|. . . 2000-12-09 . . .||
"Rico, you ever worked on power lines before?!"
"You know how to tell which ones are dangerous?!"
|. . . 2000-12-10|
I've just read two Henry James stories from 1900 that, it strikes me, may strike certain friends and correspondents as useful correctives to my own rhetorical positions. Counterpoint away, my dear fellow!
The portrait of the little dead girl had evoked something attractive, though one had not lived so long in the world without hearing of plenty of little dead girls....A young man whose only distinction is affability takes up and moves in with a middle-aged couple whose only distinctions are their wealth and their mourning: they worship the memory of their dear departed saintly fourteen-year-old in relic, pilgrimage, and spiritualist rite. Years pass together, and there comes a mutual undiscussed decision that the best explanation for their current condition is that the daughter had actually lived long enough to meet the affable young man and put her under his spell. More years pass together, and there comes a mutual undiscussed decision....
"When a man has had for a few months what I had, you know!" The moral appeared to be that nothing in the way of human experience of the exquisite could again particularly matter. He saw, however, that I failed immediately to fit his reflection to a definite case, and he went on with the frankest smile: "You look as bewildered as if you suspected me of alluding to some sort of thing that isn't usually spoken of; but I assure you I mean nothing more reprehensible than our blessed engagement itself."
His father, it appeared, had come down on him for having, after so long [after art school], nothing to show, and hoped that, on his next return, this deficiency would be repaired. The thing, the Master complacently set forth was -- for any artist, however inferior to himself -- at least to "do" something. "What can you do? That's all I ask!" He had certainly done enough, and there was no mistake about what he had to show. Lance [the son] had tears in his eyes when it came thus to letting his old friend know how great the strain might be on the "sacrifice" asked of him. It wasn't so easy to continue humbugging -- as from son to parent -- after feeling one's self despised for not grovelling in mediocrity.
Speaking of pointless sentimentality -- man! I wish we could somehow ship the recent political news over to Henry Adams. Openly partisan intervention by the Supreme Court is, I think, more than even he could have hoped for at this point, and these two months might afford him keener amusement than any others in American history.
|. . . 2000-12-15|
News that stays news
I hope the well-funded London tourist office is lending full support to the Pumpkin Publog, East Eire's first real allurement since the British Museum shoved all those books out of sight. Miss not the Blue Posts Crawl, December 4 - 12, 2000. It's what I call an epic.
|. . . 2000-12-16|
Vancouver seems awfully full of itself, considering how small the portions are.
|. . . 2000-12-21|
Movie Comment: The Dekalog
Bresson for Dummies.
And, after all, isn't it really dummies that need Bresson the most?
|. . . 2000-12-17|
Genre is the kind of second-hand tourist guide that gets you excited about a place, then gets you completely lost once you're there.
I remember Peter Guralnick saying somewhere that when he first started researching the blues he liked Willie McTell a lot, but then sort of didn't, he wasn't sure why.... And John Lomax seems to've been put off by McTell's bend-with-the-wind facility and refusal to complain about oppression, like he was some kind Sammy Davis Jr. or something....
Trouble is, as fans get to know a genre, they start to think of their generalizations as rules instead of descriptions and start to think of the genre itself as some sort of honor that has to be won, instead of what it is. After all, they worked hard to learn those generalizations, and the least the artists can do is follow suit. This gets specially nasty with genres like blues, folk, and hip-hop, where built-in assumptions about race and class invite the question of "authenticity" in to murder one's nearest and dearest.
... to be continued ...
|. . . 2000-12-22|
|I could not love reindeer so much, loved I not Donner more.|
I don't remember just how I picked up this recipe from NYC's own Santa Claus, Samuel R. Delany, but now you're picking it up from me....
|. . . 2000-12-27|
Movie Comment: Cast Away
I can only say what I've said many times before:
It might've been great if it'd starred Bill Murray.
|. . . 2000-12-28|
My favorite story of the holiday season (from jamie.com) goes beautifully with my favorite email of the holiday season (from Douglas Hawes):
Dear Mr. Davis,
This morning while working in the front lobby of this Santa Clara hi tech firm, I checked out the site on Tuesday Weld. It took me a while to find out how to respond to the creator of the site, but I ultimately found your e-mail address...
I have been studying Tuesday Weld for about 12 years. Right now I am hoping to set up an interview with Ken Anger, who knew her intimately, through [...] the owner of the Silver Screen Hollywood memorabilia shop, which is located in Manhattan. He is a friend of Anger, and I have a friend in Santa Cruz who is an associate [...] And I happen to have a young niece who is an aspiring journalist who is transferring to New York University this spring semester, where she will study journalism...
Over the years I have met a number of people who were aware of the remarkable behind the scene aspects of Tuesday Weld's life and influence. The manner in which you present your information on your web site suggests that you are aware of some of these hidden things as well...
The friend of mine in Santa Cruz [...] talked at length with Ken Anger at the Silver Screen years ago about Tuesday Weld's hidden influence in the realm of underground occult activities. Another figure I know, a New Age teacher (now deceased) with widespread Sufi/Masonic/Rosicrucian contacts told me that Tuesday was involved in the promotion of a certain grand master to the leadership of the AMORC Rosicrucian order in San Jose back in the eighties... A Vietnam veteran I knew in Santa Cruz who was a political activist said he had attended a ritual in the Santa Cruz mountains in which Weld officiated (it didn't involve anything scandalous). He once got up in a political meeting I attended in Santa Cruz and said that Weld was doing all she could to help the cause....
I could tell other stories as well... The hidden life of Tuesday Weld has largely been undisclosed in the media, and remains one of the great undisclosed stories of the sixties and seventies. The only major reference to her that discloses her occult connections, but only in a discreet way, is a long forgotten book, "Popular Witchcraft," which was published by Bowling Green University Press in 1972. In it Anton LaVey in an interview says that his book "The Satanic Bible" was partially dedicated to Tuesday because "she was the embodiment of the goddess," and was "part of the ritual." LaVey's remarks reflect a close personal acquaintanceship with Weld, and hints heavily on her involvement in his ritual activities. So why the coverup?
Anyway, I await your response.
|Thanks for the note -- I'm glad you're enjoying the site.
I'm sure you know much more about Weld-the-person than I do, and you're bound to know still more much after dipping into Kenneth Anger's pool -- everything I've learned has been through letters and packages sent to me by kind readers of my initial essay. Her biography turned out (very unusually for an actor!) to be a suggestive match to my critical interests, and so I've been glad to pass the second-hand knowledge along to my web audience. But I can't claim to have been thoroughly taken by the biographical impulse myself.
Similarly, my only personal interest in the occult is as a distance-and-direction-estimating narrative-generating parallel to other ineffective-yet-compelling pursuits, such as art-making and emotional outbursts, that I feel closer to.
But if you find the idea of a dilettante leech appealing, please feel free to pass your findings along!
|. . . 2000-12-30|
A horse and carriage go together when you're a horse-drawn carriage driver
Marriage takes a sexual relationship and publicly acknowledges it to state and church. Which is a pretty perverse thing to do with a sexual relationship unless state and church need the knowledge to properly allocate rights and responsibilities -- of citizenship, say, or of child-rearing.
Across all disciplines, experts tend to overestimate the importance of what they're focused on -- things get bigger up close -- and so blowhards encouraged to provide the most criminally unreported news or the most egregiously popular fallacies will always come up with something from their own fields. (See Fig. 3, Fig. 4, and also.) And that's where theologians and priests made their entirely understandable mistake: Sex isn't solely for procreation. Procreation just happens to be the only way in which sex is of professional interest to theologians and priests.
|. . . 2000-12-31|
|. . . 2001-01-06|
Where's Cholly Kokonino?
The Three Thugs have been swinging me hard face-first against work deadlines, dangling me out of twentieth-story windows without an Internet, and occasionally inserting red-hot viruses up my nose. I've been too busy even to notice our dear acquaintance Anselm Dovetonsil's seasonal display.
