Monday, November 7, 2011

Waiting For Godot @Zuccotti Park

They were right outside my office for so long, and now they’re gone. And while they were here, I couldn’t think of anything original to say. It seemed like everybody had an opinion, from well-considered to knee-jerk, but few had anything original to offer. And then they left, and then it hit me.

The reason I was so slow on the uptake was the dazzle. What we were witnessing was something that hasn’t been seen in America since the late ‘60s/early ‘70s: true political guerilla theater. This is not to disparage the work of activist/actors with the various and multifarious workshop scenarios in Seattle, dramas in Davos and the like, nor to ignore the significance of the ACT-UP acta during the AIDS wars. (And, no, I will not dignify the Tea Party Sale-a-thons and their astro-turf roots as anything more than a paper house—albeit one that managed to fool a lot of people in the cheap seats.) It is just that none of them had an extended run on this scale.

I want to quote Hamlet’s fave line: “The play’s the thing/In which to catch the conscience of a king”—but I can’t. Besides the fact that I quote Will far too much here, ANNND the only ‘king’ would be the Republican members of the House, this is NOT a classical statement of the Bard or “the boards”. It is most assuredly Samuel Beckett—someone for whom (very similar to Thelonius Monk, now that I think about it) silence spoke volumes—whose voice is heard here; muttering and grumbling under his breath, with the loudest sound of meaninglessness I know: Waiting for Godot.

This is not to say that what went on and went down had no meaning; far from it. But the salient criticism you heard of the movement (and I eliminate all the jokes and talking points manufactured by the NeoCon media and their think tanks) was that it was leaderless, had no goals, offered no plans, was little more than an inarticulate cry of anguish. Ok. So, strike the “inarticulate” remark and that’s exactly what Godot is: absurdist exasperation to the nth degree.

Now, some may take exception and say something like, ‘No! Godot’s basic message was always about the futility of trying to do anything’, or such. Times, however, change.

"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!" Word is, from the high critique, that this bit is about Vladimir “wasting his time in idle discourse” by simply choosing to make a choice. Which is fine, under any proscenium (As opposed to choosing to NOT make a choice? A contradiction in terms on the face of it…and also stuff the makes theater hachet-men cream their jeans.), though when you drag it out into the street and say it to passersby—people who paid for no ticket, got no program, have no expectation of entertainment or insights to be offered—it is not only articulate but righteous! And even if it falls on deaf ears, it is no way “futile” when the TV cameras come around.

So why would this be different from the Tea-bags? Simple: when you put your ass on the line for an event, that’s one thing—when you do it everyday, 24/7, that’s another.

But, for certain, it was the opening night and the opening lines that hit me as pure serendipity:
“Where did you sleep last night?”
“In a ditch.”
And while the accommodations—between lower Broadway and Trinity, just off the Canyon of Heroes, under a canopy of tiny golden leaves—were somewhat more hospitable, when matched up with the mission, the resonance with Godot was always there if only from this. And, as well, this is why the guerilla theater that was in that plot of earth and stone was so utterly significant, and why it so reminded me of this radical departure from live drama, one even more wrenching than Brecht’s dissolution of the 4th Wall. In the same year in which Maddow could dub the campaign of The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Herman-Cain “an act of performance art”, anyone who passed by this redoubt of democracy and freedom on a regular basis could tell you OWS really could put the “camp” in encampment.

I mean—just look at this mask! We’re back in Greece, where amphitheater and senate weren’t so far apart in distance or purpose. In those days, the tragedies were to inform of the will of the Gods, the satyr plays and comedies of the pretensions of humans, and this was the sort of thing that influenced the polis and the deliberations of their representatives. That was also when things were smaller and easier to portray in a couple of acts. Then, they didn’t need an “Occupy the Agora” movement; that was a given—you couldn’t get away from it. Today, we can barely encompass the conflict when “The Social Network” gets better coverage than a departure from Rousseau’s Social Contract.

"We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don't protest, we are bored to death, there's no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste... In an instant all will vanish and we'll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness!"

Nowadays, the world requires you get an audience first. Then come up with demands. Only after you have made a spectacle of yourself will you ever be noticed. And then, maybe, some one will ask you: What’s it all for?

"But that is not the question. Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come."

Yes. And maybe this time, he’ll bring the noise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MUSIC AFTER - the anti-9/11

Eleonor Sandresky and Daniel Felsenfeld, co-producers and artistic directors Music After is presented in association with the Joyce Theatre Foundation.
And in collaboration with Vision Into Art, September 11, 2011, 8.46am - after midnight
Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer Si., New York City

Some people have short attention spans. Others incredibly long ones. Patience probably serves the latter best, but consider that, if of the former stripe, what could be better than something new every 15-20 minutes? If you have endurance, then it is then not a question of ADD as much as adding up.

As the St. Marks Poetry Marathon has been covered at some length here previously, it should come to no surprise that one might find a similar passion for the event above-captioned. If you have not noticed the date, you are among a very few. It ill behooves me, or even moves me, to comment on the national threnody associated with this; suffice it to say: having lived through it, here, I have no need to have my memories stirred, nor feelings repackaged with lap fades and so-mo-focus and lite arpeggios of mourning and renewal.

So this is something brand new, and guaranteed to please. And definitely not rehashing the past, as much as inviting it in and offering it a seat on the couch to have a bit of art and entertainment.

DISCLAIMER: At times in the past, there have been some unwelcome comments on the inaccuracy of items masquerading as “journalism” from this author. What the following represents is as much sense as can be made by someone who is a compulsive note-taker, scribbling in the dark on very cluttered handbills. Do that as thou wilt.

Set A: 8.46am - noon
At approx. 9:15am or so, totally delightful squee-scree-&-squawk set which was probably Daphna Naphtali on f/x and vocalisms and Hans Tammen (probably) doing Cage-like stuff to the guitar on the table)) doing her music…but it’s difficult to say, except the title “Mechanical Eye” seemed fitting. David Del Tredici’s contribution was “My God or Tres Gymnopedes” with Blair McMillen on piano, and did it remind of Erik Satie? Well, enough of Del Tredici does that so I’ll say so, without actual notation of same. Phill Niblock handed in a tape piece—which fit his oeuvre as well as the day: “Parker’s Altered Mood.” Ostensibly for saxophone, it might as well have been for a hundred harmoniums in the wash of single tones, only slightly interrupted by overlapping harmonics, which actually added a lot of texture for the listener, like trying to find the flaw, or even a brushstroke, in a monochromatic painting…and ended close enough to the feeling you get when the “all-clear” siren sounds.

Therein followed The Universal Thump (Greta Gertler and Adam Gold), who did one of the very few “rock” sets. I forgot to write down the name of the other tune, which was one by Rufus Wainwright, because I was so happy to hear “Information Rain” by Judy Nylon. And I was not the only one: co-producer Daniel Felsenfeld: “You know, we don’t hear enough of Judy Nylon these days. So I’m going to ask them to do an encore of it.” And they did! (Remember when a line from and Eno song could be so influential you’d make a whole number out of it?)

Not quite in the place of his name, David First went fifth, with Ahmed Abdullah (I think) on trumpet and Tom Chiu on violin. As soon as he picked up his guitar and laid on the e-bow, I recognized him from the old days; the somewhat American Eagle profile, though, wasn’t part of the memory. (Ah well, we all change.) That device on the fretted strings produced a semi-Frippertronic infinite sustain, aided by the organ-chord tremolo, and the ghostiest part came from the muted horn, like “Taps” from the fourth dimension.

This was the only set to end early. (Later, an explanation was offered that, due to the occasion, a lot of people were having trouble with trains. Including this reporter, who had to walk over from the East Village—a whole 10 blocks and 5 Avenues!)

Set B: noon-3pm
The notes are so scrambled on this set, only a few are dead certain, but best guesses are provided as well.

David Linton (‘80s drum luminary and tech-experimenter with so many bands I refuse to consider looking them up) kicked it off with a completely electronic piece (excepting a few strums of an autoharp, I believe) which was likely “from the Bicameral Research Project” (See? What’d I tell you? Math rock be damned.) as he warned us in advance “there’s going to be some flickering lights as part of this so if you’re susceptible to that sort of thing, you might want to step outside.” What was thrown up on the wall (the only one who used any visuals) was not dissimilar from old TV interference patterns of zig-zag jags when it was like a digital Rothko, and no—no one had any seizures.

If there was a “star” of this set, it was Annie Gosfield, if only that she had two pieces performed. The first was Blair McMillen returning to the Steinway & Sons for “October 5, 1941”—titled after the first Subway Series (between the Yanks and the Dodgers) wherein, upon this date, a fatal error cost Brooklyn an out, a game and the whole shebang. Humorously enough amid the sturm-und-drang of the Rite of Spring-like forte, the full count came from him leaning in to caress the strings with a couple of horsehide pills before donning a mitt and bashing the keys with it. (Why are so many composers baseball fans?) As for what came next? Too many scribbles. It may be that there was a Carter Burwell piece entitled “On Judgment: Human and otherwise”, but whoever is the author, the MIVOS String Quartet performed it. (Probably.) All that is certain is that the rumble of car wheels on cobblestones outside meant that it was probably not a very loud piece…or that I like the sound of car wheels on cobblestones.

