Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This morning has been one of those days where things just seem to work out or be fun. I had to go to the bank and run some errands. I went and processed a bunch of billls...you hate paying them right, but doesn't it feel good once they are paid? I had a great feeling of elation this morning after depositing some cheques and then paying off some bills. I came across a small outdoor market and got some heirloom tomatoes from a local organic farm. Heavenly choirs aloft. And I decided to impulsively pop into the library where I got some stuff written about Antony And Cleopatra as one of my bookclubs is just heading into Act 4. I got a couple of great books, a compendium of academic criticsm edited by Harold Bloom. I've read it before, about 10 years ago, but it's all about Antony and Cleopatra so I thought it would be fun again. And just to keep up an image of being a pretentious git I saw an Umberto Eco book on language. There ya go fancypants. At my local library the staff has arranged a bunch of new releases. I hate this part. I always am waiting in line to check out my books and land up finding one or two other books in this recent release section. So I got a book about the art of conversation. I am quite famous for putting my foot in my mouth and having opinions that piss people off...ha ha ha, so I thought I will do some homework and try to improve my conversation skills. One of my greatest pleasures in life is spending time with my friends and shooting the shit, so I look forward to reading this book. Here is the cover which caught my eye...and when I got home I found this quick review at Amazon...Oh and I also stopped for a bowl of soup to look at these books. Then i went to the grocery store picked up a few things, some cabbage, some yoghurt, some onions, some fruit, and some fem hy. I managed to avoid chocolate. Sugar gives you cramps ladies. What resolve because of course, I am craving chocolate. The heat wave has returned so maybe I won't even need a hotwater bottle this month, ha! How's that for squeezing lemons into lemonade take that Pollyanna! And now you know my whole life story.

From Publishers Weekly
A fiction writer and former editor at the New Yorker and Random House, Menaker (The Treatment) regards conversation as a human art of great importance produced by all people everywhere. His witty approach is evident almost immediately, as he speculates on the creation of human language, moving on to the general rules of conversation, London coffeehouses as a forum for ideas, greetings, and name-droppers: They wrap the pig of name-dropping in a blanket of casualness, or even criticalness, and seem to actually believe you won't taste the inner wiener. At the book's core is a conversation between Menaker and an anonymous female writer. Taped in a Brooklyn restaurant, this lengthy transcript is analyzed in detail to show how the participants take risks, seek a common ground, interject humor, and discover perceptive insights about each other. Interview tactics and prepared remarks are covered, along with e-mail embarrassments, dating stratagems, sarcastic barbs, compliments, and interruptions. However, what makes a lasting impression is the parade of anecdotes about life in the corridors of the New Yorker and Random House, leaving the reader yearning for a full-scale Menaker memoir. (Jan.)

p.s. the shopping bag in above picture with a "murder of crows" is orange leather and a wonderful gift from my sister. Shout out.She gave my daughter one in green leather. Kewl!

Monday, August 30, 2010


The last thing I expected was another beautiful duet from Eminem...remember him and Dido, wonderful. I know I should probably be sick of this song...it's played all the time on radio and videos...but I just love it. I am so intriqued by the mixture of beats and words. I mean these two must have really loved each other because they sure have it down at taking each other apart. I'm so excited for his new album, I love him so much. This song is so mindblowing because I feel it's going to give a lot of women (maybe even especially young women) a chance to process being in an abusive relationship. He and Rhianna have taken a terrible experience and made a lesson, without preaching or morality, out of beautiful song. (the video features Megan Fox, who a few years ago I didn't think twice about but she's become a really interesting actor to me. and what's not to love about Dominic Monaghan)

[Chorus- Rhianna]
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
that’s alright because I like the way it hurts
just gonna stand there and hear me cry
that’s alright because i love the way you lie
i love the way you lie

[Eminem - Verse 1]
I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
and right now it’s a steel knife in my windpipe
I can’t breathe but i still fight while i can fight
as long as the wrong feels right it’s like i’m in flight
high off of love drunk from my hate
it’s like i’m huffin’ paint and I love it the more I suffer, I suffocate
and right before i’m about to drown, she resuscitates me, she fuckin’ hates me
and i love it, wait, where you goin’?
i’m leavin’ you, no you ain’t come back
we’re runnin’ right back, here we go again
its so insane, cause when it’s goin’ good its goin’ great
I’m superman with the wind in his back, she’s Lois Lane
but when its bad its awful, I feel so ashamed I snap
whose that dude? I don’t even know his name
I laid hands on her
I never stoop so low again
I guess I don’t know my own strength

[Eminem - Verse 2]
you ever love somebody so much you can barely breathe
when your with em you meet and neither one of you even know what hit em
got that warm fuzzy feeling
yeah them chills used to get em
now you’re getting fuckin’ sick of lookin’ at em
you swore you’d never hit em, never do nothin’ to hurt em
now you’re in each other’s face spewin’ venom in your words when you spit em
you push pull each other’s hair
scratch, claw, hit em throw em down pin em
so lost in the moments when you’re in em
it’s the face that’s the culprit, controls you both
so they say it’s best to go your seperate ways
guess that they don’t know ya
cause today that was yesterday
yesterday is over, it’s a different day
sound like broken records playin’ over
but you promised her next time you’ll show restraint
you don’t get another chance
life is no nintendo game, but you lied again
now you get to watch her leave out the window
guess that’s why they call it window pane

[Eminem - Verse 3]
now I know we said things, did things, that we didn’t mean
and we fall back into the same patterns, same routine
but your temper’s just as bad as mine is, you’re the same as me
when it comes to love you’re just as blinded
baby please come back, it wasn’t you, baby it was me
maybe our relationship isn’t as crazy as it seems
maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano
all i know is i love you too much to walk away though
come inside, pick up the bags off the sidewalk
don’t you hear sincerity in my voice when i talk?
told you this is my fault, look me in the eyeball
next time i’m pissed I’ll lay my fist at the drywall
next time there won’t be no next time
i apologize even though i know its lies
i’m tired of the games i just want her back
i know i’m a liar if she ever tries to fuckin’ leave again
i’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Paint, Nostalgia, The End Of The 80's, And More Of The Same Old Shit

He was supermodel beautiful. No wonder journalists wanted to take pictures of him in fancy suits that few young artists could ever afford to buy. He could afford to buy them. But it wasn't always that way.

