Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Texts of Antiquity II: Shelley Rene (Creative Loafing, Atlanta, 1998)

"Shelley Rene: Stark Friggin' Lodestar"

(This profile of the pioneering USENET nude model was written for Creative Loafing, Atlanta, and published in April, 1998. This is the complete, unedited text with its original title. The piece was re-titled by a CL's editor for publication. An alternate, rejected version of the intro paragraph will follow the main article.)

***

Fuckin' Christ in a handbag!

Christ's ass in a rubber palanquin! Christ's niece Sue with Hermes hapsatch 'n Corey Haim tee! You're plain-old dumbfounded by it, by the subtextual lubricity of it all, by the simple image of a big ole beautiful Texas gal, not plain, not drop-dead perfect, but a cute, curvy, Jack-swillin', boomin' Lone Star sweetie, absolutely stark friggin' naked, stretched out with astonishing, alacritous poise in front of an overwrought equine sculpture, in front of a section of transplanted Berlin Wall (with Sting lyric spraypainted, for fug's sake!), in front of the fucking George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University!

Whatever she's doing it for (could be that it's nuthin' but the piquant, damn-near patriotic stank of traditional Southern exhibitionism - she's from Port Arthur, Joplin country - and the Bush Library photo, the fucking DEALEY PLAZA photo, hit you like Big Brother at Monterey, "Ball and Chain," baby, except you've done five times as many microdots as Mama Cass, and when you open your fudge-encrusted yap to mouth "Wow..." Bella Abzug, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Shirley Chisolm, Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gloria Steinem, Harriet Tubman, and, hellfire, Mae West too, all slither out instead and take turns blowin' ya), she's done it on the Internet, for free, at www.shelleyrene.com, for over one million, nine hundred thousand people-oids, reload clickers, repeat touristas – squinty little zybervolk just like you.

Her name is and is not Shelley Rene, and she is a prophetess.

"What I love about Shelley is her comfort with her own body and willingness to share it with everyone... That kind of confidence is rare and very sexy, matching her physical beauty which I feel exceeds that of most 'models'..."

"I've always admired... her boldness to drop covering in broad daylight on a busy street and share it with all of us... Just sort of flips the switches for me..."

"She is fat, healthy, and uninhibited... She's exactly what everyone in America strives toward but is hindered by social customs... seeing her NAKED at a stop light in Dallas, Texas is a freeing experience for us all..."

--Chris, Christopher, and Gennica, members of the Shelley Rene mailing list, via e-mail.

Being the post-sensitive, randy, healthy-ass Joe G-Spot/Jill Jockstrap, heck, omniscient flesh-aesthete that you are, you paraglide nude into Digitrix, the Shelley Rene web site administered by Ms. Rene and her partner and pal, husband Trey. And it smells pretty damn good in there, so naturally you're inclined to sniff around. You soon find that she's not exactly a newcomer, nowhere near the cutting edge of amateur net flesh... no, she IS the edge, the pioneering shockwave rider, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, and Amelia Earhart combined. She began as a mad Aggie, an Texas A&M English major with a wilder hair than most and a taste for Bunuel's Belle du Jour. She does it for the kick, a jolt she finds deeply, ineradicably satisfying. (Her husband's obviously one of the happiest, luckiest ducks in the whole of Texas.) She's been profiled in Details, feted by Playboy, and is unusually popular in Iceland. She's not a transgressive performance artist, a Susie Bright, a Pat Califia, a Lydia Lunch (though of course those women are exemplars). No, she's a regular gal with a real job, with friends, co-workers and family who all know (and approve) of her Shelley Rene personna. And her fans are exceedingly, adamantly loyal.

One of Shelley's fans is Andy Pierce. Pierce is an inspiring oddball, an Atlantan of abundant intelligence and nappy predilections. As a musician, Devo crank, vanilla improv apologist, mordant scribe and filmmaker, he is admirably ecumenical, possessed, unfailingly provocative. He has created a documentary of Ms. Rene, and Shelley, Trey, Mr. Pierce, his video, several other videos, and many of the musical performers he admires will soon be descending on the Star Bar.

Andy Pierce: "Important, important, important- to start, you might as well just go ahead and make this your opening statement from me: if folks are expecting to gape at a nude Shelley Rene, they'll be sorely disappointed. Until our culture gets over its obsession with equating nudity and sex, they should be disappointed. Shelley's nudity, as defined by her personal choice and contextual presentation, is what has endeared her to a worldwide audience of admirers."

And why not? Sure, Madonna's sweet nips felt the torpid South Beach heat in Sex before any of this Internet hoohah (Pierce: "a flaccid coffeetable love letter to herself"), but it ain't as if she invented public nudity. She just had the clout to control, shape, and project the imagery out to Proxima Centauri and back. But Shelley Rene is seminal, iconic, the Godmama of web exhibitionism, linked, cross-referenced, and indexed. Some of the photos aren't terribly flattering, and others are flat-out wrong. Certain of them, especially the "Out and About in Dallas" series, are astonishing, tropes and totems dashed like cattle cars in the wake of a violent twister. And some of them ("Photo 1" of the Carribean gallery in particular) envelop you, seduce you with their soulful, resonant beauty. She's living, she's breathing, she's a genuine cultural phenomenon. You should know her story.

CL: How did this begin? How long have you been modelling, posing? Were you attracted to it, or did Trey or someone else suggest it? Why did you want to do it?

Shelley: The first time we went out on campus to take pictures, we did them for ourselves just to have fun, but still there was something sexual, erotic about it. Trey and I are both really sexual people, very open about things- I would consider myself to have a very healthy libido! I had never posed nude for someone before... Anyway, Trey and I went out around campus, around 3 a.m., to spots that other people would recognize. It was so much fun. Once we started I just wanted to do more. I was a little nervous at first, but the feeling is just so addictive! I've been posing nude now for about five years. And Trey did suggest it that first time.

CL: Trey, Shelley's bio is on-line for everyone to see - what about you? What's your background? Where did you and Shelley meet?

Trey: We met at Texas A&M. I came home one evening with some friends and found her on the doorstep of my apartment. Actually she was with another person and they were waiting for the people I went out with that night... I guess it might have been a love at first sight thing. We went out the following Wednesday and the rest is history... I was nearing my BS graduation point (he has both MS and BS Electrical Engineering degrees from TAMU; Shelley received her BA in English Literature) when all of this got started... I was the instigator... It was a balmy evening in College Station between semesters when I came up with the idea of us taking nude pictures around TAMU. Of course, at first she thought I was nuts, (but) it did not take too much convincing for her to give it a try. And then once she had been nude at the first location, that TAMU sign, it got really easy for her and taking all the rest of the pictures was a breeze.

CL: You first posted photos in the early days of the Internet. When and how did the site begin, and when did it metamorphose into Digitrix?

Shelley: Yeah, Trey posted them before the Internet was anything like it is now. I don't even think the World Wide Web was around. He posted them to USENET newsgroups, I think.

Trey: The pictures were originally posted to the USENET news groups,
alt.binaries.pictures.erotica, etc. We used a cheap handheld black and white scanner that belonged to a friend. I posted them to the newsgroups, two or three at first to see the reaction... The reaction was overwhelming. At the time, the only nekkid pictures on the Internet were loads of copyright infringements involving scanners and people with too much time on their hands. So, I think the reaction was so strong because these were actually photos of a brave, real person. As the responses started to pour in, I think she really started to enjoy it.

Shelley: I met Trey in January of '92 and we took the first set of pictures the next year, Spring of '93. I believe it was May. Trey in the summer of '94 scanned them and posted them to newsgroups and bulletin boards in August. Like I said, the Internet wasn't like it is now with the World Wide Web. Since the pictures were becoming really popular, another A&M student put them in a web page with a student account using an A&M server. This was in the fall semester of '94, called "Sights from Texas A&M." You can still see that page with those pics. We keep them separate to this day! Then in December '94 the school newspaper (The Batallion) printed one of my pictures on the front page. That's when the shit hit the fan!

Trey: Actually the story was about decency on the Internet and had nothing to do with Shelley, other than the fact that the front page had an 8x10 copy of one of her nude photographs. The local TV crews had to jump on this one. The next thing we knew, Shelley's pictures were being broadcast all over central Texas, with blurry spots liberally applied - The Batallion did no censorship other than the natural granularity of the black and white half-toning.

