Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5Pointz: 1Year

Outside the demolished ruins of 5Pointz, the graffiti mecca described in these pages and elsewhere, there's a one-year anniversary going on as I write this, out in the absolutely-frikkin-freezing cold in Long Island City. Need I even say that 5Pointz (housed in a former school building) was demolished so that "designer" condos can be built?

I asked Meres One (the progenitor of 5Pointz) what the plans were in terms of finding a new home, and he indicated that he was basically just in a sort of wait/rest mode these days: There were, apparently, still court activities going on, and he also just wanted to take some time off before launching into something new. But he definitely wanted to keep the name and memory alive. 

All I can say is this: When public spaces disappear, what we call "money" is no longer a signifier of value, but of power.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Part 1

One evening after work they were watching the the local news and a piece on the Autism Spectrum Disorder came up. It occurred to her that she never actually knew where on that whole spectrum he was. Of course, he was on some levels highly functional: A mathematical genius according to some, and truly great at wiggling out something extremely useful from data using extremely unobvious and highfalutin' mathematical techniques, including even recently discovered nonlinear techniques. He pulled down a high salary and had only bright prospects career-wise.

And yeah, she loved him but there was always something missing in their relationship. Put simply, it was other people: He never made eye contact and spoke in loopy, almost cryptic phrases that only a few could follow. And these few occasionally came over, though mostly around the holidays. He never asked them to come over, though: She did, maintaining traditions that went back before she knew him. But for the vast majority of the time they were alone and he never showed any desire to go out, to see a show or even a movie. It was, in a word, lonely.

But aside from that she was on some levels happy and knew that he loved her too. In fact, aside from the social awkwardness, he more-or-less had the complete set of emotions packed away inside him. When she cut herself on a shattering wineglass one evening, he came running out to the kitchen asking what happened what happened are you OK? And he gave her anything he had, even if it meant he wouldn't have the same for himself. And if you understood how he worked, how he thought, you could even start picking up on his very deadpan sense of humor, which others mistook as just another of his nonsequiturs. And of course, he had zero desire or interest in any other women. So on a certain level he was very easy to be with, and she knew she was lucky insofar as she had been smart enough to recognize his hidden value.

And yet...and yet...she felt guilty, sometimes, because she wanted just a little bit more of a regular life with this man. And of course, she knew conceptually that was impossible. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes she caught herself dreaming or wishing for more. Perhaps because of this, her curiosity was aroused when she realized she had never learned the specifics of his disorder. Although he had taken some kind of medication for it as long as she had known him, she didn't know what it was or what the name of his specific disorder was within the greater autism spectrum. When she caught herself dreaming about there having been a cure recently developed for whatever it was he had she felt bad, almost like she was betraying him. And yet, she realized that as his long-term partner she really should be up to speed on what he specifically had.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar (a sort of review)

This seems to be a recurring characteristic of my life these days: Seeing something that has all (or most) of the basic elements required for widespread and lasting impact but also seeing elements you know will prevent it from living up to its true potential. It's almost worse than seeing something truly bad.

Interstellar is one of these things. It actually has some wonderful elements: Great visuals, a decent plot, some drama and (almost most importantly) great music. And don't get me wrong, it is entertaining on some levels. But there are so many missed opportunities and so many shortcuts taken in the script that you wonder whether the same old group of Hollywood hacks were hired. Many times during the film, the plot was able to move forward by borrowing some stale old Hollywood movie trope or by taking some other shortcut. Sometimes, the shortcut was so inappropriate that, for me, it resulted in an almost disconnect. Like when Michael Cane's character gave "his word" that he'd solve "the equation" that would save mankind. No real scientist, of course, would say this: Not everything we want to find a solution for actually has a solution, no matter how smart the scientist. More importantly, Mathew McConehaugh (however you spell his name) would know that nothing in science is guaranteed a solution, as he himself is an engineer. And yet, his character doesn't even blink when this completely unscientific thing is said. And there are plenty of other examples besides this.

Put succinctly, I kept getting the feeling that had the writers spent another 6 months on the script, they may have been able to solve the problems they used tropes and shortcuts to solve. Had they done that the movie might have been universally acclaimed. Oh well.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Death of Klinghoffer

Here in NYC there's been a lot of controversy about the Metropolitan Opera showing John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer. There have even been protests. As a sorta/kinda fan of Adams I figured I'd go to see if the hubbub was well deserved or not.

OK, it had some strong points, but some lengthy passages that were often tedious. The choral parts were great, for the most part, however.

As for the opera being anti-semitic, I like to say that it is, because neither group of Semites (ie, the Jews or Palestinians) come off looking too good, and Leon Klinghoffer's death isn't really a tragedy so much as it was an unnecessary waste, caused by no one really listening to each other.

There are moments of sympathy for all involved, however. But that sympathy doesn't really bleed into insight, as it does in Steve Reich and Beryl Korot's absolutely devastating The Cave.

My final conclusion is that the protests, both for this production at the Met and at previous productions since the Opera was first produced, have probably caused far more people to see Klinghoffer than would have gone had there been no protests. The Opera is just a little too tedious.

Ah well. Here's one of the Met's trailers for it, showing you precisely what I'm talking about:

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Who wrote the narrative of your life?

Your life is a narrative
The question is, who wrote that story? Who is writing it now?
If it's you then, on one level, everything is fine. You may not be happy, and perhaps you've wrote a story for yourself that ends in tragedy. The good news is, if you are the one who wrote your narrative then you can change this story if you wish. I'm not saying this will be easy.

But there's a bigger problem some of us have: Some of us have allowed someone else to dictate what the narrative of our life will be. And very often that narrative does us a terrible disservice, and it is a narrative that is ultimately designed to serve someone else, either through providing them with a sense of security or ensuring that you are always a minor role in someone else's bigger story. And their bigger story may not actually be all that great, but if they can look at you and see your crummy little story then sometimes they can feel a little better about the miserable role they've either chosen for themselves or that someone else, in turn, chose for them.

If this is the case, that someone else has dictated a narrative to you and your life, I believe that it's best to shake this off. Yeah, there will be consequences. And no, you can't necessarily have whatever role or narrative you want. If you're 60, for instance, it's probably not a great idea to imagine a narrative where you now become an Olympic skater. But the main point is that, if someone else has dictated the narrative of your life, many of the limitations and cummier aspects of who you believe you are probably aren't an inherent, deep part of who you in truth are. Yeah, you may have been living with those limitations long enough to start feeling that you own them, but why not start writing a new narrative for yourself, that starts off something like...

There was a woman or man who lived a life they knew deep down wasn't the right one for them. They lived it because someone else convinced them that it was dangerous to do or become someone else. But eventually, they realized that they could live a much better, more fulfilling life by listening to their own internal voice and creating an entirely new narrative for themselves. And once they did this, once they started concentrating on who they always knew deep down inside they truly were, they then found that living according to this new narrative was easier than they had imagined. So that's what they did.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why did I join Guitar Circle?

I just wanted to write this somewhere to you, oh group of internet'd strangers, just in case I got hit by a bus tomorrow.

For most if not all of my life I have wanted to play a musical instrument. As a kid I briefly went through a phase of wanting to play the bassoon: it has a strange, humble sound that one can easily ignore but the tone of which is the rival of even the cello. Bassoons are expensive instruments, however, and my folks didn't have the money to spend on something that expensive that might just be a passing notion. And then for a while I wanted to play the trombone, like my father. I even did play the trombone for about 6 months, until my father had to "temporarily" borrow the trombone he had given me to play a "really stupid show that's never going to last". Well, that show was A Chorus Line and up until Cats it was the longest running show on Broadway.

And then, somewhat older, I took up the Indian tabla and really loved it. I practiced my ass off and really shocked my teacher as I rapidly made breakthroughs. As part of a punk/new wave band Doppler Effect I even performed publically with Mr URS and another old friend, with John Cale (yeah, the Velvet Underground John Cale.) But I eventually got laid off from my summer job at Grand Central Cameras and couldn't afford the lessons anymore. In addition, I was studying physics and really didn't have the time to spare on what would pretty obviously just become a hobby.

So then, about two years ago, I attended an Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists performance at St Mark's Church in the East Village, and I loved what I saw: Robert Fripp led a procession of maybe 70 guitarists into the church and they passed notes around in big circles and did other crazy things. I had been reading about some of what Guitar Craft / Guitar Circle was about, so I dove in when I found out there would be a local 3 session intro course meeting once a month on Saturday mornings down on Bleecker.

But here is what I really wanted to say, and that I've told no one until now. There is a part of me that has always been afraid of making music. Why? Because I know that given my family history, music had the potential to amplify in me whatever megalomaniacal tendencies I may have buried down inside. At least in terms of the professional world, one's success is based just as much on the perception of your heavy weightedness (artistically and chops-wise) than on your actual musicianship. And I always felt like a part of me would very readily respond to all of that crazy shit.