This post is dedicated to Gardenia, who sent me a heads up email a few months ago about a documentary on Jean-Michel Basquit. We have been waiting for it to hit chicago and we were able to see it yesterday afternoon. Thanks Gardenia!

We lost three outstanding artists within a couple years of each other in the late 80's. Who would have imagined that Andy Warhol would have been one of the cult of people who died too young? No he wasn't as young as the classic beauties of Cobain, or Hendrix, or Morrison, Or McQueen. But he had decades of time to make more artwork, and for an artist, a painter especially, hitting one's stride occurs in one's 40's and 50's. After years of hand to eye rote fluency. Not to say that a young musician or painter or actor doesn't have skills and dynamic range early on, but the nature of the practice is that with years of work a currency of language and experience can make for a breathless, seemingly effortless, artist. Picasso's best work was done in his 80's. Bob Dylan's better than he ever was. Matisse ignored his arthritis and became looser and more delicate using a long brush to help him fight physical pain to make his most poetic stories. Cormac McCarthy seems to write with more empathy and free-flowing poetry, no longered hampered by the weight of previous writers.

We will never know what kind of paintings Jean-Michel Basquiat would have painted in his 50's or 80's. Understanding the organic, and anthropological history of hand=to-eye corodination, the result of neotony on the human brain/animal plays into the life- work of musicians and artists, and other craftspeople. But here we have the odd exception in Basquiat. He was extremely sophisticated socially and he understood his world so very well at so very young an age. How many people know he was from an upper-middle class family and he spoke several languages? He moved to NYC from the suburbs because he knew he wanted to be an artist. He and his partner formed a graffiti monster that intrigued the whole city for years under the moniker of "SAMO" for "same old shit", He was 17. They wrote graffiti that was filled with literary, economic and sociological punches utterly savvy of of the world in the late 70's and early 80's. The record of their graffiti is still outrageous and profound today.

The documentary The Radiant Child takes it's lead from the Langston Hughes poem. Explanatory in the poem is the idea that a precocious young person is resented in our society and they will not last. Stagg and I were both a little hesitant about this movie, after all, the hero dies. So it's a matter of how much tissue are we gonna need, ya know? Add to that he and I were both so excited by art at this time period and NYC. We had both experienced what it was like to ride the insane painted subways back then. I was almost afraid, the scrawlings all over the inside of the cars was intimidating. Later NYC bought subway cars from Canada that repelled graffiti making felt pens and spray paint bead up and fall away.

The director of this documentary was friends with Basquiat and she had interviewed him and filmed him painting for a couple of years. The footage of him painting is compelling. He had an unusual way of holding his materials emulating a child. He could paint with a whole party of people in the room with him. When Basquiat died the director took her film of him and stored it away. I feel it is to her credit and a sign of her integrity that she didn't make the film till now. Also, it doesn't appear she went out looking for some big budget, or if she did, I don't think she found it. The result is a very personal feeling to the film in that it doesn't have fancy font or titles, it has old sometimes rough film and video. It feels very grassroots and somehow that suits the story.

Tamra Davis, the director, was able to find and interview many key players in Basquiats life, the most charming and important his serious gorlfriend, Suzanne. Suzanne is sitting in a comfortable setting and recalls many of the times she spent with Basquait and early in the film, we see a still photo of her in full club regalia. she was gorgeous and young and fabulous in her 80's make-up and nightclub clothes. I had tears well in my eyes. This is soft a spot for me. I spent a great deal of time in my 20's dancing and partying in many of the places shown in the film.

One of the great pleasures and anticipations of going to see a film is to experience soemthing different. To see the world shifted, from someone elses point of view. To feel a paradigm shift, to feel excited or alive. Hence why so many movies with CGI, or wild action scenes and sci-fi can be so popular. The Radiant Child was not that kind of journey for me or Stagg. This was a world we knew so very well. Stagg has a picture of him and Keith Harring together. i met Keith Harring and got some of his posters and buttons right from him, in the Fun Galllery. All through the 80's I would head down to the Island airport in Toronto and catch a cheap $40 flight to NYC and crash with my friend who was at NYU, check out the galleries and dance at Area, Danceteria, Lucky Strike, Berlin, Mudd Clubb, CBGB's, and Pyramid. Heady heady times. These are all the places where the artists hung out and where Basquiat would frequent. The excitement surrounding a new art opening and show was something that would rev me up. It seemed you could just show up in the lower east side, where my friend lived, and on any given evening there was an amazing event.

Davis has a lot of footage and a lot of the mood that brought Basquait into the world's awareness. fortunately she interviewed Julian Schnabel (who made the excellent movie Basquiat with possibly the most brilliant casting in film history:David Bowie playing Andy Warhol!). Schanebel offers an older brother history to several ex-girlfriends memories and an excellent interview with Rene Ricard, the poet who adored Basquiat's work. We also see a lot of Basquiat's work. A LOT. He was prolific and seeing his paintings so large and illuminated is worth the theatre visit alone. Stunning! We also see some of his drawing from when he was a teen and drew comics. Any cynic's doubt about his skills is erased. He could draw whatever he wanted, he chose to draw and paint the way he did, it wasn't for lack of skill or experience.

This isn't the best documentary in the world, there are some problems with the subtitles and some of the editing is unusual...but it's so very very touching. And for a glimpse of what it was like to be in the most exciting city in the world at the time, it shows the good and the bad. Stagg and I both fought tears throughout the movie often because of sentimental feelings for the music of time ,because we were young then and artists. The soundtrack is delightful with bee bop and early rap. (the Beastie Boys helped out with the soundtrack, yea baby!)

