Wednesday, December 22, 2010

notes on the birds...


we will start with the lineup:   

rod taylor, tipi hedren, susan pleshette,  jessica tandy, veronica cartright, ethel griffies and assorted other lackeys and hangers on.  taylor of course plays the penultimate american archetype, circa 1962, repleate with ascot and sears robock sp binoculars; dialogue gleaned from the pages of mickey spillane and john macdonald.  his notions of the heavens lifted from the pages of national geographic and readers digest with a little bit of fat boy and little man ??? thrown in for good measure.  his gods are the deities of commerce qnd debt relief, five year plans and the truman doctrine.  poster child manifiest destiny qnd men to match my mountains, singular errant offspring of the donner party and filled with zany anecdotes on the rise, supremacy and fall of amborse bierce.  he is the front page of life magazine and his sound track reeks of the flatted fifths and steel strings of getz and gilberto.  

with  liberty and promise comes a price;  the fall of adam, expulsion and desert wanderings, the rise of our protagonist eve qnd the tower of babel.  the death of mary magdalene brings little sympathy and zero remorse as she is of the earth, a whore, and she wears the tilled soil proudly upon her rags and face, reminicing on the curse of tristan and isolde and that old saw, king oedipus.

she anticipates the coming of melanie daniels through prophesies, dreams, the mandalas of gurdjief and the ever present collection of shacks on a hillside which, with the addition of local spirits, spell the four horsemen of the apocalypse in a series of clever runes.  she has ravens hair and to no avail, the lips of john the baptist.  to the casual onlooker, she seems a jaded miss havishem, suffering suspicion and innuendo.  to the passerby, she appears sequestered, relegated to the outskirts, a resident hester at mercy to the elements     

so hitchcock, the quinticential post victorianist, plays pleshette off against victorian Archetypes, elocuted ladies in greenhouses and lectures ln music and meaning, fashionobly plumb wives of the newly landed gentry.  annie displays a little too proudly her everyman library edition of the oedipus cycle, the roman poets catallus, ovid and seneca, as though lessons gleaned from these writers will assist in her understanding of the intricasies of mrs bundy's monthy gatherings of the bodega bay ladies ornithological group, whose recent inquiry into the migrational habits of the (of the what?) annie immediatly relates to ovids bansihment and the impending hypocritical policies that will doom the empire in a scant 500 years.  

annie is quite the little anomolie, with her forays into wagner lietmotifs and her penchant for cigarettes.  she takes this gardening business far too seriously.  ladies in waiting prick their fingers arranging flowers, they dont pursue master degrees in horticulture.  annies face is filthy and she is forever tilling the soil, an obvious attempt to thwart sexual tension during the templars absence.  her dialogue is pure faulkner, she goes through compound sentences like a whore through lipstick and her metaphors reek of jungian symbolism, an obvious result of her soljourn at miss barstows finishing school for girls and her quips to melanie; utilitarian, with all due respect to oedipus; reek of mary kay cosmetics.

the common notion is that hitchcocks blondes are women who run wolves but that is a polite misnomer.  if it werent for the platinum blondes of the fifties, there would be no concept hitchcokian blonde.  it was grace kelly in rear window that started it off and cemented it in to catch a thief.  her earlier stint in dial m for murder was a knock off, an attempt to cash in on the 3d craze and her character came off more english than american and make no mistake, hitchocks blondes are an american phenonmenon.

annie heyworth is the anti-thesis, the anti-blonde, elektra to melanies helen sp the mind reels, pondering the similies, the metaphors purging through hitchcocks brain; the horror, the horror—

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Bildungsroman

i saw raymond carver walking through the aisles of my local bookstore and i wanted to kill him. having long since mastered the eastern art of breathanarism and (what need of food, words, thoughts, ideas ...plato got in wrong up in that cave. if only he had been drunk on grecian wine, as the greeks tended to dilute their wine...)

now he studies blackholes and anti-gravity, anti-matter etc. a decade spent exploring the repertoire of the cape verdians, tuva singers and yugoslavic folk singers, screamers...chastising arvo part for his theoires tintinnabulism, addicted to stockhausen and his filters, (twain and other american minimalists, the procession of european influnced american literature to the state of non-existance, to the point of nothing, of having nothing to say...the death of the hero, the birth of the anti hero, caufield etc.) death of the comma his eyes musing, harping on some dylan lyric...

