Friday, April 29, 2005

Funniest thing I've read in weeks is halfway down Silliman's comments box: A recasting, by Simon DeDeo (who also reviews poems) of a Rae Armantrout poem into a form Billy Collins would find acceptable:

Here I am, sitting on my porch
looking out over the campus
the internet has begun to
streamline to instantaneous.

In the supermarket, I see a sign:
voucher in/voucher out

I want to say, as I sip my dining hall coffee
and think about how I've read Henry James that
The plot
of my life

I once read a book on Oedipus and it reminds me that
The Sphinx
wants me to guess.

Driving home in my old volvo, I wonder
Does a road
run its whole length
at once?

Swerving to avoid a deer, I ask myself
Does a creature
curve to meet

Ah, the sight of co-eds in tight T's:

(See Silliman's post for the original, the opening of which was described as "inaccessible" by Collins in the introduction to a recent anthology. Yes, if you've never been near a supermarket or a computer in the last 10-15 years; remember that incident with Bush Sr. and the digitial checkout?) This is perhaps very slightly unfair to Collins, as I don't think as his everyday being the academic everyday, but the point is made. But it's interesting that this can even be done w/ a passage of RA -- hard to see how one would execute the same exercise with e.g. Coolidge or Scalapino. (And this bears in turn on my knee-jerk response to Silliman's Under Albany.)

I'm glad I found this discussion (RA intervenes politely, someone sets up a Collins:Kooser::JPII:Rotweiler analogy), but gee, reading the comments on poetry blogs is, by and large, one step above actually paying attention to spam, as far as edification goes. (On DeDeo's blog, one of the F=o=e=t=s aims his dick at Sara Manguso. Not worth a link.)


And quoting Weekly World News headlines is one step above linking to Onion articles, as far as blog-content goes, but the second-funniest thing I've read in weeks was: "Alien Bible Found! They Worship Oprah!"


Read Spahr's This Connection of Everyone With Lungs. Solemn, 'accesible' (cf. Mirakove's Occupied; sense that it was difficult for the author to 'allow' herself to write it. Am I a lunatic or worse to be reminded of Henry Reed?


Rented Demy's Lola, went to Sin City (= Road Runner), read Joy Williams Honored Guest, Renee Gladman's The Activist, Sennett and Cobb's The Hidden Injuries of Class. Saw strange between movie filler-bit on TCM, consisting of a passage from Max Weber (!!) read by Gabriel Byrne over a montage of city/factory-scapes. Don't think I listened to anything except Spring Hill Fair since last post.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Writing this post likely means not grading as many papers as I ought, but hell, I did already (a) exercise, (b) draft my Oceans Apart review today. (Not mentioned: The Go-Bs still make ouright terrible videos.)


Getting groceries up Beechwood Canyon, paused to skim Time cover story on Ann Coulter; brief graf on her reading habits made mention of "French philosopher Jacques Ellul," a name I can't recall having encountered. 1/2 hr. later, reading Craig M. Gay's Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today's Society at the Y, Ellul is quoted: "Nothing, whether in human nature or the nature of things, adequately explains the original act of accepting and creating money. Nothing explains the blind confidence that we continue, in spite of all crises, to place in money. This is an absurdity which neither economists nor sociologists are able to clarify." This is what Ann curls up with, of a free evening? (Gay is a theologian; his book is an oddity, moving lucidly through Schumpeter and Simmel's critiques of the monetization of value, then turning sharply to claim that we can combat this by [only by] accepting God's grace. "Life is a gift." True, in a way. I think I was attracted to the book b/c the title and cover reminded me of Bob Perelman's Face Value. Live and learn.)


Speaking of contemporary French thought, here's a translation-in-progress of Alain Badiou's Numbers by one Robin Mackay. I have barely glanced at this and have no measured opinion about Badiou (apparently a working mathematician turned philosophe), just passing it on for the interested. (First entry on page, click link to pdf.)


I don't ask a lot of a new rock band, these days; just short-circuit my heard-it-all filter long enough for me to think "this is the shit," even if only for a week or two. Maximo Park, or at least "The Coast Is Always Changing," does the job. (Here's their only slightly less dismal video. They're not a great interview either, but I'm glad to have the accent ID'd as Newcastle.) Maybe I was wrong about The Edsel Auctioneer -- more a C86 song (the lyric reminds me of The Siddleys) transformed into this-year's-Britrock (non-Go4 division) by a tight mix -- but I still a touch of the Play Hard stable. (Anyone remember Kit? Ludus covering Send Me A Lullaby? Anyone?) The rest of the Apply Some Pressure EP, and the new "Graffiti" single (found elsewhere on their site), have more "attitude" and less structure (remember, I'm the guy who voted for "Dark of the Matinee"), but I'll reserve further judgment until the album.


And yes, I do absorb, oh, "Wait" (novelty crunk!), Arular, Run the Road (faves = Lady S. and Ears, though the MC growling "deep shit" on "Cock Back" almost put me off the whole thing), it's just that others get there faster and smarter, so why sit here nodding?


Noirfest ended last night with two scarcely-seen Dan Duryea items. In the outstanding Larceny (1948, dir. George Sherman), he's essentially support, as "Silky Randall," nominal brains of a con-gang, the real operator being John Payne, a grifter so smooth he can improvise a speech on "honesty" to a youth group while posing as the battlefield buddy of monied war widow Joan Caulfield. Payne's not an actor I usually care for, but here you actually start believing he's as irrestible as the dialogue claims ("Do you still have that fatal charm?" "I haven't heard any complaints lately."); Caulfield is a Grace Kelly-type, right for a slightly stupid character, blinded by self-righteousness to her own suckerability. The main grift involves collecting contributions for a war-memorial/youth activity center that is not, needless to say, going to be built; Caulfield suddenly decides she wants to bank the whole thing herself, eliciting a twinge of guilt from Payne, with a predictable (but nicely followed-out) triple-cross result; the exact shape of the scam changed about four times in the last 1/2 hr., but I think I kept up.

