Thursday, January 17, 2019

As Far As

Day 30


He was set down, more or less like the others, without having been asked. He considered how to spend his time. Long ago, he had wanted to make a movie. Indeed, he had done so, but being confronted with the natural grace and love packed in the frames of his once long lost home movies from his childhood, he became embarrassed by representation, and slowly the movies he made were depopulated. Here he was, at the first day of thirty, waiting to cross the bridge and into life again. This was pre-Islamic thinking of what happens in the thirty days after death. He wanted to make a movie again, here in this Valley of Death. Would it be documentary, would it be his long ago idea of a platonic dialogue between Shadows and Reflections. The ideas cascaded about him like wind, or spirits. He even thought to make a film about a town that was long abandoned, and an archaeologist discovers a stone upon which are the markings that make a detailed map of the ghost town. So.... 




Friday, January 11, 2019

Day 29

It was an unforgiving star that illuminated these lands. the souls of the elders rested in the mountains praying for the end of Time, the first and last Tyrant. While they waited they loosened huge portions of stone, whole cliffs of marble clinging to the mountainside by a thread. In this way did they hasten the fall of the mountain and release the secrets inside each stone.

I head out each morning before seven with both cameras. It is staggeringly beautiful in any direction. Each turn of the truck on a winding mountain road brings view after view, each different. A cloud formation might be in front of me, but by the time I get out to photograph it, it may be gone. Then there is the question of what to film, and why. I am building ideas for a movie, which is a few different stories interlocked. Today I went out to a ghost town on the Nevada border and filmed the ruins there. The mountains it sat in were purple, pink, blue grey, yellow and brown. How different our history would be if we mined for color.

 I am going to be writing here things of a random subject and order. There will be straight forward descriptions of places and my activities, there will be fragments of stories and prose, as well as thoughts on a film or films I could make. I am, for instance reading the journal of Christopher Columbus, having it in my mind that one cannot address America as a place without addressing a genocide of its first peoples. When i think of one story within the film to be a dialogue between shadows and reflections, I think of someone like the ghost of Columbus in conversation with the ghost of a Native American elder, shaman, chief or warrior.

With Eternity to all sides of him; North, South, East and West, and the sky above him, it was only the ground beneath his feet that limited him. Or was it rather that the ground itself was the only thing that held him, keeping him from a void immeasurable?  

Monday, January 11, 2016


He was set down, more or less like the others, without having been asked. He considered how to spend his time. Long ago, he had wanted to make a movie. Indeed, he had done so, but being confronted with the natural grace and love packed in the frames of his once long lost home movies from his childhood, he became embarrassed by representation, and slowly the movies he made were depopulated. Here he was, at the first day of thirty, waiting to cross the bridge and into life again. This was pre-Islamic thinking of what happens in the thirty days after death. He wanted to make a movie again, here in this Valley of Death. Would it be documentary, would it be his long ago idea of a platonic dialogue between Shadows and Reflections. The ideas cascaded about him like wind, or spirits. He even thought to make a film about a town that was long abandoned, and an archaeologist discovers a stone upon which are the markings that make a detailed map of the ghost town. So.... 


He received the phone call from the Institute at 4:30 am. They were adamant at meeting on location. With no time to brew a fresh pot of coffee, he microwaved a cold cup from the day before and hit the road. By the time he was in the desert flatlands, the mountains had begun to glow at their edges.The further he sped up long sections of washed out highway, and entered the steep, winding sections into Funeral Mountain, the rising sun began waking the colors of the mountain cliffs and walls.

He managed to arrive before them. The remains of the town were bathed in golden dawn. Slowly, with only the sound of his breathing and the crunch of gravel beneath his boots for company, he walked from building to building. It occurred to him that a ruin is a poem written long ago for an unknown reader, the author of the poem and the reader both remaining anonymous. Looking down the mountain to the farthest edge of the dry bed of the salt flats and could see the headlamps of a vehicle just descending into the valley from the opposite mountain range. It would take them at least another forty five minutes to arrive. He took this rare opportunity to explore the remains of the town by himself, and set out for the building where they had found the Stone.

This structure was once the most grand of them all, and the most intact. Inside the ruin were three rooms, one of which had in the back a set of stairs leading to a lower room, large enough to contain at most two standing people. In a wall was a niche which contained a rusty and long since opened safe. He made his way through the rubble, and with his mobile phone as a light, descended the stairs for the first time in years, and for the very first time without being in the company of someone from the Institute.

From the 1860s until the town was finally abandoned in the early 1940s, the town was inhabited by fringe and counter culture groups of people. At first it was the Spiritualist rage for seances. The wealthy from all over the west coast came to commune with their dead through a renowned Madame, who herself walked into a chloride mine one morning at dusk and was never seen again. Next came the Alastair Crowley initiates for their exclusive enlightenment, followed by a mysterious stranger who preached that the town had wronged by mining for minerals to sell to a profane world, and claimed to know the location of a place where they could mine pure color, color that once freed from the depths of the mountain would change the world. Such were the denizens of this forlorn, but once thriving town high up in the harsh arms of Funeral Mountain. 