siding with kurtz, he dismisses the western canon and concerning urban fiction, he sides with toqueville and laments the downfall of the brahmins.

in pigtails, braces and abject horror, a bookseller, second cousin to sister carrie, fends of his request for a bible in a algonquin.

do not fear...there are brief interludes of genius, quips and insights into bartleby, sources of and inspirations for ahabs pain, embelishments on the moral of jonah...all of which fall on deaf ears.

his face is the sad decaying face of quetzalcoatl, tired and overgrown and unweeded, weary of defeat and wary of historians, critics and college coeds, till the accolades pour fourth in rich profusion and stinging affirmation. his gate that of sisyphus on an never ending bender perusing transportation and lamenting the demise of (?)

used to be, he quips to a homeless man in sexuality, a wall of chilton, cobra kits and steve's triumph, von dutch and his pawngrade flute..."i am captain hilts afore the barbed wire..!" "i knew them," he gestures "i knew them all!" "a triumph tr6 650 it wore...painstakingly and lovingly disguissed as a bmw r75..."

[they say steve capitualated in the end, aping marlon and jimmy dean with a little oscar wilde thrown in for good measure]

in desktop and web development he pauses...(something about html, something about an 8088, something about wordstar...something about...)(YINK YINK YINK...)"mmmmmmm....injuns..!"
and he is promptly asked to vacate the premises

i saw raymond carver at my local bookstore ordering a wet cappucino and a turkey caprese on facoccia with a starbucks giftcard he found in travel.  the barista informs him that starbucks traditionaly serves a wet capucinno by default and that this is indeed a barnes and noble cafe serving starbucks coffee...his card is not welcome here.  the look is his eyes is pure miasma and charles bukowski and with the gait of a welshman, he suanters off into the night and the mid-week traffic in search of gentler climes

Friday, October 1, 2010

the happy valley set

tI have of late, but wherefore I know not, become completely obsessed with the happy valley set. im reading a book from work called "the temptess."

its about Countess Alice de Janze (note rare use of capitols), a somewhat cultish figure noted for her melancholy and sucide attempts and an inspiration for a character in f. scott fitzgerald's "tender is the night."

she was part of the legendary happy valley set a group of british ex-patriots living in kenya during the early part of 19th cent, mostly teens and twenties. the happy valley set were notorious partiers and legend has them all addicted to opium and engaging in orgies.

this woman was depicted quite outrageously by the great british actress sarah miles—

noted for her nudity and mildly scandalous film roles (she was in "sailor who fell from grace with the sea," based upon the Yukio Mishima novel of the same title, an interesting film if only for the antics of miss sarah miles...) in the film "white mischief"...

a true account of a famous murder case in kenya in the twenties, another film to watch...but, of course, the real alice was american and she did not take opium let alone inject it. out of africa, the book and the film depicts karen blixen (whose pen name was issac dinesen)

was around during this period but did not participate in the happy valley set but, a character depicted in that film did—beryl markham. her book "west with the night" has been in print continually and is perhaps, besides issac dinesen's, the best written account of life in africa for british ex-pats. 

there was a very bad made for tv film in the 80s of her life—do not watch this film...

apparenty, hemingway hooked up with Bror von Blixen-Finecke, karens danish husband, and this man was hemingways inspiration for "the snows of kilimanjaro.." but, who knows...the gregory peck film "the snows of kilimanjaro" with ava garnder is worth watching.

in the sydney pollack film "out of africa," robert redford played denys finch hatton, a distant earl of something or other but a second or third son forced to make is way in africa. a great little paperback book on his life has recently been published—too close to the sun—the audacious life and times of denys finch hatton...


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"is that all there is.." or, "the walrus was paul"

among many pictures on my brothers wall were these four photos ranged across the blank space above his closet. they appeared to me like a buddhist shrine or the four apostles, devotional icons as holy and sacrosanct as any to be found on the walls of the faithful. in truth, they were four 8 X 10 glossy photos that came with the purchase of the beatles white album in 1968.

in the canon of beatles lore, these were quite prodigious photos, depicting the group at perhaps its very height of personal creativity and individualism, wholy free of marketization (the album completely lacked anything that could be called a top-40 hit) and completely free of any kind of discernable cover art or graphics (upon close inspection, a greyed out epigraph can be seen; simply, the beatles).