Before they were famous: Basquiat and one of his girlfriends, Madonna. Both about 21 years old.

One shocking bit of the film is with Andy Warhol. He is seen with Basquait and Andy seems like a young kid. Basquiat is jubilant because he can't believe he is friends and hanging out with Warhol. Warhol took Basquait under his wing and Basquat awakened something in Warhol. Warhol is giggling and hugging him and looks so very warm and affectionate...something we don't usually associate with his Warhol persona. We also see Kenny Sharf at work, clips of Keith Harring, Madonna and Basquiat...and we enter the time when we lose first Warhol, then Basquiat (and we know Harring dies a couple years later). It's hard for me to rate this film because it stirred up so many emotions for me...but I believe it is a good insight into the life of an artist, and a fantastic record of a small window of time. There were a lot of surprises, even for Stagg and I. 10/10 despite some charming rough edges.

Debbie Harry was one of the first people to buy a Basquiat painting. And her lyrics haunted me this morning as I mulled what to write about this film. "Die Young Stay Pretty". Even Warhol managed to get his ass in on that act.

Fortunately, death doesn't have it's greedy paws on art.

A year ago we wAnt to Milwaukee with our friends Tricia and andy and saw "The Last Decade" show of andy Warhol. I have meant to post about that series of paintings as we got the catalogue from the show but I just keep not being in the right space to write about it. It was really stunning partly because of Warhol's work, but they also had a bunch of collaborations between Basquiat and Warhol. It was thrilling to see the paintwork of Warhol and his drawing. Warhol was a master draughtsman and people often forget he could paint whatever he wanted but he chose to paint with silkscreen many times. Sound familiar? (anoher detail people don't realize is the Warhol often painted over top of his silkscreens!). The collaborations between these two artists are wonderful. At the time, critics totally hated these paintings and trashed them. I thought the critics had gone stark raving mad. These are amazing paintings that now are coming round to be recognized as the masterpieces they are. Here are a few...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ready To Go

Here sits the kit for busking, pile all this stuff into a cart, with a couple paintings drying for a few minutes. The owl on the far right sold about an hour after I took this picture, and two hours after I finished it. Go Stagg! Most are for busking and were all made this summer. (yes, in our burning hot fire pit of a studio) Some of these I am sending to my sister and one to a friend who needs a painting for her office.

On other painting news, I know how urgent this kind of news is to folks, I took a few months break from my wallpaper but this summer I started working on a few more sections. Stagg is going to help me carry out the wallpaper into the back alley so I can get a look at it all at once. Most of it is just on top of the studio shelves rollled up. I also will construct a "plankcam" to video the wallpaper and put it on Youtube. Maybe Stagg will do a little music for this video too.

Other Wallpaper posts:

1) Goes Manga
2) More wallpaper photos
3) Art-by-the-yard
4) Listening to Mary J. while making wallpaper
5) ...if you can believe it.. even more wallpaper archives

Friday, August 27, 2010

Serpents, Or Why Cleopatra Rocked

Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman as Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

Is there any little girl who doesn't love or is fascinated by Cleopatra? Kids also tend to be fascinated by Egyptian history and the Egyptian contribution to storytelling and art. I was such a kid. I remember seeing a tour of Egyptian artifacts when I was about 8 or so. I was hooked! What a world, especially for a cat lover. I mean being buried in a pyramid with your cats? Awesome.

I've got a series of books of classical figures from Pheonix Press, all published between the 60's and 80's and they are a little old-fashioned but really substantial reading. I have the one on Cleopatra, on The Valley of the Kings,, on Catherine The Great, Lucretia Borgia. They are just wonderful reads. But my favourite book on Cleopatra is Shakespeare's play. I came to it rather late in all my Shakespeare play reading. I had read about half of his plays before I got interested in reading Antony and Cleopatra and it then, and now, became my very favourite play of his. I also was given a copy of the outrageous movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton a few years ago and enjoy it quite a bit. As a matter of fact, it was on tv a couple weeks ago and Stagg and I landed up having it on. It's actually a little boring for a story and a little long...but my god, the sets, costumes and casting are incredible and keep my attention each time I watch it.

Helen Mirren at 18 in her career making debut as Cleopatra. A goddess is born!

Shakespeare's play is so very interesting. Almost every other line can give a reader a day, a month (a lifetime!) worth of contemplation. I promise. Especially fun is to have a group read, of which i am in the middle of one right now. We are following our custom of reading one Act per week and posting our thoughts when we feel like it. A lot of fun and I learn something every time I read this play, especially from hearing other people's responses. One strange conversation catches me and it is between Lepidus and Antony one night when they are partying their brains out. They begin to jibe one another and there is a feeling of suppressed anger. It's a bit like following a celebrity feud, and in many ways when Shakespeare wrote about royalty he was feeding into this urge of the public to follow famous people's triumphs, follies and spectacles as we do today with our tabloids. The three most powerful men in the world at the time of this play setting were Caesar, Lepidus and Antony, so it's a little like a verbal scuttle between say an U.S. President, a Chinese Prime Minister and a French President. Here is this strange conversation...


[To OCTAVIUS CAESAR:] Thus do they, sir: they take
the flow o' the Nile
By certain scales i' the pyramid; they know,
By the height, the lowness, or the mean, if dearth
Or foison follow: the higher Nilus swells,
The more it promises: as it ebbs, the seedsman
Upon the slime and ooze scatters his grain,
And shortly comes to harvest.


You've strange serpents there.


Ay, Lepidus.


Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the
operation of your sun: so is your crocodile.


They are so.



What manner o' thing is your crocodile?


It is shaped, sir, like itself; and it is as broad
as it hath breadth: it is just so high as it is,
and moves with its own organs: it lives by that
which nourisheth it; and the elements once out of
it, it transmigrates.