In the late 1960s a lone gay couple had moved into a shell of a house and attempted to breathe new life into it. They tried to tame some of the stray burrows that had descended in lineage from the pioneering days, and hoped to give rides to tourists on the backs of these beasts to the now useless mines. When one of the men staggered barefoot and covered in blood into the nearby town of Beatty, the police drove to the ghost town where they observed a strange pattern written in blood on the walls of the most prominent building, and the dead lover laid on his back, head arms and legs draped over large, square stones, looking like a painting from the Old Masters in the morning sun. At his trial for murder, the surviving, would be tour guide told the jury that they had found a stone with precisely those markings in a safe hidden in the building, and that after fasting and taking acid, the sacrifice was demanded of them by the Stone. This Stone then became lost in a dusty evidence room for a number of years.



The desert hills are full of petroglyphs made by the ancients. Most are representative, and often depict a man, an animal, or a combination of both, engaged in an activity such as hunting. But some are abstract, and depict in line and color, a variety of geometric shapes. A detective who had worked the murder case had taken to the search for petroglyphs as a hobby after he retired, and at once he recognized with a shudder that seemed to come up from the earth itself and through his body, an abstract petroglyph as identical to the markings in blood left at the murder site.

The Stone went into federal custody where it found a champion in a passionate, yet low level agent who specialized in pre colonial cave and rock art. It was around his newly inflamed passion for the Stone that an small department was created to find a relationship between the Stone and the petroglyph. After a year and a half of going nowhere, it was not until a complete mapping by satellite of the entire region was done and put online that one researcher on the team discovered the original layout of the town was patterned after the markings on The Stone. 



He waited outside the ruin in the bright morning sun, crushing a cigarette as the car from the Institute pulled up. He felt the heat already coming both from the stones beneath his feet and the sky above, and thought that anything living was never truly welcome here. The chief researcher got out of the SUV and looked across the sky. Though no stars remained, the moon could be seen retreating under the mountains to the west. He explained that models had been created which simulated the shifting of constellations and galaxies over tens of thousands of years, tracings of comets, of stars dying, of moons being formed. A carbon dating of a small fragment of the petroglyph matched the way the heavens were arranged at the time of its making.
They spoke for most of the day, so excited as to not even move into the shade about these new discoveries. A town has a history of utopians and dystopians, a freak show since the first cornerstone was laid. A murder reveals an enigmatic stone with curious markings as a motive for a human sacrifice. A petroglyph reveals a map of the town, finally seen to match the night stars as the were tens of thousands of years prior. 



Surely the Ancient Ones, who had never settled on this spot, must have marked this town as a fowl blight under the sun, cursed and to be avoided. By evening they had decided to move research headquarters to the town. There was indeed money in their budget to restore the building, and furnish it with the most contemporary of instruments, machinery and climate controlled storage. The Stone deserved to be returned to its home, and a fresh exploration of the local canyons for petroglyphs could begin.

The town had new life. 

To quote the film, Dead Man, “Stupid Fucking White Man”

Friday, June 8, 2018



Probably one of the greatest influences upon me in my adult life if music from the first wave industrial bands, COIL. Founded, and mostly maintained with assorted guest appearances by Peter Christopherson and John Balance. Christopherson was a member of Throbbing Gristle, the group that coined the term, “Industrial”. After that seminal group terminated their mission, Genesis P Orridge went on to found Psychic TV with Christopherson and Balance. Both Balance and Christopherson left after a few records to start COIL. The element of fine recording quality stood in start difference to previous projects. In fact COIL always had ties to a mainstream; Christopherson did album work for Pink Floyd, and videos for the likes of Samantha Fox. Madonna is reputed to have bought a photo by Man Ray after seeing the cover of their record, Scatology. But all that was paying the bills so they could keep up their own, decidedly counter-cultural work with COIL.

It was a time when such artists and fans alike thought we could change the world, and like a last gasp of 1960s utopianism, we worked across all lines. There was explicitly gay work, as well as the machismo swagger of The Birthday Party, the elegance to records by The Swans,or the confrontational extremism of Whitehouse. What we shared was we stood in opposition to society, and dared to think we might actually survive to see a better day in spite of evidence to the contrary.




In all of COIL's work there was finely crafted art, but always with an ear to the underground. Some records like Angelic Conversation were elegant, symphonic works set to Shakespeare sonnets and made into a frame by frame super 8 movies by Derek Jarman. Then they had their noise records, some being single notes played over the length of an EP and released as box sets meant to cause drug like effects, audio or visual hallucinations. Then there were the dance records, one with Annie Anxiety on vocals as a prostitute trying to get both paid and free cigarettes from the trick she turned. What is this doing if not painting a picture of the world they found themselves in, without moralizing. COIL recorded the very first record to benefit AIDS relief and research, a dirgy cover of Soft Cell's Tainted Love.