what's not immediatlely apparent in these photos, at least not to the casual observer, is the process or journey that led to these images, these four apostles, gruff, bespectacled, saintly and forelorn. perhaps more shocking, again, not to the casual observer, are the two compliation albums issued posthumously; the first covering the early years, the beatlemania years, the second covering the beatles in their later years, more individual, more circumspect:

i would hazard to guess in today's climate which contemporary photo would proffer the same feelings of devotion and, dare i say, "awe." the speed of communication, the proliferance of social networks and even perhaps the extreme degree of resolution in today's digital cameras has all together rendered the notion of reverence obsolete. we don't worhip our so-called heroes today, not riddled with cellulite and acne, twitter accounts and insets in people magazine. but for a few select communities in kansas and the outskirts of el dorado texas, nor, for better or worse, do we worship our sacred icons of religion. but, in the midst of this digital revolution, in the thick of our self-mocking, irreverent posts on facebook and the like...something is missing.

i miss the speaking-in-tongues, the cat-calls and glory-be-to-god(s), i miss the medium (not so much the message), the reverent icons of the faitful that woody allen laid out so carelessly in hannah and her three sisters (i don't miss wonderbread). to be honest, i don't know exactly what it is that i want, but i know what i don't want; i don't care very much what you had for lunch or dinner, i don't care very much which degenerate volume of manga you just purchased online on amazon and i dont care very much what you like (if what you like is the choice of beverage your friends are now, at this very instant, imbibing).

seriously, is this what our fathers fought for? all those crusading armies, those passionate blue-faced acolytes of william wallace, those (not so much anymore) reverent founding brothers who melded the great philosophies of the western canon into what was once considered to be the greatest country on earth..? is that all there is? the diaryfiction, the "journal"lization of our once great writers and press? where are our walrues today? where be their gibes, their gambols? i ask that all there is?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

in an era that takes cultural, social and artistic relativism to unprecidated heights, it's not surprising to find a serious article in the los angeles times calendar section about so-called crossover music (a melding of classical and...rock, jazz, pop etc)—this time featuring the "new" sensation david garrett and his recent violin cd mixing classical hits from beethoven, vivaldi etc with the pop music of nirvana, aerosmith, led zepplin and paul mccartney.

well, this is america and classical music is largely european; we've been shirking off those viking roots for the past 150 years. though garrett (born in germany, now an american citizen) studied at the julliard with itzak perlman and has played with some pretty heavy classical hitters like zubin mehta, he has yet to record a so-called serious classical piece (one that is familiar enough and challenging enough so as to accurately gauge his talent) so it's impossible to know how good he is—not that it matters. we need another virtuoso violinist like we need another dylan album...

what irks me is how readily this music is now being marketed and sold to the general public with abject impunity. particularly, for me anyway, this album featuring vivaldi's four seasons, the first movement from the fourth concerto called winter (the original piece includes all four concertos; spring, summer, autumn and winter and lasts up to 45 mins)...garrett's version with drums, rock guitar and u2 last about 4 mins. (i would love to have been a fly on the wall when some genius producer or perhaps garrett himself decided that what this classic tour de force needs is a little bit of u2's vertigo thrown into the mix "yeah yeah yeah yeah..!").


vivaldi's four seasons, a late baroque composition (four violin concertos: spring, summer, autumn and winter) is perhaps the most abused piece of music ever written. it has been used in countless films and tv commercials and it has suffered countless re-interpretations, from standard orchestral versions (played on contemporary instruments w/modern size orchestra), historically aware versions (same but with allowences for the period ie, smaller orchestra and baroque ornamentation), horrible period versions (original period instruments with godawful baroque ornamentations-that, in the view of this writer, are horribly overdone and in some cases, completely unauthentic). i prefer vivaldi in a more classical period style, more closely alinged with mozart than with more early baroque composers and all the more recent recordings on period instruments reek of re-interpretation and over ornamentation. this most recent bastardization of vivaldi's four seaons comes from david garrett has him pairing the first movement, a scant 4 minute piece (the original set of concertos lasts about 40 minutes) with electric guitars, drum tracks and u2s vertigo.  crossover, the melding of classical music with popular styles of music; jazz, pop, rock etc, has been around for ages. most classical composers realized early on that to make money writing music, they would have to dumb it down and "popularize" it. the tradition of so-called "lite-music" is a long lasting and great tradition; one needs only to reference the great music heard on the titanic and featured in the james cameron film (they used the original "white star line" book of arrangements for the of the few things he got right in the film).