Somewhere in here was an unannounced gem. Jonathan Hart Makwaia (pronounced almost British, like “McQuire”) may have been on the front of the program, but he was most likely on a contingent basis. (Remember the trains?) What he does is play the piano and vocalize—and while the first one was possibly Swahili, it didn’t matter if there was any Randy Weston or Abdullah Abrahim in him—it was great: pseudo or voodoo. The second was too charming for words, literally. If you could label it Call-&-Response, it would be the piano setting the joke, and Jon laughing at it: trills, arpeggios, hammerstrokes and clusterchords all repeated in giggles to titters to guffaws to barks and howls. There was a third piece as well which may or may not have been notated as “sun ra w/better cartilage” but whatever; this guy could be a heliocentric Victor Borge, no lie.

It is certain that Lisa Moore played the music of Don Byron, also on the ivories. These were entitled “Mad Rush” and “7 Etudes”. I’m pretty sure Eleonor Sandresky, the other co-producer, did a Philip Glass piece…but she did one piano performance per set, at least, and so it might as well as have been her. There are no notes on what it was but if you’ve experience one Glass piece live, you will know it by how clean you feel after. There was a tape piece by Tim Mukerhjee called “Heat Multiplier”. And then David Lang’s interpretation of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” as a recital piece by Anne Hiatt and Kate Springarn on vocals and cello…which is in itself kinda stunning: late ‘60s NYC drug-nihilism retooled for a garden party?

Julie Heyward is fondly remembered as one of the leading lights of tech savvy performance artists who could make concepts into theatricals. (Think first time I’d seen her perform was with T-Venus on the Kitchen Midwest Tour launch party on the Staten Island Ferry. 1981? Memory does not always serve.) Here it was four songs. “This is the audience participation section and the question you have to answer is ‘Do You Believe?’”, and ended it with “please leave your questionnaires with the usher at the door.” Pretty cute still. The others were “Body on the Bayou” (“written 15 years before Katrina” she’d have you know), “My Mind Likes to Take Little Trips on Its Own” and the fourth passed by because the third title took too long to write.

Jon Gibson had two numbers performed but I only have a scrawl on the second, in which the composer himself came out to play an alto sax solo.

Set C: 3pm-6pm
It is fair to say that, by this time, it had occurred to me to not try to make all the notes on the same schedule, and instead, get a new one and mark that up…for the duration. For which I have mi espousa mousa to thank.

Laurie Anderson was sort of an open question; if anyone could perform a composition by her, who would it be? Well, seeing as how she lives 10 minutes away, and how she has been as generous as possible this summer with appearances all over town (see previous post)… She was in a chair, sitting, to read a short story/reminiscence, or parable—if you will—so suited to the mood of the moment as to be a tailor-cut, rather than a fitting. I hesitate to relate as to reveal would spoil other’s fun. Suffice it to say, in the world of today, we are all like confused terriers, watching for hawks.

The numbers are slightly off here so it is a good guess to say that Charles Waters and Sparkle Trio played the music of Matthew Shipp next, in more or less the only avant-jazz set of the event. (Which is confusing only in that without Charles Waters on tenor sax, Sparkle Trio would be just bass and drums…but what of it?) This is true olde Knitting Factory stuff—like from when it was still on Houston. Angular, jumping, and popping in so many directions, spontaneous applause broke out when the drummer flung a small cymbal onto the floor: not in frustration, but as an accent. It was that intense. Even mi mousa squeaked in favor.

It is likely that this was followed by Laurie Spiegel, introducing her portion with the anecdote, “Most people who are aware of my work know it is primarily electronic. After 9/11, for several days, I was entirely without power so I went back to the banjo.” The piece, "New York November 2001 (for solo banjo)", played by Taylor Levine, managed to go from a music box to broken nickelodeon to John Dowland without being any of them, which prompted mi esp. to ask if same was available for the consumer. (Sadly, Ms. Spiegel split before I could buttonhole her.)

Eleonor Sandresky returned to the keyboards to render Nico Muhly’s “Hudson Cycle”. This is played twice, here and in Set D as well, but somehow, this one felt more rapturous, and that I can’t explain. This was either before of after very nice songs of Michael Friedman (of the Civilians, I gather) with Robbie Sublett (vocals, and who was on piano?...the ink is too smeared to tell).

This was likely the point of the other big name performer, who should need no introduction, but when you say “collaborator with John Cage, Robert Ashley and Merce Cunningham” then Joan La Barbara seems to be easier to see against those lights. About as good an advert for hot for a woman of years, silver hair and white lab coat makes her as stark as her mouth music. “The Gatekeeper” (possibly the title) is just her, accompanied by tape, in a performance as a textbook definition of “spellbinding”, weaving in the faintest aspirations of breath, clicks, guttural snatches amid sighing winds and babelogues, whispers and creaks, croaks and groans, until you end up in every jungle movie cliché you’ve ever heard, to resolve in some vast fog-bound harbor, having gone from the shore to the moor and back again.

Tough act to follow, so once more into the “rock” as Daniel Felsenfeld took to the piano with Rick Moody, vocals, to do Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”. And, for those of us who were there, the one sterling image of the hours between dawn and dusk was just how amazingly pretty it was. September in New York always is. And Moody’s crisp characterization fit that Big Apple tartness like a Granny Smith.

Here or there, returned The Composer Charles Waters, again with Sparkle, and augmented by piano, cello and violin, to do three originals. Stopping here to acknowledge the Herculean efforts of the organizers, he went on to explain how people had two moods about this occasion, summed up in “Fatalism, that’s bad; and Faith, that’s good,” before alluding to “hexachord analogue of Paul Auster’s name,” a Robert Creely 'lost poem’ he found again entitled “Night in New York City”, and expressing his ongoing astonishment at the skills of the bassist/composer William Parker (yup, ye olde skool Knitting Factory alum, again). And of the three, the Parker ode was about as close to a groove as would be heard in the whole, but mighty fine it was at that.

Mick Rossi played Joanne Brackeen’s “Picasso”, and the note says only that it sounded like cat’s steps into something vaguely recalling the early work of Eddie Palmieri—if that makes sense.

That the set ended with an operatic duo of piano and unamp’ed vocals by Paul Appelby (likely, with Thomas Sauer ivories—no apologies folks!) made it about as close to an afternoon musicale on as “Beautiful Ohio”—a song cycle by Harold Meltzer—as could be, if that particular river was rendered by Charles Ives.

Set D: 6pm-9pm
By this time, truth be told, attention to detail had begun to flag a tad. This was also the first set to start late. Some 20 minutes after the hour, Todd Reynolds, violinist extraordinaire, was part of a group doing a Roseanne Cash song, which name and other players’ names escape me (but might have been Rose Bellini included). However, the guest appearance of Ms. Cash did not. With her husband on piano, she did the kind of “500 Miles” rendition you wished everyone could, and few can.

The producers took another turn or two, the Sandresky reprise of “The Hudson Cycle” and Felsenfeld/Moody duo returned to do David Bowie’s “Five Years”…but that would not be Ziggy’s only appearance.

Eve Beglarian can be typified by the sly counterpoint of her titles. “I am really a very simple person” may have been nothing but a chorale sextet doing Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do, but when you do it so many times inside and outside up and around and braids and tesseracted…it sort of makes you dizzy…in a good way, like dervish dancing. Which is also how the “audience participation part” of “Did he promise you the universe?” also worked, with a “nananananana”-kinda Meredith-Monkish nonsense phrase in rising and falling ostinatos, repeated into oblivion.

Justin V. Bond, in a modest two-piece dress-suit tailored to compress the flesh into its best, strode out with her guitar accompaniest (in net dress and feathered brow-wreath) and proclaimed, “I was told not to do anything political in deference to the occasion. So if you hear anything political in this that’s your problem.” “Tomorrow is going to be the 22nd Century”, is Nina Simone's original but would not have been out of place on a Bert Brecht/Kurt Weill songbook, stridently slashing at the petty differences and tyrannies and prejudices of the 20th and 21st ones, Bond belting away like Ethel Merman on testosterone supplements. And with that, as Felsenfeld, said, “hey, how many opportunities am I going to have like this?” requested Justin to come back for an encore, “…as sort of my fee for putting this on” and accompanied on Bowie’s “Lady Stardust”.

Elliott Sharp, the man with a fractal guitar, watched from the seats with his daughter as JACK String Quartet played a composition whose name I neglected to get. But it would be hard to miss the impact of the piece. From a nearby vantage, one could se the precision of soldier ants marching across the score sheets, and the sound was just as extreme. Switching between three “bows”—the standard gut, what appeared to be a long machine spring, and (maybe) pins inserted in a dowel?—the tight coils scraped and the pins barely rasped, and the gut simply stretched. Time signatures? Motifs? I would hesitate to call this sherbet, but it served a similar function: cold and cleansing, it delineated that which had come before from whatever would come after. This is by no means a slam: I also enjoy the sound of car wheels on cobblestones, remember?

At eight o’clock, however, enough, and best of luck for the next group.

Oh yes, and why not look to the future?