What colour is it of?


Of it own colour too.


'Tis a strange serpent.


'Tis so. And the tears of it are wet.


Will this description satisfy him?

What a strange conversation for these 3 most powerful men in the world to be discussing. What can they mean? Antony's reply is a kind of a nonsensical or riddled answer. I often am reminded of the story of the 3 blind men and the elephant in how the 3 men Lepidus, Antony and Ceasar are comparing their crocodiles...comparing their own perceptions of the real world.

"The "serpent ", the "mud " ( of the Nile), and the " crocodile" which Lepidus mentions, are also alchemical terms, and so they could be seen as something more than just allusions to Egypt. Both the mud and the water of the Nile possessed mystical properties according to the Philosophers. In some treatises the black mud of the Nile was seen as the prima materia or undifferentiated matter out of which the miraculous Stone was formed. In others the Stone>Philosopher's Stone was reported to be found in the "streamings of the Nile".

Horus, son of Isis and Osiris, an Egyptian god figure stands on a sea of crocodiles above. This sculpture had medicinal purposes in Egyptian magic rites and was considered healing.

In Egyptian times and stories often a snake and a serpent are considered as the same animal/family. A crocodile was called a "serpent of the Nile." In the conversation between Lepidus and Antony, Lepidus refers to "your crocodile". The crocodile was seen as born from the mud and sun in Egptian mythology and as a metaphor for their alchemy. Lepidus uses the word "your" to Antony because he is not wooed or initiated to Egyptian beliefs, but Antony is. In alchemy, philosophers and initiates use the word "our" as comaraderie and mutual understanding as the elements are intrinsic to the group practices and metaphors. Lepidus is drunk and braying at Antony, dismissing his new religion/love, and Antony answers in riddles of alchemy. Antony has not only fallen in love with Cleopatra but she has initiated him into the beliefs and mythology of Egyptian magic.

The motif of the crocodile in Egyptian mythology was that it was born of the mud. This relates to life coming from mud or clay. In alchemy it is easy to think of the practice as people only trying to get gold from plain or lesser material, like lead, or mud. But this motif can also apply to human spirit. Are we a clay that can be molded? Are we set in stone? or can we change and transform? Can we change from a lesser mineral to a more precious mineral? Carl Jung saw alchemy as a Western proto-psychology dedicated to the achievement of individuation. In his interpretation, alchemy was the vessel by which Gnosticism survived its various purges into the Renaissance,

When Shakespeare uses the country "Egypt" in the play, he is also using it interchangably with Cleopatra. She represents and is the land of Egypt. She is called Egypt literally in the play by characters. Cleopatra was a bit of a a media savant, much like we think of Madonna or Paris Hilton today. She learned the Egyptian language and adopted the religions and promoted her self as Isis reincarnated and she dressed in the same clothes as Isis. The people hailed her as "the New Goddess" and they worshipped her as as Isis. "I am Isis, Mistress of Every Land...taught by Hermes...I made with my brother Osiris an end to the Eating of Men...I broke down the governments of tyrants...Hail Egypt that has nourished me."

Scholars are divided about the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra. On one extreme the couple is seen as self-serving and power mad for their own selfish gains, using each other. On the other extreme and in popular belief they are seen as one of the greatest love affairs.

Shakespeare introduces us to the Supercouple with all their stereotypes. Cleopatra seems high-strung, demanding, needy and whiny. Outsiders comment on her old-age. Antony is stoic until he is bantering with Cleopatra and then we see how deeply smitten and in love he is with her. Shakespeare uses the sun, gold, warmth, exotica, and innuendo-ridden language to seduce us into seeing cleopatra as more complex and one step ahead of all the men in her life. He writes her as the at-first-blush ultimate sex-bimbo and then reels us in by allowing us to see the transformation and love from Antony's point of view. The key to understanding Cleopatra is by understanding the transformation and love of Antony for her. By seeing his character we see how profound Cleopatra's persona and base character really is.


If it be love indeed, tell me how much.


There's beggary in the love that can be reckon'd


I'll set a bourn how far to be beloved.


Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth.

The crocodile Antony speaks of in riddles is Cleopatra and Egypt and the serpent...which in turn are a goddess, an initiation into the magic of Egypt and it's beliefs which stand opposed to Roman beliefs radically. The crocodile is the snake that is born from clay and mud on it's own trajectory by the sun, at one with the sun. The result is a human that is more than a rote player in history, more than a stagnant piece of clay, but a feeling thinking emotional and sensual human, fully rounded. Shakespeare believed that Egypt was the original home of alchemy because of Hermes and the Emerald Tablet. Contrast that idea with what Cleopatra says of Caesar "take that kingdom, and enfranchise that". These mysteries of Egypt were not intangible. Through sexual love Egypt magic/Cleopatra transformed Antony from a man of action and soldier for Empire-building to a whole human. Something that the materialistic, reason-heavy Roman worldview did not give Antony.

And last, for the moment, if we consider the relevance of the serpent/crocodile in Egyptian beliefs...maybe Cleopatra using a snake to die isn't so very sad. Maybe it's like her baby and soul. She holds it to her breast, a transformative animal, and they fall asleep and wake to immortality.