i remember my vivaldi phase distinctly. it started in 1972 with the film "the cowboys" with john wayne and bruce dern. vivaldi's mandolin concerto was used in a couple of key scenes (the mandolin concerto is rarely heard on mandolin—the guitar has long since eclipsed the mandolin for most recordings of the piece). the scene started out with a young cowboy (played by robert carradine, david carradine's younger brother) innocently plucking a steel strung dreadnought guitar and then majestically, the theme is lifted into a wonderful orchestral arrangement by the great film composer john williams...okay, its not the original piece but it didnt have hendrix in the background either. the same piece was used powerfully in the cult classic "a little romance" with lawrence olivier and the 12 year old diane lane in her first screen performance. this time the piece was original. 

i soon moved on to vivaldi's four seasons, a set of four violin concertos whose themes are as recognizable to most classical lovers as the beatles sgt. pepper is to most fans of pop—again, all original sans drum track and electric guitars.  what i find curious about david garrett's version is not that it's never been done before—vanessa mae did this back in 97, but she only re-arranged the piece for violin and rock band...

nigel kennedy, an acknowleged master violinist, staked is entire career on the notion of "crossover" music, the melding of classial and pop music—he performed hendrix on the violin back in the 80s, much to the horror of classical purists and to the mild delight of so-called "crossover" fans—but, he also made an original version of vivaldi's four seasons (this original version was quite "shocking" at the time, relatively off course, for its overt showmanship and ostentatious interpretation-which was nigel kennedy's capture the rock/pop crowd and it's often cited as being the highest selling classical album of all time, one of the few classcial cds that might be found in the library of a pop/rock lover, along with coltrane's "a love supreme," another legendary genre crossover cd). at least nigel had the good taste to leave well enough alone and use the original text.

please listen to these three versions and tell me honestly which one you like. if you like david garrett's—go fuck yourself (sorry...), this conversation is over...and so are your hopes of ever learning to enjoy the classics. if you like vanessa mae's version, there might just be hope for you. it, admittedly, rocks...and at least it's the original music albeit arranged for rock band. if you like nigel kennedy's version—well, need i say more...
let me make myself perfectly clear—i dont give a flying rat's ass what music you like or dont like. iv'e been out of the recruiting business for years and if you have bad taste in music i have no sympathy for you. what i find interesting is that we've just about completely lost our great musical heritage in this country; from classical music to jazz...even so-called classic rock—(i'm not taling about all the great independant music out there, and there is a lot of it...i'm talking about what's being peddled to the masses, to the general populace whose taste, for better or worse, governs 99% of all the art we make.  our tastes have all gone lowest common denomenator with highest bidder taking all. in this case, the highest bidder is the typical american consumer who has lost his once great cultural and artistic soul to a bunch of corporate whores that pander to 12 year olds by selling them teen idols, american idols and lady gaga.

well, i say: "let em eat cake!"  i've got my great musical heritage on my ipad and i can pull up stravinsky's histoire du soldat or shostakovich's preludes or bartok's string quartets or hindemith's ludas tonalis or britten's peter grimes or bach's kunst der fuge or even the beatles, the who, captain beefheart, dylan, gentle giant, led zepplin, neil young, king crimson, david bowie, talking heads, sonic youth, kurt cobain, beck, radiohead, jack white, wilco, eliot smith, or even our great jazz tradition, arguably america's only true original art form; charlie parker, thelonius monk, charles mingus, miles davis, dave brubeck, horace silver, john coltrane, eric dolphy, ornette coleman etc. 

do you remember that classic scene from jerry maguire; the scene where the emasculated male character, played to perfection by todd louiso, rambles on about miles davis and the bastardization of jazz etc...he is the defacto geek, unable to get laid and plying his pitiful trade in the only venue available for losers; jazz, classical and progressive rock, the elephant graveyard of america's great musical tradition.  well, the music that was playing during that classic bedroom scene was not miles davis with coltrane in sweeden, it was charles mingus (the title of the piece escapes me at this writing).  here is a clip of charles mingus, during his bleak period in the mid 60s, broken, forgotten and relegated to a dilapidated apartment building in which he is being evicted by the city.  the reason you don't recognize charles mingus in this clip is because you are a victim of the great sell-out, the corporate theft of america's great musical tradtion...but, it's not too late!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jacksonian Democracy Spreads to the Farmland