They lived hard, known for excessive drug use and drinking. Balance died a few years ago after a month long drinking binge sent him toppling down the stairs. Christopher son followed a couple years after that, dying of 'natural causes' at the age of 55.


But it is not an extremism I want to celebrate, but the work of fine artists who stood on the fringes of a society they wanted to change. These works changed me, politicized me, helped make me an artist. As I write this Genesis is dying as well. Derek Jarman is long gone, as are many who were actively engaged in trying to make a better world, and I am playing the collaboration COIL made with equally influential publisher, Adam Palfrey, who in perhaps a twist of irony died last month after falling down stairs.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Devastating Beauty


Stevie Wonder's output of four studio records beginning with Talking Book in 1972 remains a period of artistic masterpieces firmly rooted in a cultural and political terra firma that has rarely been matched.
The deeply funky Maybe your Baby, though not political, sets the tone of paranoia that could be said to characterize the aftermath of the 1960s. Later on the record, the defeat of utopian hopes and the faint, dying pulse of an American Left are heard, (or felt) on the song, Big Brother;

You've killed all our leaders
We don't even have to do nothing to you
you cause your own country to fall.

The richness of the analogue synths, the production of Talking Book marked the beginning of a string of albums that showed Stevie as no longer 'Little Stevie', but rather a fully mature artist doing what artists should do, which is giving a generation both a gift, in that those who receive this work are shaped, are taught by the works they receive, as well as paint a picture of the times they find themselves in.

The next record, Innervisions, saw Stevie recording virtually all the instruments. The album covers a wide range of themes and emotions. The song, Higher Ground redeems one's failings in life, negating regret by seemingly insisting on reincarnation while still alive, in this life, in this body. Mistra Know it All is a scathing attack on the Nixon administration. Too High, and Livin for the City describe a time when cities were an anathema, decades before they were put up for sale and had become the overpriced playgrounds for privileged young adults.

The next record, Fullfillingness' First Finale is a stark record in production, opening with the telling, Heaven is Ten Million Light Years Away, and the bitter, wrenching They Won't Go when I Go. This record was done after Stevie had been a car crash with a logging truck that left him in a coma. It seems to be a deep rethinking of what it is to be a human in the waning days of a tumultuous century. One cannot say it is a return to form, as it is the third of a string of brilliant records, but it does show an artist rethinking his place and role.

While 1977 saw punk as taking up the Vanguard for political music, disco moving to the forefront of popular music, and Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac inserting their bloated egos into the marketplace, Stevie was to release the crowning achievement of his career with Songs in the Key of Life. The title alone sort of says it all. By this time, the artist has shown us so much, art as activism, the depth and breadth of what a song about love could possibly be. Here, at the end of these four albums we could say, “Thank you, Stevie, you have made the world a better place”. A double album with a four song 45 bonus single included, which sums up the polarity of his vision in two ways. One is a line in the song, Ebony Eyes; Devastating Beauty. Indeed. The other is the song, Saturn, which seems to imply that for all his hope, all his love, things would be better anywhere than on this Earth.


I love you, Stevie Wonder

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Modern Journal of Popular Savagery


I am reading a two volume set a friend of mine made. It is the story of The Smiths, in their own words, song by song. There is the album, the lyrics, followed by quotes from interviews from the band members over the years 1984-2001. One thread that is consistent is Morrisey's insistence on the band making popular music, as opposed to underground, indie or alternative. The band existed at an interesting time, when such categories were being developed. It got me thinking about reading Marc Almond's autobiography last year, and his lamenting not being mainstream enough, or underground enough to fit anywhere. But what this is about is my friend, Porest's new record. The Smiths and Almond's lament fit. Porest has recorded a record so sharp, so angry, so funny and so political it sounds as if it is both the death knoll or radical, left politics as well as the last gasp of those things. I was thinking of how this record does not fit neatly in any category. Found sound, very crafted songs that you can dance to, post 'industrial'. For sure, especially given our current political state it is an important work. Another friend once commented, 'It is not MY fault Keiji Haino or Tony Conrad are not popular music' I get it. What machinery and zeitgiest make what sells, or is heard? Porest makes important records, the only ones that seem to matter politically after 9/11. And guess what? He is playing in portland right after Thanksgiving, our Genocide Celebration. The record is called The Modern Journal of Popular Savagery, by the artist, Porest. Look up the date for the west coast shows. I will be at the northern one!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Post Revolution Blues




While I like public declarations of love, the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage left me a bit sad, and while waiting to let the feelings come and begin to articulate themselves I thought to write out my own public declaration of love; a love for certain times, a love of many people and for a way of thinking and acting that is increasingly vanishing. In order to trace such a line of inquiry I have to visit times that were before my own, but of which I consider myself a son and heir.

