (good for dreaming); or Gregorio Rocha’s The Lost Reels of Pancho Villa, a documentary film that proves, among other things, that film really does change history (and history is changed by the manipulation of film); or Agnès Varda, who presented her films Le Lion Volatil and Jacquot de Nantes at the American Cinematheque. The first follows up on André Breton’s dare to throw a bone at the Lion de Belfort statue at the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris, and the second imagines Jaques Demy’s childhood as a happy breeding ground for his later films, Bay of Angels, Lola, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, etc. Varda, who completed Jacquot de Nantes in the aftermath of her husband Demy’s death, described her time spent editing the film as the work of mourning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Vidal has been throwing around this quotation by Benjamin Franklin, made during a speech at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787:

In these moments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, -- if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.
Gore Vidal, when asked last night by an exasperated Charlie Rose if there was anything in contemporary America worth loving: "Dear...God...no!" I have more faith in some of our artists, if not in our government.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I've been meaning to mention Thomas Andersen, whose wonderful new film Los Angeles Plays Itself recently screened at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Los Angeles Plays Itself is an essay-film composed of clips from other Hollywood and independent films. Original narration accompanies the clips. "Movies bury their traces," Andersen writes, "choosing for us what to watch, then moving on to something else. They do the work of our voluntary attention, and so we must suppress that faculty as we watch. Our involuntary attention must come to the fore. But what if we watch with our voluntary attention, instead of letting the movies direct us? If we can appreciate documentaries for their dramatic qualities, perhaps we can appreciate fiction films for their documentary revelations." For citizens of Los Angeles, indeed for anyone interested in Los Angeles as background, character, or subject (as Andersen has it), this film is a real treat. Throughout, Andersen investigates fictional films that are about or set in Los Angeles. He shows us how history is erased or reconfigured in these films, how the city's modern architecture is bastardized, and how entire sections of the city are ignored. The LA Weekly recently printed an article by Scott Foundas on the film and Thom Andersen's work.

As corollary, Los Angeles Plays Itself hipped me to a whole school of African-American filmmakers of which I was previously unaware. Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima, Julie Dash, and Billy Woodberry all made (what look to be from the clips) interesting films during the 70s and 80s, and continue to do so. I'm keeping an eye out for screenings of any of their films. I think I'll start with Bless Their Little Hearts, directed by Billy Woodberry and written by Charles Burnett, which is playing next week at the Independent Los Angeles Film Festival.
A new film journal, Rouge, co-edited by Helen Bandis, Grant McDonald, and Adrian Martin, looks very promising.

"Every three months, ROUGE takes an in-depth look at the links between cinema and other arts. Our emphasis is on developing a creative approach to cinema through texts that are as poetic as they are analytical," writes co-editor Adrian Martin. "Contents of ROUGE 1 include: an exclusive text by master Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien on new directions in Asian cinema; Yvette Biro on Tsai Ming-liang; fictocriticism by American director Mark Rappaport; LA VIE NOUVELLE Philippe Grandrieux in conversation with Nicole Brenez; and Arab film and video by Jayce Salloum. Also: tributes to Brakhage and Pialat; painter Gerard Fromanger on meetin' JLG; and a translation of Serge Daney on Philippe Garrel." The next issue in January will be a Raoul Ruiz special.

From OpenDemocracy, filmmaker Ousmane Sembène writes about African cinema. And a feature on Nigerian writer Helon Habila, whose novel Waiting for an Angel won the Caine Prize for African Writing.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I attended the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival this weekend at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The lineup was pretty much half young'ns and half geezers. Of the geezers, Iggy and the Stooges, James Chance and the Contortions, and Sonic Youth were the best. Of the young'ns, Deerhoof and the Danielson Famile ruled the roost. Cat Power's set was marred by a fire alarm that would not turn off. Daniel Johnston missed his flight so he played later at night while I was watching Sonic Youth. The Magic Band were okay, but there wasn't much magic without Beefheart. James Chance looked like Lon Cheney. Real late night monster movie stuff going on with that guy. The Mars Volta were bombastic classic rock. All their fans looked just like them, with giant afros and tight jeans. Terry Riley was a sad soft-jazz imatation of himself. No disrespect, though. I love In C. But the Stooges were definitely the highlight. Iggy danced his seizure dance, and a skinny Mike Watt filled in on bass. All in all, a pretty good time.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Vert Magazine has published an interesting e-mail exchange between several poets on the topic of “the bad” (as in bad poetry, bad art, bad film, etc). Coincidentally, while I was reading the exchange, a friend sent me a link to the blog Stone, which has a list of the Worst Album Covers Ever. My vote is for Let Me Touch Him.
Elia Suleiman, whose film Divine Intervention was not allowed to compete at the Oscars because it is Palestinian (Palestine is not an official state, said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) recalls meeting Edward Said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I've never actually seen a red crescent moon before, but that's what's hanging in the LA sky tonight. Due to the fires no doubt.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