Shelly's Mother, Mrs. Edna Kirk: I first became aware of Shelley's infamous Aggie photographs when the local news aired it! Quite a surprise to see my daughter's face - and yes, that's all they showed, you know they had those funny little blurred areas - on the evening news! I had known about the photos before the "news break", but was amazed at the stir they caused around this community. I was, needless to say, more surprised that the news would make such an issue of it, than I was that Shelley had had a little fun and done something "daring and crazy". I had just sloughed it off as a "college thing", sorta like 25 people crowding into a phone booth or a Volkswagon bug! As far as being proud of her... Of course I am proud of her. There is a whole lot more to her than just being a "cultural icon". Whether or not I agree that nudity is right or wrong is not the issue for me. I am proud of Shelley because she has the strength to do what she has decided is right for her."

"For me, what I most admire about Shelley is her bravery, her generousity and her gracious nature. She is a web pioneer, but so much more..."

"(It's) the surprise. You expect to see nude women in bedroom poses -- you do not expect to see a picture of Dallas City Hall with a nude... likewise all the other places, like the State Capitol, 6th Street, Deep Ellum, the Grassy Knoll... (it's) a delight to the senses... extraordinary."

-Mit's and TopOne, from the Shelley Rene mailing list

So, the Digitrix site was born, conceived in jest, embraced, nurtured by the info superhighway's earliest suburban commuters, and sensationalized by Texas tabloid TV geeks.

Trey: "The popularity started to increase exponentially."

CL: What is your reaction to this quite remarkable growth? 1,900,000-plus "hits" is amazing, particularly for a non-hardcore site.

Shelley: "I still can't believe what kind of publicity I've gotten over this. After all, it's just me nude! Every once in a while it kind of hits me that tons of people know who I am... I've been told (that) I've been the discussion of photo, art, English classes... censorship, all kinds of issues. I think that's really cool. But I still just see myself as the same person... It's hard to grasp why my photos made such a hit, but I'm not complaining!"

Andy Pierce: "One important aspect of this for me has been to create a work that flies in the face of the long-standing tenant of documentarians that the only women worthy of documentation are imbalanced, unstable, and corrupted. I could name names (Nick Broomfield, anyone?), but what's the point? Shelley and her husband view their work as part of a healthy, positive expression of their lives."

"I'm finding that the documentary is developing a more impressionistic voice and visual presentation... Shelley and Trey... provide their own narrative and focus. I try not to push things too heavily. I just set up the visual scenario and let things unfold."

CL: How did the project come about?

Pierce: "Shelley and I developed a friendly e-mail correspondence over time, and as the idea began to formulate, I simply presented (it) to Shelley and Trey. Shelley said she'd love to do it. I'd become burnt out on ever making a film or video again, but something about Shelley and Digitrix was too compelling. What Shelley represented for me was the idea of individual freedom determined by choice and context. Shelley's nudity is that of personal choice, ultimately removed from coersion, and in the context of her own individuality. To see a nude image of Shelley is to know that in a sea of faceless cyberporn, not only are you aware of Shelley's unique character, you're sharing in the unadulterated enthusiasm of one woman's life."

CL: Shelley, do you see yourself following in the tradition of the classic '40s/'50s pin-up? Do you admire Page, Yeager? Ever see any of Betty's Irving Klaw loops or features (Teasearama, Striporama)? Has anyone approached you to work in features, music vids, porn?

Shelley: "It's interesting that you asked that! I love Bettie Page. The photographer from London who photographed me for Details said my pictures reminded her of the classic pin-up models. I think that's a great compliment. In fact, I've wanted to do a "Bettie" series for years. I've studied lots of the photos she did with Irving Klaw. I'm finally getting everything together for that, and one of my next series will portray some of her photos... when people compare me with her I take it as a wonderful complement and feel really honored."

"I've had quite a few people approach me about doing TV. I was going to do HBO's Sex Bytes, but it ended up falling through because of their short deadline. But that was something I wanted to do. I've turned down Hard Copy and Extra. I just don't dig that shit and really don't want to be associated with those programs. I've also been contacted by people in the porn industry, but I really don't have any desire to do that either. Something has to be worth my while or I'm not going to do it. I don't want to take every offer that comes my way. There's no selling out here!"

CL: You are strikingly photogenic. What do you most or least like about the process? What do you most or least like about your body?

Shelley: "I guess what I like least is having to trust the photographer. I tend to be a real control freak and lots of times wish I could take my own photos! But I've started to trust the people I work with. Trey is easy... I can always tell him exactly how I feel. I'm sure he hates that sometimes! But in general, I'm usually pleasantly surprised and like the photos we've taken."

"As for my body... well, I've been constantly trying to get in better shape. But that's not solely for taking pictures. More for myself. I most like my breasts, face, and hair. I guess my ass is okay too. My thighs and lower abdomen need the most work, but hey... nobody is perfect! Even though I'm on this "health kick", I'm not trying to become the next waif... I just want to be in good shape and healthy, so I can be here for a long time!"

Andy Pierce: "Shelley is one of our beautiful, ample, full-figured women. I personally herald the emergence of the fleshy female as the perfect means to sweep concentration camp-framed chic into the dustbin of recent history."

CL: How often have you been busted? Any memorable run-ins? Do you have to bribe, cajole, or otherwise charm security guards, cops, and custodians to allow you and your photographers access to certain public sites?

Shelley: "I've been lucky not to have been caught yet by the police. But I've had some interesting run-ins. Once during the "Railroad Track" series a security truck drove up and was going to give us a citation, but I talked (the driver) out of it! He seemed more concerned for our safety because a train was scheduled to be coming down the tracks soon."

"...at the George Bush Library... there were tons of security cameras everywhere. But I still wanted to get a picture there. When we were done and walking back to the car a security guy came out and asked if we wanted the video! They of course caught me on camera! He was cool about it though, and we just drove off!"

CL: What was the reaction or fallout from the Details piece? I understand Playboy made you an offer - have there been other overtures from the mainstream press? Why did you turn Playboy down? Surely the money would have been good...

Shelley: "Actually, the money from Playboy wasn't exactly fab. They would have paid me $500. It was for the "Women of the Internet" pictorial. They pay Playmates lots more, though. I turned them down because that offer came really early with all that was happening and I wasn't sure how I wanted this thing to go. I wanted people to like my photos for their uniqueness and for me, not because I was in Playboy. Some people think I'm crazy because I turned them down. I don't regret it, but I would probably take them up on another offer! I've had to create my own image. The Details article went over really well. It really brought me some good publicity."

CL: What is the Icelandic connection? How the heck did you hook up with Thor and Bjork? What gives with your tremendous popularity there? Is EVERYONE in Iceland connected to the web?

Trey: "Pretty much everyone in Iceland is connected. It's really amazing. I'm not sure why Shelley was so popular there, although I would not have put it past Thor to have juiced the press before we got there."

Shelley: "Iceland is wonderful; I've been so lucky to have Thor as a friend. He is absolutely the best. I just fell in love with him and he made me feel so welcome in his home and with his friends. He did a lot for me there the first time. (His) first e-mail was "this is what dreams are made of!" That's all he said-- I thought that was so cool.

Trey and I e-mailed him back and became friends over the Internet. He hooked us up with Bjork at one of her shows in Dallas, and then in Houston... His friends were really excited to meet me and treated me like some sort of celebrity... Kind of weird, but fun!"

CL: Last queston: the Dealey Plaza (the site in Dallas where JFK was assassinated) photograph is marvelously perverse, richly iconographic. Do you and Trey plan your public assaults with a mind to tweak that iconography? Or is it just for kicks, the thrill of being naked in a very famous, very public place?

Shelley: "We really don't plan too much. We just go out and see where we think we can get a really cool picture. For the 1997 "Sights from Texas" calendar... we just showed up and did what felt right. We really just do it for fun and for kicks."

Our kind of woman! The benefit for Andy Pierce's documentary of Internet diva Shelley Rene will be held at the Star Bar on Thursday, April 30th, and it looks to be one helluva cool evening. Videos to be screened include a rough promo cut of Peter Sillen and Jem Cohen's documentary of the band Smoke, Jim Herbert's Automan, and a final public screening of Mr. Pierce's student film Kop Kulture, featuring a soundtrack by Sue Ann Harkey and Hakim Bey. Of course, there will be lots of Shelley Rene vid to gawk at, including a "field outtake" of an exhibitionistic assault on the Texas State Capitol.

You'd think that some kinda Crypt trash-garage action would be most appropriate for this evening, but Pierce likes the idea that Shaking Ray Levis, Gold Sparkle Band, and Bill Taft, the featured performers, are "so (seemingly) diametrically at odds with a woman who poses nude in cyberspace." Seeing as how these groups are pretty easy on the cranium, it all oughta go down real smooth. Throw off your shackles, dump the Brut, spring for some Acqua di Gio, turn off your goddamn computer, and greet the once and future Web Queen in the flesh.

-Tom Smith

---

(Alternate version of the intro paragraph, rejected by CL.)