I consider myself a son of the 1960s, of its struggles histories and myth. My earliest memories contain vestiges of its turmoil. By the late 60’s I had entered first grade. The anti war movement, Civil Rights, Black Power and Feminism were daily topics on a national scale and everyday topics in the streets and homes, but as the people participating in some of these movements of social protest still believed they could change the world, our government’s leaders were waging a war to keep that from happening.

It is the marginalized that have the most to lose in such times, so when we have the margins of the marginalized rise up, it is often a thing to behold. Prior to the Stonewall Riots, what were called Homophile Societies lobbied for the acceptance of gays into mainstream America with a philosophy with a doctrine that “We are just like you”, and that if heterosexual society could see this we all could live happily ever after, meaning ENTER society, not CHANGE it. These Homophile societies were made up of largely white, middle class men.

Well it was Black and Puerto Rican drag queens and trans identified youths who were the ones at Stonewall to throw rocks and bottles at the cops for days, NOT an activity that displays a similarity to mainstream, white culture, and it was they who had the courage to finally stand up to the daily, blatant harassment and racism, and homophobia in that watershed event which is now considered the birth of modern Gay Rights.



Footage of 1972’s Gay Pride shows white, gay hippie men sitting around on the grass while one of the brave fighters from Stonewall was heckled and ridiculed. It was heartbreaking to see this footage when I did some 30 years later, and I thought, “ Here it is, the beginning of the end.

Shortly after Stonewall, two groups emerged as the dominant forces in early activist forces. One was the Gay liberation Front, and the other the Gay Activist Alliance. While the former sought cross-cultural ties with other minority group’s activists, seeking to CHANGE society, the Latter concerned itself with exclusively gay rights, as a way of ENTERING society. Throughout the early 70s those who sought out revolutionary change were violently crushed by our dear, great Democracy, however revolutionary thought was still carried out in the universities and in academia, growing into what would become great theoretical lines of thought in Feminism, in Multiculturalism, in Sexuality and the human body as they all relate to freedom.

Gay culture flourished in several different directions and gay ghettos cropped up in every big city across the continent, providing an open, social nurturing of gay people who may not have had this in smaller towns or cities. Infrastructures for public sex became established both in the private and public sectors in bathhouses, cinemas, parks and bathrooms. I have always thought even before Samuel Delaney could so eloquently put it in words, that in the world of public sex cross class contact happens more than almost anywhere else, and I believe cross class contact is very important in our country, so that people from different social strata can not only meet with intimacy, but sustain real relationships that can last years.



Flash forward to the early 1980s. AIDS and Post Punk. I was just entering my public life as a gay person, in my early 20s and people were dying like flies. It gave this country, the Government, the Churches, and the people to show just how homophobic they were. It felt like war, and it had its joys and its rage. The culture of Post Punk was utopian; it carried the revolutionary torch of the 60s and early 70s, and framed my coming of age. It also was not afraid of, or intimidated by Academia, or High Art, though its own aesthetics were low and abject. I remember going to clubs and talking over the loud music about essays like, Is the Rectum a Grave, or quoting essays that said things like, “it is our promiscuity that will save us” We were reading French Post Structuralism NOT to become snobs in our 20s, but to arm ourselves with whatever we could in a fight where the gay male body was seen by the larger culture as the home of death and disease.

With this association of the Gay Male as the home of death and disease, Gay Rights took a turn for the worse; it had returned to a discourse that echoed the Homophile Societies of the early 1960s, which was, “we are just like you”. In the mid 80s to mid 90s I saw a breach in gay culture that could really be broken down to Assimilation or Revolution. When I speak of Revolution it must not be pin-pointed to some ideology, or even violence. My own revolution has been a subjective one. I have become radicalized because of what I have experienced, because of what I have learned of life, because of the art I have seen, the music I have listened to and the books I have read, but above all because I despise hierarchies and power, I love human beings, and I am horrified by suffering and injustice.

Which brings me back to the first part of the day today when I read the Justices decision. I do not begrudge those who wish to be married, who are married, who enjoy love, But the White House, which I believe only houses sociopaths, as I think any head of state must be, lit in rainbow colors, and my bewilderment at what once began as a riot by black and Puerto Rican trans folk, in a time when people believed in revolution, culminating in THIS? I spent the morning feeling as if it was the death of an era.



To get back to the public declaration of Love. To paraphrase the late, great film maker Chris Marker, “to say I loved that time is to say I loved it unconditionally”

I woke up this morning and felt I have outlived my life yet again.

The pictures are of the demolished Trans Bay Terminal, where I had relationships with several young men of the course of several years.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Having never had bought a book through the Internet




Books, those magical objects that neatly contain whole worlds, have shaped and changed me just as much as has my movement through Space in Time. Certain books have detonated like a mortar in my brain, shattering ideas of what was real and opening up infinite possibility.