22nd Century by Nina Simone

There is no our children in the air
Men and women have lost there hair
Ashes and faces and legs that stand
Ghost and god blends work in this land
When tomorrow becomes yesterday
And tomorrow becomes eternity
When the soul with the soul goes away beyond
When life is taken and there are no more babies born
When there is no one and there is everyone
When there is no one and there is everyone

Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
It will be, it will be, it will be, Ah…

21st century was here and gone
And the 20th century was the dawn
In the beginning of the end was the 21st
When the 20th century was at the end
1990 was the year
When the plagues flood the earth
1988 was the year
When men and women struck out for freedom
And bloodletting was the thing that was

People say there was no cause and
There was no reason and there was no cause
1972 was right all way

Drums and blessed all through the day
Right way, left way, middle of the road
And side wind, bench wind

Stockings,red stockings
Liberation of women, liberation of men

Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
It will be, it will be, it will be,Ah…

Liberation of animals
Men and beast,flying and on flying
Prevention of employ to animals
Flying things,revolutions of music
Portrait,love and lives
Sex's changing changing changing
Man is woman, woman is man
Even your brain is not your brain
Your heart is a plastic thing
And can be bought
There're no more businesses can be court

Man became the thing,that he wash up man
Every gone is god,that was the day
That man and woman truly became bored
Man became his eagle,man became his evil
Man became his god,man became his devil

Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
It will be, it will be, it will be,Ah…

Young women without money caught
Big dogs living in marble love
Young men die in the spring
Boys of seven falling in love
Give the lady wear a diamond ring

Wedding, wedding, wedding
You know all wedding ain' the thing
Don't want to know prayer,don't want to know man
Give me your hand,and take my hand
This is better than tanbobrs
Prayer men, yeah
The choose is now on pole
It says somebody else,soul and toe
Don't try to sway one over
To your day,on your day
Your day will go away
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century

Friday, September 9, 2011

...Summer's end, coming home...

The end of summer really needs a valediction of one sort or another. As season's go, it's value has an inverse proportion to it's brevity and its weight. Being light and short means all events within have more moment than most. And for city dwellers, who don't get to "winter" at anyplace we don't spend rent, the pleasures of the harbor (oh yes, and why not use Mr. Ochs, who was not immune to things beyond the political) like Governor's Island, concert evenings in Central Park or any of the other half-dozen outdoor venues, dinner at Del Posto and that long walk through humid waves and human seas, but, as well, those day trips to Fire Island (as Neil PAtrick Harris sang at the Tony Awards' show, w/r/t Broadway, "It's not just for gays anymore!") and the Sunken Forest/Sailor's Haven area--all feels about as close as you can come to the Florida Keys without passing through communities of bible-thumping, gun-toting reactionaries, or alligators. I look at these bathhouse curtains waving and I hear Brian Wilson, smell SPF 70+ lotion, see the drift-polished bits of nacre and shell glinting at the waterline where the wash withdraws. Empty mind and brilliant sun.

Yet, the urban texture cannot be dismissed. You pay enough for living in this burg, once in a while it should offer you a favor or two in compensation. And while there are treasures to be plucked from the aether all during the sweating weather, a couple standout.

So then, one peek at a peak from this remove.

This summer has seen a phenomenal number of appearances by Laurie Anderson (frequently with her more famous mate, Lou Reed) in which young could have seen her ambient, noise-jamming, doing a spooky cover version of Shel Silverstein, but of all attended, the August 10 set at Damrosch Park one stands out head and shoulders. It was not as spare as a solo, with Rob Burger on a variety of keyboards and Eyvind Kang on viola, and long past the production values of "Home of the Brave", she has been doing a lot of minatures, and then a book like "Moby Dick" and even some improv. And it is all the best work of a mature artist who can carry her vision to any material, sure, but, for a lot of us old-time downtown followers, nothing has felt like coming home in a while. For someone--let's call this someone a fan of Dylan's amphetamine-fueled rock period when for three or four albums (depending upon your method of calculation) he could do no wrong--who can recall seeing "United States, Part II" at the Orpheum on 2nd and St. Marks, in early 1980, this was like "Blood On The Tracks".

The best reason for this is that the text she'd chosen was "The Real New York City".

And why?

The obvious reason is that cities of this sort deserve more than a cursory glance. As you will see below, what Ms. Anderson displays, above and beyond the musicianship, is a talent for observation comparable to few. Back in the last century, when in conversation with her, she said that, while she did enjoy narratives, she was more and more being drawn towards fragments, like Borges—and, like movies. Hers, then, is a prime example of the Editor’s Art. Set the scene in a snapshot. Advance this one more frame and you see someone entering Chaos Theory. Take it a few more, however, and you find self-organizing structures within the turbulence. And, for this reporter, that is what these fragments are: bits of napkin-written, back-of-the-receipt, envelope-scrawled flashes of insight into places, like a Beaudrillard Psychohistory done with tweets and camera phones. But, again, for this reporter, that’s just a fancy way of saying postcards. (And postcards are something well known here.)

A few too many metaphors in the mix? Ah well, more power to them whose road lead directly to the palace of wisdom. The rest of us will have to be contented with the excess off-ramp.

What follows then are the rapid snatches of meaning culled from her dream-of-consciousness spell, in her own voice (not that of her snarky vocoder buddy) that is as much a cunning seductress as a calming nurse, all in this ethereal suspension of light and air.

“…there’s this blimp…and it’s been circling the island of Manhattan…and it drifts right by this man’s open window…and on the side of it…in HUGE Helvetica letters…is the word ‘DELERIUM’…” This segues into a snippet about the strangeness of the San Genaro Festival being held on the streets of Little Italy every year, of carnival rides outside your window, “and the smell…of burning sausages…”

From here she glides into a few topical references on our post- 9/11 era, the reign of Bloomberg, Dominique Strauss-Kahn “now known world wide…as a chimpanzee…”as part of a general section called, one gathers “Life In The City/Hard Times.” Still even as she is saying “Tonight, they’re rioting in London, again” she can’t help but smile as the sound of the police siren comes not from her speakers, but Ninth Avenue behind her. She draws this to a close with “So there’s the good news…and the bad news. And the bad news is the Earth keeps spinning, spinning, spinning…trying to throw us off…And the good news is, as Willie Nelson says: 90%of all the people in the world, end up with…the wrong person. And that’s what makes the juke boxes….keep spinning…”

This dives into a ride on violin and synth that blends in with the dusk so well you almost don’t notice, “…night…the city…the air…and you can see…ghost trains…along the High Line…long, black limosines, and EMS trucks, carrying the drunk, and the dead…tourists descending from the Enterprise…” And as each bit unfolds, you have to wonder if she really does cruise the avenues at that hour, chronicling the changes wrought by time and temperature.

This segues into something more metaphoric before grounding again in that well-know slogan of our New York state-of-mind: “…If you see something, say something… But what, exactly, are you supposed to say? Officer, there’s something not quite right about that person there… OR…Officer, there’s something wrong about that bag in the middle of the station… OR… Officer, there’s something not quite right with YOU, you’re sort of slippery around the edges, like you just might melt down into an officer-sized puddle, right in front of me…” then, to slam the point home: “Did you know that 1,400 new spy agency’s have been started in the last ten years, in America?”

It is just these contrasts which bring the somnambulistic reverie into diamond clarity, like that sudden focus wherein a 2D picture snaps into a 3D relief, in some transfictive Playstation event.

“Uptown…downtown…countdown….&, in Midtown, the lights come on in the high-rises…the cleaning machines moving slowly…you can see the paper shredders shredding, shredding, shredding…the mist surrounds the tallest towers, until there is no escape…except for the heat, which rises up, rises up, rises up, in the jade-like night…”

And then if you wonder where you are going, a series of directions begin to trace a route down from Westchester, ending up in the Lincoln Center parking garage, and you realize you’ve been guided by the sexiest GPS module ever.

Lest you think this all apiece, it should be noted that without the aural component, this would be stand-up comedy with little chance of making it at Caroline’s past the first open mike, or an op-ed that wouldn’t get past the assistant at the copy desk. What give performance art the kick is this use of electronics and text: you can’t have one without the other. Hence, this poor approximation.

So when she and the guys slip into what, in—say—1985 might pass for a “dance” track, “Step Into The Flow” carries just enough data to give the feet a reason to beat there. Unless you notice, this ultra-rap-trip, in mild iambic-pentameter, seems to be one step ahead of you. And when it side-slips into a reverie on “Voila Paris”, you begin to feel like its no stretch to bring the other metropolii into the mix, finding the common thread in them all.

And should you THEN think it all impersonal distance of the detached adventurer, “the space…between…the beats….on 14th Street, the nightgowns hang on the racks…people in sturdy khakis, and pre-washed jeans…” and begins noting the number of names for polyester mixes and blends like discovering exotic sea-creatures, “…and I tell myself…if only I didn’t feel so lost, maybe I could…” as if drowning in these seas of fabrics.

A sequencer’s bell tolling as muffled alarm form a buoy on rough seas? “South Street Seaport…cars whoosh by…lights flash in the studios…of photographers…high rises, rise and fall… people fall off bar stools… Hard Times…give it the gas…I just keep falling behind …heat rises, people sliding …in a dream like mine, One World Trade rises, you can se it from here… heat rises…” The viola takes a solo here in a Middle Eastern mode which soon becomes saw-dense as it rips through a hornet’s nest and keens like a Yom Kippur shofar, Laurie waving him on to moan out another chorus of uncorked cellulose eerie.