This was one of the few films this year that actually ran with the social cynicism that is among noir's main strengths; Payne's spiels are not far from what would be spouted with complete sincerity in a post-war "A," here presented as the bullshit (in the Harry Frankfurt sense) it is. Loved that it was set in a fictional suburb of Pasadena, in an atmospher more Cain than Chandler. As a real estate agent's secretary (a very lovely Dorothy Hart) says: "The weather here is like dope. There are people here who have been trying to break away for fifty years, but they don't have the willpower." Plus, weasel-king Percy Helton and a cameo by Jack Benny's announcer Don Wilson. Plus plus Shelly Winters, anticipating future outlandishness as a moll involved w/ both Duryea and Payne, and self-involved enough to fuck up a $100G deal. (This is the tab for the priciest tract of land in town, by the way; this sort of thing always gets laughs from an L.A. audience.) With gun in hand: "I think I still remember how to use this...there's four bullets left. Or is it five? -- It's been so long since I murdered my mother." Payne to Winters: "If you could buy a cheap horse, you'd rent your mother out as Lady Godiva."


The other feature, Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949, dir. William Castle, pre-horror), also w/ Duryea and Winters, was less substantial. Points of interest: Howard Duff's totally unsympathetic portrayal of a cold-fish cop, a long stretch that takes the characters to a resort/ranch in Arizona, as an excuse to dress everyone in Western duds only slightly less unbelievable than the "Reno" sequences in The Women, the fact that the train station and some exteriors were actually recognizable to me as downtown Tucson, and a pre-fame Tony Curtis, billed "Anthony," as a mute gunsel -- seriously, no lines, which works well for him.


I just don't think I'm ever going to get back to Obsession or Possessed. Both should be on your to-see list, though the second is, I'll bet, much easier to find. Don't know how it would play on video, but at full-size, it was genuinely disorienting -- Bree and I couldn't make a rational decision for about 45 min. afterwards. Last time I vividly remember that happening was the first time I saw Repulsion, which I've since advised Bree to avoid.


Oh, looking up Dorothy Hart from Larceny (she died just last year), I chanced on this 2002 John Lahr column on Richard Rodgers fairly greivous failings as a human being. Complete accident; Larry Hart's sister-in-law, closely involved in estate issues after his death, was also named Dorothy (as was the brittle Mrs. Rodgers, nicknamed "La Perfecta"*) -- the interesting part, four or five sections down, is on Rodgers' attempts to keep his work w/ Hart underexplosed during the height of his partnership with Hammerstein. Creep. (*Bree owns her books on entertaining and decorating.)


From the start, tne problem with F=O=E=T=R=Y (I'm avoiding searches), aside from what one actually thinks of the "money in poetry" issues, has been the hard-to-shake sense that the most vocal participants are those who would, given a tenth of a chance, grease themselves into the same heirarchy they propose to eliminate. If, that is, they gave any indication of having read a poem, ever. This is not helped by the fact that, now that the masks are off, even the front matter of the site is openly vindictive, making it less possible than ever to view it as a serious endeavor/inquiry. None of which makes J@net H0!lmes, apparently equally defensive about matters she's right about (the Foes' Coulterish tone and tactics, that screwing-with-avatars crap) and ones one which she might reasonably give a little ground, an angel, necessarily. It's just a shit-slinging match now. (But aren't most unresticted forums, whatever the topic, thick with nutjobs. Yeah, but here the moderator fanned the flames in the service of self-aggrandizement and at the expense of his project. When you think about it, it's a miracle that ILM isn't any loonier than it is.)


Thought I might review night two of Conrad/Snow for pay, but since that's not happening, very briefly. Snow: Roughly 30 min. of solo piano, apparently largely improvised, passing through several textural 'cells' inc. and hands-inside-the-box stretch and ending with major gliss action. Could read his jazz roots off his technique (better right hand than left) and relatively loose rhythms -- plus a few bars of I-IV-II-V he played under the applause. Piece was titled Visits, wonder what he does differently when he calls it something else. Conrad: Roughly 50 min. of multi-tracked violin backing, basically a D-major triad, over which he ran effected modal violin, then viola, then back to violin. Behind sheet streched across entire stage, of course, wearing hat, striking Fiddler on the Roof poses. Great thing: an assistant sitting on stage the whole time, his Chucks visible in the strip of stage not hidden by the sheet. At one point, he sprawled out, making the monied Getty theater stage his own Dream Theater crash-pad, luckier than the rest of us who had to sit upright. Encore, presumably planned: Snow on prepared piano (must have been done in the break before Conrad's set), Conrad bowing the metal rim of a floor-tom head (much like what he'd done w/ a strip of film the previous night), very loudly amplified. Some of the most unpleasant sounds I've heard people make voluntarily, and I've heard my share. Fine, but no real focus; member of Open City looked pleased. Whole thing made me wonder if these guys ever think, "They haven't found us out yet," esp. in light of this being, I'd bet, a money gig? Not about everything they do or have done, but some of it, sometimes? No?


Adding, immed. upon posting this, three links at right. Bachelardette is Ange Mlinko -- hardly anyone I'd be gladder to see start blogging. (Re Anne Winter: I admire the very light-handed formal linkages of the title poem, and respect, couldn't quite see what I was getting from some other poems that I wouldn't find in a prose presentation of the same material, haven't gotten to the sonnets. Getting over a fear of subject matter -- endemic to L.A. poets, who favor an emptied-out narrativity -- myself.) 33third is Continuum ed. David Barker, mostly relevant to the series, but also engaging when it isn't. (Scary; sounds like they've taken delivery on copies of Armed Forces -- and Grace and Murmur. Watching my mailbox.) Thejimside is thejimside, because damn if I don't hit it nearly every day, almost despite myself. (Liking the stickers, esp. the angels; must be a huge time-saver.)


I know, this got out of hand.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

L.A. readers who see this in the next three hours: consider heading over to Vancouver artist Carrie Walker's opening tonight.


