The thing that usually strikes me about any grouping of Republicans is not how blindingly white they all are, but rather how pinch-faced, nasally and shrew-like most of them seem to be. They’re a very specific type of Caucasian, I suppose. “Cowardly” isn’t the exact word I’m looking for, but Republican men have always struck me as the opposite of what I picture a “hero” to look like.
The films of Chantal Akerman are meditations on space, interior and exterior, and the emptiness within the clutter of both. There is a sense of alienation and distance in her films that can be chilly and desolate. The rhythms of her film are moored to the urbanscapes and architecture she examines and what drama exists is that which occurs in the day to day pace of life as lived, rarely pumped up by any narrative or cinematic devices. Many lives, particularly solitary ones, are free of of drama. Things are quite ordinary. But the ordinary examined can be quite marvelous.
In Akerman’s experimental film News From Home , the main character is New York City. As Akerman reads from letters she wrote and sent to her mother in Belgium, we watch Manhattan in constant movement, a breathing living thing. But even among the people, buildings, automobiles and streets of the city, there is the quiet, vagabond soul who observes and feels apart from it all. Akerman’s letters are not merely messages from home, they are signs of life. It’s as though she writes to reassure herself that she exists.
Shot in 1977, News From Home , captures New York at a time when many artists, like Akerman, were coming to the city to tap into the energy and to be challenged by the prospects of living in the belly of the beast. It was a wonderful time, but it was also a dark time. In these images, you see a city on the cusp of transformation…for the good and the bad. From a purely historical point of view, to see 90 uninterrupted minutes of Manhattan in the mid-70s is a treat for my eyes. Rich with memories.
Or to be more precise, here’s a very awkward interview with an out-of-drag Glenn Harris Milstead on the British music television show The Tube, from 1983, which is followed by an excellent performance by Divine of her club hit “Shake It Up.”
While it’s understandable that straight-laced, square TV presenters might not know what to make of Divine (whose very raison d’être was to make people laugh by overturning preconceptions of gender and beauty), you would expect the producers of a supposedly hip, youth-oriented TV show like The Tube to be a bit more switched on.
Instead we get an interview by the bumbling Muriel Grey in which she suggests that Divine is insecure, repulsive, and somehow an affront to women. The hapless Grey comes across as the dullest of squares in this clip, which I guess is a danger to be considered when you go up against a glamor icon like Divine, but unfortunately Grey has previous form in conducting cringe-worthy interviews.
Thankfully, Milstead takes it all in his rather large stride, and reacts with the grace befitting a true star:
Since it’s Monday, I guess we can post the speculative list of Jay-Z’s 99 problems by Brandon Scott Gorrell.
Here’s a snippet:
Fear of flying, near-panic and severe nausea during episodes of turbulence.
Unexplained bouts of insomnia.
During bouts of insomnia, genuine, hours-long experiences of fear/ despair that future plans will lead to irredeemable failure and chronic unhappiness, coupled with toxic analytical spirals that further exacerbate inability to sleep.
On Steve Jobs’ bad side when he passed away.
Random, unwelcome visual images of Beyonce performing oral sex on Kanye West, Kanye West having intercourse ‘doggy style’ with Beyonce, and, sometimes, Kanye West’s penis.
Growing addiction to Coke and Mountain Dew.
Worries about posture coupled with angst/ disdain for the fact that good posture is difficult to maintain.
Distress/ distaste about own uneven facial hair pattern.
Major losses of productivity due to recent near-obsessive consumption of cat videos.
Tired feelings of jealousy and resentment for Ryan Gosling; sharp, anxious desire to keep Beyonce away from him at all costs to prevent any possible affair (+ refusal to admit any of this to self).
Unwelcome, distracting, and time consuming psychic digressions and fantasizing concerning, for the most part, a girlfriend he had when he was 22 years old.
Unwanted resentment for Beyonce.
Worries re: porn addiction.
Drinking more than a glass of wine before bedtime disrupts normal sleeping patterns and causes waking around 3 a.m., after which insomnia will often ensue, often leading to problem described in (18).
Some people like to write notes in the pages of their favorite books. Graham Greene liked to annotate the columns of the novels he was reading with notes, criticisms, and small, personal observations. They formed part of a resource for his future work.
Sylvia Plath also liked to annotate the pages of her favorite books. Here is a page from her copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:
She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool - that’s the best thing a girl can be in the world, a beautiful little fool.’
“You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so -nthe most advanced people. And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated - God, I’m sophisticated!”
Plath underlined the first paragraph, and marked the second with a line, and the word L’Ennui.
Occupy Wall Street marked its one year birthday by occupying Wall Street.