Related Links:

1) Horus and Magical Stella at Wiki
2) Alchemical References In Antony And Cleopatra

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Beautiful Dancing

Back To "Normal"

Hi, I have been pretty lame at blogging this summer. The deal is we had a hell of a heatwave in Chicago (Toronto too I hear) and I am useless in humidity. All I'm good for is the beach and surfing and there ain't no surfing in Chicago. As for internet surfing, no way. Our computer desk is in the hottest room in the place and after 8 a.m. almost unusable. The humidity is broken and it feels completely different. I feel like my brain is working again. I did read quite a bit this summer, a wonderful little novel by Eric Miles Williamson called East Bay Grease which is a coming of age story set in Oakland, California. At first I didn't care for the story, an abusive mother, bikers, stealing. But all of a sudden on page 80...the book gave me quite a surprise and what followed was some of the best in storytelling. It's a great novel and I'm glad I stuck with it. I mostly read non-fiction and this summer I plowed through a couple of insane history books. Have had bookclub discussions on 3 Shakespeare plays. anyways, I feel refreshed from the break in the humidity and am kind of back to normal although that is not saying much for me. So I haven't blogged as much as I wanted to but it was a nice break and I feel like I might have a few ideas of things to write about and at least the comfortable area to work in again. I'll be blog visiting too...I miss your blogs!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Coffee Shop

How true is this, I swear in Vancouver I've been to this coffee shop. Oh wait, in Toronto too, and down the street from us here...wait, New York City...this is a wonderful clip form the very funny half hour show by Louie C.K.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Fucking Bruges

Some naughty bits from an absolutely fabulous movie. I'm almost jealous of people who haven't seen this because they get to watch it all fresh for the first time. If you haven't seen this movie, you really should treat yourself. Our friends Asterisk and Red liked it so much they went to Bruges one year for their winter holidays.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Male Hurricane Names and Other Stuff

The other day I watched a documentary about the storm that hit the Florida Keys in 1935. It was just one of those channel surfing things where a set of interviews caught my eye. Between writing a post here the other day about living in cold Lake, Alberta and on military bases, Stagg and I got into a series of conversations about our childhoods. I got an email from a blogger friend who grew up in Cold Lake and we never knew that about each other. I landed up writing her a brief account of some of the places I have lived while stationed out in PMQs across North America...nowhere fancy except for Florida. I was telling Stagg stories about my days traveling with various meditation groups for retreats and meditation festivals and when this documentary came on the other day...I told him how I had been in Miami Beach when one of two of the first male hurricanes hit the area. We had to be evacuated from Miami and a bunch of my friends and I landed up going in to the interior of Florida and sharing a bunch of hotel rooms. It was hurricane David. The other first male named hurricane was Frederick that same year. Hurricane David was a Category 5 hurrcane and killed over 2000 people mostly in the Dominican Republic, and a dozen in Florida. I was young and quite a lot more ignorant than I am now. I am still as dumb as they come about most things....but back then I was pretty dense. I thought it was exciting to be in a hurricane. The idea of dying never even occured to me. When we moved upstate and got about 30 of us into hotel rooms we had bought all kinds of organic groceries from the health food stores in Miami. We had to dig out the yellow pages of the phone book (the original "google" sort of) and follow the instructions. The phone book! Who uses a phone book anymore? We bought masking tape and taped up all the windows in our hotel rooms. We filled up the bathtubs with fresh cold water. We bought bottled water. And then for the next two days we partied in each others hotel rooms. Partied as people who meditate party...not with booze or anything. Most of us weren't even legal to drink, for one thing, and for another we were high on life. we shared our granola, our muesli, our trail mixes and made Chai on a hot plate with all spices we had bought and ground into a steel bowl with hammers and the ends of screw drivers as mortars and pestles. We stayed up all night on the Indian spices, honey, black pepper corns, and English Breakfast tea that entail the ingredients for killer Chai. We sort of had the news on in the background but we were busy running outside in the violent rain between our rooms and doing marathon meditation sessions. when we got back to Miami a couple days later, the city was a mess. Garbage, broken windows, palm trees all blown around. And we found out the terrible news of the death toll. Sobering.

naming Hurricane David and Hurricane Frederick came about as one of the extensions of social change brought by previous generations of women who were feminists. The general mood of culture was beginning to incorporate what we now call "the politically correct" and some side of me felt triumphant that the women before me had accomplished this aspect of social change. That the protesting and the activism had trickled throughout our society and affected our attitude towards naming even hurricanes. The tradition of naming hurricanes had come from the West Indies a hundred years or so earlier and the names were usually the names of Catholic saints. The first being Saint Ann. After this Florida storm in 1979, the name David for hurricanes was retired because the devastation was so terrible. A hurricane name is retired after such a storm because to use it again would be insensitive to all those who lost people, family, homes and city infrastructures.

As Stagg and I listened to the documentary on the storm of 1935 in the Florida Keys that killed hundreds of people, mostly war veterans displaced during the Deression, I told Stagg I had lived in Florida. It had completely not hit me that I have been a resident of the States before on a military base in Florida! This fact had never really hit me before, and Stagg was dumbfounded as well. . My mum said she used to feed hotdogs to aligators that would show up to cross our backyard. I don't remember anything.

During the documentary on the storm of 1935, Hemingway was introduced into the narrative. He lived near the Keys and used to hang out in one of the same bars as the veterans who were hired to build an automobile bridge between the mainline and the Keys. Hemingway often bought the vets drinks and loved to socialize with them. Many of these vets had lost their families, had post traumatic stress syndrome and were substance abusers and had no luck fitting into the Depression economic climate of the States anymore. But these same sad things about these vets also was part of their colourful personalities and attitudes that attracted hemingway. these guys were real characters. The work they were doing for Florida was an attempt to assimilate them into society and provide livlihoods. Hemingway was one of the first responders to the disaster after the storm, he went on his boat to check on his friends after the storm and found hundreds of dead vets, many who he recognized only by their clothes or jewelry. He was shocked and furious and he published an article in a small press. His political stance was right wing, but he landed up choosing a left wing paper to write his response, condeming the government. I found some excerpts online and here are a few...

"The writer of this article lives a long way from Washington and would not know the answers to those questions. But he does know that wealthy people, yachtsmen, fishermen such as President Hoover and Presidents Roosevelt, do not come to the Florida Keys in hurricane months.... There is a known danger to property. But veterans, especially the bonus-marching variety of veterans, are not property. They are only human beings; unsuccessful human beings, and all they have to lose is their lives. They are doing coolie labor for a top wage of $45 a month and they have been put down on the Florida Keys where they can't make trouble. It is hurricane months, sure, but if anything comes up, you can always evacuate them, can't you?