Fuckin' Christ in a handbag! Christ's ass on a rubber palanquin! Christ's niece Sue with Hermes hapsatch 'n Corey Haim tee! You're plain-old dumbfounded by it, by the subtextual lubricity of it all, by the simple image of a big ole beautiful Texas gal, not plain, not drop-dead perfect, but a regular, fine, Jack-swillin', boomin' Lone Star sweetie, absoluely stark friggin' naked, stretched out with astonishing, alacritous poise in front of an overwrought equine sculpture, in front of a section of transplanted Berlin Wall (with Sting lyric spraypainted, for fug's sake!), in front of the fucking George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University! The mind boggles, and suddenly all the horrors of life, not exclusive to but including Natalie Merchant, the ugly people who always manage to sit across from you and stare in Cafe Diem, and analog nostalgia, vanish. That old ratfuck Bush, downed, dowsed, sabot-shod pimp of Panamanian crack stewards, shadow producer of Lollapalooza, AIDS, and Tony-award winning helmsman of Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway wonder In Old Grenada, and this woman, this vision. The two fronts meet and it's strictly a "6" on the Fujita scale, inconceiveable carnage, an entire archive of who-gives-a-fuck memoranda blown into a 400-foot-high Anne Richards bouffant and lodged for all eternity into the dank, bionic reach of Bill Casey's lesser omentum. Yeah, it was pickled. And perhaps so was she, a mad Aggie English major with a wilder hair than most and a taste for Bunuel's Belle du Jour. Hell, maybe she's a Republican. Maybe she's just doing it for the kick, a jolt as powerful, as deeply and ineradicably satisfying, as the recoil from the rifle, the spiralling slo-mo screw of the projectile that might yet snuff Peter Gabriel, Quentin Tarantino, Melissa Ethridge, Robin Williams, Billy Corgan, all the avatars of evil in the world. Whatever she's doing it for (could be that it's nuthin' but the piquant, damn-near patriotic stank of traditional Southern exhibitionism-- she's from Port Arthur, Joplin country-- and the Bush Library photo, the fucking DEALEY PLAZA photo, hit you like Big Brother at Monterey, "Ball and Chain," baby, except you've done twice as many microdots as Mama Cass, and when you open your fudge-encrusted yap to mouth "Wow...," Bella Abzug, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Shirley Chisolm, Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gloria Steinem, Harriet Tubman, and hellfire, Mae West too, all slither out instead and take turns blowin' ya), she's done it on the Internet, at www.shelleyrene.com, for over one million, eight hundred thousand people-oids, squinty little zybervolk just like you. Her name is and is not Shelley Rene, and she is a prophetess.

---

TS

Monday, August 29, 2005

Texts of Antiquity I: "Incredibly Terrible Music" (Bananafish, 2000)

Incredibly Terrible Music

Written by TS in 2000 for issue 14 of Bananafish; published that same year. This is the complete, unexpurgated text.

***

Dye-pots in the torchlight? "To get the taste of him outa my mouth." He drove his XKE green to steel blue, from a delicate pink, everything recorded by Dicky Lee, each place strong. I scouted around and found a joint where variegated stars in a firmament of foliage looked like the tearless eyes of the kids I was used to. They drift under hulls, level my head, ease my most sinister strokes. "Ought to, " I thought. I was getting flat on the ass side, with no other tastes or swollen smells or lay-flaked Night to rise with it. Blue-eyed blood, forty-two hours without a drink. Hulls' souls became stagnant, made woman out of man. "Damn," she said, "don’t hold back -- make me come, pound me!" I was pooped -- pseudo-rock energy, half-closed lids, prow set against pleached arbor of stone, torture of the rat. They’d drink and bang us, grab, grab, grab, and have another flower, the humblest sown like an anemic Joan. Sing? Goddamn, man...

"Arms shrunk into dolphin’s dogs--"

Arms lopped clean off to distract from the alizarin hues and monstrously oneiric harmonic haunts of moldering Waco mystic Jerry Hunt's posthumous Song Drapes collection (Tzadik), for which no less than sixty-eight varieties of "Sheesh!" have, at last audit, been sounded. Heartfelt, with poignant patches lashed atop pregnant folds of mange, this docudipilatory CD nonetheless (or, providently) denudes its subject, a minor composer with what appears to have been a great, gulping, unslaked thirst for life, or, at the very least, possessed with an engaging personality. Although recorded to Hunt's (ludicrous) specifications, the music rarely evokes more than an anxious, ataractic curiosity, a puzzling series of eyebrow tics in the cloudless wake of DayQuil ingestion, or a househusband's neutral appraisal of a fat clot coughed up after a vegetarian chili dinner. There are concessions to blunted truth, however, and a loose fistful of beauty. Much of the credit lies at the intricately bound feet and spike-scarred mons of Karen Finley, who plods adequately through the quag of Drapes' incorporeal first half, but then ditches the Kitchen playbook and lets fly with the outstanding "Ugly Man." Of Ms. Finley's fellow, collaborative vocalists, Shelly Hirsch fares best with "The House." Of Mike Patton, nothing may be said, save "Thanks for those Melvins albs, dude!" (Well, perhaps no gratitude tendered for the soul-deadening Crybaby, but The Bootlicker certainly justifies Patton's continued existence, even taking his inept, Zorn-fed solo turns and the endlessly appalling Mr. Bungle into account.) A more fitting epitaph to Hunt's unfocused, but undeniably hard-wrought art would perhaps have been a book of annotated sheet music, accompanied by sketches, photographs, doodle-strewn bar napkins from the strip clubs where he performed, and a CD-ROM containing pertinent extracts from Tzadik's cred ledgers, whose scatter chart X axis values continue to tumble.

A surface of revolution is formed when a curve in the zx plane is an annular or crescent-shaped disk, bearing low-income census tracts, vanomycin-resistant enterococci, embedded in paraffin. "When I opened the salon about 12 years ago, I had a red neon sign that said ‘Tangles, genuine Prada and Louis Vuitton skew lines, electric razors as potential vectors for Viral Hepatitis!’” A brewery makes three basic beverages: A Stool Specimen Negative for Occult Blood (3.2%), Christ Church College Carriage Rates (5.1%), and All Adults Are Presumed Competent Until Proven Otherwise (a malt liquor emollient). Snow covers the ellipse.

"Arms' desire for oral pow'r!"

Arms not fed into abstracted woodchipper tropes, but sleeved in the inevitability (gruesome, or revelatory, or otherwise) of your faithful, chicken-pluckin' scribe's actually having to fucking listen to the Young God double CD reissue of Swans' Filth/Body to Body, Job to Job. But I'm auditioning the Mott box for the umpteenth thyme instead, and gimme "Crash Street Kids" over "Mother, My Body Disgusts Me" any old Paleozoic era. (Gimme Franco Donatoni, for that matter, 'cuz his retrograde contrivances trumped Gira's blistering selflessness, which anyway was couched in phlegmy and unregenerate solipsism... As if you worms didn't already know!) Okay, so I'm listening to it (Filth, that is) and the re-master bristles with rote clarity. A dullard's sweetsop, regressed narratives of the trajectories of morning-after smack-snot clots. Flaked verdigris, corpulent drum technicians. And pretty fuckin' unintentionally comic. Can't make it past "Power for Power." (Oops, made it to "Weakling.") Mosimann and Kane (I guess) are the stars here... Woe unto their flatterers; the hot male rod and the cold black cloth...

"And arms betrothed to arms and legs which hemmed me from all sides..."

No mention, acknowledgment, or intimation of appendages throughout the oft-plumbed, but ever-piquant depth of Anus Presley's Music to Listen to While You're Dead (Jazzassin). A valedictory uroscopy, inexpressibly terse; a torus through which second-hand vertiginousness makes sheep's eyes at the numbed, naphthalenic mouth of sound-sodomy. (Two sheared limbs ascendant!) From 1987-1991 these hyper-expulsive Nordic drunks plied an exceptionally fecund (and laudably risible) trade; that an essence has at last been extracted (to compact disc) should not suggest that its wellspring has been poisoned, or otherwise diluted, or even identified with certainty. Raise a tawny urine sample to these incandescent o(l)afs; their laggard ambition kept a prodigious cerebrality at bay... Although very much of its period, and ineluctably fixed to milieu (the unmarked backwoods rail crossing 'twixt steam-powered R*zn*rian industrial wank and the coal-fed engines of noise hegemony), Dead, a celebratory ode to excrescence, is often superb.

(And often fed arms of calf-length boots, vaginal reflexologies, the Virginia House of Burgesses...)