I have carefully built collections of books and sold them time and again. I have owned beautifully designed books printed with the finest of paper, with mounted illustrations and bound in soft leather, and I have owned cheap paperbacks with the covers ripped off. At one point I covered each and every book I had in plain, brown paper so I could not see the author or title. At this point my collection was so fine that I could grab one off the shelf and say to myself, “today I will read a slim book, and a tall one tomorrow”. It was my encounter with the books of Jean Genet that first showed me the true, transformative force that writing can be, and since then I have sought out literature, prose, poetry and memoir of equal beauty and strength.



There are shops whose shelves I have combed in cities across America and Europe. I can recall one, rainy afternoon in a bookshop dedicated to books on film in Dublin as easily as I can finding shelter from the fierce sun in Athens in a cool, dark shop. Some shops are rich like a stew, thick like nectar, as neat and orderly as a plate of sushi, or as indiscernible as a pot of thrice-cooked jambalaya.

Twice I have traded one continent for another, both times losing by collections and starting again. Now living again in the town I was born in, I am slowly excavating the thoughts of others and growing my own through the shops of this city. Powells bookstore is a thoughtless, dimwitted giant where a good book might be found like a polyp clinging to a colon, yet this store seems to be revered like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

My shock however was great when I recently visited Mother Foucault’s bookshop the other day. I said once of Paperback Traffic, A shop I worked at owned by Margaret Cho’s father, which you could go in blindfolded and whatever book you touched would be an excellent volume on whatever subject. The same could be said of Mother Foucault’s

My heart raced as I spied books I long ago read as if I were seeing dear friends from times gone, such it was like watching a home movie on super 8 film, or taking a walking tour through the history of my brain. The store is charming and welcoming, seemingly designed after the principles on Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space with each corner and crevasse loaded with intimacy and image.



I purchased two books, Trio by Robert Pinget and Juan Goytisolo’s Space in Motion, and in the quiet of my car not an hour later I found the following sentence in the latter book, a sentence referring to the author Jean Genet mentioned earlier;

‘who transmutes the inner impulse into a manner of intuiting and revealing an alien oppression, which up until that point has never found a literary expression. The alchemy through which passion is transmuted by a body—a physical and cultural model of a body—into a voracious form of knowledge, capable of turning a lover into a linguist, a researcher, a scholar, a poet; of making him leap from the individual to the collective and opening the eyes to history and its tragedies and injustices…’

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Heaven is Just Like This

The corner of 53rd and Thompson pulls me into its arms at least once a week. I park there an hour before work and read. It is a tiny intersection and the panorama afforded from the cab of the truck yesterday was punctuated by moving black; a crow flew directly at the windsheild, indeed stirring the fresh spring air as it flew low over my window, while a small, black cat glided lazily oversoft grass across the street. Standing in front of me, across the corner on the median between street and sidewalk were three trees in full white bloom, their roots immersed in the rich soil, quietly thinking, while in their arms two children climbed, whose motion caused a shower of fragrant white petals from the over ripe blossoms. To my left stood two houses built in the early 1940s with foundations and fireplaces made of river rock smoothed by years of huddling next to one another under the purr and gurgle of some forest stream, near or far.


It was here that I sat in what barely passed for a car some time ago and finished reading a bleak and beautiful novel, and was moved to describe the moment experienced upon turning its last page and looking at this corner. Yesterday, seasons later I finished another bleak and beautiful novel and thought to write how those two companions, Bleak and Beautiful inform each other, for bleak describes beauty by carefully inscribing its absence. Looking out the window I thought of other companions, fear and courage, hunger and satisfaction, war and play, and it felt as if I was suddenly in the sea of this Fierce and Beautiful World as in a current, swirling madly. I remembered a quote from a Jewish philosopher who it may be said killed himself on the Spanish border when his escape from Nazi Germany had come to an end. He wrote, "Heaven is just like this, only slightly different."

The Gray Squirrels, busy with their practical obsessions are unaware of this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fire in the Belly. A biography of David Wojnarowicz



Hell is a place on Earth. Heaven is a place in your head. David Wojnarowicz

The first book of David Wojnarowicz I encountered was the small art book, Memories that Smell like Gasoline, and what stood out were its contradictions. I recall being attracted to the title but not liking the cover for its striped border. Then there was the lurid and dangerous content that was beautifully rendered in words from the gutters, streets and porn shops that raised him from a tormented childhood. These stories then were illustrated in delicate, cloudy watercolors. Thumbing through this book unlike any I had held before I turned a page to see a painting of a man covered in Kaposi Sarcoma legions and was viscerally hit with fear.

This was when to get HIV was indeed very often a death sentence. I was in my early 20s living in one of the epicenters of the epidemic, San Francisco. In the early years of the Plague, the virus changed everything. It brought out the homophobia in our government, our churches and our families. Hate seethed and fear seeped. It felt like war. It was war, with real deaths everywhere.

I bought the book, and later his others. David was an artist working in several medias. He was a writer, a film maker, a painter and musician. His memoir, close to the Knives was his war cry. That book, like Memories, contained beautiful texts, black with sorrow and rage.

