Monday, November 11, 2013


I am a Scorpio Rising. Mercury, which has been in retrograde, is now no longer, and its in Scorpio. We just had a New Moon Solar Eclipse in Scorpio as well, and for whatever you think that's worth, that's quite a heavy alignment for communication. And also for understanding things and being able to untangle and decipher and learn and listen.
So that's probably why I am getting these flights of reverie and heavy thought this evening, about the Great Wide Whatever. Heavy musing, cue hippie sitar music.

I started thinking about possibilities, versus probabilities. My favorite thing in the world is probably Quantum Physics, and that is largely a theoretical science. Black holes and anti-matter and multiverses and the Sloan Wall and other creepy, yawning, black, sonorous, massive, invisible things. But you are dealing in probabilities alot of the time here. You are saying, "if i extrapolate backwards mathematically, then the big bang would have happened this way". this is a probability, and not a certainty. its based on physical laws and likelihoods and there is that word again, probabilities. It PROBABLY happened that way. It most likely did. When it rains, and you go outside, even if it isn't raining anymore you see a wet ground and you can say, "it PROBABLY rained", and people would think you were an idiot. Because there is no PROBABLY about it. its a given that it rained.

If you writ this larger, you can probably start to see what i did, that probabilities are what most people live their lives on, and not its more ephemeral and fun counterpart, possibilities.

think about it.

you get in your car knowing that you are probably going to get to work or the supermarket or the daycare or wherever. you are on a track of probability. you turn the stove on and put a pot on to boil and you know that probably when i come back ten minutes from now the water will be boiling. and ad infinitum, on through the day, through your life.
the problem with this is is that it puts us in a mindset that deals only with probabilities, with what we like to call certainties, and which certainly do not exist. we take the probabilities in our life and we try and graft that way of thinking onto what should be a separate mindset, that of possibility. we think that we should only deal with what we have some kind of legitimate reason to believe could probably happen. we don't have a lot of time to daydream, to think out side of the box (i loathe that term, is got all these corporate connotations for me, but i digress).
but this- this is the thing that i am realizing sets us up for a life wherein we do not allow ourselves to truly absorb and understand the fact that there are NO certainties (barring one), which is actually really good news. of course by certainty i mean, something that is going to happen every time the exact same way, or that every effort and action you make will have a reaction that is reciprocal. we all know that is not true. my physics class taught me that- that you can work your ass off and still get nowhere. and by nowhere i mean "not where you thought-and farther behind than you hoped". the only certainty in this life is death. everything in between is totally up for grabs.
not having certainty is something that the anxiety-prone classically struggle with the most. you can start worrying that a piano is gonna drop on your head out of a clear blue sky, or equally fantastic and improbable things. its funny in a way that the anxious seem to realize that there are no certainties and that this sends them into a negative headspace when really, its pretty amazing WHAT could happen, but they never feel good about that. if anything can happen, then certainly, statistically, some of that is gonna be great. its the old adage, the bad news is that there are no certainties. the GOOD news is that there are no certainties. but they only seem to be able to deal with the negatives. THAT makes sense to them. its like a gravitational pull on your psyche- naturally everything must go downward. there is really no reason to not be as transported by the glory of possibility as opposed to your fears of what could happen. think about it.
what it is about certainties that make us feel so safe? why is it that we are so prone to building foundations on shifting ground, literally and figuratively? we have to have security, some kind of security. i've always noticed that gypsy types, travelers, seem to have an internal core that gives them some sort of home inside themselves. they are at home everywhere.

but again i digress.
what i am leading to here is that we take great chances on only allowing ourselves to see what is probable. what is probably going to happen. it brings us comfort. it also boxes us in, and denies us other realities. we get caught in the workaday world, and think that the entire other side of things, that which is possible, is actually only what is probable.
when i think about it really alot rests on this- its like a yin and yang, good and evil, black and white thing. probabilities and possibilities. they are two entirely different forces acting on us all the time.

if you jump off a building, there is a high probability that you are going to hit the ground. but the possibility exists that a freak wind stream could come along and bear you up to land on the next roof unscathed. babies are tossed about by tornados and are planted bottom down in a field, just fine. the probability of that baby dying is quite high. but the possibility always existed that it would NOT die, that it would it be just fine.
possibility runs both ways, of course. you could put water on to boil and take a shower and come out and your entire electrical system has gone haywire and the wiring in your wall is on fire. you can't PLAN for possibility. it just is, right there, all the time. its the multiverse in action- the innumerable possible worlds that probably do exist, but we can only imagine the possibilities (the word probably used on purpose here).