The Centimeters present The Facts of Destiny (Win), as with all ultimately illuminating outsider poopmuzik, was initially off-putting. After repeat listens I'm a goddamned convert, an unabashed (cough) camp follower. Only one or two errant, self-reflexive lyrical nods mar this otherwise wonderful (mais oui) collection; idiots would do well to note that songwriting really fucking matters. Tonalities are the bitch, of course, and chemistry is ever unstable. But for this CD, at least, The Centimeters have nailed it with precision ("Look at Me Now," particularly "Three Cups of Coffee," so scrupulous in its deployment of one delightful, poignant Russell Mael-ism, and the Jimmie Rogers-penned "Desert Yodel," posited amidst the styrofoam pound-note stacks in the foyer of Dinky Diamond's nightmare villa) and blunt, preternatural clarity ("Fangs," "Dracula Gary," "If Only My Dog Would Barely Like Me," the extraordinary "Hovering Ponies"). So much to admire here - Rebecca Lynn's honeyed, dispersive violin solo on "Gary," Phillip Haut's astute, effortlessly increscent ivories (manqué), and the great fucking vocal duo of Max Gomberg and Nora Keys. Certainly an opium-dusted ibex wing in the fedora of Mr. Don Bolles (I'm thinking William Conrad in Cry Danger, as perhaps re-cut by Curtis Harrington ca. '53, or a soft Molly Haskell), and a mothballed victory for aesthetes 'n snobs of all plastique castes. (Warning: this may not be your shade of Mike Asher interior latex...)

"Arms, heraldries, the rotten fruit of mediation - arms not yet ablaze!"

The Necks' damnable Aquatic CD (Carpet Bomb) has (urp) stumped me utterly. It's been on my fine RCA modular shite-unit for at least seven hours, and I've likely listened to it more than the band themselves. "Music for tanning," I first thought. ("Pappy," I began, "Vlad... Knock-knock, you sons of bitches!") Then, "music for a slightly outré Manassas, Virginia pool party." (Luigi Nono 3, led by Bruce Hornsby 5, examining computer graphic printouts with pale face, red cheeks, rising from below.) But facile declamations do neither the trio nor their laudable, yet puzzlingly unsatisfying two-part composition justice. They come on kinda Cologne by way of John Wardle's minicab's beaded seat blanket (each acorn laser-etched with Human Condition and Patrick Fitzgerald discogs), and the very sorta (ughnh, AAUGH!) Tortoise-esque-ish-ness of it all makes one want to stomp to the head of the nearest taxi rank, hijack a hack to an overcast prog purgatory, and beat the shit out of Mike Ratledge, Keith Tippet, and, just for the hell of it, Christian motherfucking Wolff, or whomever the fuck it is who runs Roy Clark's Branson, MO Mo' Wax Theatre and Lacquer Works! (And otherwise pummeled conveyance analogies.) I hate my VCS3! Madame Hauk at Triebschen sez non!! (No, no, I've lost it. It's a good album, y'know, perfect for gals who dig Herman Nitsch who dig guys who dig the dubbed-up dregs of the Bristol scene... 1598: Horace Andy tribute artiste Sir Richard Steele Is the Great Fire of London UK is seized with terror at a country inn... "Marveling at the shape of my hand under the current of...") No! I want to do this fucker justice, dear, uhh, readers, but the words... (Madeski, Martin and John! WE HAVE WHALE SONG!! ) Apologies to all. Aquatic is just too goddamned obliging; there are no ravishments!! (But, The Necks are exemplary musicians; Hammond and piano jock Chris Abrahams fucking rocks! Digs Tetragrammation artiste Homogeneous Dark Field!) Degeneration of obtuse tops of tinkling car-horse tea; music for merely satisfactory fellatio! (Sorry... I'm sending this straight to Dave Sprague.)

"Arms despair in a great phalanx of attacks and unvoiced sounds..."

A right crummy crowd of half-assed tightrope walkers, blunt-toed black shoes... What do you think about Soviet tuned Burmese gongs, bastards! Using 16 singers and the Air Force Rhythm Section from fellow Club DNA artists Throw the Bum Out, Locksmith!, the breastpockets of the spotless, white Aalborg Noise Jihad's contributors' dress shirts were thusly inscribed: "Folklore and Gunnery" (Marquis Konspirator); "Astragalus und Oxytropis!" (Luca Brasi's Revenge); "I was a self-willed mushrooming sheltie!" (Kummerlige Forhold); "My straw hat mingles..." (MaaletHelligerMidlet666). Dodge a kick in the bleeding cosmococcic fucking spark! (Bronze casts of the fans of this CD are on display in the apron pockets of the fair and fluent of inert slag...)

"Arms! Words wine and oil, and curd, eager droppings..."

Monumentally Retarded: The Burping Turds Retrospective Compilation (on, keep up, children, the ever, uh, duckbespoken, quacksprecht-besotted Burping Turds imprint) is an absolute, a maggot in a cherry, a minimal skeleton to the flesh of idiot sp**ch. And frequently very goddamned funny. "Tardacious Medley" is standard-issue, Scotch brand, ahh, detournment (BURP!), doubled in the fourth in quasi-organum, in double canon in contrary motion ignoring tonal centers, metrical conflicts, HILARIOUS at the apex and foothills of the more off-handed scab forms. Sportscreme is a devastating band name; "John Lennon Stuffed Seven Irish Setters in Frank Sinatra's Pussy," the lone contribution of the Saginaw-based moron cabal, is perhaps less inspired, but nonetheless enjoyably enervating. I'd sign each of the glorious feebs appearing on this CD to long-term, aggressively binding major label contracts; why shouldn't Tittyfuck a Volkswagen have the opportunity to vibe with Emilio Estefan?

"And clanking arms, a wood-burning car, small platter of train after train!"

Oh my... Seems poor Mason Jones scanned a few of the less-fetid pages from the Mnemonists and Peach of Immortality playbooks, got himself drafted to a fifth-tier Texas League farm club with single-A pretensions, enrolled in an dodgy summer skills camp (Photoshop Type Tool Blunders and You!), emerged from the showers (where he refused to remove his mortarboard, emblazoned as it was with de rigueur Mainline screenprint logo) and went deep into schmavant mainstream drone lanes, seeking hot, spiraling portent. If the painfully slo-mo evidence of Jones' Midnight in the Twilight Factory CD is to be believed, then it appears that the diluted clamor mogul has once again dropped the fucking pill. ("Wire-wrapped strings can be scraped with knife blades, strings can be plucked with the fingers, fingernails, back issues of Unsound, or a variety of plectra." - Henry Cowell, 1637) Some okay moments on the Monotremata release; a muted beeswarm here, a creaking barn door elsewhere, a comfort in mummified syntagma, a basic understanding of dead and dying tongues, snoutless platypus snufflings. But, yeah, POI did it with more, er, humanity (a rebarbative, amyl nitrate ethos; clitoral impressions on rice paper), and Biota did it with admirable consonance. Midnight is too fanatically insipid; would it kill this miserable cunt to listen to at least ONE Gilbert O' Sullivan album? Snooze templates for Franklin Bruno chin-counting contests. (The back cover candy thing is kinda nice...)

"Arms livened neither with outraged eyes nor bloody dressing gown..."

And gilt beech bark falls from the laminated sepals of the pores of The Town Dandies, whose sumptuous My First Stampede CD destroys everything ever fucking recorded, including Pope Pius IX's 1902 wax cylinder recitation of "Ave Maria," the unissued Miklos Gemirzky edit of Stealers Wheel's Ferguslie Park, and assorted mid-period Merton Parkas b-sides, especially the "Vespa sans-culotte" Hal Russell collab. Remove those yellowed bridges and mouth this imperfectly formed (yet oddly sapid) enterococal corpus: "Haircuts Now!" induces paroxysms of near-ineluctable joy, as does the exquisite "Balloons for Sale" (which wouldn't have been forlornly miscast within the monochromatic gatefold of a mid-70s Portuguese boot of A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing demos). "Manly Footwear" and "Out Here" exalt tonal shamelessness with baffling, exhilarating (sl)ease, and the estrogen-patched "Hartley Brothers" (bravo!) projects Udo Kier's head onto Dack Rambo's grout-tiled shoulder as they and a less-contestably fused Ray Milland/Rosie Greer trade Polydor-era Keef Hartley jibes whilst blasting rotten cedar sandwich boards from an imagined, aboriginal AIP wardrobe trailer. Geoff Ellsworth's pipes are thus distressed period quack cure placards shielding $500 per ounce aquifers, and Steven McElroy's mattes are wrought with a wizened delicacy that should readily appall most MSBR mailing list members. The ’98 B2E release is still pretty goddamned ripe: there's a too-well-tanned pathologist in New Canaan shouting "Litotes? Li-to-tes?," and from the breast pocket of his ochre and turquoise Greg Norman Collection PlayDry moisture-wicking polo blouse fall five lipgloss-smeared Wells Fargo traveler's checks, each with the following inscription: "I'm sorry I borrowed The Virtues..." He smiles, wipes the soot from his collar, and weeps softly to Stampede's "Moustache Country." As should you, you fucking brute.