I have just finished Fire in the Belly, by Cynthia Carr, a great biography framing the cultural context in which David moved from an abused childhood, into the East Village scene, and on to become a very famous artist. It brought back those days to me. Days of a viable and thriving underground, where bands were not simply a weekend’s entertainment, but a form of activism that articulated our values, when art was not simply a decoration or investment, but stood up in anger for a youth with little hope for a future.

“He saw his death, the secret theme of Memories, as the logical outcome of a society that did not value him, that did not protect him, and never would” Fire in the Belly, page 531

Times have changed much. In my years of making art I have even met many of the people in this book. Some of the stories Cynthia Carr tells I have heard first hand. Fire in the Belly paints an accurate picture of those Viral Days.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dust on the Dash


There are moments when all the senses become heightened and agitated, excited about what they perceive and time simply dissolves. At these moments a person can wander through all the lives one has lived and slippery memory hardens like polished agate.

In one of my final moments inside my car looking out of the windshield the huge, tumbling clouds allowed no sun to shine. The sky was seen through glass covered in drops from a recent and heavy rain, condensing light from the grays and white, cut with wires and poles. The scent of wet asphalt and tar rose from the parking lot in whirls of vapor.

It was in this damp warmth just such a moment came upon me and the interior of the car dissolves and reforms into car after car after car, ushering in memory after memory;

My father holding my bleeding wrist while driving me to the hospital after I had shattered a window in the back of the truck.

My sister simply falling out of the cab of another truck after her door had opened during a sharp turn. She was there, then not.

Wondering where my father had ‘put 500 dollars’ into the car before deciding a safe must sit in the floor where I now know the transmission was.

Getting stoned with a friend while parked in front of the downtown library listening to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks under golden autumn leaves lit by streetlamps.


The musty smell of sex, muscle cramps and feeling as if I were turning into a lawnmower, bicycle, or other awkward and bulky object.

Stiff with fear driving through a flashflood, a landslide, or misjudging the distance of oncoming traffic while passing on a desert stretch, nearly killing a friend and myself.

Crying alone after the death of a loved one, or hours spent reading, feet out the window.

That brand new chemical smell of a new rental car after signing an agreement I would not leave the State. My brother and I drove through at least five States and two countries.

As the moment falls away, in a final moment with a car I will soon retire, I look at the dust on the dash, the floor tossed with rolling papers, water bottles and dead lighters, a spider web made just that morning, and I will know I will always remember my dog resting her head on my shoulder while driving and all the laughter with friend or family at my side.   


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cinema is



Cinema is nothing but a series of relationships. The gaze at the object filmed is just a marker of the relationship between the film maker and the subject. Placed next to another shot, a relationship is constructed between not only those shots, but to that sequence and the film maker. When a film is finished it encompasses several of these relationships, and a new relationship with time and how it is experienced.

When projected through light, these relationships are sent over the heads of an audience, and reflected back from the screen to retinas of these people, where these relationships explode into thousands, if not millions more; relationships of people to memory, to hopes, to fears. Time, light, color, sound, these are vehicles for this vast set of relationships that we very simply call a film.

Social histories, personal memories, the concrete and the theoretical, narrative or abstract; a film is what is NOT there, but what is between each element in a perpetually creative whole.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Moment


In describing a moment, or rather what one soul might feel at any given instant, it may well be said that the entire experience of time for that soul must be called upon, for that is what a moment is; all of time for one soul condensed, compressed and sealed in one instant. Should I say for instance, that while sitting in a car, he finished reading a novel? A novel where the final words filled him with such sadness, or should I say that upon finishing a novel in a borrowed car that the first thing he saw upon closing the book was the petals of a tree in late bloom were scattered in wind and rain, and that this image was then gently extinguished by drops of rain on the windshield, thereby obscuring it? Or perhaps I should write that he thought for years that the precise image he had just seen was the exact image of happiness and that he had always wished to film it? At any rate he watched this image unfold and become obscured as a sadness filled him upon finishing that bitter and beautiful masterpiece of a book. It might be enough to write that with the passenger windows of the borrowed car open that four teenaged boys sat on a grassy slope to his left and as he listened to these boys, these Kings of Leisure quietly laugh, bounce a ball that their pleasant patterings sent him into his own past, for he was once a Sovereign of Leisure too, who though not often bouncing a ball, had Laid Waste to Time while sitting while sitting on grass, scented in rain. No, it was the first notes of music he had once played with his brother, who he missed and therefore brought the CD of a concert they had played once in Finland to play in the borrowed car. This music from the concert in Helsinki, and the series of notes he had played and was not satisfied with and gave to his brother, who took them and worked on them as a writer works on words, or a painter does with color, and made these notes beautiful, so the concert could continue in joy. As these notes played in the car as he finished that very sad novel, his mind went to Finland, to the sunny Island where their kind host took them, to the nap they took outside the museum on a grassy slope in a park before performing the concert. As these Kings of Leisure sat to his left, softly Killing Time, those notes of music played, and that singular image of happiness was blotted out by rain, he was filled with an almost lovely sadness, and he thought all these things in a moment, at once, and he thought to write down that moment. Scrambling for paper before this moment faded like dreams do upon waking, he ripped a paper sac open and tried to describe something beautiful.