if you were to really absorb that concept, its pretty heavy to realize the ramifications. the power of positive thinking and the law of attraction is something i have been studying for a while now. i have been in a sort of mental bootcamp for the past several months, especially, trying to root out and unlearn a lifetime of inherited and naturally rotten thinking. i am still in the process. i am sure i always will be. to some degree.
but really taking a moment to realize that staking all your claims on the probable might lead you away from fantastical happenings.

i understand that not everyone is like me or most of my friends. most people are content to follow, to not question, to raise their kids and just sort of get on with it without alot of pondering. i always marveled how many people in the world were content to work the same job for years without blowing their brains out. most people don't need the level of stimuli and change that i need. not everyone would be happy cozying up to absolute possibility. this isn't a putdown. some people don't ask why. people that do are sometimes tortured by it. its not always fun and its not always productive. its sometimes a great pain in the ass.
but i think that learning to embrace that is something that must be an essential part of any life-affirming practice. getting out from under only what is probable is akin to realizing that your past does NOT have to dictate what your future is. that just because something happened one way in the past doesn't mean that its going to happen that way in the future. getting out of the prison of probability sometime and allowing yourself to graze in the land of possibility helps you ideate what exactly you want- and don't want- from this life.
that is a really heavy realization, no?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Science is Psychedelic

I spend alot of my downtime watching documentaries about physics, i am taking a physics class this semester, and i spend alot of my time (a part time job amount-easily 20-30 hours a week) doing physics homework. as slippery as the concepts are and as badly as i am failing at the math side of it, i continue to become more fascinated and more passionate about the whole prismatic realm that i am slowly walking into. its more like crawling, falling, teetering into Lidsville, like a toddler who can't do quadratic equations yet but she is in the room with it, and soon she will grow to be able to reach that doorknob to get to the NEXT level. i have chubby little baby legs in Lidsville right now. But i can SEE it. i can sense it.

there is no doubt that we really are in a different kind of psychedelic age. this is something that excites me to no end. its something i talk about and think about and read about and write about alot. i try and get everyone excited about it because artists are notoriously anti-empirical science, much more likely to believe in ephemeral concepts than what a scientist tells them.

i think the medical establishment has contributed to people's cynical view of research and facts and study of the physical world. we see medicine as a vast moneymaking machine devoid of fairness or care- at least in america. we tend to view Big Pharma and corporate medicine in the dim light they often deserve. and often science is in service to the military-industrial complex, another reason to view it with suspicion. and of course the Bomb would not have been possible without physics.

I would like to see, and be a part of, a movement that wrestles science away from the establishment even in some brief, symbolic sense, and puts it in the hands of the people who need it the most. people who need to understand the nature of the universe so that they no longer brood and worry about these things. its tied into our ultimate human potential, and its wrapped up in a lot of if not most new age thinking that artists and bohemians like myself have always been interested in. and it is absolutely essential to understanding the law of attraction or manifestation, or positive thinking, or whatever writer this week is calling it. its all part of a grand design and you no longer have to- nor can you-leave science out of the equation. there is one long hallway, and each of you have been approaching each other down this long dark tunnel, and the light you saw was each approaching the other. once you meet, you can go upward and out of the tunnel and beyond all of it, and shine a light so that everyone can see.

that is probably in some sense what was meant by all the resurrection parables in every religion- that something comes back in a wave of light or a flash from above after a period of darkness or death or a quest of some type. i think leading our way out of darkness must involve the coming together of the two halves of our potential, our collective brain- the scientific, and the spiritual. these two sides of us have always been at war. we distrust what we can't see. but what we know now is that what we cannot see is where the action is REALLY happening. for the first time in human history mankind is actually down into the cosmos spelunking into minute, teeming worlds of weirdness and wonder. we have learned so much about the workaday world but in a sense we have learned nothing that would properly prepare us for the way things really are. this is the most bizarre twist perhaps EVER in the history of mankind. such a global shift in our thinking on the cellular level is the next revolution. it will not be political and it certainly won't be artistic. but all those realms will inevitably be influenced by this shifting earth of ideas. there will be no way to avoid change.

i really intend to be a part of this world and i want my art to be informed by it as well. the more i can learn about science the more i can literally create- both mentally and physically- the world i want to reside in. the machines and synths i intend to build, the music i want to make, my creativity is general and the profession i want to take on are all now a part of the same thing. there are no longer conflicts in my life between doing art or doing something practical. it is all now literally the same thing, tho it is still in the conceptual stages while i work my way through school and process and learn.