"Their legs (perhaps plunged in the heath), their arms (of shrouded hearse-horses), arses of worm-red pitch and leggings!"

I suppose that one should be at least perfunctorily grateful for Gravitar's ineptly-limned You must first learn to draw the real CD compendium, as it nests far more than its share of disarming insinuations amid stoner psych-jam sophistry, or mimesis, or semaphore, or stubborn refusal to evict its lesser, compulsive self from leeched, rock-salt shale. A daring, folk-fanged pout of denial, Harry Truman on the scabbed, splintered, black-blood knuckle of Mount St. Helens' obliterative fist of pressure - his dental work merges with the tree line as air becomes liquid and Monotremata closet space violently retracts. Doomed, but surprisingly spry on the fifth and sixth auditions; "U.R.R." foists Hedy Lamarr's endocrine-print Extase chemise atop a Jasper Johns Ballentine bronze of Michael Shrieve...

"Arms of Denmark Eight, crushed 'neath weight of mammoth Dressler tribute scribe..."
There's no way to convey the greatness of Life Is Splendid, the near-complete and completely fucking staggering, untransmissibly ecstatic document of the Sun Ra Solar Myth Arkestra at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. So I shan't waste anyone's semi-precious time, except to note that this Total Energy CD redeems Mr. John Sinclair for all that woeful White Panther nonsense (and the Up comp!), and that June Tyson delivers... no, just fucking smacks you in the Kuiper Belt with a volcanic performance that rates with the first two (pre-Mute) Galas albs, Calas' Tosca (EMI CD57 47 175-8), Ut's less-decorously forged (i.e., non-Albini) efforts, Dan Automator's recent Vitamin C remixes, etc. Go!!

"Unsung ancestral swarms, crushed thoracic cushions, and mirrored arms, retrograde inversions..."

And a matrilineage framed in terms of the hostility produced by the threat of ambiguities both disagreeable and perversely desirable... Nick Cain shall extend no embrace to the binary fecundities exuded in God's Girlfriend's sterling Whore Damage CD, but then he's never taken the official Cadence Roswell Rudd butt plug all the fucking way to Breton's thermite-lashed laugh-lines, non, mes amis? We fear no penetrations; Hell's torments are reserved for the unblinking. Free-glam enthusiasts seeking ermine-drenched Eros (or at least a Fad Gadget/Lyubov' Popova cage match) should pray for such thorny symbol forests. Simultaneously threadbare and programmatically ideal, Brigit Brat's impossible automatisms evoke the inexorable swagger of 'shroomed-out eyebrow dye confabs, suffused with the coarse cosmetic/cosmococcic realities of poor diet and scabby knees which never seem to mend. An excellent album, the bulk of which was recorded many drag lives ago ('91-'96). Doth Ms. Brat yet breathe? The agreeably garish Tinman issue reveals little, and I unreservedly recommend "Bones," "Octavia Sings," the lot. Why? 'Cuz I can deal with industrial-goth apertures when they induce anaphylactic splendor (viz. Gary Numan's astonishing 1998 Exile alb). Bill Callahan is the real faggot, of course...

Joyce, Wake (i.): "This is seriously meant. Here is a homelet not a hothel. That's right, old oldun!"

Ten billion style points immediately subtracted from Molasses' not-so-impermeably austere, yet dutifully affecting, habitually lovely (yup), and goddamned insufferable you'll never be well no more CD; the absurd labyrinth of home-tooled and screen-printed folds, ties and envelopes had me aching for a fucking Bob Seeger longbox, and snuffed every particle of desire I might have harbored for the (er) Fancy release. After a month or two I returned to the disc, and observed the following: Scott Chernoff has a laudably assured sense of mise-en-phase, and perhaps the least sympathetic lead voice since Bernardo Lanzetti (Chocolate Kings-era Premiata Forneria Marconi, and subsequently a songwriting partner of Amos Garettt's; a notable composition appears on Alan Stivell's Renaissance of the Celtic Harp 3: The Adam Kidron Sessions); Norsola Johnson and Thierry Amar's backing vocals on "Five Hundred Miles from Baltimore" could scarcely be improved upon, and although Xenakis' 1976 Retours-Windungen (for Twelve Celli) blows the fuck out of Mike Heron's '74-ish Smiling Men with Bad Reputations, the mouth-watering "Baltimore" hook effortlessly blasts the desiccated shit(e) whorls from the cheaply stapled seams of my own band's misbegotten Vedder Vedder Bedwetter; Chernoff's "Sleeping Pill Blues" vocal (with slight and quite likely maligned snarl!) is thankfully more atavistic; Molasses would slay on a November caravan tour of The Midlands. Compere? An animatronic Mel Lyman, natch!

"Stunted aaaAaAAaRrRRRRrmMmssSss in parallax, lesser logismos, whitey whitey kay, in every fucker's way!"

In Greek, the renunciation was called the apotaxis and the submission to Christ the syntaxis... In spite of ruthless hashhouse operators, among vices mutually contradictory in practice, the stews still wear striped pajamas. Case in point? Asshole, and their eponymous 1998 CD on Brooklyn, New York's likely sundered Yeehaw imprint (catalogue number smut002): tawdry, yes; sorrowful, assuredly so. Offensive? The contention is fairly posited, but the conclusion is pretty obvious... And applicable in the obverse for Blaise Sivula and Donald Miller's Glass Factory CD-R on Lincoln, Nebraska's tenacious, wearily orthodox Last Visible Dog boutique. Mr. Sivula is a particularly adamant improviser, and Mr. Miller's sixteen decades of service with Dutch academic art cabal Thee Magnanimous Cuckolds are all too well documented. Although the sounds recorded for Glass are occasionally compelling as chronology (the accrual of raccoon-piss calderas atop Doric capitals of wasp droppings), one must in fairness note that the wave forms produced by a snore, an oscillating Emerson Essential Collection 36" Northwind ceiling fan, and a simmering kettle of vanilla-spiked TheraFlu are rather regrettably similar... And neither bolstered by the non-standard narrative ambivalence nor repelled by the untenable verisimilitude of 400 Blows, at least as exhibited within their self-titled Total Annihilation CD. It ain't Ernst's Au-delà de la peinture, and it's not even a faded Jean Gruault autograph from the L’Enfant Sauvage wrap party, but it’s fucking emancipated, and the resurrected archaisms of these probably too contemplative second-unit Léaud stand-ins rock my nitrate-slathered frame enlargements from The Big Combo. (Ditch the v/o jazz, lads, or lay down 256 tracks of it; the middle ground breeds Chris Knox fan club treasurers.)

"Arms, syrinx-like, spring-blooming bulbs of Miró's loom..."

Cable cars have added excitement to the climax of many a film adventure, notably Administrative Error, The Journey Took No Fewer Than Thirteen Days, The Doctor Noticed That the Sounds Had Stopped, The Better to Denounce Their Fraudulence, I Am One of Those for Whom Crying Is a Joy, But Not Before Duly Affixing His Initials, and King Vidor's curious 1942 lamentation The Vogue for Phrenology Was Then at Its Height. Land of Thin Dimes provided a s/t soundtrack for Phrenology's resolutely charmless, "contemporary" prequel, Could I Skim My Pots and Go Over My Butchers' Accounts? (Toadophile CD, 1999); if frat ragas as bag-assed as "A Dynasty That Never Was" or "Nitronics" are any indication, then these benign guitar-store madonnas have indeed taken to rifling the moldier reaches of the Primus/Flecktone ice-box, and at all hours... Whilst making the TLASILA Channel crossing in 1998 with Gregory Chapman, Andrew "Andy Bolus" Bullock, and Rat "Frank Falestra" Bastard, I was seized by an intractable desire to crack the then-burgeoning electronica market. As we slumped glumly in the arguably less garish of the ferry's two cafeterias, I produced a recorder and, with Mr. Bolus' able assistance, mic'd first a knife rattling atop our table, and then a packet of butter. (The results were sent to the Mille Plateaux-associated I Have Not Actually Read Deleuze label, but to no apparent avail.) And I would dare suggest that a three-minute transcription of the latter tape would yield significantly more delights than Zone Tripper's ghastly Friction CD, which unwisely composites a, ahem, kinda dubwise Len Kravitz into the bleak, pig-knuckled lieder of the pitiable Absolut Null Punkt. (Or, Marshall Crenshaw in cobalt Ken Cole pumps fronting Fushitsusha.) In either case, an all-time low for Tzadik, and a monumental embarrassment for timorous, pasty-jowelled mixer Roli Mossiman, who seems scarcely able to manage one track (a sine wave at 4dB, for fucking instance), much less the 64 likely squandered for this abysmal vanity ablution/blow party. Odd, then, that his contributions to the Fraudulence OST (and that of its sister film A Woman of Wit and Talent and an Occasional Playwright) should have seemed so essential... With Screw, the well-intentioned NSW fife and comb combo Scratch My Nose pay tribute to Keith Rowe's beleaguered Doctor Noticed score (reviled by 60s critics, later revived by Jazz Calendar composer Richard Rodney Bennett via abstractions for his serie-noir debacle Johnny Zebgruder), achieving wildly mixed results. The 1997 Oracle CD contains but three tracks, each perforce less declamatory than Bennett's breathless distillations, but assayed with an abject verve at odds with Rowe's Spartan ostinatos. "I Have No Ready Answer," with its pleasantly obtrusive Giselher Klebe samples, is the best of the disordered lot. Their arms assume the appearance of Spes' smooth sumac...

"Arms resort to anecdote, Atlantis '58; baroness (yolk agar), a house of walking swastikas..."

Jayne County's curiously-titled Fuck Off 2000, a semi-sulfurous ode to the 1660 succession of Charles XI of Sweden (and, more specific to its narrative, the '61 Kardis confirmation of the peace of Stolbova) upends busilar membrane resonators altogether and lodges itself within the nuclei of thyrotrophin-secreting basophilic cells, where it is most commonly perceived as a transgendered harridan's stock screed, or, if the listener hails from either Staten Island or Ibiza, a vibrant renovation of Armand Van Helden's incontestably track-suited milieu. But, Jodhpurs, y'know? The a capella mix of the Royalty 12-inch is a ludicrous, irresistible butch-phallic thrill, and the fact that neither The Dire nor Patrick Marley's I Don't Get Out Much will give it a micron of coverage retroactively lends it the weight of a billion gaseous, pink-hued star clusters. Much more satisfying than the Electric Chairs' pitiably bare-bosom'd version... Debase two thousand copies now!

"Sheepberry nanometers! Cramped provocateurs! Arms in ragged, piggish relief! Arms of will of ass-cosmos!"

Towery city and branchy between tow'rs! Bulb has been way fuckin' accurate of late with its Tahiti orange 'n salmon nailgun, what with the Wagnerian-Creole morphemes of Temple of Bon Matin's compulsively luminous Bullet into Mesmer's Brain (which I didn't produce, but mil gracias for the kind synaptic misfires and cedar goblet scaffolds; Ed Wilcox is perhaps the most abundantly au fait of this miscegen-eration's 'vestigators of bright suicide silks and forked chimera's tongues), Mikey Wild and the Magic Lanterns' pineapple puke-caked, Das Plakat/Jugenstil/fetal rat perambulator-approved I Was Punk B4U Were Punk (whose "Stuff My Bunny," "I Am the Crucifier," and the unassailably elegiac "I Was on Dope" annihilate the error-strewn ESP-Disk, Corpus Hermeticum, Blue Note, Columbia Masterworks, and Niflhelm Sacrolumbar catalogues with pitiless élan), Andrew Wilkes-Krier's GO-GO-GO-GO-GO!!! 1971-2009 manifesto Girls Own Juice, which deftly leapt from IRCAM concrété to pink Tennessee marble, incorporating prophetic, Delphic turns from Stanley Clarke and beryllium-brushed Language poet/demobbed sestina John Ashbery, and 25 Suaves' self-titled (and light-blue staining), exceedingly militant roadhog of a fucking GREAT rock CD... "Detroit," "Stones Fan South Carolina," "Diana Ross," and "Phoney Eye" surpass Joey Heatherton's sunless, banana-fig breasts (but only as displayed in Ed Dmytryk's Bluebeard, of course!), and "Allbacks" is better than a quick-eyed Swede's inveterate stabs at Philomela's transformative Sirius song... A different church, suitors, and your waxless ears yield to the maiden-flap lapping of their snug wigwam's galvanometric threnody...

"Through arms, hawk-like rubber plungers as radishes, cloudless curds of Mayo Thompson's lies..."

Impossible to argue with Mascara-Sue's red-wool bonnets, carrots, violent and miraculous perturbations of primkissed, discursive polyp-song; with each of the Biro2 CD's serene discontents, pestilent equivalencies of le p(o)op postiche (the mephitic shuffles of the shitsucking Olivia Tremor Control salon seep slowly to mind) are rendered to foetid husk. Another cardinal yellow head-trapping for the fertilized ovules and alkylating agents of the Dual Plover imprint, to whom we owe trumpeting ciphers of desire and a privileged client's caning for the release of Funky Terrorist's similarly impeccable Beauty Is the Beast CD-5. Although its staves are used only to indicate the pitch of terminal notes (oil of lettuce, Una Señora sin Mancha, rippling forms of cranks, diaphragm-racked), "Okinawa" nonetheless swallows the prick of luxuriant mass and livid joy to the hilt. Ditto "Cocktail Lady," which rises, falls in boiling, strenuously tongued ur-cycles. "2 Scratchy 2 Dance" poses its liquored Origen scales in ambulatory and radiating chapels, and clouded riches are thus devoured, my tumescent, navy-blue wool worms! Fruit heads (Bine, winded Hare, common Chickenbrow) are also used in brewing... American Cherry's gift for painting women and children's portraits at mid-leg, mid-body, sliced longitudinally, as white-footed mice and deer mice is shown at its best in I Y Yang Manu's welcome CD-R reissue of Pretty Wild/Baci Baci Baci. Its Mylar cartouche reflects a crush of black-muzzled pop figures (in Leon slip, a localized Texas glaze), and for "Female Animal," "Mother Fucking Melo Melo," "Opus Pistorum," and the translucent corsets and collars of "Rocking Chair," we must surely extend Caravaggic luxuries of abstraction: pools of available light, mocking, fog-bound airfields.

"Left of left, of left-left-LEFT! Arms of astonishing upper case, East's first nudes; Bosch's constants' cankers!"

Leaving his office in his messenger suit, Sun Ra (descendant of poet Cowper), wading through sinuous, choppy, straggling processionals, laid the basis for centuries of persecution of, er, taboo-breaking Drag City and Kranky artistes. A solitary hussar (in argosy transferr'd), dying among spiders, and with instruments capable of then-undreamt varieties of expression (to shun the heaven that leads men to this hell), H.P. "Sonny" Blount (a herringbone pattern) kept an eternal vigil on the corridors reflected in the mirrors of his heels. And thus the deep armchairs at the DIW imprint have deigned to reissue the Arkestra's delectably dégagé, 1988 Pit-Inn, Tokyo recordings as Cosmo Omnibus Imagiable (sic) Illusion (on both CD and Flat Obedience formats). Your life begins NOW... And awakens to The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt, which is a goddamned amazing recording by anyone's manifestly prefigured standards, seven prose treatises of shocking vernacular fecundity framing ankh-rending collaborations between the Arkestra and Ragab's astounding, jacquard-curtained Cairo Jazz Band and the Cairo Free Jazz Ensemble. Balla's Staircase and Good-byes as divine pathogen, p'rhaps, a vertiginous, inexpressibly sapid and baroque spiral, a bottomless chasm in which ethereal, smiling creatures (polished and detailed horses, a flaming, half-shaven and betressed pilgrim's zodiacal cube, a crescent moon in classical drapery) are disappearing. The Golden Years of Jazz CD features a superb, anomie-snapping essay by Omniverse Sun Ra author Hartmut Geerken; get your asses back in time (May '83) to El Nahar Studio, Heliopolis, and try not to rub your augur's crook over the guest lounge's chair cushions as the engineer rolls playback on "Egypt Strut." The turquoise of his raiment alludes to the colors of Europa's methane-slush sea lanes... Ra swam them all.

"Dragon tree, trunk-thick clusters of orange-fruited arms, "paramour" misread, first water..."