This describing of a moment is also a review of the novel, Seiobo There Below, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

and then I woke up



I am working at a funeral/memorial service for a recently passed poet. There are in attendance several people from my distant past who no longer recognize me. As I am watching them in bewilderment a loft bed where children sleep collapses. While sifting through the debris a boil develops under my skin. Pushing my sleeve up to examine it, I can see it growing until to my horror it explodes in blood and pus. I continue working as my status is that of a serf, and I am required to regardless of any other consideration. All the while I feel new boils growing and exploding like waves.

After a while I notice a wonderful industrial machine, like a crane, but designed simply for pleasure. There is a line of people waiting to use it. One among them is a handsome young man flirting with me. He makes eye contact with me, and accomplishes several daring and impressive feats on the crane like structures, jumps off and immediately changes race, gender and age.

I take the lumber to a waiting truck and seek assistance for my condition. While a person reads poems of the deceased to a large crowd, I turn and notice Mt. Hood collapsing in a huge avalanche. I run to it and am surprised the distance was not distance, but scale; it was only a model of the mountain and was a set piece in a theater that ran films of Mt. Saint Helens exploding in a continuous loop.

The waves of boils continue.

I run into my sister, Theresa, who says, “you know what I got Jerry”
When I do not reply, she continues, “A whore on Kirk’s credit card”

Wait wait wait wait….

And then I woke up

Monday, February 3, 2014

Three shorts

Without Self from Tim Blue on Vimeo.

Light out of Soul from Tim Blue on Vimeo.

weg from Tim Blue on Vimeo.

The first is a statement on identity I made from out takes of a feature by Chen Wei Liu, and starring Kathleen Parks.

the second is documentary footage from a CHEAP tour of Austria

Lastly is a short meditation on political violence starring the shadow of Susanne Sachsse

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Favorite Things, the next ten of fifty


Next 10 of 50


Graphic Design

When I was in my very first years of school, I remember sitting around the breakfast table, eating my cereal behind a wall of cereal boxes I had made using three packages to hide myself from the rest of the family so that I could wake slowly while examining these marvels of graphic design. In those days breakfast cereal would even come with a 45 rpm single on the back, which you could cut out and play on your record player, which is precisely what I did with the Bobby Sherman song that came on one such box, playing ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ till my Mickey Mouse player wore its grooves into nothing.

This close scrutiny and curiosity of product packaging has continued all my life. Later things like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, with its bold prism cover, fold out sleeves and poster were treasures I would nearly give my young life for. Fonts, colors, shapes, images all in the service of selling something. Maybe this is what Marx meant when he said, ‘the metaphysical niceties of commodity fetish’



Still I somehow value a book a bit more, regardless of content if it has a pleasing and unique size, harmonizing color, and a spine with a title that calls out just a bit more to be picked up and read. The revolution of silk screening has spawned and endless sea of banality in regards to T-Shirts, but the simple image of a gun on a tank top of a gangster in the TV show, The Wire was brilliant. Graphic design as self-expression; I am a weapon. Indeed the merging of politics and popular culture bled into the 1960s and 70s, from Black Power to Punk through graphic design



 Acid Mothers Temple



A Friend of mine visited me in San Francisco once. Throughout the 80s he was a research engine on anything ‘underground’, and though he was never the type of person to wear it on his sleeve, being more interested in the contents of his passions more than personal credit, he is probably one huge force in supplying ‘cool people’ with their tastes in film and music.

This particular trip we made our customary trips to record and bookstores, and when we got back to the house we put on a copy of Acid Mothers Temple. Pataphysical Freakout. Within seconds I asked him to take it off, knowing that what I was about to hear would blow me away, and that moving around the house and cooking dinner would not be compatible with such an experience. I later bought my own copy and entered a universe that would change me forever. It was all there; the connection to the past in the form of mind bending psychedelia, and even to Dada it the reference to Alfred Jarry’s Pataphysics. I submerged myself in the waters of Japanese underground as the underground dried up here on this continent, morphing first into Grunge, then later Indie Rock.

Whether it is the masterful musicianship and arrangements of Tsuyama Atsushi’s troubadour albums that sound as if they came from the middle ages, or the psych/drone, aggressive minimalism of the solo works of Tabata Mitsuru,, the lovely shimmering light on water sound of Higashi Hiroshi, and Cotton Casino’s project, Pardons, powerful drumming of Shimura Koji (who could very well have fit into Coltrane’s world), or the searing, ripping guitar work by the group’s leader Kawabata Makoto, AMT remains a strong and vital force, both live and studio, working their asses off with constant touring, being a huge inspiration to me in my own work. Indeed it was after hearing a side project, Mainliner years ago with Kawabata and Nanjo called Imaginative Plain, that I felt I needed to attempt an answer in my own record with Jerry Blue, Mark Gergis and Cheryl Leonard, The Pixie Kitchen’s RIOT 00:00, a record that also was in my own way a tribute to one of my favorite records of all time, Sly Stone’s, There’s a Riot Goin On.