Beside-reread Paul Auster's New York Trilogy over the last week. Not sure why, maybe the noir connection, though I hadn't remembered that one of the narrators pauses to recount the entire plot of Out of The Past. What's relevant here is this passage from The Locked Room:

"Only darkness has the power to make a man open his heart to the world, and darkness is what surrounds me whenever I think of what happened." Wonder which Mekon read this? More evidence, a few paragraphs earlier: "I spend that night in Sophie's bed, and from then on it became impossible to leave it."


Thought of linking to any number of post-EMP roundups, but Barbara Flaska has done the job for me. Just a few out of many:

Oliver Wang supplies the soundtrack to Matos' "Apache" breakdown. Teamwork!

J-Shep posts Shayla's photos. I look like I'm planning to solve a crime before returning to tending my orchids. Re comments: Jessica, there's a law -- like a law of physics, I mean -- against photos of me dancing circulating on the interweb. Unless I'm doing "The Sacramento Stomp"; maybe next year.

Speaking of J-Hop, see her before and after for totes zhivago perspectives on D. Thomas and the infamous DQV. In the face of at least three people I respect giving Thomas a thumbs-down, I'll just register that I had mixed feelings about his talk: As a performance, it scored, as one would expect, and I was genuinely glad to see the surviving Ghoulardi footage after reading accounts of Cleveland horror-hosts in Cle and Wind-Up Toy; but I was not crazy about his closed-off attitude during the q&a about competing accounts of punk and his hometown's place therein, though he played it for laughs. Explicable, but not excusable. And no, making interviewers cry, not good -- I've done two phoners w/ him over the years, one (for the minor Ubu album Ray Gun Suitcase) pretty bland, the other (for the L.A. version of the Distastodrome! minifest) more engaging but essentially canned. I could go on about which of his recent incarnations I still think have juice (hint: not '90s-'00s Ubu), but that wasn't the point at hand.

Douglas distills Daphne Brooks' presentation (I was in and out of several sessions at the time, only saw half) down to a notion of how 'rockism' might be used in a more limited, hence more useful way; I was calling it 'rockonormativity.' I think I had some other conversation about whether a artist/recording could be rockist, or only a critic/response -- the second was argued, but I think the first is possible. I gather it's already an injoke over at ILM to raise mock-earnest questions about the meaning of 'rockism' -- it's ovah, it's, you know, corny.

That said, the inevitable afterthoughts thread over there was worth a skim, inc. some not-too-defensive rebuttal from Justin Farrar.


Dialogue notes on The Dark Corner (1946), deciphered from what I could write on a coffee cup in the dark: "I'm playing by the book, and I won't even trip over a comma." "There's a pepper-pot under this hat." "Lovers of beauty never haggle over price." "It was a busto-crusto." "How I hate the dawn...The grass looks as though it had been left out all night." "I didn't think he'd take a brody. He came out of there like a hot rivets. Funny, I never yet seen one of those guys bounce." (I think you can guess which of these lines was spoken by Clifton Webb's art dealer; moral of the movie was, in essence, never trust an aesthete.) Sidelights -- in nightclub scene, Teddy Wilsonish piano jazz by one Eddie Heywood, will have to look into his recordings. Based on a story by Leo Rosten (The Joys of Yiddish), who, oddly, also wrote the screenplay to last night's second feature, Douglas Sirk's Lured with its remarkable, freakish Boris Karloff set-piece.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So, that Magik Markers LP -- confusion is still sex, I gather. No lack of groovy-hate-fuck anti-libidinal nrg, and I'm liking the drummer, but...it's called a vocal mic. It's right there, just move your head. Would still try it on live.


Getty, last night. Tony Conrad: 10 minute film of b&w bars/checks, flickering, producing apparent motion and color effects. 15 minute film replicating the familiar mise-en-abyme tunnel of video feedback by a laborious process involving developing the footage right after its exposed and projecting it on the very screen the camera points to. "Film" loop only viewable by one spectator at a time, by physically wrapping it around your head; "soundtrack" consisting of violin-bowing edge of the film, amplified for the rest of the audience's benifit. 3 second film of woman placing a needle on a record. 10 minutes of super-8 from a much longer project, involving David Antin, Mike Kelley and other artists around San Diego at the time playing soldier; a less-disciplined Les Carabiniers, from what I could make out. Michael Snow: 15 minute condensation of Wavelength consisting of each third of the film (and soundtrack) running simultaneously, superimposed; partly a response to his unwillingness to make the full version available on video. 17 minute expansion of a 30-second incident, using technology designed for sports slo-mo. 20 minute section of Corpus Callosum, a somewhat formless but sometimes disquieting catalog of squeezling-and-stretching effects; farily current techniques now common in commercial film pressed to non-narrative ends. Q&A with P. Adams Sitney, whose Visionary Film I can see on the shelf from here but of which I haven't gotten past ch. 2: Conrad came off as much less mysterioso than my previous impression of him (behind-the-curtain concert, all those anti-Pythagorean Table of the Elements liner notes). Snow seemed unwilling to tip his hand, talked much more about the 'how' than 'why.' B/c of time constraints, I ended up asking the only audience question -- just wanted to know about the provenance of a couple of the soundtracks. Turned out Conrad's Straight and Narrow (which I dorked out and called Back and Forth, one of Snow's not shown tonight), the first film described above, is backed by a chunk of John Cale/Terry Riley's Church of Anthrax, which happened to be what Cale brought by when Conrad had just gotten the film back from the lab. The endless gliss of Wavelength seems more or less to have been the work of someone at Bell Labs (I'm sure this is all documented somewhere). Checking out round two -- solo concerts by both -- tonight, but I'm not tempted away from next weekend's noirs by a screening of Snow's 285 min. Rameau's Nephew.