And at the end of this fever-sweat, we drop back into context with “The United State is the oldest country in the world, because it has been in the 20th Century the longest. So said Gertrude Stein, when she said it…that’s what she said…” sounding a lot like Ms. “A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose” herself, there. But if GS is forever enigmatic, Anderson can have her own propers as spin doctor, finding the whirl within a word. “…and on Wall Street, futures are being bought and sold, buying and selling…things, that don’t exist yet-have-not-been-made …thing that have only been thought about—they’re thoughts! …and that’s what’s for sale…and in this way…the city, start to grow around you …not the one you imagined, but one made of something else …adrenalin…delirium…”

Then shifts into telex signal mode, “We are always inventing people…maybe we need to lighten up… so we can travel---light!”

Almost too dark to make another note, her summation begins, as always, somewhere in the real. “The city has changed a lot in the last few years, and its replaced the former city. Fewer bookstores, but hey!—lots more cupcake shops! So that’s one thing. And also, lots of goofy talk about…texting and …tech conferences—and yeah!—plenty of gizmos—oh yeah!—plenty of apps, presented by a few good guys in button-downs and chinos …who’ll analyse us all, for the good of mankind…”

Any why do I feel compelled to write down everything I can remember? And here? Because, in times t o come, I may want to be able to turn my memories into cloud computerland, but right now, this is the best shot I got.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

“Much Ado About Nothing”

It is most satisfying to return from an hiatus and enter with another aside from the Bard, a tradition (if such exists) at this blog.

It has been an odd week; some might say ‘biblical’, were they inclined to be overly melodramatic as, it seems, the entire broadcast Media is wont to be. The earthquake, a 5.9er I am told, was weak enough to provide comic relief for anyone from Japan, or our West Coast. (My Tweet? “Has anyone seen Chicken Little running out of the Capitol Dome screaming about the debt ceiling?” One thing about electronic haiku: it forces the prolix to become tidy.)

These lamentably feeble comparisons aside, however, they are nothing in light of the East Coast weekend weather event. Our region suffered a far greater physical impact from the political effects of shifting winds than any in the atmosphere.

But first, the actual atmosphere surrounding this should be noted. From this outpost in the East Village, the humidity alone was a telling point. When flesh sticks to everything, your thinking becomes tacky as well. Just envision a world without air-conditioning: would it ever have been possible to ship tech sector jobs to the tropics? Then there was the darkening skies. Watching this come in was the textbook definition of ominous. Outside of this, the number of conversations one hears impending towards the immanence of the eschaton falls quickly into absurdity.

WOMAN ON CELL PHONE IN ELEVATOR LOBBY: …I’m as prepared as I can be. I’ve got my batteries, my water, my Jack Daniels…

WOMAN ON BUS ON CELL PHONE: …Trader Joe’s is cleaned out…Just things like capers, cocktail olives, and pickles…Why all the canned goods? Like how long is this going to last?...

Food forays being paramount though, on my last rip out Saturday morning, I wanted to put something on the iPod suitable for impending doom and found “Atom Heart Mother” by Pink Floyd quite fit for the occasion. Brooding, slow, almost grimly pompous with trombones and French horns heralding the apocalypse. Which was, in this case that not only was the woman on the bus right, but both Trader Joe’s AND Whole Foods were already closed. Unless it was only meant as an augury of the first rain bands coming in once I’d gotten out of the last L train before the system began shutting down at noon. This was a city primed for DRAMA! (…or dharma? Never could remember the diff…)

Which brings up the rest of the evening’s score: a mp4 disc with 15 albums of the soundtracks from Godzilla movies. “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)” (by Akira Ifukube) hit the perfect note to follow Floyd’s bombast. We often overlook this aspect of the package in our youthful passion for daikaiju (Japanese name for Japanese monster movies), more excited by the conflict between two or more manifestations of the battle between Ego, Superego and Id, or Anima and Anime, if you’re Jungian than springtime. The beauty of the recycled themes is recognizing that the way the best noise comes from brass: the trumpets blaring on a four-note alternating leitmotif while tympani pounds and booms, the symbols hissing, all ending with a gong!!! This is all a fair example of the production values of telejournalism.

Which is what I meant by political, of course, and spin control, inflated rhetoric, photo-op positioning, etc., and its attendant battles for our consciousness and attention. But it is not the MSNBC/Fox kind. It is the policy of panic.

The central theme here is our complicity in a pact with fools: a/k/a—our media.

All those preparations and all those warnings and press conferences—it seemed like we had to pay attention because, at any moment, things might turn ugly, quickly. Perhaps it was necessary, in some way, to make us feel calm and secure and content, but certainly all the better to make mandatory evacuations work, to empty the streets for better passage of emergency vehicles, and aid in getting service back on line faster. This is good for the public service sector who need this kind of cooperation and hat’s off to them. And wouldn’t it have been nicer and in the interests of full disclosure, for Mayor Bloomberg to have said, “I am on top of this situation…because I fumbled the ball last winter”?

Dream on.

It’s just that all these things would be more laudatory were they not also part of a massive con. Say what you want about New Yorkers; they know a shell game when they see it. It may have had the desired effect of making the world safe for democracy, but make no mistake: a benevolent dictatorship is still a dictatorship.

This nothing new in the news. There will always be a few out there who still carry the torch for investigative journalism, but they are giving way too much to the same sweep of events that brought infotainment to the fore of all the major outlets. (This phenomenon was noted by Tom Brokaw as beginning with the O.J. Simpson trial and the 24-hour-a-day coverage that it generated.) Those who promulgate this waste of our attention will argue that an overload of data and live on-air standups and “BREAKING NEWS” crawlers are empowering. They will say the great thing is that they offer so much choice, and if you don’t like it, you can always go somewhere else. Yes, and when everything looks the same and sounds the same and says the same things, where is the choice? Offer a menu to a herd of cows.

What makes it worse, worst, is the fill of cant over real intelligence. The meteorologists and hurricane experts go on and on describing the physics of the formation of Irene, its dimensions, speed, millibars of pressure…and still manage to avoid one essential fact. Once an ocean-born vortical storm leaves its native element, warm-to-hot water, it begins to die. By the time it finished wreaking havoc on Kill Devil Hills (a name to conjour with, if any there is) in North Carolina, the eye wall was collapsing even before it reached Washington. All the worries about the storm surge were not going to be realized, that was certain; coasting flooding, yes, but rain does enough to New Jersey on a regular basis to make calls for disaster relief routine. Common knowledge, and yet no one bothered to take that bite of that apple. Instead, more lip service to the party line: we are in DANGER, DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

The reference to the “Lost In Space” robot, cliché tho’ it may be, isn’t just for effect. The difference between arm-waving wildly and hand-wringing intently is negligible. However, this is the same fact that emerged from my musical box: you want people to respond emotively, you hit them with every iota of sentiment and experience you can, and—the key factor—in bite-sized chunks. The cuts on the Godzilla albums are no longer than 3 minutes, tops, most just cues under 2, and—equally important—repeating key themes. In this instance, rapid-fire cut-aways one after the other, with almost no one staying on talking head in the rain, to notice that all he or she was getting, really, was wet. If anything else, it was usually being the object of derision by screen-hungry teenagers, out in the blow to have bragging rights about anything, which a major portion of their existence. Then comes the radar, then the graphics, then, the commercials, then the bumper intro with the stacatto motif of the event: omninous, breathless and, most assuredly, the augury of a monster…not, this time, in a wobbling laytex costume.

The meaning is clear: the sum total of its scope couldn’t hope to live up to the noise generated by it. This isn’t a reference to the damages, which are significant, as much as it would ill become this blog to refer to this as the Lemming Factor; especially for those who had property damage and the loss of loved ones. It is all very well and good to insult those who deserve it, but not those who don’t. Yet when you stop and think about it, the “better safe than sorry” attitude of civil administrators and FEMA officials, it becomes trite, if only in retrospect. Which also where today’s graphic comes in. This is a brochure distributed to all downtown office building lobbies…on Wednesday. Yes, talk about closing the barn door after—and how much did it cost to print up these little bundles of paranoia? Like we needed to be told Manhattan is an island?

What was the ostensible reason for hating Communism? Totalitarianism, rule by one voice: the State. What they called “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and…like what do THEY know about running a government, eh? Well, what should be shunned as well is the dictatorship of the Dictationists, the Telepromptarians, the People Who Speak With One Voice. And what is that?


Yes, trivialites and aesthetics—this is what this boils down to isn’t it? Well, when faced with the melodrama of the Media, why not? What we are left with, then, is a script written to turn reportage on an exceptional storm condition into something between a war and a World Cup match. You doubt? Listen to the verbs—thundering, crashing, blustering (and that’s just to describe the on-air talent)—and the widely-vaunted “team coverage”… To hear them talk you’d think that nothing could be greater or worse than this beach, that surf, those winds, and them interviews with passersby who are asked questions like “What is your greatest fear?” and never a one with the wit to answer: “Dying penniless, alone and unloved,” trying to make them into sage examples of native wisdom when they best they can offer is a chuckle and shrug: “Naah. I just wanted to see what it looked like out here.” All one can do in the face of such dull responses is to further exhort for more extempore panting prose of the moment’s portents in those hyperinflated tones to punctuate every line with a punch. Didn’t anyone ever tell them, when they were Communications Studies majors, that the only place you can add crescendo upon crescendo is in music?