With Guitar Circle, however, I feel like there's enough built into it and its methods are so group-oriented that the odds of it switching on the aging megalomaniac inside are low to nil. Indeed, it's such a rigorous methodology that there almost isn't a megalomaniac on the planet with enough energy to make it through all of the hard and tedious work that's necessary. You really have to have a love of music to make it through. Plus, even if there was a megalomaniac left standing, in the context of the circle there's not a lot left for him to do. Sure, once every few weeks one might have the chance to solo over part of a piece for a couple of bars. But that's pretty much it: The Circle has transpersonal music-making demands that are sure to crush the hopes of even the most raving megalomaniac.

This is the context, then, in which I am learning the guitar. And even if I become pretty damned good at it, it's not like I could even make a career out of teaching this strange tuning to anyone. This is pure music in a group context and it is what I have needed all these years. And that's why I practice at least an hour a day, sometimes two or three.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thomas Pynchon is kicking my ass

Yep. I am now a Thomas Pynchon nut.
Well, maybe nut is a strong word: I haven't read Gravity's Rainbow yet, but I get why people love his books so much.
If you've never heard about Thomas Pynchon before and haven't read any of his books, you're probably imagining them to be sober, ponderous affairs; Real literature in the snooty sense. And yeah, I guess they are that. But they are also hilarious and disorienting, with shows and movies and songs that don't actually exist in our world, even if you think they might. Strange things happen, too, like UFOs and strange little people and other bizarre almost Murakami-esque occurrences around the periphery. There's also a plot and wonderful characters who say and do things that will cause your jaw to drop.

Another thing they don't tell you about Pynchon's books is that they are almost oracular: They focus on a time and place and (mostly but not exclusively) fictional events that seem to underpin the way reality works nowadays. You feel almost like Pynchon has peeled back the thin skein of reality and shown you the real gubbins, or werks that give rise to the actual real-life historic events that shape the world around us. He has translated the lexicon of history into historic characters and events so that, on some level, your limited intelligence can understand.

Vineland is my 4th Pynchon book, and when I finished it a couple of days ago I was a little sad to see the characters go. I'm still a little sad: I miss them, those crazy Californians, all running around and living through very strange times. It's entertaining as hell.

BUT, to inhale all of this entertainment, you have to work your way through plot recursions that are guaranteed to warp your mind: There's the story of the novel, and then characters tell stories in the past that in turn include characters talking about stuff that happened. But all of it is relevant, all of it has bearing or explains what's going on in the basic "real world" plot. If you're a type A personality, trying to get through the story, well you're never going to make it. You better learn to enjoy the ride. But if you're not Type A and are willing to abide dude-like, well you won't have a better time reading that with Vineland and, so far, any of Pynchon's other books.

Roger Ballen's Asylum of the Birds (full film)

Reading Juxtapose I just found out about this dude, Roger Ballen, who is a New Yorker that has lived in South Africa since about 82. On this little promo/making of video for his new book (Asylum of the Birds), you can clearly hear the New York accent (an accent I hear less and less in Manhattan and Brooklyn), and see that the conditions under which he made the recent photos are arguably even wilder than that depicted in the photos themselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

PS1...Richard Serra

"PS1" is not only where the piece is located, it's the name of the piece as well: That steel beam in the floor of a room up on the roof.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10 Years of the Magic Lantern!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: This blog has existed for 10 years. It was born on Wall Street (pretty much literally: I was working at 40 Wall Street and was bored at work so started this blog)...continued on when I moved over to the World Financial Center (from which my cube overlooked Ground Zero), and from there kept going when I moved to London for 4 years and watched the financial world collapse from with inside it, and then returned with me back to the US.

Of my antics and adventures there have been plenty, including learning to snowboard in Vermont, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy...learning guitar, dealing with Bureautron and travelling to China (where I took a 3 day cruise down the Yangtse river, amongst other things), Egypt, Belgium, Morocco...And of course, doing stuff with UMOUR and all manner of characters. David Bowie even laughed at one of my jokes outside Union Square.

Here're some video highlights from over the years:

The view out my cube from 2005 or so to 2006...
Here's that walk down the backstreets of Guilin China, on a steamy August Sunday night:

And here are the horses in St John's Wood, London:

Here's a video the UMOUR gang put together one New Year's Eve. With the spontaneously created music, this took just an hour or two to complete:

And don't forget our more professional video done with real no-playin' director Doug Morse and actress and TV show host Camilla Ford:

Oh yeah, and let's not forget all the great stuff done over at Dangerous Minds.
Been quite a ten years, and indications are that the next year will be very interesting.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fake Pigeon Lady

Remember last week when I mentioned the Fake Pigeon Lady? See? I told you she was real, and here she is with a flock of motionless felt pigeons, though near the fake pigeon lady proper in the photo I believe you can see some actual living pigeons.
And here are some fake pigeons eating a fake slice of pizza a fake someone threw away:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Japanese Dijeridoo

And on my way back to Queens from the upper west side, this dude was setting up at 59th street:

In town

After brunch at the Spotted Pig I had to head up town so I walked the full length of the High Line for the first time (the northernmost section just opened a few weeks ago). Like the older sections, the new section is excellent, though lacking bathrooms.
Here's an art-freezer full of undrinkable drinks...
Here's a closeup....

Here's some folks viewing NYC...
That switched below worked, by the way, and I switched it a couple of times...

This kid crawled up into that lookout-thing from a nearby kids area..,


Sunday, October 12, 2014


Yesterday in Washington Square Park I was looking for the lady with the fake pigeons that she makes out of felt and then displays in large groups on the ground. But, perhaps because of the rain earlier in the day, she didn't show. Walking over to the Northeast corner  a black man nodded my way and said something like, "Hey, my friend! Hey!" I saw another guy angling in and immediately knew what the deal was: This has been a tradition in that corner of Washington Square Park for decades. So I replied, "I'm alright! I'm alright!" Basically, pot-smoker talk for "I have pot and don't need any right now." I actually felt good being able to navigate a social context that for some would be a little scary. I'm not a smoker now but was for a time in the early 1980s. So I knew the drill. I also pretended to be interested in dealer Mike's pitch, promising home-delivery if I called a certain number. I guess with my guitar they just assumed I myself was not a cop, but I did ask Mike if he was one and he denied it with a small measure of believable disgust. This too, made me feel strangely good, playing the role of believable potential future pot-buyer and having a dealer deny he was a cop. But I figured this was the least confrontational way to get these guys to basically lose interest in me, and I was right.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Last Gasp Books!

The greatest book publishers in the world have apparently hit hard times, so do check out their Kickstarter and pledge a few bucks. The bling is high-quality and some of it is pretty unique. Don't screw around, or they'll be knocked out of the box and our planet will suck more as a result.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Embracing Marina Abramovic


Not long ago  (a couple of hours) I shared an extended embrace with Marina Abramovic. I did not expect it to be a profound experience, but it was.
How did this happen, you might ask. Some time earlier this year I donated some money via Kickstarter to the Marina Abramovic Institute: She is basically creating a place in Westchester where her techniques will be taught to a new generation. It seemed like a worthy cause. You got some video access and other odds-and-ends if you donated, but I never actually availed myself of any of them. Indeed, I don't even remember how much I donated.
But a month or two ago there was an invitation to the "Embrace" event, whereby you would share an embrace with Marina Abromovic if you were a "founder" at the Kickstarter Headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And since I knew I would be on my way back from practice with the New York Guitar Circle, I replied and said I'd like to go.
So I went.
Unlike her extended thing at the MOMA ("The Artist is Present"), there were perhaps 10 people ahead of me on line when I arrived, and I don't think I waited any longer than 15 minutes or so.

As my turn approached I was actually nervous and a stray thought that flashed through my head was that I could perhaps leave before the encounter: There was a set of stairs just to the left up to a door to the street. For us males embracing a female is...complex: We're taught that breasts are potentially erogenous zones, so a hug or an embrace must be undertaken carefully.  But as I walked up to her a lot of that was just forgotten and I accepted and tried to offer an embrace. She felt me not fully just "embrace" her and told me something like "no, just" and then I just full-fledged hugged her. I could feel her stomach breathing against mine and allowed my own breath to be timed with hers. In that moment too I forgot I was hugging the internationally famous superstar artist but now I was hugging another human being who was hugging me back. It was a physical experience that perhaps occurred below the level of the emotional. It was "profound" in its simplicity and shared humanity that is so very easy to overlook now.

As we pulled apart she thanked me and I thanked her and, nodding towards all the young folks who were waiting on the line I said, "You're embracing the future!" and she replied, "I hope so!".

On the way out the girl, uh, "manning" the door out told us that there'd be a post-event gathering nearby, but when I arrived there were a few others milling about trying to find where the event was. After some queries, it was apparent that there was no event there, so we walked back to where "The Embrace" was occurring and told the folks working there that there was nothing going on. After apologizing (and communicating with each other), they told us about another place nearby we could perhaps hang out in, so we walked over to Greenpoint Avenue, where I ended up talking to a lesbian couple from Chicago for a couple of hours. We had a profound chat on a variety of subjects and really connected. It was cool and beautiful.

Here's a clip of Marina Abramovic at MOMA, duing the moment she encounters her former performance artist partner and lover, Ulay:

Well, the Marina Abramovic folks sent out a link to the "Embrace" event, and after looking through large portions of it found myself. It's odd seeing that, and what's even odder still is how the video of the image doesn't seem to capture my subject experience of the encounter or how I remember it going. BUT, some of my subjective experience IS captured too. It's interesting now to think about whether the video of my experience does or does not impact what I felt was a fairly profound and beautiful moment. Does that change anything in terms of how I should feel about it? Probably not, but I am thinking about that.

Daniel Lanois, Flesh and Machine

Even though Daniel Lanois' output has been sporadic and somewhat uneven, I'm still stoked to hear about any new music he's got coming out, because his best (The Beauty of Wynona) is absolutely outstanding. His new album, Flesh and Machine, is due out towards the end of October, so I'm looking forward to it.

(And do, by the way, try to watch the video all the way through...it gets strange in a pretty subtle way.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Corporate coffee pot

Here's the sign on the coffee machine telling us we no longer need to double up on the packs. Meanwhile, they've gone back to the skimpier packs so we've started doubling up again.

Friday, September 26, 2014

NY Art Book Fair...observations, etc...

I think this is my third New York Art Book Fair, though it may be my 4th. Not sure. But one trend I'm pretty sure isn't just in my imagination is the continued proliferation of small and obscure presses. A few years ago, you'd see tons of larger presses hawking their bigass art books about Dali, Magritte and Michelangelo. But those seem to be gone, with the possible exception of Phaidon. Instead, what we have are tons and tons of smaller presses from throughout the world. I saw tons of beautiful and obscure things, books that were themselves for their makers a form art. And there was tons of stuff from the last 4 or so decades that originated from very fringe areas of culture. Sex (gay, straight and other) was by no means taboo, nor was pretty much anything else you can think of. It's almost as if making a book about some far alternative area gives the maker plausible deniability about being part of the culture depicted in the book. But here, at the Art Book Fair, that cover wasn't needed.

If you are in New York or anywhere near it, you owe it to yourself to go. It's really wonderful and despite the fact that I was pretty strict with myself in terms of buying stuff, I still had a great time and saw books and other items I will never see again in my lifetime, not even at next year's New York Art Book Fair.


Interference Archive

These dudes from Interference Archive reprinted progressive and leftwing posters from over the ages as well a brand new ones. They're down in Gowanus Brooklyn and you can apparently just drop in and check 'em out.

2nd Floor

TBW Books

These TBW books were so beautiful that I was tempted to buy up a whole batch of them, despite not being familiar with the authors or artists or photographers, but someone ELECTROSHOCKED me (see below) so I backed away from the table... 

Fukt Magazine

These ladies and their  periodical (FUKT Magazine) were from Berlin. I picked up their latest issue and it is beautiful both outside and inside. FUKT is devoted to drawing, through pencil, pens, crayons, yarn or whatever else, and there are some really astounding works visible here.

Actually, when you think about it, despite the fact that probably more humans draw in some form or another (including doodling, etc...) Drawing as a fine art is relatively obscure. You don't see a lot of drawing in gallery shows, for instance, and the big bucks still seem to go primarily to canvas painting. So FUKT is a pretty unique venue for a highly developed artform that gets only miniscule exposure and the issue I have (#13) is fantastic.

Artist Book bending machine

Queer Nerds

Christopher Kardamnikis

This book on alien sex was actually quite nice inside. Authors and artists describing what they think alien sex would be like. I expected to open the book ("Strange Attractors") and have something unbelievably bizarre come roaring out at me, but there was actually a lot of text and lots of interesting faux-scientific pieces. Had I just moved into a new house and had plenty of room for books, I would have purchased one of these. His other stuff was nice too.
And the dude was Greek, not Lithuanian: I asked.

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