Wicked As They Come (1956). Rise and fall (from 10th St. to trophy wife to unjustly accused murderess) of a sexual manipulator/’manhater’, pivoting almost entirely on Arlene Dahl’s performance, half Stanwyck in Baby Face, half Kim Novak blankness. The ‘right man’ (Philip Carey) shows up at intervals; he seemed to me no less sleazy than any other man in the movie. Other than Dahl’s eyes and one of Herbert Marshall’s last performances (best scene is a job interview as mutual seduction), pretty hokey; we find out in the last read that the protagoness was “attacked by hoodlums” at 14, which of course explains everything. I suppose this was meant to be a sympathetic treatment of a femme fatale type, but the implicit suggestion is that it’s only the fact rape or abuse (to her father, “You’re no better than the rest of them”) that would drive a woman to cynicism about the advances of beauty contest judges as married execs. I can’t stand the ending of Marnie, either.


The Whip Hand (1951). Insane/inane Cold War conspiracy flick, set in Michigan but filmed in U.K. studios. Magazine writer on takes wrong road, is turned back at a gated compound (“Private Property,” ironic in light of what’s to come), ends up in what amounts to a ghost town, tourism having dried up after mass death of lake trout. Townspeople at first seem to be shooing him out, but once he starts poking around, won’t let him leave. Cutting to the chase: All but a few oldsters in the town are recent arrivals who moved in after the fish died. They’re “Communists” from who knows where, ultimately in the service of the guy up at the compound, an biological weapons expert for the Reich, now at work for the Rooskies on some other fun new additions to the U.S. water supply (not to mention a few human guinea pigs). The plot is foiled, not before the mad Herr Doktor Buchholz gets off a speech, or most of one; he’s shot half-a-beat-after “Communists will rule the world!” If you didn’t know what communism was before the movie, you’d just assume at the end that it was another name for Nazism – all you know is that “they’ll stop at nothing.” Churchillian. Only familiar face in the cast was Raymond Burr, as a falsely jolly inn owner (2nd-cousin to John Candy’s “Fishin’ Musician”), though Bree informs me that protagonist Elliot Reed was Jane Russell’s love interest in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -- in that company, no wonder I can’t remember him. For being directed by William Cameron Menzies (more famous as an art director/production designer), there wasn’t a lot to look at, other than stagy “rocky foothills.” (His ’32 Chandu the Magician is fine, though.)


Still 2 noirs behind, but Dmytryk’s Obsession and Curtis Bernhart's Joan Crawford vehicle Possessed were both much better films than either of the above, and hence, harder to capture. We’ll see.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sorry for moderately-long absence. Didn't mention it here before the fact, but decided late in the game to head up to Pop Confererence 2005 in Seattle. Really should have repurposed some of the EC material -- it would have fit neatly into the "Music as Masquerade" theme, but -- I didn't. So I was there, "just as a spectator," but 2 1/2 days of entering the conversation at meals, breaks, and q&as felt like a form of participation. Made the brilliant wrong-airport move on my way out of town, so didn't make it until halfway through Friday. Top Ten, roughly chronologically:

1. Walking in just in time for Douglas' survey of the "Things Go Better With Coke" campaign, back when the alliance of pop (from Otis Redding to Lesley Gore to Vanilla Fudge) and advertising was a novelty. (Plus a cd-r of the spots; and one of 100 Dylan covers; downside, missing Matos on "Apache.")
2. Faces to names, all within a couple of hours: Matt Ashare, Keith Harris, Dylan Hicks, Carl Wilson.
3. Drew Daniel on Darby Crash, feat. video of himself being given a cigarette tattoo by Don Bolles. In a nutshell: The "Germs burn" is the hermeneutic circle.
4. Video in Miles White's talk on performances of masculity in hip-hop, of a Seattle show by Brother Ali, who I played w/o any previous knowledge on the radio last week -- not realizing that he's not just white, but an albino. And has skills. I'd have felt stupid if Sahsa hadn't known he was white either.
5. Xgau's Coasters piece, for (1) solid information about the band members, hardly household names in himself; (2) noticing that the pop-cultural references in Lieber & Stoller are slightly off/dated w/r/t the songs' likely audience -- the detectives in "Searchin'" are from radio; (3) a sudden autobiographical aside about his "first, disquieting glimpse of vulva" at, it seemed, a strip show in a tent. General moment of too-stunned-to-snicker throughout the hall.
6. Complimented on my attire by Jessica Hopper: "...You look like a boss...a nice boss...you don't look like a jerk." Mostly the wing-tips, I think. Coming from someone who thinks a lot of people either are or at least look like jerks, and who at that moment was sporting an eye-popping red-white-and-blue plaid pantsuit, this was a minor personal victory.
7. Ned Sublette on the closeness of the slave-holding past in New Orleans, and the effects of that closeness. Fascinating photo accompiment of Mardi Gras "tribes" in the neighborhoods, off the beaten flashing-and-beads path of Bourbon Street. Really a talk about culture in the widest sense, very heavy, and faultlessly presented.
8. All three episodes of the "Fake Bands" panel: (1) Joe Gore and Elise Malmberg on their Clubbo Records project (they record music in various period styles and insert them into the appropriate states in the label's "history"). Wasn't certain it was fake until the title of their Donovan-esque folkie's double live album, A Most Magical Show; later learned that the clip played was voiced by Mark Eitzel. (2) David Grubbs on the Cologne artist Kia Altoff's musical sidebar Workshop, which, after the previoius presentation, I took for Grubbs' elaborate fiction well into the talk. (3) Carl Wilson on the motivations behind "bandanyms" -- Smog, Palace, MGs, Destroyer, and so on. I have to say that I'd not have assumed someone would have a lot of thoughts about this that I haven't had myself, but I was wrong. Pretty certain that this is the only time Robert Grenier has come up at EMP. (It's hard to get the "I HATE SPEECH" move to work in vocal music, so you've got to do something else to block expressive identification.) On top of everything else, it was pretty much the final bit of proof that I made a huge strategic misstep in 1991.
9. Dance-off at The War Room w/ Jessica, Julianne, Shayla Hason, Drew & Carl. I was outclassed, but not self-conscious.
10. Allmost all (see 3 below) of the final "Black Mass" panel. Weisbard on his long, ambivalent fascination with "Buddy Holocaust," a Dartmouth undergrad who played one show of vile right-wing satirical folk. the tape of which has circulated among Princeton DJs ever since. Peter Mercer-Taylor, a Mendehlsson scholar of buttoned-down appearance, on Cradle of Filth. Solid musicology, plus the (I think intentional, but not arch) humor of playing a few bars of "From the Cradle to Enslave" and then continuing calmly, "After the second ritornello, a textural shift...." Erik Davis doing something I would have thought impossible: Saying something useful about Led Zep and the occult, with no notes yet, and nice sidebars on "Christian turntablism" and Memphis Minnie. I could have listened to him for a couple hours.