If all this sounds like an overreaction, it is. Then again, when you’ve spent that much time absorbed on one topic, everything becomes enlarged, much like the subject matter itself. This text itself (talk about "meta") is an example of the kind of hyperinflation that occurs when a heated discussion boils up from beneath the quiet surface and explodes in furious gusts across a set path. For all the bombast, it will have little impact. Hence the Bard up top, who knew a thing or two about "sound and fury/signifying nothing".

Still, where's Inshiro Hondo when you need him?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

check out time

Summer daze in a heat haze… wander down the aisles of a few shows, set in seats or concrete or marble, to marvel at the way a bit of air can be rescuplted (a tip of the hat to Tom Waits’ acceptance speech at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies: “Singing is just doing fun stuff with air”) and the treasures of the past which only became so with the value of proximity to greatness.

Part of New England, New York, east New Iarsey and Long Iland. (ca. 1702-1707)

Like the New York Public Library has an exhibition on until 2012 entitled: “Celebrating 100 Years”. You’d expect books, and they are there, but an astonishing variety of them in ways you would not expect—such as 2,300 BCE cuneiform tablets that keep records of account long after the sheep and olive oil jars have ceased to have value. The Gutenberg Bible you’d know, of course, if you saw the 1966 movie “You’re A Big Boy Now” starring Peter Kastner as a post-modern Holden Caulfield who’s father’s claim to fame was getting one of them between the lions. But how about the innocuous collection of stories “Thirty Years” by John P. Marquand, a standard bound volume, that actually contained, written in pencil on its last folio sheets, a draft version of Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech? You can feel the immediacy of the man in just that impulse: decides he needs to collect a few thoughts, grabs a handy book and a pencil, and begins to compose.

But there’s also dime novels and pornography! I am told they make a buy once every 10 years, in order just to chronicle; but can you imagine the schedule? “Oh, I see its time to acquire some smut. Volunteers?” The arcana also includes Malcolm X’s briefcase, Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, and one of Kerouac’s butcher rolls of scrollwork. There’s so much to see that touches on the word, and image, and both, that you wonder that you don’t spend more time reading.

So much to do, so little time…

Yet Summer is the time to get out and about and experience the joys of dining al fresco and attending concerts the same way. At “Celebrate Brooklyn” the early monster of the season was June 16’s “Hal Willner’s Freedom Riders Project” in Prospect
Park. Outside of it being a weather-perfect evening, the master Totalist (a term loosely ascribed to those singular curators of art who manage to encompass an historical and cultural worldview while still making corking good entertainment) had assembled a line up marked by a diversity that is as hard to encompass as the scope of the early Civil Rights movement. So, in justice to the whole, let us do the briefest of thumbnails before the whole enchilada. What one would expect would be a lot of folk songs and constant attempts from the stage to exhort a lackadaisical crowd into ill-considered sing-a-longs. That was the barest minimum. What we forget is that this was a movement of East Coast intellectuals, college students and local African-American churches, and when you put that together, you get a dreamy mix of jazz and gospel, protest songs and march chants, and spirituals both accapella and instrumental.

PARTS LIST (in order of appearance):

1. “Haitian Fight Song’ (Charles Mingus) – The treasure of any Willner mashup is putting Charles’ son Eric onstage, and here he does a field holler accompaniment to the fine band, led by Steven Bernstein, which could raise hackles on your spine, or recall the Mothers of Invention’s Roy Estrada’s operatic pachuco aria of “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually-Aroused Gas Mask”.
2. So, after we start in the field, why not stay there? “Stand Fast, Old Mule” is another of Mingus pere which gets oomphed by Mingus fils, with a chorus backing straight out of the amen corner.
3. After Eric’s exit, the quintet remain to do “Gallow’s Pole” which some may know from the Led Zeppelin cover, but means an entirely different thing when a old English ballad is sung in the South, now north.
4. That they continue into “Why Don’t We Sit Under The Apple Tree” you will have to hand to Hal, for finding the perfect redemption for the previous number’s reference to a hanging tree.
5. Catherine Russell (?) steps out from the chorus to bring it on home with the band backing on “Motherless Child” which breaks all over the place into the kind of Salvation Army temperance brass blat we’ve come to know as much from New Orleans’ funerals.
6. This sets up the first solo interlude as Geri Allen solos on grand piano with a tune that I didn’t ID but sounded awfully good to watch clouds by.
7. Rosanne Cash comes up with John Leventhal on guitar to continue the folk roots with “Wayfaring Stranger”, but also gets that Sally Army band backing again.
8. She finishes her bit with Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” which reminds you that, yes indeed, there was also a bit of Top 40 in those days that could handle some content.
9. Eric returns with his tribute to the era’s not-so-passive resistance advocates and the late Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”…albeit, by his own admission, it had to be read rather than recited from memory, and with glasses on. So there’s even funk too.
10. Tao Seeger, of Pete’s clan, gets to get the old school transport feel going with “Come on over to the front of the bus (I’ll be riding up there)” which is catchy AND easy enough to follow along from the cheap seats. (Which are all the seats. And which did.)
11. To follow up on that, Toshi Reagon brings up the gospel group to try to rouse the rebels, and somewhat succeeds with “Buses are comin’ better get you ready, oh yeah”, “Freedom comin’ and it won’t be long” and the epitome of the age in a nutshell: “Which Side Are You On?” Perhaps a bit preachy and overlong in her bringing in women’s oppression as an equal issue (especially on the last number, which she equated with a need for a renewed protest movement, good luck soldier-woman) but that had to be there or it wouldn’t bring the care.
12. Now the moment that most hipsters and old rockers in the crowd were waiting for, the Athenian warrior, Lou Reed, take the stage…very slowly, showing his age and recent infirmity. But once he gets going, on Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”, and the Blood Sweat & Tears-type arrangement of the band begins churning, Lou just turns toward the sound and lets it lift him to close the first set.
13. To come back with Geri Allen doing “Wade in the Water” recalls the Ramsey Lewis Trio’s hit with that number, reminding of a time when even jazz could have a popular hit. But this comes on like thunder and lightning with a call-&-response to the bass on “god’s gonna trouble the water” in keyboard ripples and wave-like surges. Brilliant ivory.

The notes get a little garbled after this. It was getting dark, very. Someone, who may be Jason Walker(?) does “Gimme Little Time To Pray” with sax accompaniment. This is what we call a tour-deforce: it is half jazz-aria, half-glossolia/melisma and wholly aether regions where scatting can include a quote from “The Magic Flute”! Todd Rundgren shows up, and if you think he’s a sore thumb, not much more than Marshall Crenshaw in a gospel tent. (And Todd goes back with Hal to his first mashup, a Nino Rota tribute, so they guy has chops and props.) There’s a tape of Leroi Jones’ famous “I, Too” poem, “I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned” by Catherine Russell (?), reminding us that these two terms have been applied to people in ways we will never understand today. And much the same as Tao coming back to do one of Pete’s favorite, Hang Down your Weary Head and Cry” which makes one wonder at how much the long, lonesome road” still moves us so. Lou comes back for a personal elegy to aging, Eric sings “Ain’t Gonna Study War No more”…”’CAUSE WE’RE TOO DAMNED GOOD AT IT!” From here on is indecipherable. Also inexpressible.

This also, more or less, covers the Bang On A Can Marathon, on June 19, and not always for the best. The World Financial Center has many things one may applaud—architecture, location, dining, palm trees—but acoustics isn’t one of them. The sad fact is, unless you are in first twenty rows, and what you are listening to does not have a fragile sonic envelope (i.e.: anything not LOUD), and the crowd obliges by being so quiet you could hear a pin drop, you are going to miss a lot. So, on a scale of 1 to 10 (from mismatch to perfect match) the late Fausto Romitelli’s “An Index of Metals” was a big loser (unlike last year’s ovation-hit “Professor Bad Trip”, as in LSD-induced psychosis) as the soft patches of vocalisation could barely carry to the first rows seated on the marble staircase. (And at one hour, not just cold and hard but hemorrhoid-inducing.) In between would be Phillip Glass’ “Music in Similar Motion”, benefiting from his oeuvre overlapping arpeggios and runs with the BOAC All-Stars. At the peak, coincidentally enough, is “The Ascension” Glenn Branca’s 1979 opus and the first masterpiece of his guitar ensemble’s true wall-of-sound. (Poignant aside: last time he was here was to perform “Hallucination City”…but on the other part…over the West Side Highway…in the plaza of the World Trade Center.)