This evening I watched the fires here in Los Angeles burn on the local news. Outside, the sky was orange and black, but I couldn't smell the smoke.
Lars Iyer on André Breton’s Nadja, and one of my favorite films, The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Have you ever noticed how at poetry readings the audience holds its applause until the very end? And how after each individual poem there are usually three or four people in the audience who make assenting, pleased sounds like “Hmmm”, “Mmmm” or “Mmm-hmmm”? There was a lot of hmmming, mmmming, and mmm-hmmming at Beyond Baroque last Friday night when Eleni Sikelianos and Brenda Coultas gave readings of their latest work. Eleni read from The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls (out now on Green Integer – by the way, has Sun & Moon Press pretty much morphed into Green Integer permanently?) I remember “little bones housed in the seahorse’s skull” from a long poem Eleni read called “Sleep, Sleepwalker”. This poem, she said, was inspired by the science and nature films of Jean Painlevé ("raised bread”), as well as flying over Niagara Falls and seeing the rushing water far below shaped like a human collarbone (Eleni said the word “niagara” comes from a Native American word for “collarbone” – though a Google search returned a page that says “niagara” is derived from the Iroquois Indian word “onguiaahra”, meaning “the strait” – I don’t know which is true). Brenda read historiological prose poems about the Bowery in Manhattan from A Handmade Museum. In one poem she wondered about a dead rat lying outside her window among the broken shards of a flower pot: had the rat fallen from the window ledge along with the flower pot? Had a squirrel accidentally knocked over the flower pot just as the rat had scurried by? This poem reminded my girlfriend of an incident that had happened earlier that day. She had been reading in our room when she was startled by a heavy thud. The neighbor’s cat had jumped into our apartment from an open window.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Today I voted in the California Recall Election. My polling place was at a cowboy clothing store called Kings Western Wear (an ominous-sounding name for a site of democratic selection). As I was standing in line a middle-aged man behind me suddenly started speaking to himself. "That's a Texas state flag," he said. "Do you see that? That's a Texas flag." Before too long he was shouting: "This is California! Why is there a Texas state flag on the store wall! I demand that the flag be taken down! This is a California polling place!" At first I thought he was joking, but he walked right up to the little old lady who was handing out ballots and yelled "There's a Texas flag on the wall! That shouldn't be there! Why is it there?" She very gently replied that this was a western wear store and it was to be expected, after all. He said that California was western too and demanded the flag be taken down right away. "Are you the manager? Bring me the manager!" The manager came out and the guy continued to yell, "This is California, not Texas! Why is there a Texas flag on the wall?" The manager repeated, "Well, we're a western wear store. And that's actually a bandana, not a flag." In the end, the madman got his way, and the Texas bandana was taken off the wall. As I walked out I saw a guy from Edison Polling (the company that conducts exit polls). He was reading the newspaper and didn't really seem to be asking anyone anything.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Recent Screenings:

Sans Soleil
A Grin Without a Cat
La Jetee
Statues Also Die
One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich
Remembrance of Things to Come

all by Chris Marker

Les Enfants Terribles

by Jean Cocteau

Demonlover by Olivier Assayas

Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Still working on the apartment, painting the office, unpacking the boxes. I haven't had time to read or even see a movie in about a month. Hopefully this weekend will allow time for reflection and a movie or two. In the meantime, Bill Marsh at the San Diego Poetry Guild reprints Dziga Vertov's We. A Version of a Manifesto

Monday, August 11, 2003

I haven't had time to post lately. I'm preparing to move into an architecturally significant apartment building designed by R.M. Schindler. Most of Schindler's buildings have not aged well; the building I'm moving into certainly needs a good renovation, which I suppose it will receive eventually, since it's protected as an L.A. Historical Building. I'm spending the next few weeks sanding and painting and buffing and cleaning in an attempt to bring the apartment back to its mid-century modernist glory. The Phaidon book on Schindler by Judith Sheine has a passage about the Laurelwood apartments, excerpted below.

The Laurelwood apartments comprise twenty two-bedroom apartments (and two storage units) on a sloping site. They are organized along a central pathway and, angling away from the path at 15 degrees in plan, they step up the site to the top of the hill and then down again, at a 15-degree angle facing downhill. Schindler described his design as trying to give each tenant the feeling of living in their own house and described the reasons for the layout of the design:

"A two-story unit, containing an apartment on each floor, was repeated ten times, grouped in such a fashion as to give each apartment an unobstructed outlook and good exposure. The garages were located near the street and the access to each apartment is obtained through a central garden court. The main windows are turned towards the outside of the lot, and each ground story apartment is given a private garden patio.

"Each second story apartment received a private roof terrace on top of the next unit with unobstructed outlook in all directions.

"Each apartment contains a living-room, dining-room combination, which is separated by glass partition from the kitchen and breakfast nook, in order to obtain the utmost feeling of spaciousness."

The interiors of the apartments are simpler versions of the later Armon house, with glazed nooks protruding into the living/dining space. The exterior vocabulary is relatively simple, enlivened by the planning and massing of the units and the overhanging planes of the roofs. The Schindler Frame construction provided tongue-and-groove decking for the ceilings of the upper units, and Schindler also gave the lower units wood ceilings. He created soundproof air spaces between the walls of the adjoining units and between floors. The exterior is largely of stucco, and the interiors are plaster below the door-height datum and wood above the datum. Plywood built-in storage further articulates the interior spaces. Wood trellises and vertical screens along with curving pipe rails articulate the exterior. The predominant color for stucco and exterior wood was green, to blend in with the foliage, which grew to turn the access path into a linear garden court.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Saw Glauber Rocha's 1964 film Black God, White Devil. Rocha was a member of Brazil's Cinema Novo movement. He also wrote a manifesto called An Aesthetic of Hunger. Black God, White Devil is called Deus eo Diabo na Terra do Sol in the original Portuguese. I assume they translated it this way (rather than the literal God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun) in reference to Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks. Philippe Jalladeau describes the film: "Manuel, a herdsman, and his wife Rosa are on the run because of a bloody conflict with their 'coronel'. The couple joins mystics gathered around Sebastião, a black man who predicts the coming of an apocalyptic upheaval which will turn the Sertão into the sea and the sea into the Sertão. Ignored by Manuel, Rosa's eagerness brings about a violent break-up with the messianic preacher. As they keep travelling, the couple meet the survivors of the gang of cangaceiros led by Lampião. His lieutenant, Corisco, wants to raze Sertão to the ground. He is chased by Antonio das Mortes, the fazendeiros' henchman full of the importance of his murderous fate. The conclusion, announced by a blindman and sung by the chorus, shows Manuel that the earth belongs neither to God nor to the Devil." This is one of the most powerful films I've seen in a long time. The camerawork is reminiscent of early Pasolini, the editing draws on Eisenstein, and the violence prefigures Sam Peckinpah's later blood operas. And the soundtrack is simply amazing. Rocha's films really need to be more readily available -- in fact, Latin American cinema in general needs to be more readily available.

Which will die first? Friendster or flash-mobs? Or are they both already over?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Alejandro Jodorowsky received a standing ovation when he presented his 1989 film Santa Sangre at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival Friday night to a sold out audience. And that was before the movie screened. The legendary director of El Topo and Holy Mountain announced that a new film would be completed by the summer of 2004. That would make it his first in 15 years. Can't wait. Although Santa Sangre isn't quite the mindbender Holy Mountain is, it's still quite interesting, so I wonder if his new film will measure up. It supposedly has a spaghetti western feel to it and will be shot in Italy . . . already sounds promising. But . . . oh no! Marilyn Manson is a cast member! Well, he didn't ruin Lost Highway. But still, why do otherwise intelligent directors insist on putting him in their films? The Internet Movie Database says it's called Sons of El Topo, but Jodorowsky didn't mention he was making a sequel. "This is a film that will not be shown in theaters," he said. "I am a poet, not a robot."

Jodorowsky mentioned, before he exited the stage, that he can no longer watch Santa Sangre. His son Teo, who died recently, plays a character in the film. As the director tried to escape, fans carrying his comic books swarmed around him, begging for autographs. I knew he had a cult following, but the excitement he generated Friday night was beyond belief.

The first half of Santa Sangre is definitely better than the second half. First half: free associative narrative. In one scene a group of happy Down Syndrome kids snort cocaine, which would normally offend me (my brother has Down Syndrome) but somehow works here. Second half: conventional Italian horror film (it was produced by Dario Argento's brother) with a tidy psychological ending. Somewhat of an homage to Psycho.

I recommend anyone and everyone to see Holy Mountain if you can get your hands on it. Allen Klein, the former Beatles manager, owns the rights to the film and has been notoriously stingy with distribution.

There's lots of Jodorowsky information on the internet. Here's a few links:

Rain Taxi Interview
A Jodorowsky resource page
Mexperimental Cinema Essay

Friday, July 25, 2003

An article on the Los Angeles River, featuring poet Lewis Macadams and FoLAR, the Friends of the Los Angeles River.
I've been aware of Stephen Prina ever since I became a fan of the Red Krayola while still in college. So when giant billboards with his name in lights started popping up all over Hollywood a year ago, I was freaked out and slightly amused. Had he signed a deal with Death Row Records? Was he in some sort of competition with Angelyne for the drive-by market share? It was complete saturation, but pretty funny when you consider that he was advertising a show at the MAK Center's Schindler House. Last night I caught his performance of Christian Marclay's Graffiti Composition at the UCLA Hammer Museum. According to the Hammer website, Marclay created Graffiti by plastering blank musical notation paper in public spaces throughout Berlin in 1996, inviting passerby to compose a collaborative symphony. The sheets were later published as an edition of prints and performance copies to be interpreted and played by other musicians. Prina performed in the same museum courtyard where, only a few weeks ago, Lee Ronaldo and Marclay himself kicked out a free-noise traffic jam. Car horns and pedestrian voices filtered in from Wilshire Boulevard. Almost a Cagean experience, and welcome, since I'm too young to have ever seen Maestro Cage.

Here's the play-by-play. Prina waltzed onto a small stage that held an acoustic guitar with electronic pickups, a Yamaha Motif synthesizer, and an empty table. He wore a plaid suit-vest with matching pants, sported a neat John Waters-style moustache, and carried an L.L. Bean bag with his name clearly printed on the front. He unpacked a few tools from his bag of tricks, picked up his acoustic guitar, and, in a very workmanlike manner, played some chords. After a few minutes of abstraction, he deliberately broke a string. He "operated" on his guitar and returned to playing minimal compositions, accompanied by lyrics like "You should just/sing a song/about a dog/or something." He sang Toni (not Anthony) Braxton's hit "Unbreak My Heart" (actually not a bad song when sung by an anti-diva). Photographed his instruments and the audience. Asked for a beer (6 dollars!). Read a few pages from the synthesizer's technical manual, and placed duct tape over the words "Yamaha" and "Motif", which were written on the front of the keyboard. Banged on his guitar with mallets, creating a vibrating, chiming sound. Played a 12-bar scale, slowly then quickly, slowly then quickly. Announced that he would compensate those of us who could not attend the Aimee Mann-Rufus Wainwright concert going on across campus by performing Wainwright's song "One Man Guy". Performed "One Man Guy". Played his guitar with a portable tape recorder, which was playing, again, Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart". It was all very conceptual (befitting Marclay's exhibition, which is filled with one-note installations like glass drumsticks, giant drumkits, vinyl record sculptures, and humorous collages made from a collection of obscure and famous album covers). None of this really measured up to Prina's collaborative work with Mayo Thompson and the Red Krayola. The highlight was when he said, "For those of you who can't read the inscription on my cufflinks, it is in Urdu, made in Nepal, and says 'U.S. Out of the Middle East', dedicated to Claes Oldenburg, and is one half of my 1992 piece 'Haberdashery' ".
Slavoj Zizek on the death of Charles R. Douglass, the inventor of canned laughter: "So then, would it not be a proper funeral for Charles R. Douglass if a set of sound-machines were to accompany his coffin, generating whispered laments, while his beloved surviving relatives enjoyed a hearty meal, or perhaps got some work done elsewhere? Far from finding it offensive, I think perhaps he would appreciate the recognition of such a burial" Will You Laugh for Me, Please?

Monday, July 21, 2003

During preparations for a dinner party yesterday I was able to catch bits and pieces of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (the beginning and ending, mainly) and the same few scenes from Rebel Without a Cause I always see: the knife fight at the planetarium, the chickie run, and Jimmy's papa in an apron. I should really sit down and watch the whole thing one of these days, even though I've heard every character has a daddy complex and it's almost too much to handle. But Sal Mineo sure does look amazing. Later, I caught Strangers on a Train and was thrilled to find that the carousel could be deadly. Every time I watch a Hitchcock film I'm reminded of the inspired Fordist nightmare he was never able to shoot: the camera slowly follows the construction of a car on a Detroit assembly line, from the very first bolt to the last touch of paint. We see robot arms and mechanized tools constuct the car from scratch. Finally, when the car is finished, the door is opened for the first time. A dead body falls out.
The horror, the horror. Potus and Flotus (or as they prefer to be called, the President and First Lady of the United States) recently went on safari in Africa, where they were shocked to discover that the elephant, sacred symbol of the Republican Party, really has no shame. "This is a White House that plans every trip down to the last detail and plots out every camera angle to make sure that Mr. Bush is always shown in the most presidential and flattering pose possible. So the horror of the White House advance team can only be imagined when Mr. Bush, Laura Bush and one of their twin daughters, Barbara, cameras trained on them as always, pulled up on a dusty drive in the game park in Botswana and encountered a male elephant determinedly but ultimately unsuccessfully trying to mate with a female." Samson Mulugeta of Newsday, who is among the small pool of court reporters allowed to accompany the president, took notes: "As the pool convulsed into giggles, Potus turned back and smiled sheepishly. Barbara threw her head back in embarrassment and covered her face with her hands. Then Potus threw his cap over his face to shield himself from the impending coitus (which never materialized). Flotus's expression was not visible from our angle." No doubt she was horrified. As Potus gave the elephants a relaxing massage, Flotus called out, "O.K. darling, that's enough." (drawn from In and Out of Africa, Bush Is His Usual Brisk Self, by Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, Sunday, July 13, 2003)

Monday, July 14, 2003

So long Mr. Chumps. I'm travelling to the snowy north to visit my corporate relatives. They may not have internet access, so this blog will be inactive for a few days. Until the weekend . . .