this video of one of george carlin's last stand up routines has been floating around on my facebook for a few weeks now.  i love carlin as much as the next guy but this is some bitter shite.  what i find interesting about this clip is the extent to which people now relate to the use of non-specific, non-entities like "they" and "the people that control.."  who the hell is he talking about and why the hell are people eating this shit up.  one guy on my facebook warned us that "they" might take the video down because georgie boy is telling it like it is and "they" don't want you know this shit.  it's the rise of conspiratorial morons like David Icke "The David Icke Guide to the Global Conspiracy," James W. Loewen, "Lies my Teacher Told Me," Howard Zinn "People's History of the United States," (who, by the way, got his start by being matt damon's next door neighbor and getting a plug in the film "Good Will Hunting") and even to a certain extent Wiliam Cooper's "Behold a Pale Horse," and the godlike status of heretofore jackasses like Noam Chomsky who now reign happily in the idiotsphere thanks to geniuses like Zach De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine.  raise your hand if you think the moonlanding was staged...then pat yourself on the back because you're a fucking moron!

barnes and noble up for sale

first off—i want to make it clear that i love barnes and noble and i want barnes and noble to succeed and i want to continue my working relationshio with barnes and noble..!

ive been strugling with this recent barnes and noble thing, the potential sale.  i knew something was coming but i didnt know it would be this quick.  honestly, i think that most people are overacting to the e-book revolution.  we're putting too much emphasis on e-books now in our store—which is to say that we are putting all our emphasis on ebooks.  i dont think that ebooks are in our future.  i know that barnes cannot support the superstore model that it has sustained for the last ten years.  we peeked as a viable business model in the early 2000s and now we are on the downside and have been for over five years.  but of course, its a combination of a lot of factors, ebooks being only a part of the problem.  

on a side note:  ive notced that all of the "buyers" of our electronnic book reader (the nook) are not "readers." these are fical consumers who dont read.  they believe like many many people that they should be reading.  even serious readers think about ways to increase their commitment to reading and this nook, the ebook reader, is being used by non-readers as a way to increase, or in some cases begin, their reading.  i think that this phenomenon is hilarious—zero regular customers are buying into this ebook thing...its only non-readers or non-barnes and noble customers who have never walked into our store before.  i cant help but think that these customers think that the reason they dont read is because there was always something inherently wrong with the physical book—and now thanks to technology, reading is now viable on a little computer screen.  

well, electronic books have their use and place—but we've had the technology for decades...its called a computer.  of course, tablets like the ipad are potentially more helpful than computers for "some" applications—but not for pure reading, not for pleasure reading.  the fact remains that its more enjoyable to read a physical book than an electronic one, for practical as well as emotional and other intangible reasons.  music is different.  we made the transformation to digital media years ago and the onset of the ipod and mp3s is just a natural progression.  listening to 20,000 high quality pieces of music on a device the size of a credit card is just better...again, for practical as well as emotional and other intangible reasons.  that transition made sense.  ebooks do not and anyone that says different is not a reader or a serious consumer of information.  

now, that said; i also believe that our culture is changing.  people just dont read as much as they used to.  i include so-called serious intellectuals in this group.  ive noticed that most news articles on google news include most of the pertinent info in the intital paragraph, that is, in the actual web link to the article.  i sometimes wonder why i bother clicking on some news article links because there is almost no additional information and if there is any additional pertinent info, its almost never more than a page—NEVER!  wow...what does this say about our culture in general.  of course, its possible to find all the information you need and more on the internet...but whats being peddled to the general populace is superficial, "lite" and totally compressed.

alright—to keep things in perspective; 99.9 percent of our cultural and social attention is focused on the general populace—the dear, sweet, lovable unwashed masses who hertofore, "in olden times," were completely ignored, largely because they had no disposable income.  we are still free in our society to read books until the cows come home, or until we go blind.  you can still find gobs of information on the internet if you make half the effort (i'm talking about serious scholarly information by so-called reputable sources—not bloggers posting their dietary habits).  the problem is that the current barnes and noble model, that of the three story superstore behemoth that has creeped up in the last 10 to 15 years, is focused on the general populace and their reading habits or lack thereof.  the market is saturated for this model and has been for over five years.  what we're seeing now is a correction in the market.  

Monday, August 2, 2010


Origin of Club Diogenes

"There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger's Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion. My brother was one of the founders, and I have myself found it a very soothing atmosphere."    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle