If, in the immediate aftermath of Homo sapiens petrolerus, the tanks and towers of the Texas petrochemical patch all detonated together in one spectacular roar, after the oily smoke cleared, there would remain melted roads, twisted pipe, crumpled sheathing, and crumbled concrete. White hot incandescence would have jump-started the corrosion of scrap metals in the salt air, and the polymer chains in hydrocarbon residues would likewise have cracked into smaller, more digestible lengths, hastening biodegradation. Despite the expelled toxins, the soils would also be enriched with burnt carbon, and after a year of rains switchgrass would be growing. A few hardy wildflowers would appear. Gradually, life would resume.
I am at Coachella in the hushed Gobi tent waiting for Gil Scott Heron, who is known in many circles as “The Godfather of Rap”. Given the political consciousness that lies at the foundation of his work, he is also considered the founder of political rap. I know this because I read Wikipedia.
All day, I have been struggling at Coachella, certain that I am the oldest person here, but in the Gobi tent, I have found a more mature crowd. These are socially aware people, who realize that we must come and pay homage to Gil, because you know – he’s old, and black, and once knew Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve read that his album Message to the Messengers was a plea for the new generations of rappers to speak for change rather than perpetuate the current social condition. He called on them to be more articulate and more artistic. I’m not really sure that they heard him, but at least he put the message out there. I’ve also learned – rather recently – that he coined the phrase ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, which the Gorillaz (i.e. my pretend boyfriend Damon Albarn) paid homage to when they (i.e. he) wrote the post modern lyrics ‘The revolution will be televised’ on the title track of the Gorillaz latest release, Plastic Beach. This kind of continuity excites me.
Gil finally comes out, and he looks really old for sixty-one. Despite his musical success, he’s been in and out of jail for the last ten years on cocaine charges. No one’s perfect I suppose. He sits down at his Hammond organ, and starts tinkling around on the keys while he talks to the audience. It’s all very shuck and jive, and not in a good way. It sounds like he’s reciting a shopping list, “Corn dogs, apple butter, tomato!” he shouts.
The people are hanging on his every word. He says something like, “Hey, the tent is white,” and everyone claps.
Then he says, “I like a white tent. Better than an army tent!”
This time people laugh hysterically, even though it’s not funny at all. People are nervously second guessing their own comic taste, worried that there’s something brilliant going on. I’ve been around old black musicians and I’ve seen this game. He’s trying to get people to laugh at nothing. It’s a power thing. When I was a student at Manhattan School of Music, I lived next door to Eddie Locke who had gained fame as Roy Eldridge’s drummer. Eddie was a legend in the neighborhood, he was even in that famous Art Kane photograph A Great Day In Harlem that featured 57 of the most famous jazz musicians of all time. Eddie, loved to blather on and on, and young musicians used to flock to his apartment and sit as his feet as if he were some Jazz Shaolin monk. He’d make jokes that were awful, tell stories that had no ending, and everyone would just laugh and laugh. One day after they had all left he turned to me and said, “Hey, Pip…” (he called me Pip as in ‘pipsqueak’ because I was small), “Why don’t you laugh at my jokes?”
“Because you’re not funny,” was my response. Continue reading
My daughter Peyton was given a lovely book on Impressionists for her birthday. It’s one of those fantastic Taschen volumes – and this painting was on the cover of Volume 2. It’s aptly named Young Woman on the Beach (1886-88) and was painted by Philip Wilson Steer – a leading British Impressionist and the founder of the New England Art Club (which was for flunkies who couldn’t get into the Royal Academy).
Flunky or not… I love this painting. I can’t stop looking at it. It reminds me of those Richard Segalman beach paintings that I adore.
All this talk about the world coming to an end reminds me that I once had an interior designer named Daniel who had MASSIVE angel wings tattooed on his back. One afternoon we were looking at fabric swatches, and I made the mistake of asking him about them. The conversation went something like this.
Me: So, what made you want to get those big wings on your back?
Daniel: I’m an angel.
Me: (laughing) Yeah, right. (beat) No, really…
Daniel: No, I’m an angel. Actually, I’m an arch angel.
At which point I was alternately considering the following two ideas: Either he was completely crazy or, he was in fact an arch angel in which case it was probably a good idea to be on his good side.
Me: How did you learn that you were an angel?
The rest of the conversation went something like this:
He was working as a makeup artist on the TV show Roseanne. One day, Roseanne brought in her personal psychic to do a reading for all the employees. R’s personal psychic was an obese woman, whose name escapes me – although Barbara seems to ring a bell. Daniel and Barbara met and it was ‘magic’ because their souls recognized one another. It turned out they had been some sort of conjoined holy couple when the universe began. He was the male, she was the female and they had different names. Hers was Esmerelda, but his name was more of a sound. It was like a cross between Superman’s father’s name, and the sound a vuvuzela makes. They ended up quitting their day jobs and went on a one year road trip in a Winnebago, where they would go in and out of their twin alter egos, hugging trees (literally) and preaching to people that the end of the world was near. He also mentioned that when Barbara was her alter soul ego she could run extremely quickly despite her girth.
Me: Wow. So, what’s going to happen? Are we all going to die?
Him: No, nothing like that. Basically, money will become a thing of the past.
Me: So, how will we get goods?
Me: I like the sound of that.
Him: Yeah, people will become kinder, and there will be no irony anymore.
Me: What?! No irony?! What are we going to turn into a bunch of Jedediah Purdy clones?
Him: You’ll be fine… I think we should go with the chenille.
My mom recently told me that prior to the early 1970s, no one ever said “Have a nice day” to one another. I’m not sure I believe this, because I find it hard to believe that people did not use this parting salutation prior to the 70s. But according to my mom, they only said things like, “see you soon”, “thank you”, “good-bye” and “take care”. I should probably add that my mother hates when people tell her to “have a nice day” – she finds this ‘pushy’ and ‘presumptuous’. As she likes to say, “What if I want to have a crappy day?”
After doing a little research, I think she might be confusing this with the saying “Have a Happy Day” and the advent of the smiley face button fad which happened in the late 1960s and peaked in the early 70s. Apparently two fad designers were looking for a peace symbol-like item with more general appeal and thus was born the insipid pre-frontal lobotomy smiley face and the HAVE A HAPPY DAY salutation that so annoys my mom…
I admit, it’s not every person who sits around wondering … how could I pay homage to Josef Albers? But there are some of us out there.
For Francesco Vezzoli the answer is to needlepoint Albers’ color studies.
I’m not really sure how to classify Vezzoli as an artist except to say he’s wildly ironic, and terribly eclectic. I do love the idea of his non fragrance GREED – which came complete with a Polanski directed commercial.
17th Century poet, John Milton once asked, “What hath night to do with sleep?” This is a question I can completely relate to mostly because sometimes weeks go by and I get barely a few hours each night. However unlike Milton I’m not blind, and I don’t have to sleep in vermin infested bedding so maybe it’s not a fair comparison. It’s not that I can’t sleep due to anxiety or something like that. It’s just that sleep wants no part of me. Most nights I feel like a jilted girlfriend. Thankfully there’s cable. I spend a lot of time watching movies. I tell myself it’s a good thing. It’s quiet and I can focus. Sometimes I watch without sound. They say this is a good way to learn to direct, though I don’t want to direct but it’s good to be prepared. Out of Sight is a big late night favorite these days. Everything about that movie makes me want to move to Detroit and become a corrections officer. I love the soundtrack, the lighting, the weather, and of course the love scene where George and JLo peel off their clothes. Soderbergh admits it is an homage to the sex scene in Don’t Look Now but frankly I think it’s better.
I saw Don’t Look Now at LACMA one Friday night and it scared the hell out of me. Based on a Daphne du Maurier story, it’s about a couple who go to Italy in order to reconnect after a tragedy and end up being stalked by a dwarf in a red coat. Funnily enough, the name Daphne Du Maurier always reminds me of French author Guy de Maupassant who was, in my mind, a man obsessed with two things: moustaches and the ugliness of the Eiffel Tower. Granted, it’s not the prettiest structure around (it’s no Chrysler) but studying how it swayed in the wind expanded the entire field of aerodynamics, set standards for tests used by NASA and affected everything from airplanes to curveballs. Sure it was ugly, but it possessed a larger significance that the mustachioed Maupassant failed to see.
But what is the larger significance of my lack of sleep and when did sleep become such an issue anyway? Continue reading