Saturday, July 12, 2003

The L.A. County Museum of Art has been screening a film series to coincide with its Modigliani exhibition. The Roaring Twenties in Paris: Silent Classics from the Cinémathèque française showcases nine avant-garde films from the interwar era. Friday night, Jean Epstein's The Fall of the House of Usher was preceded by a series of incredible shorts. Mon dieu, if Bald des quatz'z'arts, an anonymously shot documentary, is any indication of what a 1920s Paris party was like . . . hundreds of suited and well-coiffed men, costumed freaks in lobster-tailed suits, nautical-geared muscle-men carrying nude and bejewelled flappers . . . sailors, turtles, and mermen hoisting banners, screaming "L'Arte!" . . . 8 minutes of pure mosh-pit bacchanalia. Unbelievable. And I could have watched René Clair's 20 minute long Entr'acte (written by Francis Picabia and starring Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie, and Man Ray) for hours. Balloon-headed dolls expand and collapse. A bearded ballerina dances on glass. Mourners chase a runaway hearse. When they finally catch up to its lost pinewood coffin a magician pops out, jack-in-the-box style, and makes his mourners vanish. Oh living-dead magician, won't you point your wand my way and suck me into your movie? Picabia wrote, "Imagine for a second that this film is a machine gun and that the music of Erik Satie which will accompany it resembles thunder. And see, over the city, this great light which resembles a conflagration!" Unfortunately, Satie's music did not accompany last night's screening. It thundered nonetheless. Clair's later La Tour is a quieter conflagration, an 11 minute meditation on the construction and consecration of the Eiffel Tower. Études de mouvements by Joris Ivens seems a precursor to Tarkovsky's traffic sequence in Solaris. But while Tarkovsky lets the camera linger, Ivens emphasizes speed and movement, both automotively and editorially. And Noël Renard, a minor filmmaker, dedicates Balançoires to "the infinite crowd." A couple of lovebirds romp around a bustling funfair where they get a taste of the afterlife from Fakir, the resident hypnotist. According to Claudine Kaufmann, who presented the films, Renard's reputation as minor is due to his blatant appropriation of avant-garde film techniques. I found his Christian dualism of light and dark, good and evil, heaven and hell unbearably facile. Eugéne Deslaw's city-symphony Montparnasse, by contrast, canvasses the panorama of Parisian life perfectly (or more precisely, the perfect Paris of imagination). After these beauties I found it hard to stomach Usher's petty gothicism. Even Buñuel, Epstein's assistant director, tried to disown it. Perhaps I should watch the film once more, in isolation.
Here's a little history lesson. I received a response from Albert Onello to my ephemeral but very sincere baseball questions of a few days ago. He writes:

In a very idiosyncratic and labyrinthine journey through blog-land I washed ashore 'Harlequin Knights' and was pleased to spend a few moments 'there'. Noticing a few questions in a recent post, and presuming you're asking these questions sincerely and would like some semblance of an 'answer' to them, I'll offer some response....
I think the shortest 9-inning major league game is 51 or 52 minutes, if my memory serves me correctly, in a game that took place I think back around 1920. It was probably the last game of the year and everybody just wanted to go home, so I'd guess things moved along rather briskly.

Why is the bullpen so distant from the dugout? 'Cause pitchers have to warm up during a game, and they can't be too close to the action, both for their safety and the safety of those playing the game. Some 'bullpens' are in fact 'on' the 'field of play', between the foul lines and the stands --- see Wrigley Field, for instance.

Shouldn't pitchers sit with their teammates? Well, in some precincts pitchers are not considered 'ballplayers', they're 'pitchers', and this is maintained only half-kiddingly.

Some relief pitchers do sit in the dugout early in the game, the presumption being that the starting pitcher will do his job and last at least a few innings, meaning that the relief pitcher won't have to be available to warm-up and thus doesn't need to be in the bullpen. Some pitchers would rather be 'out' in the bullpen, however, 'cause things are a little 'looser' out there and there's a chance to relax a bit more (than in the dugout, which is closer to the action and the watchful eyes of manager and coaches). This falls under the same principle as why certain students sit in the back of the class --- their actions are more easily camouflaged from authority figures.... So there's a little more freedom out in the bullpen. Former New York Yankees great Whitey Ford was known to set up a nice brunch buffet out in the bullpen, complete with table and checkered tablecloth --- you can't do that in the dugout. Also, there are *only pitchers in the bullpen, save for a bullpen coach, who was probably a pitcher in his playing days, and a bullpen catcher, who often isn't a playing member of the team, and, on the assumption that like kinds cleave to like kinds, the bullpen is a pitcher's domain.

Nosebleed seats? Well, this has to do with altitude and lack of oxygen, leading to 'nosebleed' with the 'higher up' seats in the stands. A little overstatement there, but you get the idea I'm sure.
As for 'road movies', what about 'The Last Detail'? That comes immediately to mind.

Anyway, good luck with your blog. I'll be watching....
Albert Onello

Chris Burden has been making model bridges out of Mysto and Meccano Erector sets for several years now. I owned an Erector set once. I think I made an oil barge, destroyed it, and then returned to my Star Wars toys. Last night at his Bridges and Bullets show at the Gagosian gallery, among the Bev Hill party arters and the otherwise underdressed, several new Burden Bridges were unveiled: the Indo-China Bridge, the Tower of London Bridge, the 21' Truss Bridge, the Antique Bridge, and the big big behemoth, the 32 foot Curve Bridge (I'd like to get another B in there). You can find examples of the sort of bridges he builds here. And bullets? Yep, in the back room gold bullets rested in states of well-encased zen. Compared to the bridges (so large and skeletal, always threatening to collapse like a bunch of dominoes) the bullets seemed like puffs of air. I didn't even realize what they were at first . . . lipstick containers? Rumpelstiltskin's golden thimbles? One group of bullets (the round ones) were called Roundies. Another group of bullets (the pointed ones) were called Pointies. Very cute, which I suppose was the point. I liked the turn-of-the-century toy technology, the big boy artist playing with his toys, the unexpected beauty of the golden bullets. But then I read the press release. "Burden's particular interest in bridge construction reflects his fascination with man's basic urge to overcome barriers, to master the forces of nature, to speed travel, link communities, to widen horizons." Master the forces of nature? Speed travel? Was this written in the late 19th century? We laughed and laughed. It's possible that the language here is supposed to mirror early modernist discourse, but it's too naked and uncritical to be taken seriously.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

And an essay on Kharms and the OBERIU group by Eugene Ostashevsky at New American Writing.
"Daniil Kharms was: a pipe-smoking St. Petersburg bachelor, an author of stories for children, a wearer of outlandish clothes and pseudonyms, a regular arrestee for alleged political offences including spying for a foreign power, and a member of OBERIU, the Union of Realist Art. He was also an absurdist poet and prose writer of the 20s, 30s and early 40s - perhaps the St Petersburg poet and prosist of his generation." from The Other St. Petersburg

I've been a fan of Kharms ever since I discovered his work a few years ago. His stories take me back to the days when I believed a litter of goblins lived beneath my bed and sent me covert messages at night.

More Daniil Kharms at danielcharms.com
Limetree reads Skunk Hour line for line. Having never read Lowell, I should admit I feel a bit unqualified to discuss in-depth the dispute currently raging between Ron, Brian, Kent and the others. I was always warned away from Lowell. Still, I'm following the debate like mad.

Funny, but in college at UC Santa Cruz the first book of poetry I was asked to read on a course syllabus was In the American Tree.
An Encounter

On one occasion a man went off to work and on the way he met another man who, having bought a loaf of Polish bread, was on his way home.

And that's just about all there is to it.

--by Daniil Kharms, the Soviet absurdist, via The Scampton Veterinary Optician

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Last night at Edison Field the Royals blanked the Angels and I had many questions. Why is the bullpen so distant from the dugout? Shouldn’t the pitchers sit with their teammates? What’s the record for the shortest nine-inning game? Why do they call them nosebleed seats? Fortunately on the way to the ballpark I found a chapbook by Juliana Spahr hidden in the backseat of my housemate’s car entitled Uneveness & The Blood Sonnets (you can read an early excerpt here, via How2. The chapbook version is much revised). Spahr is a poet and professor at the University of Hawaii, Manoa and, along with Jena Osman, edits the journal Chain. Uneveness charts Spahr's relocation to Hawaii with two friends and their consequent colonial jitters. They wonder whether they can in good faith live in a place with a history of colonialism. "Then they began to realize that it was hard to find a place that had not been colonized by someone at some time." Spahr eloquently recounts in her narrative how she managed to come to terms with her place in the island's history. Most importantly she continues to learn from other writers, including Hawaiian writers and post-colonial writers whom she had previously found irrelevant to her work. In time, living in Hawaii and reading all the available poetry (including poetry of the sovereignty movement) leads Spahr and her friends to re-evaluate the "radical" poetic practices they had been taught in graduate school: "It wasn't that they had to give up their love of the radical as defined as modernist techniques," she writes. "It was that they had to resee the radical, to see it as the continent not the mainland or as one space in a sea of islands. They began to see poetry as a series of contiguous systems, systems that didn't merge but that were beside one another."

Reading this, I couldn't help but think of the current contretemps between Ron Silliman and Brian Kim Stefans. And hear a proto-echo of the "Seventeenth Way" Kent Johnson mentions in his letter to Limetree. I don't wish to speak for Spahr, so I won't, but it seems to me that we should situate our writing practices historically. I don't see the current value in an us against them poetics, a School of Quietude with Lowell, et al versus a Post Avant with a who knows who. So maybe Ron is still operating under an historically bygone perspective . . . maybe it was a necessary position in the 1960s and 70s but is now no longer relevant. Like the radical who won't shake hands with the democrat. Maybe even Ron could learn something from Lowell, if only negatively. Once I watched D.A. Pennebaker's documentary Don't Look Back with my dad. When it came to the scene where Dylan mean-spiritedly disses Donovan in a guitar duel by singing a biting It's All Over Now Baby Blue, my dad became enraged. He couldn't understand why they weren't playing together. You know, jamming. I asked my dad, "Do you really think Donovan had anything to teach Bob Dylan?" My dad, a huge Dylan fan, who wouldn't be caught dead with a Donovan record, considered this for a minute, then said, "Yeah. He couldn't teach him very much, but he could teach him something."
I saw a (Lights!) new print of (Camera!) Godard's A Woman is a Woman (Action!). First time I've ever seen it, actually. Invention and vitality abide in the celluloid, but Anna Karina's second film with the director seems today like a market indicator of new wave cinema's dispersal: literary and filmic allusions are down five points, obtrusive scores are holding steady, abrupt editing is through the roof. How can I assess this film when both Spike Jonze and McG have been licking the ice off the Brechtian cake?

Sunday, July 06, 2003

My mis-memory: Go to sleep, little father, the old world is behind you!
Greta Garbo, in the title role of Ernst Lubitsch's 1939 film Ninotchka: "Go to sleep little father. We want to be alone."