Three talks I shouldn't have missed, by all reports (not to mention the minstrelsy plenary Thursday, before I could get there): Theo Cateforis on "American Nervousness, 1979," apparently including a reading of Peter Ivers' New Wave Theatre; a novelist whose name I'm not now finding at the conference site, on her punk past, apparently notably well-written; and Sean Nelson on Morrissey.


1. RJ Smith cancelled.
2. Did see, as always, a talk or two that made me think, "Hey, you can suck the life out of something with academic critical vocabulary."
3. Some of the academic attendees still need to work on presentation. Do what you do, everyone, but you're up against performers, so bring a tight game. Consider printing out a hard copy; reading from the laptop is harder than it might seem up in the hotel room the night before.
4. Justin Farrar on Gnosticism and free-folk-psych (No Neck Blues Band, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Sunn O+typographical b.s., Jewelled Antler). No critical distance, mystical/drug experiences reported like a Dead review in a college newspaper. By the time we got to the trenchant point that the members of Animal Collective play under craazy fake names, I had to leave for a bit. There are many perspectives that I don't share but try to go down the road a piece with; this was not one of them. Extra points to Erik D. for recontextualizing most of what Farrar had to say in a few asides, much less dismissively than I could have managed. Number 11 above should be Daphne Carr, immediately after, with an Animal Collective-related story that is hers to tell. I was practically begging her to say something in the q&a, which veered between smart talk about power and affect to dumb talk about the evil mojo of MTV. Carl framed the right question a few hrs. later, over coffee: "Are you talking about capitalism, or demons?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

kspc 6-8 pm

harold j. neal -- introduction, 1965 ABC radio affiliates convention
gang of four -- not great men (peel session)
sharon jones/dap-kings -- this land is your land
crown city rockers -- fortitude (feat. gift of gab)

john cull -- g.i. joe
lost sounds -- i get nervous
the girls -- cubist grid
last of the juanitas -- angie dickinson
totally radd -- victory pose

slim whitman -- indian love call (hey, it's in rotation, on a "country crooners" comp)
bill monroe -- dark hollow
carla bozulich -- times square
mia doi todd -- what if we do?

manhead -- birth, school, work, death (electro godfathers cover, wtf)
maximo park -- the coast is always changing (this is on warp? sounds like, jeez, the edsel auctioneer. "you react to my riposte"? I think I love this)
mouse on mars -- send me shivers
brother ali -- champion

kissing tigers -- i died in a mall
masha qrella -- guided by the stripes
saturday looks good to me -- the girl's distracted
purple wizard -- i've been wrong (hollies cover)
gary wilson -- gary saw linda last night

barbez -- the red urchins
the thin man -- for us
annette peacock -- american sport

momus -- jesus in furs (must be the first time this millenium i've thought of momus)
pony up -- minstrel
abc singers -- the saga of the radio commercial
the mice -- little rage
fiel garvie -- outdoor miner (yeah, from that)

Monday, April 11, 2005

I'll be on kspc this wed., 6-8 p.m. pst.


A couple weeks back, Nick Piombino's blog mentioned "Kimberly Lyons' new book Saline (Instance Press, 2005)." Can't find anything online about the press, or the book. If any readers have info relevant to procuring this, I'd be grateful: Lyons' previous Abracadabra was a lovely book (and another case where I've bought used copies when I've seen them to give to friends). [Update: For some reason, I forgot to check spd; they've got it.]


Went to Silliman's blogroll to find Piombino quickly, stuck around to catch up, was reminded of my feelings re: Jim Behrle's Ron Is Ron. Funny, but meaner than Silliman's excesses deserved? Felt that way, but on actually goint back to RS' blog, one notices the pompous tone, and a/an (increasing) number of posts structured around "the best," "the worst," "the only." Given how much of the langpo moment was about blurring the line between poetry and discourse about it, it's funny that this line is made bright-unto-flourescent by RS' voice and mode of argumentation; and there's some merit to the thought that he's often behaving (writing) like his "SoQ" entities, just from the other, "post-avant" side. Something similar has kept me, perhaps unfairly, from tracking down/reading his Under Albany, a line-by-line gloss/rationalization of "Albany," the piece of "poet's prose" that initiated The Alphabet. 25 years after "The New Sentence," we are finally supplied the missing connections that blocked syllogistic movement in the original piece. (How suspect does a poetic project become when, once the cards are laid face up, it turns out to be argument with the argument removed?) But, as I say, I haven't read the new book -- just tracing a reaction. And, all that said, the blog still sometimes hits the bullseye, as on Mar. 16, on U.S. govt. surveillance of poetry readings. And he certainly doesn't deserve hate mail from (apparently) Franz Wright (see comments on linked post).

(And as to Behrle -- what is being accomplished by "John Ashbunny"?)


It's become obvious to me that I'm not going to get around to really writing about much if any of the below (or even typing in proper links), so I'll just leave connections among the recent spate of cover albums, a couple of which I haven't even heard yet, as an exercise to the reader:

Charity tribute to Bjork's "Army of Me"
Non-charity tribute to Wire's "Outdoor Miner"

Cyrus Chestnut et al's instrumental jazz renditions of Pavement
Lea Delaria's Double Standards, vocal jazz versions of "Tatooed Love Boys," "Just A Girl," "Been Caught Stealing" and so forth.