It is not necessary to go into the deaths of the civilians and their families since they were on the Keys of their own free will; They made their living there, had property and knew the hazards involved. But the veterans had been sent there; they had no opportunity to leave, nor any protection against hurricanes; and they never had a chance for their lives. Who sent nearly a thousand war veterans, many of them husky, hard-working and simply out of luck, but many of them close to the border of pathological cases, to live in frame shacks on the Florida Keys in hurricane months?

The railroad embankment was gone and the men who had cowered behind it and finally, when the water came, clung to the rails, were all gone with it. You could find them face down and face up in the mangroves. The biggest bunch of the dead were in the tangled, always green but now brown, mangroves behind the tanks cars and the water towers. They hung on there, in shelter, until the wind and the rising water carried them away.

Who left you there? And what's the punishment for manslaughter now?"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eat, Pray, Play With Guns

I often tease Stagg, and my guy friends, about male bonding. Stagg teases me that my girlfriends and I wear baby doll pajamas, stilletoes and have pillow fights when we go out for "girls nights". And I tease him that he and his pals are carrying guitars and eating steak and with strippers. And all other level of gender stereotyping. But I gotta tell ya, I love me action films and buddy movies maybe more than your average bear. I have been so excited to see The Expendables seeing as it promised to have all kinds of testosterone and action and deliver a "mangasm". So Stagg and I went off to see a double bill of Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts and The Expendables starring every 80s action star. What an unexpected bundle of movie veiwing we had....with lots of snacks and soda to keep us sustained through all five hours of estrogen and testosterone. It was one of the most fun movie experiences I've had in a while. The Expendables was just balls out fun. I fell in love with the vehicles, one an Albatross aircaft that had so much personality and offers up one of the best sequences of the movie. Worth seeing just for the plane! Mickey Rourke is divine and seems otherworldly on screen in this one. I love his character and he provides insight into the general impression of one-note motives of the ensemble cast in a delicate moment near the end of the film. The action is a blast. When the credits roll forget about grips or best boys...it's all about the stunt doubles. Stallone cuts iconic stances and is very photogenic and compelling. I loved Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jason Strahern (heart heart) and Dolph is surprisingly enjoyable. Former NFLer Terry Crews has some great moments and Jet Li makes carrying a gun pure poetry. The stunts are awesome, the atmosphere is rugged and it's just a good old-fashioned romp. 8/10.

I didn't read the book Eat, Pray, Love. It didn't interest me because I knew the story very very well. I have lived it. But, I was kinda interested in seeing the movie and enjoying the scenery. I had a bit of a weird feeling watching this movie. As I told Stagg when we left the theatre, it was almost exactly like my life when I was 16. I felt disconected, to food, to people, to the real world like a zombie of sorts. And I dived into meditation and an alternative population of folks practicing Hinduism, Buddhism and completely different diets. I even went to Rome. Stagg said he was sorry I had to go through that ...and I was like, "yes, but I was a young person. It was a sort of convenient time to make huge changes. I am so glad I went through it then and have been living the rest of my life doing what I wanted and knowing what I was meant to do". What was interesting about this movie was that it is an older person going through this story...and I remembered people much like this woman in the film back when I first got into meditation. I began traveling and meeting up with other groups of people who were following a guru, and going to meditation festivals and retreats. Most of us, frankly, were all between 15-25 years old. Maybe 30. But also there were some folks who were much older. Like the character in Eat, Pray, Love they had walked away from good jobs, and good marriages, and so-called good lifestyles. These folks were incredibly inspiring to me as a young person. They also frightened me because they had done something so extreme...they had felt totally alienated from their society just like I did...and had taken extreme measures to change their lives in search of peace, happiness and meaning. I knew a woman from Montreal who had walked out of her whole family, three kids, a husband and her parents. Her family hated her for doing this...she seemed to be living the story of Arjuna out loud. Anyways, I enjoyed this movie and it brought back a lot of feelings of what I was experiencing way back int he day and a kind of nostaligia that was nice to revisit. The movie shows that if we aren't engaged in our bodies and hearts we don't have anyplace to practice being intellectual, or spiritual, or transform. And it's never too late to explore how we want to live.

Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem really made this movie for me. They bring most of the emotional conflict and transformations to the story, surprisingly. I had expected the story arc to be Julia Roberts but the characters these two men brought to the movie were just so deep and emotional...I did a sort of double take. Richard Jenkins is one of my favourite actors and he stole my heart in the movie The Visitor and in this movie he brought me to tears. During a scene where Jenkins character explains how he came to be in India, I absolutely forgot I was watching a movie and had the sensation of listening to a real life confession and I began to cry unconditionally. I had to sort of bolt up in my chair and remember this was a fake person, a movie and he was acting. I was so taken with his portrayal. Javier Bardem's portrayal of loss, lonliness and being a parent and saying goodbye to his child was stunning. He and Jenkins stole the movie for me....and gave it it's emotional base. Rating 8/10.

I Love You Lady

An oldie but goldie.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hot Elvis Versus Operatic Elvis

I like Elvis all through his performances. Oh my god, he is pretty wild in this "comeback special"...the sexuality is incredible.