May '68 graffiti: "Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!"
After seeing Luis Buñuel's The Milky Way I feel I should second its inclusion on Ernesto's list of favorite road movies. Like Pasolini's Hawks and Sparrows, The Milky Way follows the misadventures and missed adventures of two holy fools (one old, one young) as they ramble down the open road, in this case the Way of St. James, a medieval traveler's route that guided pilgrims from all over northern Europe to Spain. The film rehearses two millenia worth of heresies, blasphemies, and sacrileges as the wanderers encounter such ex-communicados as the Marquis de Sade (played by Michel Piccoli), Archbishop Caranza de Toledo, and the devil himself. Those not raised Catholic may find it tiresome. Having gobbled the host a few times in my youth, I was ecstatic. Dueling cardinals say things like, "You've committed a semi-Pelagian error," Jesuits complain about the sins of the Jansenists, Jesus Christ starts to shave before Mary tells him he looks better with a beard. It was filmed in 1968 -- during one sequence, the young vagabond watches schoolgirls recite ecclesiastical law at the Institution Lamartine and daydreams that a group of 68ers is executing the pope; when his dream-shots are fired at the pontiff they startle members of the Lamartine audience: "Is there a shooting range around here?" someone asks. "No, I was just imagining the pope being executed." "Heh, you'll never live to see that day!" While not as funny as his later stabs at the bourgeoisie, it certainly split the opinions of his contemporaries. According to Buñuel (in his book My Last Sigh), Carlos Fuentes saw it as an anti-religious war movie. Julio Cortázar went so far as to suggest that the Vatican must have put up the money for it. Of Buñuel's later films it is perhaps both the most specific and sweeping in its satire: "Besides the situation itself and the authentic doctrinal dispute it evokes," he writes, "the film is above all a journey through fanaticism, where each person obstinately clings to his own particle of truth, ready if need be to kill or die for it. The road traveled by the two pilgrims can represent, finally, any political or even aesthetic ideology."
Many thanks to Rick Visser at Artrift for naming Harlequin Knights as the first "Best in Show" recipient. I've been so surprised at the response my blog's received after only a few weeks of existence. I only wish I had more time to spend here. Be sure to explore Artrift, a blog devoted to visual art and culture.

Friday, July 04, 2003

What better way to spend Independence Day than watching The Phantom of Liberty? "I'm sick of symmetry."
Kent Johnson responds to Kasey and Brian Kim Stefans on Ron Silliman's School of Quietude/Post-Avant binary: "I wonder how Ron would figure a Pessoa in his Manichean board game of poetry?"

For the moment I will recuse myself from the debate (although I like the idea of a "Seventeenth Way"). Coincidentally, just the other night it struck me that, aside from Samuel Pepys, Fernando Pessoa would have made the perfect blogger. Consider his brief diurnal entries from The Book of Disquiet (chosen almost at random):


I have to choose what I detest -- either dreaming, which my intelligence hates, or action, which my sensibility loathes; either action, for which I wasn't born, or dreaming, for which no one was born.
Detesting both, I choose neither; but since I must on occasion either dream or act, I mix the two things together.


The only attitude worthy of a superior man is to persist in an activity he recognizes is useless, to observe a discipline he knows is sterile, and to apply certain norms of philosophical and metaphysical thought that he considers utterly inconsequential.


The truly wise man is the one who can keep external events from changing him in any way. To do this, he covers himself with an armour of realities closer to him than the world's facts and through which the facts, modified accordingly, reach him.

Many of his entries are longer than this, of course, though no more than a few pages, and most can be read non-sequentially. And don't many bloggers adopt pseudonyms (or heteronyms, in Pessoanese) or blog on several blogs at once, under variant personalities or avatars?
Ray from Bellona Times points me to his take on The Straight Story.

Saw Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool, and a concert film from the 1970s, Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic.

Dracula, like previous Maddin films, was shot on an extremely low budget (according to the director, iris-shots were made by punching holes in black construction paper and placing them over the camera lenses) and looks exactly like a silent-era film. This can be somewhat precious, but the effect is so uncanny, the story so oneiric, that I was entirely bewitched. Dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (this is actually a filmed performance of a ballet, set to Mahler and thoroughly Maddinized) portray all your favorite characters -- Lucy, Minna, von Helsing, the Count . There are some longueurs (Dracula and Lucy pirouette endlessly in a graveyard amongst giant mushrooms) but it's one of this year's best.

I was really disappointed by Swimming Pool. I've enjoyed some of Ozon's previous films (Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Under the Sand, 8 Women) but this was like a bad re-make of a Claude Chabrol film. Charlotte Rampling was great as usual, but the film's late metamporphosis into a psychological thriller was uninspired. And Ozon's fascination with women is beginning to seem increasingly creepy. The puppetmaster strikes again.

Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic is an amazing concert film from the "cosmic cowboy" era of country music. There's almost a punk energy to these performances (it was filmed in 1977, I believe). Waylon Jennings croons, Leon Russell grows extremely drunk and incoherent as the night progresses, and Willie starts things off with a clear-throated rendition of "Whiskey River". This is outlaw country at its best.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Listening to Cat Power for the first time. She's really good! I always thought she was the indie-rock Jewel or something. Initially mis-heard the lyric "I'm not that hot new chick" on her song "He War" as "I'm not that Hollywood chick." I like my version better, but only because I live near Hollywood.
I finally found a copy of Kenneth Koch's novel The Red Robbins. My housemate lent me his copy a year and a half ago and I've been searching for my own, without any luck, ever since. The novel begins (without indentations, I haven't learned the html yet):

Jill ran her fingers down the tough golden beard of history. It was fine being there, but she wished there had been boards on the floor. Professor Flint was late; it was already three o'clock. "Chow down!" shouted the corporal, and all the men ran in to the eating quarters. "Very tropical weather, Sergeant," said "Dutch," an unusual man who had been hanging around the camp a lot recently. The cord snapped, having suddenly come undone, and the hawsers slipped out onto the blue, frothy waters of Lake Superior.

Joycie was swimming, as usual, without any clothes on. A big bird passed over the tub which had been covered with black tar by a recent accident. The planes sped by. Jules hugged Bonny, but Bonny wasn't very responsive and so Jules finally shrugged his trembling yellow shoulders and went back into the little hut where he began pulling apart the whitefish. "So this is Alaska," said Uncle Mutt -- "quite a layout you've got yourself here!" Lyn was afraid he would try to sleep with her because she didn't have any clothes on.

"Santa Claus" mounted the big black sweating horse panting with energy; "Santa Claus" was the nickname of this big criminal who rode off into the West . . .