Crossed Out, Slap-a-Ham's eponymous 47-song CD obit of the late (1990-1993) Encinitas, California quartet (purveyors of impromptus, epithalamiums, and madrigaux) merits your attention as a red-rose algae'd bellyache, albeit absent trad side stitching. Hardcore's folk-like meters and ecclesiastical preoccupations ritualize fervor as artisanal objects, and Crossed Out's kiln was loaded for first firing with the clotted distrust of the ballast of graph scores, pitch-to-voltage converters, and devils' eyes as morning stars. Rec room recitations of tracks from their Cloisonné Snuff Bottle of Turquoise Blue and White Enamel Ground with Coral Stopper split (with six-petal'd blossoms Man Is the Oft-Perturbed Indigent) are silver-mirrored ballistae of counterpoised malarial fescue.... Horns' palate clouded? The BOXmedia/Philosophy Shop release of Kazumoto Endo's While You Were Out CD provides a ferry route for Phrygian fathers (and a half-sodden bridegroom's produce parcel) on a 60-hour voyage from Mpulungu, Zambia (its ghost awakened as caricature), to Bujumbura, Burundi (starlets of Ikenga in Number Eleven Fantasies: Singh in Limbs); philosophical nihilism may yet find an ultimate path of salvation in the rituals of laboratory transgression. Endo's dogged insistence that free will must somehow exist, even in a wholly determined universe (the Mancini-esque tropes of the title track, the T-shaped baths of "Last Train to Nishi-Funabashi") saves the "post-n*ise" n*ise impulse from pagan fatalism. And leads, bedizened, to naked inconsistency. Both "Evergreen" and "Boom Boom Roppongi" swing perilously from moyenne bourgeoisie to Suspended Ball marsh, yet prosper on the banks of those chalk circles. But cultured nobodies be damned! Buy two, you (rightfully) cynical fuckers, and support Kazumoto's exotic sunburst ministry. There is color and sonorous force amid the calculated omissions; his leaves are reputed to have laxative properties... Lust spike, Scissor High! Stirling, Scotland's B. Hatleskog began his AD/AA/DAT imprint to declaim the Americanization of beige-grey macrostructures and bowed fields of iron filings. A__D__/A_A/D__AA__T_, the label's subsequent CD-R comp, savors the latency of genre-specific imprecision; Ydmykelse's "Upside Down Egg" feathers, then scolds its associations with lowlife cotton wools and unfashionable emulsions, while Apostels' "Professional Gun," an impenitent ode to the great themes of religion (the Scythian lust for gold, the steady propagation of animal style), resembles, in its magnificent churlishness, the Jethro Tull of Benefit, and by torturous extension Ian Anderson's indifference to Renaissance ideals of beauty, decorum, lobelike arms, and polygonal apses. The flowers of Pan Ten's "Bassssab" are in axillary and terminal umbels; Both Holes' "31399#1" has the soft hue of a slightly hanging belly. Esma's "Action#3" is adopted into an Aberdeen clay clan by dint of its twisted cords and patriarch's daughters' black sleeveless cowldresses (which puzzle over alphabets and Monet's frontal views of rows of poplars). Plastic crinoline white cotton tank-tastic!

"Arms, dissolves, multiple exposures! Arms' irises, deadpan allure!"

Bastard Noise's ascetic traditions go back more than 2,000 years, and the gentle equivocations of The Analysis of Self-Destruction belie their old sofa covers' large horsemen's cloaks. "Death Wish for the Dying" is the album's reverse Borgia Codex, and in the colloquial pleats of its deerskin folds we find the God of Life (Mrs. Hermine H. Turner) seated back-to-back with the Lord of Death ("Christ Receiveth Sinful Men" composer Mrs. Addie McGrannahan, craggy fist clutching a commander's staff of orb-ring'd epicycles). Neither funnel nor bell-shaped, neither white nor pink, neither pale red nor lilac, the Alien8 CD would posit itself as an exploded oil drum, a blotched and bristling pillar. Self-Destruction's rustic stiffness offers us a valuable lesson of the power of restraint; their tea caddy has a double lid and the smallest possible opening... Emil Hagstrom's cs wks 87-97 vol.1 is a surprisingly fine compilation. The Freedom From CD-R release employs hand-manipulated paper cut-outs and oils displaced by styluses; boy-girl narratives give rise to overhead projections of liquid tables, near-lethal bathtub brews. The action of "1" occurs entirely on the ceiling of Jeremy Day's oriole’s elm and twittering, restless clouds; Eric Wivinus remains motionless throughout. In "3," Robin Edgerton, portraying Chippewa captive "Clay-Bank-Curses-In-Her-Brain," is distorted with giant mirrors. Matt St. Germain's woodcuts and engravings achieve a heel-strung dilation and spring-flower’d fluidity of movement in "4," ostensibly an ode to the birth of Hagstrom's daughter Peyote Tryptych. The album concludes with "7," and in its strongly symbolic dance sequences Mr. Hagstrom (aka “Hyacinth Girl”) seems to transcend gravity, reality, half-bushels of ambition and indigestion. Those who groan under the chronic visitations of Stock R.S.V.P. would do well to receive this inexplicably carminative liturgy... "Girl with a Cow and a Ewe 2000," the phantom track mistakenly included with pre-release copies of Glen Hall's Hallucinations: Music and Words for William S. Burroughs, was a trumpet of violent and irregular trumpets, an oxen's firebox eye; daubed up with mud, its chimney-tops covered with sheets of tin to prevent cool-cracking, it was believed by the ancients to be fatal for flies and snakes, slumbering Goliaths at ground-tide. Mr. Hall's quite worthy and râle-perforated Leo CD features the inestimable Roswell Rudd on nine of its 14 tracks; okapis also eat the charcoal of trees burned by lightning… Idiosyncratic Or prexy “Sir John Soane” on the release of his logo's Or Some Computer Music CD: “We watch the log! Thousands never use Law-Law! Whose hand slave? Dollars and the wrong!” Fingers rough from handling noseholes lopped by shameless strokes are contemptuous of the banalities of harmonious synthesis; the album’s squat proportions and voluted Ionic pieties tongue arsenals of wavetrap fetishists' labor-saving spoonfists. Trevor Wishart's "Fabulous Paris," although marred by half-closed long vowels and domes of whitened coals, casts Liotard's Mary Gunning as a small-toothed palm civet. Steven Travis Pope's "Kombination XI parts 1-6" spreads itself atop hedgebanks, moutan and tree peonies, nonpathogenic gram-negative cocci commonly found in the mouths of White Friars. Ubik's muslin mufti "Plex" has been interpreted to reprazent either the establishment of the kingdom of God at the second coming of Christ or the spiritual regeneration (swaying, sprinkling, springing) of papyrus, wax tablets. Able was I ere I saw Kasper T. Toeplitz!

Joyce, Wake (ii.): "Comme bien, Comme bien! Feefeel! Feefeel!"

Screamers' Demos 1977-1978 LP is an astonishing find, Tikal's plundered North Acropolis, an abandoned palace of jade, flint, obsidian, coiled sea fans, incised Mayan deities, rivaling Henry Moore's stage dressings for Don Giovanni, Spoleto, 1967, or the impact of a searing phosphorus shell on Chagall's stained-glass cubes and slide projectors. "I Wanna Hurt" surpasses Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop" in every conceivable measure...

"Arms in Doppler shift, Eve 6's take on the Almagest..."

Neil Campbell and Decaer Pinga's Strobelights to Boston CD-R (Chocolate Monk/Hell's Half Halo) first flourished at Antwerp, A.D. 80, where satraps lay divided by mutual distrust. Cited as "Umasu, who is called Artakshatsu," their primary hosts gave birth to a wingless generation of parthenogenic females known as sexparue (as in the foxglove aphid). Moved by the love of her brother and convinced of the injustice of the removal of the corpse of Polyneices, Dora's prolonged droughts relieved the nausea and vertigo which occurred in fossil arachnids. Neil's mouthparts were subsequently adapted to piercing, sucking, biting, grating, and sawing; Dylan's studies for the silver sulfide Masieri memorial solidified his reputation as the greatest Spanish dance artist (aka "Eye of the Ether") of his generation... Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock collaborate with Dorian Sparta founders Decaer Pinga on the Chocolate Monk/Hell's Half Halo double CD-R rosette Omitting the Troll, and with disc two's "Gimme a Pigfoot & a Bottle of Go Go," Ayrshire's Ailsa Craig is brazenly transformed into a conical, ear-flapped knit-wool gorro rising 1,114 feet above the double copper vases and Bagobo soul-snatchers of Loch Ryan. Disc one's "The Goat Rating Scale" (or "mulga," a dwarf Acacia scrub) resembles the extinguished paschal candle of the Feast of the Touchhole...

Joyce, Wake (iii.): "Crown of the waters, brine on her brow, she'll dance them a jig and jilt them fairly..."