Since 7 a.m. this morning several hundred people have been marching Manhattan and there have been approximately 125 arrests, mostly for blocking traffic and disorderly conduct.
When Billy Eckstine came to St. Louis, with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Miles Davis went to see them play.
Davis was playing trumpet with Eddie Randle’s Rhumboogie Orchestra, and one day, after rehearsal, he went round to the theater to see Gillespie and Parker perform.
Davis arrived with his trumpet slung over his shoulder, dreaming of how one day he might be up there playing along with the likes of his idols Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker. Just as he reached the theater, Gillespie appeared, noted Davis’ trumpet and rushed over to the young musician.
‘You play?’ Gillespie asked.
Davis told him he did.
‘We lost our trumpeter, and we need one fast. You got a card?’
Davis nodded ‘Yes’.
‘Then you’re in.’
Davis played with Gillespie and Parker for the next 2 weeks, and this was the start of Mile Davis’ incredible career.
In 1970, Miles Davis played to a 600,000 audience at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was the largest pop festival in history. At the time, many questioned why Davis had agreed to perform at it, as man of his success and talent was middle of the bill, sandwiched between Tiny Tim and Ten Years After.
Davis had just released his double album, Bitches Brew, which proved to be a game-changing moment in Modern Jazz. The album divided critics. Some reviled it, claiming Davis had sold out, and was no longer relevant. But the audience loved it. And Bitches Brew became Davis’ biggest success, going gold within weeks.
In August 1970, Davis decided to play Bitches Brew at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was a myth-making appearance, where Davis improvised much of his performance.
That festival, and Davis’ role in it, are revisited here in Murray Lerner’s documentary Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, which inter-cuts Miles’ astounding performance together with members of his band and those who knew the great man.
The Cure onstage at the San Miguel Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona on June 1, 2012.
Great set—with good audio quality—but with each passing year Cure leader Robert Smith looks more and more like a roly-poly version of “The Joker.” His look is getting to be a bit tragic for a man his age. I wonder if his fans would abandon him if he ever cut his hair (like when Felicity‘s Keri Russell cut hers) or gave up on the smeared-lipstick thing?
02. Pictures Of You
04. The End Of The World
07. Inbetween Days
08. Just Like Heaven
09. From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea
10. Hungry Ghost
11. Play For Today
12. A Forest (Happy Birthday Dear Simon)
Mondo Hollywood, Robert Carl Cohen’s poetic 1967 documentary, begins not as you might expect, with shots of LA’s tie-died hippies but rather with a John Birch Society-type anti-Communist meeting attended by, among others, Glenn Beck’s idol, W. Cleon Skousen, the kooky Mormon “historian,” FBI agent, crackpot conspiracy theorist, and slavery apologist. (Mitt Romney studied under Tea party icon Skousen while in college at Brigham Young University).
Without meaning to, Cohen’s time-capsule film begins by pointing out to viewers how, in some respects, so very little has changed since the 1960s—these folks are the Teabaggers of 1965, they’re even reading the very same batshit crazy Cleon Skousen books—and then he shows how much they did change, or at least the beginnings of that change to come.
Mondo Hollywood uses what appears to have been a lot of silent (very well shot) 16mm footage, and interviews and voice overs done at different times, to create a fascinating time capsule of life in Los Angeles during the very year when the culture went from black and white to vivid psychedelic color. Along the way, we’re introduced to poets, dreamers, acid eaters, trust fund kids, body painters, strippers, proto-hippies (or “freaks” as the Los Angeles variety of hippie was known in 1965-66), transsexuals, avant-garde artists and—this being Los Angeles—plenty of movie stars, a young Frank and Gail Zappa seen at a wild party and even then governor Ronald Reagan, who rails against “filthy speech advocates” at UC campuses. Spookily, future Manson murderer Bobby Beausoleil as well as future Manson Family victim, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, both appear in the film.
It’s interesting to note that Mondo Hollywood was set to open the Avignon Film Festival in 1967 but was banned by French government censors who stated:
“This film, in the opinion of certain experts of the Commission [of Control], presents an apology for a certain number of perversities, including drugs and homosexuality, and constitutes a danger to the mental health of the public by its visual aggressivity and the psychology of its editing. The Commission proposes, therefore, its total interdiction.”
Not much in the film would raise an eyebrow today, these “perversions” have all been mainstreamed. I still can’t get over the vintage Tea party crowd at the beginning, myself.
Although I didn’t actually see Mondo Hollywood until many years later, I used to have a huge square poster, similar to the album cover pictured above, hanging over the bed in my first NYC apartment in the 80s. I really wish I still had it!