Monday, June 30, 2003

Yesterday I took a long intermission from Aoyama Shinji's nearly 4-hour long film Eureka (a beautifully shot murder-mystery, in spectral sepia) in order to attend a reading at Beyond Baroque. Jen Hofer started the night off by throwing abstract javelins at the audience. Naomi Uman's film Hand Eye Coordination followed. Unfortunately, the projector sound went out during the last minute and a half of the film. Naomi was understandably unwilling to screen two new recently completed shorts without sound, but we sulked and bleated anyway until Garrett approached the podium. I found "Stay With Me", a poem from his book Some Mantic Daemons, particularly moving. He said that it was written after the death by overdose of a long lost friend. I also had an old friend die on me, though under much more mysterious circumstances. Unseen for many years, even by his own family, his remains were discovered deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The manner of his death was ruled inconclusive. When someone close to you dies it's always terrible, but when you haven't seen that someone for many years the grief becomes almost like a haunting. I think about him often, and I think about other friends unknown to me for years, and though I know I will never see him again, I wouldn't be surprised if I ran into him at a gas station in my hometown. His absence makes me feel old. Garrett's poem ends:

It's September, late September and everything
has changed though I in my body and the same
feeling runs through and through like blood
in a heart, bile in a spleen, beauty
in an ideal when it makes itself appear

as the symptom of an imitation
carried out by adults which, unlike that of children,
does not spare the spectators the most painful experiences
and can yet be felt by them as highly enjoyable.
Beyond that, dust alone exists.
Please leave a message.

I tried to write something about my friend after he died but it was not as eloquent as this. Maybe I'll try again some day. After Garrett's reading, Simone Forti read from her new book. I know her primarily as a dancer (though admittedly not very well -- I think she was involved with the Judson Dance Theater during the 1960s). Many of her poems explicitly addressed the post-9/11 situation. In one piece she conversed with her late father, a practical and perhaps conservative man, about the excesses of our current administration. Another ghostly conversation that made me feel old in the reading room.
Speaking of road movies and David Lynch, has anyone ever seen a television movie from the 1970s called Pray for the Wildcats? Check out this cast: Andy Griffith, Angie Dickinson, William Shatner, and Robert Reed. Andy Griffith plays a businessman who tries to coax Captain Kirk and Mike Brady to travel with him by dirt-bike down to Baja California. Someone on the Internet Movie Database describes it as Blue Velvet made by someone with no talent. I've only seen half of it, and I can affirm that this is one freaky flick.
I too was moved by The Straight Story, but a different emotion kept me from fully drowning in tears. Bafflement. I had come to expect a certain amount of eccentricity when viewing David Lynch's films -- dancing dwarves, severed ears, transmigrations of souls -- so to see a "straight" narrative where I expected a "slant" was perplexing. Rated G! Walt Disney Productions! In a way, The Straight Story is a better example of Lynch's practice of ostranenie than his more typically "strange" films because he upsets our expectations of what a David Lynch film can be.
Ernesto made a list of his favorite Desert Island Road Movies. To his list I would add:

Rubin and Ed
Hawks and Sparrows
Zabriskie Point
Fando and Lis
Wild at Heart
Two Lane Blacktop
Roadside Prophets
Bonnie & Clyde
The Road Warrior
National Lampoon's Vacation
Fellini's Satyricon

Some of these may not officially be road movies, but there's lots of wandering going on.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

I'm a scary masked clown, according to Limetree. Don't you believe what Chaucer said, below?
He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Busy upcoming weekend here in Los Angeles: a Pasolini film festival at the American Cinematheque (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom) and a Buñuel festival at LACMA (Belle de Jour, Diary of a Chambermaid, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and That Obscure Object of Desire). Interestingly, both festivals are focusing on the later works of these auteurs. On Sunday, Jen Hofer, Garrett Kalleberg, and Simone Forti are reading at Beyond Baroque, along with the screening of short films by Naomi Uman. If you haven't seen Naomi's Hand Eye Coordination, I urge you to do so. It's truly a "hand-made" film. In what must have been a laborious process, Naomi scratched, stitched, and painted each frame of the 10 minute film, and combined original and found footage to create a witty meditation on vision and materialism. Lots o' hands, big hands, little hands, middle hands, fiddle hands.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

My housemate has on several occasions described lines of poetry (or prose sentences) as "sexy". I have always wondered what made sentences sexy rather than merely well-written: must you envy the sentence? Must you wish you had written the sentence or must the sentence be endlessly compelling? To my delight, I came across a reference to "sexy sentences" in Barthes by Barthes:

Different from secondary sexuality, the sexiness of a body (which is not its beauty) inheres in the fact that it is possible to discern (to fantasize) in it the erotic practice to which one subjects it in thought (I conceive of this particular practice, specifically, and of no other). Similarly, distinguished within the text, one might say that there are sexy sentences: disturbing by their very isolation, as if they possessed the promise which is made to us, the readers, by a linguistic practice, as if we were to seek them out by virtue of a pleasure which knows what it wants.
Pacific Grove is an early 21st century version of Proust's Balbec. Seaside Victorian homes, bed n' breakfast hotels, overpriced restaurants . . . granted, Balbec is much more than that, but this place was so unbearably clean that I longed for my little L.A. street with its graffiti and abandoned furniture. There were, however, a few interesting things to be found there:

A monkey puzzle tree, so-called because it's so prickly monkeys can't figure out how to climb it. I just love that name. Monkey Puzzle Tree.

A man who walks his cat every day on a leash -- not quite a lobster but still not a dog.

A man in his mid-50s who still lives with his mother. Every day she would watch him off to work. In the evening she would stand at the window a few minutes before he returned home. Their home was directly across the street from the house I was staying in. My stepdad took to calling him "Norman Bates," but they just seemed sweet to me.

At least I was able to make it over to Santa Cruz which has two of the best bookstores in the world, Logos and the Literary Guillotine.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

"I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun." -- Raymond Chandler

I have a coat and a hat. Don't want a gun, a drink, life insurance, or a home in the country. What I do need is a vacation. The beach awaits.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I made Nick Piombino's Hot List! And after only a few days of blogging! Thanks Nick. I didn't expect to have visitors to this blog so quickly. I'm still getting the hang of this, trying to find a form.
Ernesto is so touching.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Jia is a member of China's Sixth Generation of filmmakers. Other directors in this group include Wang Xiaoshuai (So Close to Paradise, Beijing Bicycle), Zhang Yuan (Beijing Bastards, Sons), He Jianjun (Postman), and Ning Ying (On the Beat, Railroad of Hope). Anyone seeking new cinema from China would do well to start here. Unknown Pleasures played at the Los Angeles Film Festival. A hive of mad bees somehow developed in the theater courtyard before the show. Hollywood-types hung out at the bar while a beekeeper ran in circles trying to gather the bees with some sort of smoke tool. After the screening the bees were gone but you could still smell the smoke.
Unknown Pleasures, a film by Jia Zhang Ke: Motorcycle libretto. Mongolian King Liquor Troop. The women of the valley are all tigresses. [On April 1, 2001 an American reconnaissance craft collided with a Chinese fighter jet. The U.S. plane was forced to land in the People’s Republic of China. The widow of one of the Chinese pilots expressed hope that President Bush might apologize for the incident.] Monkey King doesn’t give a shit about the WTO. Falun Gong afire. The birth control generation. I follow the wind, trading rabbits. Nuclear reactivate. Ochre rodeo. Textile terror. Can you trust science, Zhuangzi?

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Apes and Go Go Go Airheart at Spaceland: I hadn't seen Go Go Go Airheart in several years, perhaps five or more. The last time I saw them was at an old fashioned movie palace in Santa Cruz. The college-age managers used to put on secret after-hours shows in the main theater. They would project whatever movie happened to be showing at the time (without the soundtrack) while the bands played on the stage in front of the screen, sort of a lo-fi Exploding Plastic Inevitable (or perhaps hi-fi, given the superior projection equipment). I remember Go Go Go Airheart playing in front of the Minnessotta snow of the Coen Brothers' Fargo. Every once in a while the music would miraculously sync with the image -- a wall of feedback would squeal as Francis McDormand discovered a body, or the film's editing would match the rythm section almost exactly. Last night they played only a few songs. It just wasn't the same. The Apes are a primitive rock band, as their name implies. The singer is annoying. He looks like Eric Stoltz channeling Jim Morrison.

Earlier in the day I went to this old style deli called Galco's to get this amazingly spicy ginger ale they sell there. On the way out I noticed a display of cider. The proprietor noticed me noticing the cider and said that this particular cider was from the oldest continuously operating ciderhouse in the United States, in San Francisco. Then he said that 5000 ships from the 19th century were still docked in the harbor, untouched, because the sailors wouldn't set sail after tasting the cider.
Reading Hunger by Knut Hamsun, Reader's Block by David Markson, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, Sculpting in Time by Andrey Tarkovsky, the screenplay of Journeys from Berlin/1971 by Yvonne Rainer, and Paris Hollywood by Peter Wollen. Reading several books at once is a habit I've continued since college. In high school I was a one-book-at-a-time boy. My girlfriend's dad thinks I'm crazy. "How can you keep everything straight?" I think he's the crazy one: how could I possibly confuse Said with Barthes, or Markson with Hamsun? I suppose, hypothetically, if I were reading two Raymond Chandler novels interchangeably I might get the story lines confused. And Jane Austen's plots tend to bleed together somewhere in my memory. But generally I have no problem reading a chapter or two of a novel, jumping to an essay, then to another novel or a poem or two. I should have asked him if he gets Seinfeld confused with the Simpson's and the NBA Finals when he's switching the channels back and forth (which is unfair, he actually does read alot). Perhaps comparing visual and print media is a false analogy -- in my unscientific experience people tend to recall images more clearly than words. But that also varies from person to person -- ah, so many variables.

So then I began to think, and then I began to worry -- in addition to reading books, I spend several hours a day on the internet reading blogs, articles, news, commentaries, reviews, essays . . . Information glut? No, I should relax. Only a complete idiot would merge the Baath Party with al-Qaeda. Excuse me Mr. President.

And I don't read novels and poetry primarily for information. Yet David Markson's novel is so allusive that I've been forced to Google at least 4 or 5 sentences per page. Ron Silliman wrote about another Markson novel a few months ago, which I think must be similarly structured. Basically, each page is composed of names, unattributed quatations, and literary facts. For instance:

Ben Richards

The Aspern Papers

Juana de Asbaje was illegitimate

Hardy may have had an illegitimate son by a cousin named Tryphena Sparks.

The Sangreal. And/or Sangrail.

Dost know this water fly?

So if you don't happen to know who Juana de Asbaje was, or don't remember that particular line from Hamlet (perhaps I would have recalled it if I'd seen one of the movies, ha) you can type it into a search engine and find out. Almost every quote I didn't recognize turned up on the internet. Now if I could only read every book he quotes from . . .

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Maybe I was anticipating horror in Vendredi Soir because Denis' last film, Trouble Every Day (which, by the way, was terrible) was saturated with it. Several scenes were difficult to sit through, and not only because of the presence of Vincent Gallo.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Vendredi Soir, un film de Claire Denis: House hats, city nights, city lights. Capital of the 19th century. Movin’ on out. Packing up the library. Yes, she is. Mild boredom of order. Chaos of memories. Renewing an old world. A wide highway, but not a comfortable one. Traffic jams, transit strikes. Love thy neighbor. Lock your doors. Unlock your doors. Hit the brakes. Hammy radio. Would you like a ride? No thanks, I’ll walk. Come on in. I’m late for the baby. Nap time. Warm leatherette. Keyhole dreams. Boy’s back home. "Our House". Is this guy for real? Cut throat? Phone call. French kicks. Freedom ride. Coffee. Condoms. Jealousy. Empty hotels. Pinball follies. Fancy-pants. Mystic pizza. Meek sex. Just another Dielman? Will she kill him? Kill herself? Knives, ashtrays, heaters, magic lamps. Thriller? Romance? Moods?* Jean, Jean, are you awake? Then run into the streets. 400 Blows. Go see it.

*Denis plays with narrative conventions here like silly putty. Several people who screened this film with me felt it was a Wong Kar-waiesque love opera. I thought it was threatening to explode into violence until the final frame – constantly delaying the narrative payoff (and thank god for that! Narrative payoff would have killed this film). I suppose it reveals itself as a love opera after the fact. Or maybe I had too much coffee.