i want to very much get beyond any preconceived ideas about space and science fiction and all the silver-clad retrofuturistic hooha that inevitably creeps up when one talks about a "tech" aspect of art. i loathe techno music. but i adore other kinds of electronic music and certainly love synthesizers and so-called artificial tones. there are other possibilities in expressing this esthetic that i am interested in now. i do not want to invoke some hamhanded futurism. i don't enjoy the typical "technoir" visual or tone or flavor. more than anything its about NOW, the present moment and the power that lies in it. its not taking off the planet Venus.

really its a bout a modern psychedelia devoid of all the trappings of the idea of psychedelia that has become codified- a swirly sitar, a tie-dye shirt. like something trish keenan said once about psychedelia being a way of seeing and challenging form and temper. going beyond a simple style to actually making people more aware of how weird the world really is. moving them to believe that through art and music.

(sidebar-honestly nothing bothers me more on an esthetic level than shock value. its the thing that i value the least in rock music, really. i am not talking about screaming jay hawkins, i am talking about "i want to fuck you like an animal" and ugliness and blood and violence without meaning or context. the coolness of violence. even tho i adore hiphop i have to take breaks from listening to it because of the swagger. i don't like ghastly images used in art just to piss people off. its really i think quite damaging and not really a revolution at all. its like GG allin smearing himself in his own shit and flinging it on the audience. its "piss christ" in a museum. it isn't robert mapplethorpe, it isn't an artist who uses something that could shock SOME people to show a kind of beauty in what used to be in the shadows, but those who simply go for the jugular out of pure spite. its the people who made "cannibal holocaust" or "a serbian film", it isn't "holy mountain"or pasolini. there is a fine line and everyone draws it themselves according to their own taste but i personally will never and have never gone for the shocking in my own art. i don't find shock necessary to bring people to a higher level. i would much rather mesmerize.)

i am not sure what all these concepts will bear but i am definitely going to continue meditating on it and planning on it and creating it, making it real.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Let's Scare Jessica To Death"

Last night, here in our wonderland, we watched this film on the Big Wall outside. I have long considered this film to be on a very short list of best b-movies ever made, but I don't know why I have insisted on even calling it a B movie all these years. Maybe its because I first saw it on "Movie Macabre"? They didn't exactly show Polanski on a regular basis there. Whatever the reason, i think it is quite time to cease calling it and accept the fact that this is an A movie that has simply escaped too many people's attention. And its a real shame. 

Brief synopsis: Made in 1971, "LSJTD" tells the story of Jessica, played to heartbreaking effect by the wonderful Zohra Lampert. Jessica has just been released from a mental hospital, after 6 months of treatment for some vague breakdown we are never really told much about. She and her husband (Barton Heyman) and a hippie friend (Kevin O' Connor) buy a apple farm out in the Connecticut wilds to get away from it all, but strange things begin to happen immediately. The line between what is truly happening and what is simply Jessica going nuts again is of course, made purposely vague and never really comes quite clear. This gives the film a spooky tension that I find much preferable to typical horror over-acceleration. 

Zohra Lampert is the key to much of this film's charm. The fact that she is not a huge star is one more reason to loathe and despise Hollywood. On the other hand, one gets the sense that the only reason she didn't make it is because she probably didn't want to, which is something I could understand. You can tell that she has so much character, so many chops, is so heartfelt and genuine, that she must have been running purposely in the opposite direction from fame and stardom. She MUST have. there is simply no better performance in a movie of this caliber by someone who did not die shortly afterwards that did not lead to more fame than what she has received. Its quite puzzling, and while the film would have still been enjoyable without her in it, she alone raises it to its deserved status as a cult classic.
It also doesn't hurt that she is absolutely gorgeous with such a soulful, expressive manner, and says even the most ordinary things in such an extraordinary way.
It reminds me of something Patty Duke said in her autobio, regarding one of her early films, "Me, Natalie". There was scene featuring Al Pacino in what I think was his very first appearance on film, She commented that you could tell that there was something special about him even tho he only said the phrase, "so, do you put out?" I think her words were, "it was like seeing laurence olivier in dinner theatre in Florida". THAT is how Zohra comes across. Just TOO damn good to have been ignored unless it was by her own choice. One can tell that she is possessed of depths that most actors are not, and I could very much imagine her purposely flying under the radar so she could live a peaceful life and teach pottery to underprivileged kids or something. She is JUST the type.