I've told visitors before that my grandmother loved Elvis. I remember one summer we were staying on an armed forces base for the summer where my grandfather was stationed way up north in Cold Lake, Alberta and on one hot afternoon my grandmother took my sister and I to see an Elvis movie. The military base had a rickety old theatre and the movies were scheduled for the service people who lived within the base and they were super cheap, something like 10 cents.They weren't first run movies and you just saw what someone in an office job booked for the base. It's just a very strong memory of being miles away form our parents and living in total suburban oblivion for the summer and getting all dressed cute and walking to the little movie theatre. Construction of what would become known as RCAF Station Cold Lake began in 1952 at the height of the Cold War after the site in Alberta's "Lakeland District" was chosen by the Royal Canadian Air Force for the country's premier air weapons training base. The chosen location was near the former Town of Grand Centre (now part of the City of Cold Lake), and was based on factors such as low population density, accessibility, weather, suitable terrain, and available land for air weapons training.
Personnel arrived at Cold Lake on March 31, 1954 with operations at RCAF Station Cold Lake beginning that day. The following year, the federal government signed an agreement with the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta for use of a tract of land measuring 180 km by 65 km covering an area of 11,700 square kilometres. This became known as the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) and is the raison d'ĂȘtre for the location of the base.
CLAWR is the northern equivalent to the United States Air Force's Nellis Air Force Range and provides a different training environment with heavy boreal forest and numerous lakes more closely resembling European terrain. It hosts over 640 actual targets and 100 realistic target complexes, including 7 simulated aerodromes with runways, tarmac, aircraft, dispersal areas and buildings, as well as mechanized military equipment such as tanks, simulated radar and missile launching sites, mock industrial sites, and command and control centres.
(from Wiki)

This clip is excerpted from an awesome dvd...we got the dvd in Memphis in the winter holidays. The whole documentary is outstanding! He is really something on this tour. One of my very very favourite songs is In The Ghetto. I've been known to play it over and over. I love Suspicious Minds from this same era. I love how strong and emotional Elvis is during this phase of his life. His soul searching is evident in all the performances from this time period.

People often seem to prefer either hot Elvis or operatic Elvis...how about you?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cooking, What's On My iPod And Other Trivia

Oh god...the weather is doing us in around here. I am like limp lettuce in the humidity. And of course I am still making soup. I try to make it late at night or early in the morning. this week I made three really delicious soups. One butternut, just saw it up raw, then saute and it's easy peasy. I made a raost of sorts this week, basically soaked in Marsala wine, like my grandmother always made. And with this juicy sauce there is always extra and quite often I make a French Onion soup with some of the jus from cooking a roast. This week i had gotten some wonderful fresh peas so I made them into a soup...and it's really like a chowder. It is delicious. Insert angels singing on high here. and a standard cabbage soup. I think cabbage is the greatest food. Have to eat it a few times a week. Half the cabbage i made into a cole slaw (with yoghourt, mayo, herbs, vinegar, water, salt, sugar, pepper) and the other half into a soup. Stagg had picked up these amazing chicken pesto sausages so I used the pan. from the sausages afterwards to carmelize some onions and garlic then added to my browned up cabbage and chicken stock. Great soups for slimming. Just crazy to be making them in this weather but i can't help myself. In above photos are some mini-kitchen tools. I love kitchen gadgets and tools and equipment. I'm a little addicted.

I know, my iPod is huge...it's one of the originals and I love it. I've been listening to a bunch of stuff, mostly retro, including Sly & Robbie, talk Talk, Bauhaus, Pet Shop Boys, AFI, Elvis costello (Get Happy and Imperial Bedroom) Johnny Cash (American IV) Arcade Fire (Neon Bible and The Suburbs) and Anita Baker. Love my 80's.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's All About Snooki

Oh man, you can't write this stuff...sometimes Stagg and I have tears running down our faces we are laughing so much at Jersey Shore. We get all excited on Thursdays for a new episode. Snooki is maybe the funniest...it's amazing she is only 4'9". I mean, she's so tiny that in this photo they couldn't seem to find her a pair of heels that fit. One episode she spilled drinks all over someones fresh packed suitcase and so she is washing the clothes out by hand in the kitchen sink and she says "I feel like I'm a pilgrim in the 20's." Sometimes she doesn't even use words but grunts or says "meh". And we die laughing. I think I am now completely fluent in Jersey.

Enrique Inglesias and Pitbull seem like the perfect soundtrack to this tv show. Gotta beat the beats..."I like it"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Why Is A Dance Movie Like Porn?

Because you don't watch for the story.

We went to see Step Up 3D the other day. As the end credits came up we sat and watched a few extra dance scenes...and then the cleaning staff came in. One guy yells "This is the worse movie ever" And his co-worker said "You don't go to a dance movie for the story".

That's mostly true. There are a few exceptions to this over the last 30 years like "Footloose" or "Save The Last Dance" but there aren't too many.

I've been going and loving dance movies for as long as I can think...my daughter still remembers me taking her to all kinds of dance movies when she was little. I saw "Breakin"" when it came out in the movie theatres. Same as "Saturday Night Fever" and "Footloose" and "Flashdance". I mean..."breakin'" was a pretty bad movie...I was young at the time and didn't really notice it wasn't that great...all that mattered was seeing the dances!

And "Step Up 3D" is not much different. The movie is written for 7-13 year olds...and without a lot of the sight gags and quips of an animated Disney film...so it's a little hard to recommend to anyone over the age of 14. I suspect 10 year olds will really enjoy the whole package.

But as far as Stagg and I...we LOVED the dance sequences. There were times when we were both out loud saying "WOW!"

The dances get 10/10. The story etc...sadly 3/10. (and I think Stagg thinks I'm being too generous)

Oh rats...I didn't check this pic when I took it...we're having a really delicious meal at Rigatoni's before going to the movies.

This is me being my typical idiotic self...I was like "Oh my god...I love that advertisement...take a picture of me with all those cool guys!" Stagg was like..."go stand by Mickey Rourke"...meanwhile one of the coolest actors is in this movie...I have no idea if its going to be any good...but I almost can't resist seeing "the Expendables" when it comes out. I love the guy from "The Bank Job"...if you haven't seen "The Bank Job" do yourself a real treat and go rent it!

This is us just before the movie starts with our 3D glasses, I think we both look like we're working ona Fellini movie or something...these were much swisher 3D glasses than at Avatar...