Yet, again, it’s a freebie, and you can’t cry too much when you’re getting the cream of the city without curdling costs. And that brings up another event of peerage without compare, being “Rufus Wainwright Goes To The Opera!” on a rather delightful Tuesday evening of the 28th. As it was just a last minute stop by after the first third was over, my friend and I found him in the middle of an excerpt from his own opus “Prima Donna” doing “Les feux d’artifice” at the piano, solo, elegantly attired in tux coat, bowtie and…shorts and sandals, far as I could see. While always a bit too Lincoln Center queenly for my friend’s taste (musically, although he would not say the same of Anthony & the Johnsons), even he had to enjoy the Roofer’s selections performed by other vocalists, including Bizet and Wagner. And being that his following is the sort of crowd that would say “SHHHH!” to a pin, and that the entire rotunda was so packed I expected to see monkeys in the palms, every nuance communicated well throughout the expanse. (Tho’ our appreciation appreciated more likely due to us lucky enough to grab a couple seats down front as quick as they were vacated.) And, in deference to the adoring throng, he stepped out of his role as superstar to do a couple of his “pop” originals. Prefacing with “I love this city…Because it’s the kind of place that NEEDS two opera companies,” before launching into “Who Are You New York?” After a famous Massenet number and “Carmen” “Seguidilla” (even moreso), he capped his appearance with “(My phone’s on) Vibrate (For you)” that would’ve brought the house down, had it already not been by that airdrome iron dome. And, while it took me back to days tromping around Doylestown campaigning for our present President, my friend had to quibble that maybe he held onto that note a tad too long. Pish and tosh.

Beyond the given fare, the pickings were neither slim nor standard. A June 25th stop by the Exchange Restaurant (can’t call it Soho and too far north for Tribeca; just what is Vandam and Charleston?) found the Awa Odori Dance Festival in full swing. There may have been enough “Save Japan” events for most of us by now to have reached a saturation point, but this was another sort entirely. And that being the emphasis on the title dance festival, held on Shikoku Island (one of the big ones down South of Kyushu) every year. As mi espousa mousa explained, “Most Japanese dances and songs are sad. This dance is simple and fun.” One reason for that is the costumes. Some of the boys and girls wear these shoes that are like toe-mocaisins and blue/white pants/tunic combos. Then there are the gals in the robes with the reed-mesh hats that look like shark fins. And the shamisen player really knows how to whack that catgut with his ice-scraper. Suffice it to say, with a silent auction, regional food specialities and an open bar, no one was suffering from anything but surfeit.

But back to the dance, it really IS sort of like bhangra beat, with frame drums making it wobble and the twang making it wiggle, and then there’s all these crouch-step bounces with these fishy hand-gestures…I mean, what's not to like?

Then, to walk home through Washington Square Park, you immediately notice why the renovations took so long of the east side. A new raised stage has been emplaced that is now occupied by a dance troupe. However much the regular denizen and habitué of WSP may be used to impromptu musical and comedic throwdowns on the Plaza, dancers have had a bit more of a problem when it came to reserving enough space to move in. Not anymore. And, while it is well-known that the dancer’s half-life is less than that of a professional athlete’s and with about one-zillionth less the compensation (to say nothing of the medical coverage), one may expect pretty girls in leotards and diaphanous frocks—one doesn’t also expect aged crones and house-muffins as well.

This was a tribute to all ages of women and so, inasmuch as you have two generations up there, the passing of the baton, the mirroring of motions, all attendant mother-daughter trophes were visible and optionable for interpretation. What lasts overall is the timelessness of this place, swirling twirling bodies with the fountain spray and the campagnille of the Judson Church as backdrop, and the setting Summer sun.

You could lose your time in a lot worse ways.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


[sorry folks, you're going to have to click on the image for this one...sometimes is takes a complex pic to sell a simple song...]

“W-what happened?”—is the question, but "where" is the best place to start—is in the ESPN Socioverse Stellar-gym, where the textechs yet twiddle knobs and pull levers, attempting to find out what went on…and got off. Was it a time/space wormhole, another attempt to save the Socioverse, or just a bad call?

Tarro the squidkid was reknowned for sticking to anything, and, as Vicerep for the Brooklyn Queen, he usually got his way. However, the Face-it-Book (FiB) com-link was something else. His assistants—Blacky and Capeman—couldn't understand his fascination with it. But little did they know that his entre-chats with the anamorata-'bot were fixed with a hypno-ray!

And worse, what he thought was a 'bot, was actually ESPN Socioverse feature editor Fatale Zalda’s Com-i-Pod! Had her CiP been invaded by some protrusion from her FiB friend Tarro’s trouser tentacle OR only a reproduction of his reproductor? With such confusion of fleshy-fishy parts, the call went out to Doctor Flack! The Blogmaster-baiter might be the only one who could lure the truth out, having already saved the Socioverse from the dreaded ACORN pimps, the fiendish Brown admin, and the Wingnuts of NPR. Adjusting the bright-bart intensity of the screen, Dr. Flack's magno-coil now takes over and forces all galactic viewers to look from every nookie cranny. And what may have seemed to a banal close encounter with a wicked wick is been blown up to the size of a Washingtron obelisk!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the star system, Blacky and Capeman try to pull Tarro’s reputation from being further ensnared in Doctor Flack’s deadly media trap! Alas!—even tho' he FiB'd and FiB'd and FiB'd ‘twas no avail; the Brooklynsquid’s profile couldn't be updated to avert disaster! Even though it was only part of his costume that went thru the Ether-waves, it was too late. Once the “send” had been pushed the die was cast!

Some might say it is all smoke and mirrors. Others call it a tragic decision. But "whatever happened", the vapo-mists of the cloud computer will only tell us that scandal does not function in a vacuum: something had certainly been sucked in.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


All one need do is examine this excerpt from the purported “PROTOCOLS
OF THE ELDERS OF PALE-INN ” to recognize its true intentions. This is
not a charming piece of archaic folklore but a plot by the Lames,
agents of the Zar’s secret police. Not only has this document been
used to inflame passions against the Pale-Innites and Pale-Innism in
general, but, as most recently, against the Grizzly Mama herself. This
is why the latest to hold that honored title was led to speak to the
latest outrage...and in the manner most familiar to her ‘Tea’ Sect.
All is revealed in the Book of Tweets, Holy Scroll-down binary code
00101001101010101, to read her testimony in her blackest berry ink, in
the unmistakable tone of pure Mama Bull.
“The message is clear here. This is a rerun of the tired, old
plot by the Lame Brains, trying once more to destroy all the work
we’ve done to rebrand our faith, for middle class consumers of heady
potions, by creating a superstition around the origins of the Grizzly
Mama. Pale-Innism was born out of a thirst for religious freedom–not
just some vague party for teas! Why is it every time some bohunk shows
up with a shaved head and a bunch of women running riot, do we Grizzly
Mama’s get blamed? This nefarious plot is nothing less than a blatant
attempt to slap us with a blood label! And you know how hard it is to
get the UPC’s to work when they’ve been damaged–it just won’t scan!
That bald-headed guy isn’t the victim here–we are!”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Congresswoman Gifford's Assassination (hopefully) attempt & axioms of our times

This will be off-the-cuff. I do not believe it necessary to compose in the usual manner to speak on the topic above and label below.

This blog actually began as an outgrowth of my activity on behalf of candidate Obama and the encouragement of a few co-workers at the campaign office. It was as much a chronicle of that growth in political awareness as it was a social medium, which is more or less what it has become. However, it remains part and parcel of its origins and so should not pass another day without a comment on another watershed in our era.

"Watershed"...that's a funny term. It also reminds me of another way of saying "crocodile tears". And "crocodile tears" also reminds me of another Aesop/Animal Farm/animal axiom: "The chickens have come home to roost."

One thing is for certain, I am thoroughly disgusted with the tagline EVERYONE uses: "...our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the loved ones of [fill int the blank for victim status]" It reduces it to artifice, a coda, a diminuendo that allows for a safe segue into the next talking point/weather update/commercial. Which brings up another cliche: "Closing the barn door after all the horses are gone." (I think it is horses; must admit agrarian analogues are not my particular forte.)

Will such neologisms as "put 'em in the crosshairs" and "DON'T RETREAT! RELOAD!" come to replace them as the adages of our age?

Finally, to refer to a previous post, the Rally to Restore Sanity has been (unfortunately) validated in everything it stood for. Period. If you do not think this does not underscore the need for toning down rhetoric (see above) then you need to seek professional help on some level or other.

So, let the blame start elsewhere but, as well, let us hope that the debate is more reasoned than this outcome. Thusly, I can, in all honesty, offer a sincere interest that those who were damaged in any way by this heinous act may find strength and courage to transcend it and have the fullest possible lives of which they are capable.

{This includes America, too.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

...another year...another calendar...turn the page...

On NY1, the local cable channel with the singular distinction of being first on the dial (which is a misnomer as tv dials have ceased to exist) one of the little segments run in regular rotation over the past few days has been on a dish, now available at a Williamsburg eatery, called Potrine: a popular French Canandian hangover cure. (Read into that what you want.) This is timely as that is what most people are reputed to need the morning after the night before, espeically when the night before was New Year's Eve. The item in question appears to be a mess of gravy and cheese welted over some fries...and reminds one more of the reverse but, well, Vive le France and down the hatch, eh?

Mine has, for the last 20 years or so, been the St. Mark’s Poetry Project Marathon. And it has remained so long after I gave up excess (wretched and otherwise) as a means of celebrating another calendar. Sitting still for 10 hours (+/-) while wordsmiths of every stripe, and musicians, dancers, philosophers, comics-turned-activists, social critics and performers who just don’t fit into any category spend 2-7 minutes (+/-) trying to give you anything from an all-encompassing worldview to a harmless diversion to a harmless diversion that masks a zen koan…which hides an all-encompassing worldview.