Readers who need to justify their Palm Pilots should set up an alert for February 2, when normal publication is expected to resume. The rest of us might want to read a good book, or mix a cocktail, or walk around in the rain and snow for a few weeks. Be sure to wrap your feet in nice dry plastic bags before lacing up your sneakers, though, or you might catch what I have!
|. . . 2001-01-14|
And ephemeral archivist Juliet Clark forwards the news that real American hero Rick Prelinger has opened an Internet Moving Image Archive with several hundred downloadable archival films "free for everyone to use for any purpose except resale," including such edutainment favorites as "About Fallout," "Helping Johnny Remember," "As Boys Grow," and "Narcotics: Pit of Despair."
|. . . 2001-01-16|
Once again, our readers step into the breech after we've split our breeches:
It's true, I've always had a soft spot for winged monkeys. Probably several, since monkeys have strong jaws and I don't exercise much. And just last night I said that the Little Leather Library smelled like if Oz's Scarecrow had somehow lived long enough to star in The Wild Bunch....
Have you seen the movie West Side Story recently? I was obsessed with it and the music as a kid and made the mistake of rewatching it recently. When I think of it in memory it's shot on location in NYC - the camera moves around; it's full of dynamic dance sequences that use the natural environment - i.e. the street of NYC. It's a vibrant, alive, great and sexy anti-racism musical. Nope. It stinks. There's the one opening scene with the overhead shot of Manhattan and then the opening dance sequence and then it's all sound stages and a camera that's so static you wonder if it's got icicles all over it. (Well it would have it were here in NYC at the moment - is there a point to having such cold winters? I don't get it.) Worse still there's no ambient noise. The film is visually and aurally dead and since it didn't use scratch'n'sniff technology and no-one's going to lick the screen that means it's completely dead. Then there's the presence and, er, acting - with the exception of Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn - it's unspeakably bad. Especially the two cardboard leads who can't sing or dance or act. Brilliant casting there people!When I was a kid, I was obsessed with that song but tended to remember it as "Somewhere a place for us / In outer space for us...." Clearly, I still do.
CK: I have to disagree with you that "Something said in earnest is not ironic." Irony is point-of-view; earnestness is action -- they're just as often twinned as they are opposed. Or, to paraphrase someone famous, "Irony takes its origin from emotion recollected in a not-very-convincing attempt at tranquility."
DC: But if you're there standing behind your words, they ain't hollow, having a you-filling inside, eh?
CK: No, I'm behind them, not in them; you see me because they're transparent, even if I'd rather you didn't. Words are usually intended as some sort of disguise (even, or especially, when they're intended to be sincere), but the interesting thing about them is that they reveal us, despite their inability to embody us.
DC: So the words are "transparently hollow" and "empty idiocy" only in the sense that you call them that to yourself and (internally?) cast an ironic eye upon them?
CK: And in the sense that everyone else (I hope) has the good sense to call and cast them similarly.
DC: So that you use irony for detachment, but still carry out, or live, or seriously intend to carry out or live, the words' meanings? Something like that? So you still count as "in earnest", because you believe and intend to live the words, but you count as "ironic" because of the internal emotional distance you're maintaining between the words and yourself?
CK: Yeah, that's pretty close to what my clumsy maneuvering was getting at, except that it's an emotional-intellectual distance, and it's not so much between "words" and "self" as between "expression" and "intent," and it's not so much "maintained" as "acknowledged." As far as I can see (and these are admittedly muddy waters), most of us compulsively ironic types compulsively notice that irreparable distance and decide that we have no choice, if we're going to survive and keep talking, except to openly deal with it.
Ironists often start out as over-the-top Romantic types till, thanks to their similarly over-the-top analytical impulses, they realize just how dumb they look. (I mostly think about verbal art in this regard, but I assume that many other people have to deal with similar problems -- cartoonists, politicians, doctors....)
At that point, they have a choice: a) Dumb down intellectually, b) Dumb down emotionally, or c) Use irony's admission of dumbness as a way to maintain both impulse and analysis. (That's too crude a formula, because it unrealistically separates "intellectual" and "emotional" -- there's nothing sillier looking than someone trying to be completely detached -- but maybe it's close enough for email....)
Of course the danger is the temptation to use this delightful crutch in place of impulse or analysis (rather than as a support for impulse and analysis), and thus become a self-made emotional-intellectual invalid.
|... an' anotha thing ...||... then again ...|