     Mari-Clare Costello, on the other hand, is much more in the realm of normal acting chops and does a servicable, creepy job as the slutty free-lovin' folk-guitar playin' perhaps-a-vampire girl who tries to sleep her way through the whole house from the get go. Her actions in this film really do freak you out a little bit- she just seems to strike the wrong chord and go too far. Which is a GOOD thing. She gives you an added dimension of psychological squeamishness that is unexpected in the context to a film like this.

Beyond the acting is the overall oft-mentioned atmosphere of the film. It has gotten bad reviews (even from a couple of my friends) for being too slow. Its been called dated, hokey, vague. I don't agree with any of this, of course- one man's vague is another man's atmosphere. This film is filled with so much subtlety that you have to be a fan of subtlety in general to get anything out of this film. I think it takes a page out of Polanski's book in that regard. If you were to sit down and watch "Rosemary's Baby" six times in a row, you would find new things in it every time. Polanksi really does stick little bits in here and there that most people simply don't notice. People are hamhanded and lazy. They like actions that they can decipher without too much thought. They miss subtleties of dialogue because they are checking their voice mail or running their mouths. They have no idea what they miss.

I never understand those types. They miss all kinds of colors.

Another film this reminds me of is "The Innocents". It definitely belongs in some kind of sub-genre of creepy psychological horror- while watching this last night the phrase "gentle horror" came to mind. Something cold like a wind, a steady rise instead of jabs of shock. This is the MOST difficult thing to do, of course- its easier to show tits and blood and car crashes and the black cat that jumps out of the alley. It takes a deft hand to hold back.

Not that this film is without its "gotchas". The above photo of Mariclare coming out of the lake is a prime example. Other shocks are to be had but almost none are on the order of your typical horror film. Many of them are psychological and don't have accompanying action.

One of the most effective traits of this film is the constant self-talk that Jessica hears (or is it voices in her head?). Subtle whispers, shadows, looks exchanged between her and her husband, the tension presented between what Jessica knows to be happening and what she says- incredibly effective and incredibly creepy. I would even go so far as to call this film not a supernatural thriller at all, but psychological at its core. One is never sure where one ends and the other begins.

It has been one of my favorite films for many years. I watched it first, as i mentioned, as a child, and when i saw it again as an adult it actually frightened me even MORE than it had, which is a first for me. The deeper dimensions of this film were more understandable to me as an adult, but as a child the creeping dread and whispery mystery hit me very clearly. I was impressed to find a real gem that was not just a sepia-toned memory as is usually the case with half-remembered films.

Honestly, if any of these sorts of films appeal to you it would be a good bet to simply go buy a copy right off and watch this. Its a gamble worth taking. If you see only ONE film that is new to you this Halloween I highly recommend it be this one- unless you are ham-fisted and like torture porn and blood splattered on tits for two hours. I doubt you would even be reading this blog if you were a knuckledragger such as that, but the internet has many strange corners we find ourselves in. I highly recommend this for anyone with more refined horror sensibilities. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"The Machinist".....

....desperately needs to get remade.

If cinema today endlessly mines the past, it stands to reason that eventually all the nearly-were films, the almost great films, will start to be remade. I can see that happening in the future.

Bowie always said that he never really finished anything- he just stopped at a certain point in the process. He always wanted to go back and tinker with it some more.

I wish someone would have tinkered with this film some more.
Just an opinion.

 It has stayed with me, despite having only watched it once. The Flyway Cafe especially has a kind of archetypal hold on me. Having a thing for planes, it seems to live in a familiar yet foreboding kind of place- like a place i had dreamt in my childhood. I remember going to a restaurant when i was very young, the Skyliner. i always loved that name. it rang a bell in me. it called to mind this sort of pure landscape. Many of my dreams over the years kind of happen in places like this- just glimpses. Like Brasilia, or empty freeways, or business districts at night.

I think "the machinist" would have done itself a classic turn by underlining that atmosphere. the MUSIC, for one thing, would be the first thing I would scrap.

Watching it tonight for the first time since i saw it years ago, i kept imagining Delia Derbyshire crawling behind everything. Spare, eerie electronic sounds would have made this film a million times more unsettling, and subtle, and surreal. i am not a fan in general of orchestral soundtracks, but sometimes they are appropriate. in this case, an eno-esque route would have been the edgier choice, while still maintaining some kind of mainstream appeal. personally tho, i would have gone with delia. but "music for airports" would have done nicely. as it is the swooping-then-stabbing violin action going on here is as ubiquitous as dirt, and adds no real tension, atmosphere or interest whatsoever. and its true alot of people wouldn't care about these things, but i do, and it makes the difference sometimes with me. imagine "2001" without the music. its TERRIBLY important.

i would have liked to see less hooker-with-a-heart and needless tit-flashing going on.