Jah Division, Dub Will Tear Us Apart
Petra Haden's all-vocal The Who Sells Out

Robert Scott, Songs of Otago's Past (NZ folksongs by Mr. Bats)
Soft Pink Truth, new one (art-punk covers by Mr. Matmos)

Also, I'm told that Scout Niblett recently released a cover of "Uptown Top Ranking," but it's not on her upcoming 4AD disc.


Resistant to real work outside of writing my lectures since, if I'm honest, February. Oh, I managed the Beck piece and my conference response, but that's about it. Proximal cause: Lack of enthusiasm for the item currently at the top of my to-do-list: Cutting a 10,000 word paper on musical ontology down to around 7,000 for journal submission. Hoping to get head straight between mid-May (end of term) and mid-July (Europe w/ Bree). (Possibly The Illusion of Conscious Will is a bad choice of on-the-side reading.) Will get to the rest of this weekend's movies in a few days: Wish I'd had the spirit to go straight from Joan Crawford in "Possessed" to a rare showing of Michael Snow's 3-hr La Region Centrale, but went on errands instead.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Papal funeral, royal wedding. Where exactly does 'the news' want us to believe history resides, and which century is this?



A Lacanian would have a field day, if one hasn't already, with Hollow Triumph (1948, aka The Scar aka The Man Who Murdered Himself). Paul Henried (who also produced, just a couple years after Casablanca and Now, Voyager) as a sociopathic ex-con who, we learn from his parole board, at one point "practiced psychotherapy" w/o a license. On leaving prison, immediately plans large heist against an illegal casino, run by a gangster with a particularly strong reputation for hunting down those who cross him. In hiding, accidentally discovers that he has a dead ringer (also played by Henreid), who, fortune would have it, is also an analyst. Only difference, doc has a prominent scar on one side of his face. Gets involved w/ doc's secretary (Joan Bennett, always watchable but basically a foil here), who's probably also involved with the doc. On discovering that crook knows something about psychotherapy, quizzes him: "What's scopophilia?" Crook procures photo of doc, scars self, kidnaps-kills-replaces doc, not before realizing to his horror that the photo was printed from a reversed negative; thus, he's a literal mirror image of his victim. Brazens out the plan nonetheless, correctly surmising that everyone around him (patients, and even Bennett) will be too self-absorbed to notice the change. Is forced to reveal self to Bennett, she's horrifed at first but agrees to meet him on the boat to Honolulu -- "tonight," you know the sort of thing. As he's on the way to the boat, notices he's being followed by thugs, thinks they're the henchmen of the gangster he's been hiding from, but no, they want the doc, for his mounting gambling debts. Tries to tell them they've got the wrong guy, points out that the scar's in the wrong place, thugs don't buy it, shoot him at the dock, last shot is of crowds ignoring (i.e. not recognizing) his corpse. Fairly self-conscious piece of film-making, no surprise that an Austro-Hungarian emigre director, Steve Sekely (nee Istvan Szekely), is behind this, along w/ the great smoke-and-mirrors noir cinematographer John Alton. Best scenes: In front of mirror holding doc's photo up to his face, then we go a shot of the bureau and watch his cigarette burn down, scarring the wood, while he works on himself off-screen. And a character bit with a shrimpy garage mechanic who gives a stilted, no-one-would-ever-say-this monologue about wanting to be a ballroom dancer. Oh yeah, good action sequence on the now-defunct Angel's Flight tram in downtown L.A..


Scandal Sheet (1952): Directed in a no-nonsense manner by Phil Karlson, but more interesting for being an adaption of Sam Fuller's first novel The Dark Page, based on his crime-reporter days. (Festival programmer Eddie Muller's introduction pointed out that the book is alluded to in Fuller's The Big Red One.) Visually, a programmer, but a nice noose-tightening plot: Unscrupulous (and sweaty) editor Broderick Crawford kills woman he left but didn't bother to divorce 30 years ago, then allows protege/star reporter (and stunning beauty) John Derek to follow the lurid story, as he (Crawford) will get a bonus from the publisher's if circulation tops 700,000. Gets caught eventually, but not before a number of difficult-to-swallow coincidences involving pawn tickets and Connecticut judges. Greed, disillusionment, w/ crisp, prim Donna Reed as the voice of inegrity; good use of gormless Bowery-bum types.


The Web (1947), more greed, this time on the part of "industrialist" Vincent Price, who's hired "brash young attorney" Edmond O'Brien as a bodyguard -- first night he's on the job, he has to shoot, in self-defence, a former employee who's been "threatening" Price. This is all a set-up, of course; you don't need the details. Price, in fact, kills, has killed, or tries to kill just about every other character in the movie at some juncture. Interesting cast: The employee offed early on is Fritz Leiber, the father of the science fiction author, familiar to me from Humoreseque; William Bendix doesn't play dumb for once as the police inspector; Ella Raines (best-known from Phantom Lady) as (another) secretary/love-interest, doing one of those Lizbeth Scott turns -- a woman involved in some sort of compromised (monetized?) alliance with the villan of the piece, but basically sort of good, maybe. A free agent, you can never tell exactly why this character chooses the man she chooses, but she's not, in the end, a spider-lady -- I suppose Rita Hayworth's Gilda is the most memorable realization of the type.

For a while in the middle, everyone's looking for a character named "Bruno" -- a crooked engraver described as having bottle-thick glasses, and an inferiority complex! At one point, O'Brien goes through the phone book calling Brunos: "Well, do you know a Bruno who might know a Bruno..." Unfortunately, I never got to see my namesake -- turns out he's been dead for five years.