Mainliner, in a new lineup put out the most amazing record I have heard in years in 2013. It is called Revelation Space. It sounds like predator and prey, or the song of oil on water fucking. The Ouroborus with a contact mic on its tongue!

 Savory and Sour



I prefer these tastes in both beasts and in the bounty of our earth. Warm squashes, baked with butter, maybe stuffed with nuts and other things, Tender little quail are among my favorite fowl, living or on my plate. Rich stews, Kale sautéed with onion, garlic and tossed in mustard. Quince pies, lemon tarts. Music played while preparing this feast could be begun with Coltrane’s Favorite Things





Francis Bacon

I can make sense of the 20th century by looking at his canvases. The blood, and the fear exist in a clean, modernist background. He paints the Utopian dream of Modernism as a failed project, or at least an impossibility. One thing I did not know until seeing many of his paintings up close is that much of what I thought was white space painted was unpainted canvas, absence as part of the composition. Clean nightmares.



COIL/Genesis/TG



I first heard Throbbing Gristle at a record shop on Burnside in downtown Portland called Singles Going Steady. They had a turntable available for customers to play records before buying them. A friend was with me and he was taken with the name of the band. It was a 45 rpm, but I no longer remember the name of the song. We both were familiar with punk, but were completely unprepared for what we heard. My friend laughed his head off, and gave me the headphones. What I heard would change me forever. It was noise alone, aggressive and anarchic, but done on purpose and committed to vinyl, and with art on the sleeve. What could this be, or mean? It instantly had me questioning everything; what is music? What is political? What is Art? It took me some time, a couple of years in fact to wrap my brain around what I heard that afternoon, but TG became MY Velvet Underground, and an inspiration and soundtrack to my life. Various other, later projects and offshoots I would follow sporadically, but to this day always returning. The symphonic, diabolically beautiful music of COIL is a wonderful trajectory to follow from beginning to end. Genesis’ Psychic TV Theme records are among my most cherished records. It was an amazing birthday brunch in 2009 where my friend, Marie Losier brought Tony Conrad, AND a copy of a record he had just finished with Genesis. It was through Marie that I met Genesis later, and had a chance to personally thank for helping make me a musician and artist.

The Arcades Project



Begun in 1927, Walter Benjamin began collecting a variety of texts relating to life in the 19th century. These texts range from political tracts, letters, essays, bits of advertisements, newspaper articles. His aim was to use collage of various sources to paint a critique of life as a whole when Capitalism was consolidating itself into a great and fearsome force during the Industrial Revolution. It began as an idea for an article and grew into a massive, unfinished tome. The book is a dizzying one, best read non-linearly, and is by turns exhilarating and heartbreaking. As well it is an important book for us, laying down a history which we are connected to as Capitalism revolutionizes itself again in our post information, post speculation days in the 21st century.

Lewis Mumford

Though I love all the books I have read by him, the one I will talk about here is Sidewalk Critic, a collection of article he wrote during The Great Depression for New Yorker magazine. Nothing escapes his gaze, he will review a local diner, a Laundromat, a row of houses or something as ambitios as the Rockofeller Center. He examines how these structures impede, or help life flourish, and of the forces creative or monetary which shaped what we know to be the New York today as it was being built. Sometimes hilarious, always entertaining and sometimes very sharp. But when Lewis Mumford shows his fangs is sometimes when his writing is its funniest.



Tsai Ming Laing



I first saw The Hole, a musical set during a pandemic where humans were ‘turning’ into cockroaches. It is a love story of two who refuse to evacuate, and the erotic center is a hole in the floor between their apartments. Fantastic! Later I saw The Wayward Cloud, also a musical and a love story, where thwarted lovemaking due to porn shoots ends in what could possibly be necrophilia. This film comes complete with dancing penises coming out of toilet stalls and having sex with watermelon helmets! Also Fantastic!

Feedback



Maybe guitar feedback is the Dark Matter of rock music, and those who wield it, shape it and coax it out are alchemists. Feedback is chaos speaking. Playing with feedback is dangerous, like feeding the big predators at the zoo. Hendrix at Monterey pop Festival, John Fahey on his revelatory Womblife. I always have kept an archive of feedback to season any new music with, like garlic or hot sauce.





Women behind the more famous men

Unica Zurn/Hans Bellmer
Yoko Ono/John Lennon
Dorothea Tanning/Max Ernst
Alice Coltrane/John Coltrane
Laure/Georges Bataille
Beverly Conrad/the Warhol Scene
Diane Arbus/Allan Arbus

Yes this could go on and on, and while most of these women are famous as well, the stories of these relationships fascinates me, and I would love for someone to write this book (I am too lazy, but would eagerly buy it)