Friday, August 06, 2010


At one point in this absolutely must-see movie Joan Rivers talks about rejection as a major narrative of being an artist and performer. I remember one of my early teachers at UVic saying how most of us in his first year class wouldn't even be making art in five years. In ten years only one or two of us would still be practicing art...and we were the ones who would have dealt with rejection more or less healthily. In a book by Charles Grodin, he says that the really sweet nice and gentle artists will quit and they were amazing artists, but didn't have the tough skin to keep on in the business. Put another way, the strength and dogged determination can make you seem like a bit of an asshole. For about 10 years my two girlfriends, Anita and Suzanne, and I did comedy workshops and performed in an improv group and spent a lot of time watching stand-up comics and hanging out with them...there is some truth to the idea that a clown is crying on the inside. I've spent most of my life hanging out with artists, musicians and performers and almost every one of them has three things in common, we can laugh at ourselves and handle risk...and rejection. You just have to get your head around it if you want to stay relatively sane and last the distance.

I just mention these personal notes because part of why I liked this movie so much is because of my personal experience at making work for the public and because of the struggle to write funny material is a challenge personally. But the excellence of this movie about Rivers does not depend on having any of my own experience...because...how many of us have struggled to do well at our jobs? To do well with our families to wrk at our own hobbies, or trying to say, make our homes or lives accomplish comfort or beauty, or make friendships? All of us have an universal experience of seeking a voice with our parents, our schools, our communities...and all of us have felt rejection.

Joan Rivers is incredible. She reminds me of both my grandmothers. They had the same kind of common sense cutting humour, mixed with a gut-level sense of decorum and manners. They even liked the same kind of grand decor....while laying it out straight about calling a snake a snake. They don't make women like that so much anymore. i have enjoyed her almost most of my life of watching comedy and tv...my daughter and I always loved her red carpet for the Oscars because she was gosh darn it hilarious. This documentary is excellent. Within minutes I felt moved to tears and emotion because of the tone of the movie. It is both beautifully tough, like Rivers and fall down funny, like Rivers. One of the moments I really enjoyed was something you can see for a minute in the trailer above. We see into Joan Rivers massive archives of her jokes. How many people know that comics keep logs of their jokes? Don't stand-ups seem like they are just telling us stories off the tops of their heads...in fact, it is part of their job requirement to not show us their sweat, to not show us their struggle and work ethic....the laughs often depend on us being caught off guard and reminded of something terribly funny that we ourselves couldn't verbalize...but that confident mouthy comic points out.

Joan Rivers reveals her insecurities, her losses, her triumphs and her sweat...and she is an animal! At one point a heckler yells at her and what follows is some of the most powerful footage I've ever seen on film.

In a time period where "outrage" and taking umbrage is a national sport...Joan Rivers reminds us to laugh for fucks sake and work hard. Our society is so worried about "being nice" its great to see someone actually be tough and tough talking and stand up against bullshit and misplaced sentimentality. Sometimes speaking our mind can be the most profound thing we can do...and be damn funny.

The movie is rated R and is for adults and it is exhilarating to see a hardworking 75 year old woman kick ass. Not for wimps. 10/10

Tight Rope

Love this whole scene...what a dream Janelle Monae is, and what wonderful dancing!

Where Is Your Brow? Midcult? Middlebrow?

'Nobody talks about “midcult” anymore. I wonder how many people are even aware of this nifty coinage. I like the clipped sound of those two syllables locked together, the efficiency with which “middle” and “culture” have been shortened, abbreviated, then spliced together. Dwight Macdonald tossed midcult into the intellectual playground with his 1961 essay, “Masscult and Midcult,” originally published as a pamphlet by Partisan Review. And whatever the strengths and the weaknesses of that long, elaborate essay, the word has its own kind of mid-twentieth-century fascination. The grandeur of the ideas encompassed by those two syllables echo the sweeping philosophic visions—of Hegel, of Marx, and of Nietzsche—that had dominated thought in the 1930s, when Macdonald was a young man. And the compression of the word itself—its snap, its ready-for-primetime precision—suggests the quickening pace of mid-century Manhattan, the sleek efficiency of a corporate logo designed by Paul Rand.

Macdonald—an anti-Communist Leftist who had been turning his energies from politics to culture in the 1950s—was worried about the place of the arts in a modern, democratic society. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to worry about. Macdonald was appalled by the cheapening of art and literature in a big, complex, contemporary culture, about the extent to which people were being fed—and, sometimes it seemed, force-fed—a preprocessed, easy-to-digest version of art, literature, theater, and music. This was what he called “masscult,” which was “at best a vulgarized reflection of High Culture and at worst a cultural nightmare.” Instead of Old Master paintings, people were getting Norman Rockwell. Instead of Bach and Mozart, they were getting the Boston Pops. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was also midcult to contend with. Midcult was a newer idea, a mid-century variation on the phenomenon of mass culture. Midcult, Macdonald argued, “pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them.” Midcult was Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town—works, so Macdonald argued, that mimicked the profundity and complexity and unconventional language and structure we expect from original works of art. Midcult was imitation high culture—a cheapening of the deepest artistic experiences that was passed off as deep experience.

There is a great deal to admire in Macdonald’s argument. He can sound almost prophetic when he writes—and this was a long time ago, in 1961—that “the special threat of Midcult is that it exploits the discoveries of the avant-garde.” That could easily double as a description of a lot of what goes on in the art world today. A case in point was the Matthew Barney show a few years back at the Guggenheim. That was midcult on a massive scale. Barney embraced all the discoveries of modern art—the willful obscurity marshaled for psychological power, the juxtaposing and collaging of diverse elements. But all those discoveries were cheapened and simplified, turned into mass spectacle. This was Surrealism reimagined as Disneyland—a perfect example of the problem that Macdonald had identified in 1961.'

...from a thoughtful article in TNR and to keep reading...

Related Links:

1) "When did people become so unwilling to get in a little over their heads?" Jed Perl
2) Wiki page on "middlebrow"
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