Border Incident (1949), I can't do justice to briefly. This was Anthony Mann's first film after T-Men, and it's similarly structured -- establishing voice-overs, focus on the efforts of an undersung govt. agencies (here, both the U.S. and Mexican immigration authorities), plot driven by an undercover mission. For 70 pesos, nasty types take braceros too impatient to wait for legal work permits across the border, where they're underpaid by U.S. farmers, plus they're dropped into a canyon full of quicksand on the way back. (All this is framed in the movie as a terrible exception to the legal, fair, non-exploitative practices followed by the great majority of employers of immigrant labor.) I saw this about 13 hours ago, and I'm already fuzzy on just how the plot operates: Mexican cop Ricardo Montalban (solid, but strangely emotionless) poses as a bracero (he's almost given away by his "soft hands"), working in tandem with a U.S. agent, also undercover, who sells stolen official work permits to farmer/middleman-for-the-whole-scheme Howard da Silva (best performance in the movie). But then I get lost; in any case, there's no moral ambiguity to speak of, so on that count, it's more a plain action film than a noir. But, it's exciting and visually energetic -- after a couple of characters-in-rooms flicks like the two just above, you really notice what a high proportion of Mann's shots are inventively (even showily) framed. Alton's behind the lens again, so there are some impressive deep-focus effects -- big faces in the foreground while much smaller silhouetted figures scramble on the foothills in the background. Opening aerial shots of tidy farmland, moving to busier compositions when we get closer enough to see workers in the fields, contrast with the bulk of the film and the chaos (even sublimity) of brush and jagged rocks at ground level.

The film's ideology is transparently liberal-democratic (voice-overs that state outright that our safety and economic security depends on institutional vigilance hardly deserve the name 'ideology') , but interesting to pause over for a moment. The smugglers are stereotyped, of course (torilla shop as front for human traffic, though the head man seems to be a German expat), the braceros are 'simple folk,' and Montalban is just 'noble.' But, it's notable that the voice-overs frame the problem as one of human suffering, with the illegal workers understood as exploited rather than blameworthy -- nothing in here about 'taking away jobs' that I could discern. And, the 'boss' (Da Silva) very much gets it in the end, esp. when his henchmen force him, once things have gone wrong, to take care of the dirty work of leading he latest group of victims in the "Canyon of Death." You can see the character's sudden confusion at having to face these individuals as something other than economic units. But, of course, he gets it only because he's a dishonest capitalist. Earlier, Montalban half-way beings to 'organize' the workers he's among, explaining how little they're earning and how much is being taken out for food and so on. One guy tumbles, gets up to leave the farm: "I go where what is paid is right!" Montalban sits him down -- "No, we are here outside the law, so the law cannot protect us." (Cf. final shot of U.S. and Mexican flags flying in tandem.) That is, the depiction of injustices (even real ones) by the lights of the system assumes the justice of the system itself to be unquestionable. (I thought I could find the passage of Cohen's History, Labour, and Freedom that I'm paraphrasing, but no.)

Not exactly Phil Ochs, but not 'Minutemen' at the AZ border either. (I hope d. boon can appreciate the irony.)


Side Street (1950). More Mann, but less distinctive in being (1) clearly modeled on Dassin's The Naked City two years earlier -- NY location shooting, picking-one-story-out-of-2,000,000 narrative framing conceit, even a glamourous mystery woman drowned in the East River with attendant newsman chaos at her apartment -- and (2) an attempt to reteam Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell from They Live By Night. Innocent kid steals someone else's blackmail money in moment of weakness so wife won't have to have their child in a charity ward, ends up w/ most of NY's Finest hounding him (wrongly) for murder. By the final chase scene, the buildings are more interesting than the people. Granger gives good restless/anxious/in-over-his-head, w/ proto-Method technique; O'Donnell is a clearly limited performer, reminds me of a shriller Julie Harris. Not to be unkind, but I'm not surprised her career petered out after about a decade. (Though her imdb bio gives a different explanation.) Excellent nightclub singer turn 3/4 of the way in by the undersung Jean Hagen, not long before Singin' In The Rain typed her forever. Not much else to say about this one, except that the screenwriter seems to have been especially concerned with making sure we see Granger paying for various things (cabs, drinks, info from a tough funeral director's kid).


3 more tonight.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Two fine long posts on Scritti Politti's Early, one from the heavily Lacanian k-punk, which links to the other by someone new to me. Same blogger is currently working through a variety of music c. 1974: Gaynor, Roxy, Essex.


Papal consideration by actual lapsed (I think) Catholic, Keith Harris. (Recall that one of the first exchanges on this blog, coming up on two years ago, was w/ Keith about the classic-rockist : Catholicism :: indie-rockist : Protestanism SAT item.)

Me, I was just going to get all Hitchens and run a thought experiment on what the Church would do if the Vicar of Christ had lapsed into a vegetative state for over a decade. But you get the point.

This is somehow related to last leg of the drive home, after several hours bouncing among various CDs, Kings Radio (the inexiplicable Central California FM station that plays things like the love theme to "High Noon" and Johnny Horton's "Sink The Bismark," plus examples of a truly lost art, internally produced commercials -- with jingles -- for local business in Visalia and surrounding), and bulletins on PJ2's vital signs, finally passing (perhaps even rolling) though Pasadena* to the tune of Ramelzee yammering about some Gothic Bible held in the bowels of the Vatican. Those w/ a taste for wild transhistorical theorizing on the Sunny Blount-Spooky continuum, click here.

*Found, bought remaindered copy of At Port Royal; sorry, Chris, but I'll make sure it gets a good home.


Regarding what's really at stake w/ legislation like the Schiavo bill, cf. Rousseau, On the Social Contract:

"Thus, just as a private will cannot represent the general will, the general will, for its part, alters its nature when it has a particular object; and as general, it is unable to render a decision on either a man or a state of affairs. When, for example, the populace of Athens appointed or dismissed its leaders, decreed that honors be bestowed on one or inflicted penalties on another, and by a multitude of particular decrees, indiscriminately exercised all the acts of government, the people in this case no longer had a general will in the strict sense. It no longer functioned as sovereign but as magistrate."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Blogger down since sometimes Sun.; just made obvious corrections to previous post. (Thanks DW.)

prepped taxes; taught The German Ideology

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dept. of corrections:

1) Magik Markers, Liz C. informs/reminds me.