SUBTLETY. one of the things i love about "rosemary's baby" is the freaking subtlety. the creepy teensy little details. the way a doorbell ringing in distance can mean so many dark things. the way ordinary things suddenly get turned on their head.

there is some of that here, but amping that up would have amped up the WTF factor a millionfold. there is so much room there to do that. but you can tell that there is too much compromising going on, really. there is an attempt to reach the audience at times. TOO many times. it seems to pull back at the decisive moment.

the profession he works at, that sense of foreboding industry. the way everything seems to happen in a storm or at night.... the apartment building and cafe...... these things could have been drawn in even starker, Expressionist tones. a whole other world could have functioned as a character, even more than it already does.

It would be fantastic if say, someone recast this and filmed it in Norway, during endless night. THAT would live there quite elegantly. this story should have snow in it, perhaps. fjords that are only hinted at, lying just on the edge of everything.

In fact, yes, the Norwegians. get them on this. run it through that kind of sensibility, that kind of noir.

With Delia Derbyshire behind it you would really have a startling, spooky mother of a movie right there.
just an opinion.

the 0 and the 1

i realized tonight that hauntology is a near-total inverse of the whole idea of retrofuturism.

some things are hard to explain. some things you just feel. you arrive at a point by feeling your way, and then the thinking and linking up sets in. you weave a tapestry of your own as you go, and when you discover there is a word for the way these threads are composed it can be very important and quite inspiring. Beyond the idea of insipid genres, isms, and false parsing, hauntology is more akin to an art movement than a genre. boil it down even more and its a way of seeing. 

having said that, it is of course, something of a genre, inasmuch as alot of these bands are drawing on the same set of influences and touching upon the same themes in their music. considering it from that perspective, it is really fascinating to link retrofuturism and hauntology as being very gracefully opposite. in fact hauntology seems like a natural moodier outgrowth from the retrofuturism of the nineties.

retrofuturism embraces the past as it was imagining the future. hauntology, on the other hand, is firmly planted in the present, imagining the past. in fact its BEING in the present that creates that tension, that sepia-memory experience. that cannot be experienced in a retrofuturistic or even revisionist way. that distance creates that essential surreal tension that to me is the very basis of hauntology. the same distance in retrofuturism seems to create a sort of whimsical, debonair dressing-up, a wholesale worship of the goofily optimistic spirit of the Space Age. Hauntology is an almost queasy reexamination. Its remembering the spookiness of childhood, painting in a kind of Romantic spirit, but Romance painted with electricity and film dissolves and 70's television and bad dreams.

I have always loved the novel "The Virgin Suicides" and it quite cleanly expresses this idea of memory- the way it haunts you and how the way you examine it says something about who you are. there is a fetishistic nature to it- we invest in life by remembering it in a certain light. we invest places and things and people with our memories and we imprint importance on to stray objects, photographs, people. distance in time makes the heart grow fonder, and weirder.

its a reimagining, without revisionist trappings. revisionism makes me quite tired, really- i can't think of anything more horrible than trying to push it out garage '66 style anymore. there is so much lost in the translation, almost always- and a hamhanded grab for "what it was like" leaves so many colors out of the picture. and i probably wouldn't mind it so much if they didn't get it WRONG so much of the time. but that's just my secret snooty mod bitchery kicking into effect- too many nights at soul clubs watching the girls all dressed in what are really early 70's "New california" style frocks passed off as Quantism.

 i don't want to pretend i am in the past anymore.

 it looks better from HERE.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


i have spoken before on here about my love for a certain kind of office or public building- and i realized  today that i was, all along, talking about Brutalist architecture.

its good to name things, so that one can have a shorthand.

Obviously the term "brutalist" implies a coldness, which is the one word that can sum up what many people dislike about buildings like these. There is a hyper-utilitarianism about them, a sense of facelessness. I understand that, but i don't feel the same way.

When I lived in the east with my sister, I fell in love with one particular building in the small downtown area of the city where we lived. I just had a fascination for that building. one time i went inside of it, and to the top in the elevator. it felt like an adventure to me.

it isn't necessarily the modernist aspect of the buildings that get me. i would definitely say i have a deep love of clean lines, and in that respect, i am a modernist. but i also have a bend in my mentality that gravitates towards things that are EERIE. things that for others, would be disturbing, blot out the light.

some of my first and best memories are of hearing ghost stories. my parents were great fans of telling stories about dead relatives calling their name, of the house down the road where a lady could be seen going to the well except she wasn't really there, the sound of a black panther screaming and how it sounded like a woman....and all the while you are with your family and you feel perfectly safe.

just as a sexual fetishist gets a kink in his brain about penny loafers because something sexual melded at just the right time with two seemingly disparate things, so did i become always comforted by being spooked. as i child i used to WISH i could see a ghost, have prophetic dreams, have a UFO land in front of me on the railroad tracks. i remember being completely shocked in second grade when a fellow student who had been sitting listening to my ghost stories approached a teacher to ask her about ghosts, and she said, "there is no such thing". i was just dumbfounded. i really believed that everyone believed.

with a head like that so many of the things i have loved over the years have had this flavor. its why broadcast and the focus group's ep "witch cults" is one of my all time favorite records. anything that takes me there, to that mysterious head of my childhood, where i was also an anglophile and imagined every rainy day I was in England- a place i know i wanted to go to from a very young age because of its claim to be the most haunted place on earth- those are the things i love the best. its why everything in the hauntological aesthetic seems like something taken out of my own private file. i think i have looked at things hauntologically in a very acute way my entire life.

and that's why i love these buildings. there is a sense of woebegoneness, a sense of post-prosperity. and the sense of some of them having been public, meant for public use and empty at night, that just sets off all kinds of switches in my mind. the idea that something can be so BUSY during the day, and so literally forsaken at night.... what is that? Like the fashion district in downtown Los Angeles, a place that, upon discovering it, literally had me panting with excitement. it was like a made some sort of scientific discovery. to find streets that were COMPLETELY DARK in the middle of a huge city- no streetlights, no traffic lights, just row after row of buildings with the shutters pulled down- it just always hits me like a romance.

someone should name that feeling.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

the purity of mathematics

i never thought i would say it, but i have fallen in love with mathematics.

the elegant little formulas for determining the slope of a line and graphing linear equations really began to drive it home for me. for a week i had been frightened of attempting my graphs homework and i sat there with the graph paper and my ruler for a couple of evenings trying to hammer into my mind why the hell anyone would want to graph an equation to solve it, or what the use would be.

staring at it, and getting another take on if from a couple of other textbooks, i understood. and the beauty and wonder and sense of it all really made it on par with a great work of art. realizing its something like extrapolation- determining what is going to happen up the line- equated it in my mind with some kind of telepathy, with numbers.

of course it isn't so mysterious- or is it? i find it amazing that anyone discovered these things at all. beyond that, realizing that we can determine so much about what can happen and what has happened simply using mathematics (not disregarding the Great Unknowable which is of course, immeasurable, probably) is just one of those things that is hitting me like poetry. it IS poetry.

my greatest wish is that i could somehow light a spark in other artists, especially those who believed they could never learn math, on what makes it such a wonderful system that has made so much possible.  its much like when i find a new band, or hear a great song that i want to share- i want to sit everyone down and graph out an equation and plot those points and then draw the line through it all to show the great symmetry of the system. matrixes are next on the list to learn, and visually they are so stunning that i have no doubt they will romance me in much the same way that graphing has.

math textbooks have been a fetish of mine for quite a while- especially the old editions with their fantastic fonts and op-art illustrations that spark a moog soundtrack in your mind when you look at them. to actually be beginning to understand on a deep level the "why" and the "how" is just an added bonus i never thought i would get. its just so RESTFUL, when you know what you are doing, to sit down with a problem, especially the graphs or figuring a series circuit in parallel, and work them out. when you cross check and discover you have it right, i always want to do a little dance. and i have been, in that sense, dancing alot lately.

perhaps one day i can teach this, demonstrate the poetry of it. because most math teachers didn't start out as artists, they started out with a natural affinity for the complexities of it and were able to get it quite easily. when you have had to literally claw your way to the barest understanding, it feels much sweeter, and its so much more exciting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April 2013, Broadcast on the cover of "Shindig"!

I cradle a hope in my heart that Broadcast will one day go down as Legends.

Its funny, because they gave me such hope in modern music that I actually seek out new bands now, something i had never done before (tho i have always been a deep digger of older obscurities). What's so funny about that is that the more new bands that i hear the better Broadcast becomes. I get a better understanding of the context and content of modern (and by modern i mean, 90's and up) music and i understand that my 20+ years of bitching about how modern music sucks was not terribly off the mark, actually. It just makes Broadcast a billion times more special.

They are satisfying on so many levels. If you want spooky pastoral, they can take you there. If you want to move your ass, they can take you there as well. If you want freakout movie music, psychedelic dream pop, or avant garde experiments, they got it all.

It is a bit frustrating for me that their biggest hit was "Come On Let's Go", which i have to count as probably my least favorite song of theirs. Not only does it not represent the guts they had, but it sounds like a compromise, something i am confident they never partook in.

but that's what makes them great. here is a band who could make a pop hit, then go off and do something like "Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age", an album i would rather be mauled to death slowly by a pack of rabid wolves than consider living without. Of course, there were quite a few years between "Come On" and "Witch Cults", and its almost like juxtaposing "I wanna hold your hand" with "Sargeant Pepper". It simply didn't give you any clue as to where this band was gonna go.
If i could force anyone to spend some time with one record, i would choose that one. There have been a few times with friends, late at night out in my outdoor psychedelic living room with the colored lights going and some good weed, and this record will be on and in one of the spooky moments someone will say, with a shiver, "Wow, this is really psychedelic". The way they say it always has a twinge of the fear in it, like how you feel when you are standing on the verge of a good hallucinogen. and the fact that Broadcast do this without relying on any of the trappings of the neo-psychedelisists like sitars or moany long-winded "The End" send-ups is quite amazing. For all their worship of The United States of America, french pop (Trish called Clothilde's sole LP her favorite album of all time and yes, it is bloody fantastic) and the sixties in general, no band in my mind has made those influences their own so deeply as they did while sidestepping the Antiques-Roadshow syndrome of so many sixties revisionists. Even in their early, Stereolab-worshipping days, they always came off as completely their own thing. The territory they traversed is completely their own.

i recently heard a radio show from 2011 available on the, called "Goodbye Girl", which was a tribute to Trish after her death and also a look at the whole West Midlands hauntology "scene", if you want to call it that. Apart from the songs by Plone, Pram, and the older stuff (Basil Kirchen, the aforementioned USA etc), all the new bands they played absolutely blew. Then they would play a song by Broadcast and you were just blown away by how more fully realized their sound was. And not once did they mention the Ghost Box label, which just goes to show you how little they knew. The Focus Group is by far the best band on that label, but Belbury Poly are pretty good, and Hong Kong in the Sixties have a number or two that are decent. But Focus Group's "Sketches and Spells" is just gobsmacking, an essential companion to "Witch Cults", which Julian House (EXCELLENT graphic designer and cofounder of Ghost Box and sole man behind Focus Group") collaborated with them on.

Of course, then she had to go off and fucking DIE, leaving a legacy unsung and so much work yet to be done. Yes, there was the soundtrack (fucking BRILLIANT) to "Berberian Sound Studio" and James Cargill (whom yes, i will admit to having a bit of a crush on, he IS a handsome lad) is putting together one last Broadcast LP from the tapes Trish left behind, which has to be a heartbreaker. Your woman and your band mate is dead and you get to stay behind curating. It takes alot of brawn to heft a load like that. I will buy twenty copies when it comes out, even if it is the worst record ever made.

In the meantime, go and have a read at this. And if you are reading this, go and buy pretty much every damn thing this band ever did, and start with "Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age' and don't say I never did you any kindnesses. That is all.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

the charm of the earnest

i have a new addiction. musical websites belonging to extraordinarily ordinary people.

I work as an assistant for a pro-audio reseller, and while looking up info one day about Omnichords (you gotta love you some Omnichords) i found a charming, and yes, archaic website belonging to an older fellow who repairs and teaches classes on these weird little machines.

If you aren't familiar with an Omnichord, its sort of a user friendly electronic harpsichord with Casio underpinnings. You know what i mean- its got the built-in synth "waltz" beats, horrible yet wonderful electronic equivalents of things like flutes and trumpets- and its "FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!"
Yes, really. 
The above is just one example of this family-friendly ethos that spawned quite a little library of horribly inappropriate (at least on my own snooty rarified esthetic grounds) songbooks aimed at middle America (and Canada too, probably). Its pretty bizarre considering this is the same instrument that can be heard in songs by people like (the beloved) Broadcast, Antenna, and Stereolab, to name a few... the same instrument that might just now, be accompanying a little old church choir in say, Florida. 
But I digress. 

The websites. 

Its an entirely new world for me. But I find people really the most fascinating thing of all. I have always been interested in true crime and the MOST fascinating thing for me has always been the victims, the little details of their lives, the things that perhaps led them to wind up on that street corner or at that bar on just That Night. In fact, if ordinary people wrote more books about their lives, that is probably all I would ever read. Nothing is too boring for me. I like hearing all the mundane details, where they grew up, their perspective on things like, say, UFOs, or physics, or Divine Judgement. Ordinary people are actually not at all ordinary. I discovered that after years of working at gas stations in the south- every one, but everyone, is interesting, but they just don't know it. 

So, when you have someone who thinks of themselves as ordinary, who writes songs that you and I know (in our infinite and questionable wisdom) will never make the top 40, and then they make a website, what you have is a weird little corner of the Internet Multiverse. Its like the worldwide web equivalent of song poems- those "for a fee" songs that are being collected now by more obviously weird people like myself. Listen to 20 or 30 of those in an evening and regular music will start to sound patently ridiculous and even uninspired. Songs like "Moon Men" or "Jimmy Carter Says Yes" or "Octopus Woman Let Me Go"....songs written by people who work 9-5 for 30 years and raise families and tap out tunes on their Omnichords or Casios and write weird little poems that rhyme in clumsy ways... but somehow the end result is a weird kind of genius, completely and utterly devoid of guile, irony, or conventional talent. 

So I have been spending a good chunk of my free time just wandering around, looking for the right websites to turn that crank. A dead giveaway is really bad, Windows-95-era graphics. You know, the Angelfire-free-website-era graphics. Comic Sans font, some adverts placed at the bottom for cheaper insurance, choppily-scrolling pages, and of course, heaps of grammatical errors. 

It must be said, if it is not obvious, that I am not looking for comedy here. I am not laughing heartily at the stupidity or lack of sophistication of Joe Six Pack. I actually find it alot more interesting than the self-absorbed, esoteric hepster ramblings of someone who is a bit more "tuned in". I WANT to hear the thoughts and see the creativity of people who have, honest to god, probably have never even heard of the Velvet Underground. I already KNOW what people like ME think, pretty much- i have inhabited that landscape my whole life. And I live in Los Angeles, at an artist's collective and underground venue. I get vast boatloads of Hep and Irony on my plate every day. Something in me cries out sometimes for the ordinary, the naive, the guileless, for those that don't know any better. I find it supremely restful. 

A wonderful example of this is ...THIS....
and this...
and this.

The great thing about websites like the above is that they sometimes venture into some off-key territory.  Check this out....see jesus in a rorshach.

There is also the weird subset of websites that are "faith-based". Some of these are even better examples of what I am talking about, drenched in earnest appeals and canned piano gospel, with the occasional political diatribe thrown in for good measure. 

Again, this is not a clever mock, more like a sociological study. Do such people ever peer over the fence at US, the artsy, techy, above-it-all-types who salivate over Suicide boxsets and Can rereleases and blog about it on our Macs? Are they disturbed, or interested, or consider us godless? Have we all gotten too sophisticated, a little too steeped in our genre-fication and false depths? 

Then again, some of it is pretty funny. And we probably are godless, compared to Peggy. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Summer, Missing

photos from the california backcountry, near yosemite, 2012- lost with family in a golden valley. i miss them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio

I have never waited with such anticipation on a film in my entire life. The concept, the soundtrack (beloved Broadcast), the whole giallo/library overtone-all of it was like porn, appealing to me on an almost animal level. Naturally, with such a buildup, there is bound to be disappointment, but I am happy to say that it is not nearly of the nature I expected.

First off, you should know, THE ENDING SUCKS. There are a few things in history I would change, and this is one of them. Its almost unimaginable that such brilliance would end so unexpectedly, as if a reel were missing, but it did, and one is left with the rest of the film, which is no small consolation.

But up until that time, I have to say, I was utterly in thrall. Completely. I must use the word "porn" again as nothing else quite captures the salivating glory of seeing all those old sound machines, echoplexes, tape machines, VU meters, all the up-close-electronic ephemera interspersed with Broadcast's brilliant (HEAVILY brilliant) music. I mean, kill me, I die happy. My pulse would race when the frame would go black and all you could see was a red flash- "SILENZIO". Never in my life has a film been as delicious, as made-to-order for my own fascinations as this one. I was so enthralled that when the film ended it was like being upended out of a warm bed in the middle of the night with a flashlight in your face. Ergo, i was a bit pissed.

But no matter. It satisfied even MORE than i thought it would, all the actors were brilliant, Toby Jones is fantastic, every frame is fantastic, except the end, and if it were food, I would have three courses of it and sneak to the fridge in the middle of the night in secret. Probably the only other film i can think of that I felt the same way for was "Performance", with its spooky overtones and nervous breakdowns and  black legacy. It has definitely inflamed my desires, and i want nothing more out of life than to work with sound and vintage machines and see tape spool and spin on spindles in the middle of the night in a basement in a dodgy sound studio. that night world of vintage technology, the smell of solid state electronics, the hiss of the tape heads.