Sure, I’m missing football games and parades--and did miss wearing funny hats and numeral-shaped goggles and trying to find a gender-appropriate stranger to kiss at midnight--but none of these things stimulates me as they did before (if ever). Whatever benefit or satisfaction I might have derived from these participatory activities, they pale by comparison of this passive one. I watch the year-end summations on the news and opinion programs and find little difference between them except in commentator’s views, which are predictable and certain as climate change, if not quite as specific as weather. Here, I may not get the news, or the olds, but the content is immeasurably richer.

And there’s one more thing, brought up by the ever-tuxedo’ed Brendan Lorber (013) in his preamble. “The great thing about this day is the built-in optimism…you get an automatic do-over…” For me, it is more like a reset button. You get to take stock, change horses, re-prioritize your jobstack, and compile lists.

Like this one.

This particular one, being dedicated to Tuli Kupferbeg and Jim Neu (two guys I have known and liked much over the years, and Jim’s plays which I never missed before and will miss even more now) and a third person Dave Nolan who became revealed to me later [see below], also should be noted for the impromptu dedications to a poet(ess) named Janine (who was never properly ID’ed to my liking) AND the totally non-St. Mark’s savant: Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart.

So, upfront, the usual disclaimers:
I cannot attest to 100% accuracy of these observations. They are my notes, some of which I am only guessing at due to the level at which scribbling becomes a scrawl. Then there are other contributing factors. All props to master tech David Vogen, who manages set-ups on the fly with a speed equal to one, but the sound system could not compensate for the manner in which a lot of speakers addressed the mike. Words come out faint, vague, watery, whispered, slurred; often you are filling in what you hear with what seems to fit. Those who are not noted are no less of merit; they just didn’t register with a capsule summary, or, at worst, acted as the sherbet between courses.

Here we go…

001 Bob Holman – “EVERYTHING IS NEW!” and songs for Tuli and Jim and shout-out for Cabaret Voltaire’s 100th anniversary (probably misheard him: 1916 in Zurich is the actual year—Bob’s too sharp to not have Wiki’ed that)
002 Peter Gizzi
003 Ted Greenwald
004 Marcella Durand
005 Elizabeth Willis – “Blacklist” about how all these people are witches but really meaning the McCarthy-Era-type witch-hunt as she includes Mary Baker Eddy, Agnes Moorehead and Agnes Varda, Eugene V. Debs and Leadbelly as well as sympathizers and fellow travelers…
006 Merry Fortune
007 Michael Cirelli – author of “Jersey Shore Poems” (incl. ones on The Situation and Ol’ Dirty Bastard) offers a mediation on the tax on indoor tanning parlors in the Garden State: “…first then come for our tans/next our pecs/our abs of steel…”
008 David Kirschenbaum – with two helpers does a parody song with “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-video-type placards as visual aids called “Padme, Watch Me” (maybe, but, as well, didn’t recognize the tune)
009 Bill Zavatsky – “Choices” w/r/t final ones, like where you want your urn of your ashes placed; “What I want my epitaph to say is: AWAY FROM MY DESK”
010 Tracey McTague – her baby cries in arms of father in audience, “That’s my biggest critic…”
011 Michael Lydon – in standard white beard and jacket-&-tie combo, “The Handsomest Man in the Universe” whistles up and strums another merry ditty, this time with piano accompaniment by his sig.oth. on "Paris in the Rain"
012 Greg Fuchs – seems to be working the old aphorism/words-of-wisdom route, most of which are about sex, but others include: “Try to use your imagination more and pornography less”; “It’s not where you put it but how you put it”; “Make a killing in the market and murder your broker”; and my favorite: “Lowering your standards is a good thing; consider where you got them…”
013 Brendan Lorber – see above
014 Elinor Nauen – “A to Z” books/poems on various subjects (list poems, I guess)
015 Don Yorty – song written over 40 years ago in a tent (accompanied by his son, as usual)
016 Nicole Peyrafitte, Pierre Joris & Miles Joris-Peyrefitte – family affair w/her on frame drum and chant and son on acoustic guitar, who then brings up sister(?) after to do “I’ll be home when the orange blossoms bloom” in a very Richard & Mimi Farina style
017 Bob Rosenthal – “Kiss my Year’s End”… “…meaning, “the loss of music I could once fix…” and IT wisdom (maybe?) in three aphorisms: 1. WALK DON’T RUN, 2. GET OVER IT (and #3 I didn’t get)
018 Julianna Barwick – solo Gregorian chant via f/x boxes and totally ethereal
019 Tim Griffin – (something about Yves St. Laurent as a playwright?)
020 Akilah Oliver – “When is life breathable?” (might be reading from Judith Butler?)
021 Paolo Javier
022 Ken Chen – “Love poems about Logic” which is, apparently, taken from the Q&A found on an ESL test: “When I miss you, does that make the first sentence false?”
023 Joe Elliot – something about situations in the rain: “even the Ark starts to look like a good idea…”
024 Ariana Reines – “I’m broke, I must be a poet”, kinda like a waitress in a cocktail lounge in stretch pants and heels, constantly flexing her legs
025 Vito Acconci – “Second Skin” really hypnotic use of repurposing of words in parallel and serial developments from one of the most original artists of the latter half of the 20th century
026 Alex Abelson
027 Karen Weiser
028 Nathaniel Siegel – “Man to Manifesto” possible Queer Culture militant, incl. quotes from Jack Spicer and Gertrude Stein on Harte Crane
029 Peter Bushyeager – dedicated to Captain Beefheart
030 Evelyn Reilly – (author of a cyberpunk book?)
031 Maria Mirabal – in a odd sort of split bonnet and hair shrouding face, she sort of speaks out for the latent vampire within, “When I am nervous, I always bite the inside of my cheek” and going on to enjoy the taste of her own blood
032 Diana Rickard – “…burdened as I was with second-hand consciousness…”
033 Christopher Stackhouse
034 Eve Packer – a nicely detailed report of a last minute visit to the nail parlor on New Year’s eve and includes nice slice-o'-life comments like: "What I LOVE about NY!? The Rail And Road Report!"
035 Paul Mills a/k/a Poez – got a good intro and then proceeded to animate a very good impression of old-style John Giorno
036 Tom Savage – guy with a head like the bust of Beethoven, “Words die, Language follows” which may have been about the extinction of languages worldwide, like we lose something like 7 or ten every year (?)
037 Suzanne Vega – looking as sharp as ever, reading from work-in-progress play about Carson McCullers, which may be a musical as she had one passage she thought might be a song, or should be: and yes, the rhyme scheme sure points that way and good humor too, like her comments on Faulkner, Harper Lee, Capote and others for ripping her off
038 Philip Glass – you look at his hands on the piano and you say: those are two of the most intelligent crabs on the planet
039 Kim Rosenfield – another musical treat, but a comic one as well. This is going to take a preface. In 1957, Jo Stafford—acknowledged as a possessor of one of the finest set of pipes on the planet—recorded a joke album under the name of Darlene Edwards. The gag was that she would sing so off-key both people and dogs would howl. It worked. Here, Kim, and accompanists, do a parody of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” (substitute “Rhyme” for “Dime”) and it really brings the house down.
039 Robert Fitterman
040 Wayne Koestenbaum – author of Jewish porn films (?) speaks on “the politics of drool” (?); in all honesty, can’t say when was the last time I heard a reference to “Taxi Zum Klo” since the ‘80s…
041 Mónica de la Torre – editor of “BOMB” magazine on “2011 Grid”
042 The Church of Betty – getting into the Sephardic bag this year with Chris on oud
043 Patricia Spears Jones – “I had to tech Comp this year! It should be taught; it should be beaten!”
044 India Radfar – a sure way to make an entrance: start at the announcer’s mike, walk across the stage, pass the poem at the lecturn, turn once on the far side, without much eye contact, and exit
045 Josef Kaplan – a testimony to the versatility of the actor James Franco…
046 Emily XYZ – just back from a residency in Brisbane, offers up a pre-recorded dance track called “A Little Revolution” (“…and for those of you not into it, now might be a good time to check out the merch tables and food in the back room…”)
047 Murat Nemet-Nejat – “The Spiritual Life of Replicants” is the work-in-progress, but this is some sort of recombinant haiku
048 Ed Friedman – former head of Poetry Project is always worth a listen, and when you get to the end of his dread of 2011 (fears for family, the country, the economy, etc.) you get the punchline too: “Is it really necessary to bash oneself in the head with a ball peen hammer?/Yes, for some people—BASH ON!”
049 Albert Mobilio
050 David Shapiro – “…and so the snow fell/and covered up…” w/piano
051 Steve Earle – reads from work-in-progress on doctor fallen on hard times and under dope addiction and scene of him sitting in a southern bar and ruminating on Hank Williams
052 Valery Oisteanu – “Beat the drums”; dedicated to another poet who died, not on the program cite, Janine (last name was garbled here)
053 Shonni Enelow – from chapbook, “Nietzsche is a girl”: “blood makes a pretty face prettier”
054 Kathleen Miller – “Juvenalia” w/heroine “Suckathumb”
055 John Yau – “They opened a gas station at the wrong end of the telescope/I know this because I am a hash slinger/at an abandoned noodle shop”
056 Todd Colby – mention of his dental problems makes him a man after my own teeth
057 Foamola – AH! This is what I live for! The poet’s band opens their 3-song set with one entitled “All the best dentists are Satanists”, and this is complete serendipity for me.
058 John S. Hall – all about his the ephemeral nature of “friending” and its utter futility and the total vacuity of life on Facebook.
059 Cliff Fyman – “Pepper” about first days as waiter and becoming a pariah with other staff
060 Thom Donovan – acknowledges the other dedicatee of the marathon as the other tech person who was here every year, then goes into an extended mediation on the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” remake from 1978 as template for our times
061 Judith Malina – “Coras” was 12 lines that became a Living Theater play, some of which may be: “the pure word that ungenders lonliness” and “…as long as there is a sacrifice in the butcher shop or the synagogue…” and “Beware the Law of the Land!”
062 Charles Bernstein – this one EVERYBODY LOVED! “Poem loading… [silence] [more silence] [even more silence] …please wait…”; and a second one called “Morality” which is more of the inarticulate speech of the day in stuttered repetitions of emphatic plosives that also echoes Giorno
063 Tony Towle
064 Secret Orchestra with special guest Joanna Penn Cooper
065 Linda Russo
066 Laura Elrick – “Beneath the beach, some tableture” (with Japanese words in there)
067 Edwin Torres – word stretching and bending while blues harpist wails at his side
068 Kristen Kosmas
069 Bill Kushner – on Robert Frost in his Great Grey Suit (and the time the boy William went to his reading and gave his autograph)
070 Jonas Mekas – has short one called “What’s Up” and, because he has two minutes, does it again! (Headline should be: “FILMMAKER LOOPS SELF!”)
071 Rodrigo Toscano – goes through a pile of index cards doing “Zero Friends” in a bunch of continual, repeated and repeated with slight variation and repeated without variation and repeated with seeming/purposeless variation in Facebook status updates
072 Alan Gilbert
073 E. Tracy Grinnell
074 Eleni Stecopoulos – “…to cut off the poor…” and “…downgraded to a tropical depression…”
075 Adeena Karasick
076 Julian T. Brolaski – extrapolations on clothes, and one poem for CA Conrad (see 081 below)
077 Reuben Butchart – (might be misspelling of Burtchart) songwriter on piano, very Rufus Wainwright
078 Lenny Kaye – longish piece on the subject of the experience of being in a band, any band and for any duration from years touring to a one-night stand, and truly about as succinct an explanation of the brotherhood I’ve heard since, oddly enough, Kim of Sonic Youth (and she’s a girl!)
079 Lewis Warsh
080 Erica Kaufman
081 CA Conrad – huge guy, like beachball rotund, with very soft voice, preambles about how he’d like to speak to that kid about to kill himself because of despair in high school and to just hang on for one more year and go anyplace else, etc., and then into “Book of Frank” and repeats of father’s despair “My daughter has no cunt!” and about “miscarriages kept in fruit jars” ending with “This fence keeps in your world!”
082 Erica Hunt – launches into a longish reverie on her past and its relationship to cars in her “Auto Biography”, which isn’t as coy as it sounds, going from the “Northern Taconic—the cash cow of three separate counties” to Robert Moses’ vivisectioning of the Bronx to the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows and her family’s favorite exhibit “Ford’s World of Tomorrow” with the magic skyway loving descriptions of the Mercury Futura and the new “Mustang, it’s headlights flirting…”
083 Janet Hamill – dreamier and spacier every year, looks like an acid casualty at a Dead concert but pours out the libation to the “Queen of Tara” (which is probably the Hill of the Irish Kings, not the plantation of the O’Hara’s) and dedicates set as well to Janine Fhaner-Vega (?)
084 John Giorno – long reverie on early college days at Columbia and the sort of rabid enthusiasm which comes with finding out that an actual dormitory room where Frederico Garcia Lorca slept when writing “A Poet in New York” is right across the Quad from yours…
085 Joel Lewis – remembrance of coming back to NYC just as 42nd Street is being malled over
086 Maggie Dubris – song: “Time and Memory” sort of blues lament
087 Joanna Fuhrman – “My Pet Brain” and “The Hippocratic Oath”
088 Marty Ehrlich – sax solo is the sort of thing that, in the acoustics of the nave, leave one breathless
089 Citizen Reno – no funny stuff here as our favorite activist goes on to tear the Left a new one for abandoning Obama. [Author’s note: opinions expressed here have already established similar views, so it is not necessary to make further arguments.]
090 Douglas Dunn – a solo dance w/two swordlike shafts of metal and a cut-out cardboard bird clipped onto one arm (possibly something piratical?)
091 Patti Smith – the Grand Dame preambles the year of the Iron Rabbit in which deeds and actions will speak for themselves, and then goes on to a tight discursion which could be from Revelations, the Apocalypse of John, or perhaps a treatment for a new 3D movie…
092 Elliott Sharp – dedicates his set to the passing of the two greatest influences on his life and art : Captain Beefheart and Benoit Mandelbrot, then shreds…
This is then followed with an ongoing experimental collab w/Tracie Morris keening and wailing a kind of glossolia and chant w/an almost operatic reach…
093 Eileen Myles – along with her new lover Leopoldine Core, they exchange their vows of mutual infatuation along with variations of the word “dirty” dressed almost the same (diff. shoes) and obviously the happiest persons in the room, bar none
094 Taylor Mead – getting frailer every year but determined to carry on despite the fact that his boombox is broken again and he can’t be accompanied by Charles Mingus who is really only good for himself and Emily Dickinson, whoever she is, etc. and into the poem that Allen Ginsburg plagiarized from him, but that’s Allen so who cares, etc.
095 Jibade-Khalil Huffman – poem as recording session
096 Alan Licht w/ Angela Jaeger – “Reno, Nevada” in REAL Richard & Mimi Farina emulation
097 Rachel Levitsky
098 Jo Ann Wasserman
100 Anselm Berrigan – because his mother asked him about NYC, and didn’t want to hear about the issues and the decay and the complaints, she just wanted to remember the place and asked him to tell her “What the streets look like…”
101 Anne Waldman & Marty Ehrlich – originally supposed to be with another musician, this one was a bit more wobbly than her usual set, dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Thailand Democracy advocate
102 Steven Taylor – a member of the Fugs last seen at Tuli’s benefit singing a song to him
103 Brenda Coultas – first time the term Hydrofracking brought up all night, despite it being a danger to all New York waters, asking the important question: “…who owns the water?”
104 Bruce Andrews & Sally Silvers – standard-issue superior sounds, non-sequitors and sudden lurches into encapsulated wisdom while Sally’s forth
105 Penny Arcade – laments and praises for the fading scene, typified by Tuli, and then onto a song that we seem to be ignoring the fact that “WE’RE ALL GOING TO FUCKING DIE!”
106 ARTHUR’S LANDING – looser and much shorter than usual with a female singer added [at this point, as well, a bunch of late arrivals or returning attendees basically invaded my space and talked through the set so whatever went on…]
107 Edmund Berrigan – w/a ukulele, does sweet little number he calls “plinka plinka plinka” but is probably “Way Down in Asphalt Town”
108 Katie Degentesh – “Reasons to Have Sex”…is not what you think; her premise is that children are the ultimate reason and so, to that end, compiled a bunch of their responses to how they viewed their futures and offers the remarkably naive and poignant and confident answers that make us adults feel so wretched for recognizing these once-noble ambitions and self-assurance we possessed in youth…
109 Nick Hallett – offers an acapella song from an opera to be performed at the New Museum very soon and gives one very good reasons to see it, whether or not he sings in it
110 Stephanie Gray – even with a slight speech impediment, her takes on verbs and conjugations in tight variations is something else
111 Drew Gardner – an ode to “Pop Rocks” and the weird idea of explosions in your mouth
112 David Freeman – who just flew in to JFK and came straight here, offers a bag of jingle bells to pass to every member of the audience to…well, jingle for 5 minutes; and it does sound nice—pure tintinabula
113 Mike Doughty – preambles and tunes guitar about recent gig in Kyoto where he was lost and nobody spoke any English and getting back to his hotel was trauma [sorry folks: with problems like that, you get no sympathy here] and sings “Day by Day by Day by Day”
114 Samita Sinha – sings the translation of a ghazal “Beyond English” and the weird thing is how Indian songs still sound Indian in English, and follows that w/a Rabindnath Tragore lyric
115 Filip Marinovich – w/a green plastic pocket folder on head like a shark fin does “Mother Courage Pushes Her SUV Up Capitol Hill” in repurposing news ok…
116 Eric Bogosian – replays one from a few years back with one of his surprise endings about what appears to be some hip-hop streetkid trying to get props off vaguely remembering his face, then giving him career advice…
117 Douglas Rothschild – SO, ALL DAY LONG THIS GUY has been walking in and out of the artist’s entrance wearing a black pea-coat with a pair of feathery wings attached over it on elastic bands, a plastic golden helmet like something out of a Ben-Hur charioteer’s gear, and a cardboard harp dangling under his coat. His intro says that he is going to revive “the spirit of Ezra Pound” but when he gets up there is just to talk about walking from Troy, NY to Ithaca, NY which he didn’t do but somebody wanted to make a movie of his feet but they used somebody else and…

And at this point, we check out.