2) Re this Beck review, Jane D. corrects by Spanish:

..."Que onda" literally translates as "how's your wave?" ("micro-onda" is a microwave; so cute, our neighbors). It's probably surfer slang originally; definitely stems from the Cancun coast; and has the general meaning of "how ya doin'?" "what's going on?" or etc.)

Do you see why I'm worried about AF (even though I combed it much more carefully and frequently than I usually manage to w/ a half-pager)? [or a post here.]


A stink I first noticed in the apt. on returning from New York, which I thought might have been caused by the refrigerator shutting off while I was gone, and which dissipated after cleaning out same (though there was no other evidence of a power failure) seems to have been from a small decomposing rodent under the refrigerator. Today, something I took to be a torn piece of rubber floorguard or the like was poking out from the fridge's bottom edge; when I pulled it out with my shoe, it was connected to some hunks of fur. No stench, no recognizable head, and most fortunately, no apparent bugs or parasites. Still, took some stomach to pull it out all the way and dispose of it; no earthly idea how it got there.


First note reproduced from Duchamp's White Box: "Can works be made which are not 'of art'?" Related to Dominic Lopes' talk this weekend, which pointed out, among other things, that in key statements by Kosuth, A-L, etc., 'art' is generally elliptical for 'visual art.' Lopes' claim being that Conceptual Art is misunderstood (and, though he said less about this self-misunderstood), to the extent that it is taken to be a challenge from within the category of visual art; instead, he sees some such works as a distinct art form -- the fact that many comment on more traditional forms (and were probably arrived at by reflection on same) does not show that they are instances of those forms. (I don't think he means to do anything particularly metaphysical with forms, which are plausibly historical artifacts; also draws a distinction between art forms and media that seemed ok at the time though I need to think more about what work it's doing.) Parallel issues/options came up in a talk on sound-art as distinct from music; but that presentation raised the issue without carving up the surrounding conceptual space in an illuminating way.

See also Martha Buskirk, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, for a discussion of Robert Morris' Statement of Esthetic Withdrawal, consisting of a lead relief of his Litanies and an attached legalistic declaration that "all esthetic quality and content" has been withdrawn from the earlier work. What I wasn't aware of when I saw this in MOMA two weeks ago was that the later work was made after Morris got sick of waiting for payment on the first, from Philip Johnson. That gives it an interesting role in the collection -- given the entrance gallery, where the hanging of a Lichtenstein (noted earlier) and a Warhol 'green stamps' painting is dedicated to Johnson -- and makes a little more sense of why it's one of the very few conceptual pieces on show, several floors above. (What else? One and Three Chairs, a Broodthaers that would be perfectly understandable as assemblage, and one other thing I've forgotten -- so set apart, and decontextualized that you could almost think the movement actually had some merit as an institutional challenge, given that the insitution would prefer to ignore it.)


My own commenting gig went fine, though the (Dutch) author of the paper had dropped out of attending in person, so the text was read by the conference organizer, w/ the result that during the Q&A I was more or less fielding questions about what someone else's position would be. Heartening: Bordieu actually did come up, even in a mostly analytic crowd, during a discussion of Gary Iseminger's new book which attempts to reconcile aesthetic and institituional theories of art. (Problem is that the 'definition of art' question is not exactly the most interesting part of aesthetics, from where I sit.) Disheartening: What was supposed to be a talk on cross-cultural aesthetics by an older gentleman turned out to be a disorganized polemic against analytic philosophy, which was cast in the space of a few minutes as unthinking empiricism and ungrounded a priorism. Merely polemic -- not even rhetorically interesting. (The inverse of my response to a review of a recent analytic anthology from British Journal of Aesthetics, the reviewer taking the occasion to make the Carnapian "perhaps they're poets -- but bad ones" charge against Continental philosophy of art; and that the latter can't/doesn't do anything but make art sound very deep and mysterious, which I would think that two sentences of exposure to Distinction would belie.)

And, amazingly, there were a couple of talks that were too intentionalist for me, even.


What to make of the fact that much of Joe B.'s best work was roughly contemporaneous w/ minimalism and NY C.A., but could only be viewed as coming out of the same concerns w/ some uncomfortable stretching? (Attitude to collage is out of Surrealism, Cornell; limitlessly interested in facture, the hand.) He must have known of all the anti-aesthetic production; what could it have meant for him? Good way to get written out of the history books, anyway.

Hard, also, not to be struck by the limited role 'the political' plays in Padgett's narrative. JB Makes an anti-war poster or two, mentions in a letter that a march was "fun"; along similar lines, he was not placed to view coming out as a more than existential victory. (World worse, now? Committment -- or awareness of necessity committment -- unavoidable? Awful and mistaken feeling that it would be wrong, as things stand, to find participation pleasurable. Guilt --> incapacity for joy.) Was it just that shaking off their upbringings -- Joe is very much a book about becoming -- was struggle enough for the Tulsa Kids?


Sat.; caught three talks at the linguistic/phil/cog. sci. confrence at Pomona. Jerry Saddock on pragmatics/semantics issues in the use of number-words, only moderately technical; Larry Horn on conversational implicature w/r/t "only," flying through the data; and, on the lighter side, Paul Benacerraf on personal memories of Kurt Godel at Princeton, with some exposition of how his mathematical work (and his own experience of mathematical intuition) led him to dualism, and, you guessed it, Platonism (in ways that only showed up publicly in a few footnotes). Anecdote: While visiting the Institute for Advanced Study early in his career, Chomsky asked Godel what he was working on now. A: "Oh...trying to show that the laws of nature are a priori."

Lakoff's talk the day before (while I was driving down from Monterey) was, I gather from reports, largely political, with "framing" as the stick-turned-hobbyhorse.


Later: (1) Schaivo/Rousseau/Il Papa/Rammelzee. (2) What I listened to for 10 hrs. on Hwy 5. (3) Tonight's noirs.

Much later: What 'musical Platonism' does/doesn't commit me to.


A towel on the rack means: "I'll use it again."

A towel in the tub means: "Please exchange."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?