Ten reasons to adore Alva's Slattery for Ungdom CD (Menlo Park): listening to "Sharch of Tearry," one becomes aware of the bones of the earth, the rocks and hills of Cézanne's Road to Aix with Viaduct; "Kill Everyone" is a liquescent Val-de-Grâce, so close in style to the Baroque architecture, bashful blue solvents, and mordant chlorides of 17th-century Rome; the preference in "Charotcha" of strength to elegance arouses violent opposition from the established (and dwarfish) figures of the ancien régime (you know who); the wildly neighing stallions of "Racstasy" prefigure the blatant polychromatics of static Salons from Helsinki to San Francisco; "World of Lonely Afterthou Ght" has a wonderful vigor and dark beauty, reflecting the delight in life (and linguists’ death prayers) shared by Michelle Anderson, Aida Ruilova, and Liza Wakeman; in their fascination with tragicomic-comic conceptions of human destiny, Jove’s paternity (the sons of Dardanus, “Blasted eelgrass!”) ; the use of space and mass in "March to Underneath" suggests an abstraction of Utrillo's pervasive melancholy and the sanguine geometries of Archipenko; the subtly graded depths of "Happysick" recall Serrazin's allegorical bas-reliefs and dramatic, luminous marbles; with harmonies of line and delirious proportion "Ooon Ong" masterfully dissolves into its reflection; "Drabardi" posits its draped and muted foreground figures in the whispering shade of haunted gardens, filled with sensual undertones; the shadowless abstractions of "...." invert bold simplifications redolent of Sérusier, skillfully juxtaposing the synthetic sonorities of the Avant debut with Slattery's violent facets. A breakthrough recording? Was Gide in motherfucking flux?

Tom Smith

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ahhh, Purity...

(Written August 28; posted October 3.)

I'm loving the f*ck out of the Dziga-Vertov Group's snotty-ass Letter to Jane. The 51-minute feature, filmed in 1972 on the frayed threads of a shoestring, can be understood in retrospect as a glaringly cinematic kiss-off to themselves (Jean-Luc Godard and collaborateur Jean-Pierre Gorin), their object of disaffection (the tit-tit-titular Ms. Fonda), the spirit of 1968 (especially as perceived by D-VG and like-minded others), and Western promulgations of radicalism in general. Viewing this austere polemic enduced an extraordinary numbness, later supplanted and exceeded by an overwhelming sense of delight and fulfillment. It was as if Spectacular Optical's "Videodrome" signal had been delivered through the ingestion of a chocolate beignet from NYC's Le Brasserie...

Dormant for eons, now fused to Criterion's luxe edition of Godard et Gorin's Tout va bien, Jane's carcinogens are a must to consume. (Think I'm fuckin' with ya? Think more clearly.)

##

The complete text of Michael Klein's review of Lettre à Jane in the Fall 1973 issue of Film Quarterly. It's not terribly galvanic, and rather dutifully doctrinaire. But he was there, and his persepective, however stilted, is instructive:

Tout va bien concludes by raising new questions about the possibility of viable commitnment by an intellectual to revolutionary struggles. Letter to Jane also deals with this question but in a more direct way, for all vestiges of narration have been stripped away. Instead we are presented with a sustained film-essay or lecture plus images that illustrate Godard and Gorin's states belief that "aesthetics is a category of politics." The films, which sparked fierce debate in the question sessions at the New York (Film) Festival, have apparently been designed as part of a cultural attack on the part of Godard and Gorin, to stimulate discussion on important questions in order to bring about greater clarity as a precondition to what they see as the need for the formation of a new Marxist-Lenist party in France.

Letter to Jane consists of a series of photographs, primarily a photo of Fonda in Vietnam that is recycled numerous times, and perhaps two dozen additional images (from Tout va bien, Vietnam, faces of film stars, etc.). The sound track is a political-stylistic analysis of the image of Fonda in Vietnam, delivered by Godard and Gorin. The film, made in 16mm for $300, lasts an hour, and rivets the spectator's attention.



(Letter's oft-fingered photo.)

In visual terms it is a montage sequence of photographs, at times shifting to a series of primitive wipes (one photpgraph lifted and pulled across the screen to reveal another image). I only recall the camera zooming (slowly) into a photo only once in the film. The space of the film is thus flat and planimetric, as it is in Tout va bien with the exception of the supermarket scene. The lack of spatial depth and the priority given to the sound track heighten the film's illustrative lecture-like quality; the rhythm of the montage works as rhetoric making us focus our attention as we would at a lecture.

Perhaps Godard feels he has taken this approach to its extreme - he has often expressed a desire to get greater depth in his films, to pay attention to the "angle of a shot" as he put it, remarking that this was the greatest lesson that one could learn from Eisenstein. (Not montage, which in spite of Einsenstein's writings was a process that only Vertov really understood.) However it should be stressed that Letter to Jane is, in spite of or because of its cognitive structure, one of the most exciting films Godard and Gorin have made.

The film opens with the key photograph of Fonda in Vietnam which was reproduced in L'Express. Godard and Gorin begin to speak to us: "The film asks the question what part should intellectuals play in the revolution, and many others... the film is a kind of detour that leads us back to ourselves... the spectator must be able to really think and to ask questions."

After this detour the voices come into congruence with the Fonda-in-Vietnam image: "How can cinema help the Vietnamese people win their independence?"

Then for about 20 minutes Godard and Gorin move away from their central subject (which however reamins the major visual image) saying that "we are going to analyze" but not doing so. In part this functions as rhetoric: we become impatient for the analysis, attempt to analyze the photo ourselves, and finally welcome Godard and Gorin's solution, in part simply to order the film. But in this long detour Godard and Goprin also touch on related questions for revolutionaries.

For example the image of Mao and Lin Piao appears on the screen for a brief second or two - the image shocks in its directness for an X has been roughly drawn over the figure of Lin Piao.



(Mao et Lin Piao, sans 'X'.)

On the soundtrack we hear: "Where do correct ideas come from..." The qoutation from Mao stating that correct ideas do not come from heaven (implicitly one's best wishes) is brought into relation with the visual equivalent (the brevity of the shot, the roughness of the X on Lin Piao's face) of Lin's fall, infusing criticism of his "idealism" with the emotions raised by the visceral quality of the image. The audience that will respond will be limited, but for them Godard has succeeded in the realm of "intellectual montage" (sound and image) that Eisenstein often wrote about in a heavy mechanical way.



(A 1974 poster from PRC's delightful "Criticize Lin Piao, Criticize Confucius" campaign. The text alerts the viewer that "The criticism of Lin (Biao) and Confucius is a matter of prime importance for the whole party, the whole army and the people of the whole country".)

After creating this visual-analytic image Godard and Gorin return to analyze the photograph of Fonda in Vietnam. The photograph shows Jane Fonda (left, facing us) listening to (the caption says talking to) a Vietnamese in Hanoi (he faces her, thus his back is to us), and in the background center, slightly out of focus, the face of another Vietnamese man listening.

The film makes the following criticisms:

(1) Although the photo was distributed by the Vietnamese the caption was written by the bourgeois media. The text extends a weakness in the photograph in that it puts Jane Fonda in the foreground and the Vietnamese people in the background, distorting further to say that Fonda is questioning when she is clearly listening.

(2) The photo focuses upon the militant as superstar. It is taken from a low angle, like Welles. The frame's relation to the actress who is looking is not in relation to what in Vietnam she is looking at.

(3) In the photo the image of the Vietnamese cadre in the background is blurred even though in reality the Vietnamese left is clear, and the image of the American militant is clear although in reality the American left is blurred.

(4) The expression on Fonda's face is tragic. This is incorrect for two reasons: the tragedy is in the US not in Vietnam; the expression implies passivity and resignation which are not qualities of the Vietnamese people in struggle.

Godard and Gorin expound upon the implication of her expression. We see photographs of a similar expression on Fonda's face in Tout va bien when she is expressing pity for the workers (deemed insufficient for it denies them the dignity of their struggle), and also in Klute when she asks the detective to have sympathy for her and stay the night. Godard and Gorin then show photographs of a very similar expression on Henry Fonda's face in Grapes of Wrath and Young Mr. Lincoln. (The four images are strikingly alike!)

The Fonda-senior photograph serves in Letter to Jane to raise questions about the adequacy of bourgeois tragedy and the narrative realistic mode in leftwing films. Godard and Gorin link this expression to the New Deal and Popular Front in the thirties. They regard it as an expression "that says I know a lot about things but doesn't say what," for "there is too much information" (feeling?) "in too short a space." This is "the swindle of capitalist art," an expression of pity that can be used mindlessly for any situation, undifferentiated idealist feeling.

[Point well made - TS.]

(5) Godard and Gorin criticize the tragic expression on Fonda's face as lacking content, in comparison to that on the Vietnamese cadre's face, for he suffers the daily tragedies yet continues to respond with strength.

(6) Finally, the key political criticism, stated near the end of the film. Fonda's expression (and the text) is pacifist, saying only "peace in Vietnam" and by implication "peace in America," instead of affirming the heroic Vietnamese people's struggle for independence and unification, and by implication, that of American working and oppressed people against exploitation and oppression.

All of this may seem to some (as it did to many at Livingston College and at the New York Film Festival, where the critics were hostile) to be making too much of a photograph. Yet Godard and Gorin do no more than an accepted stylistic art critic such as (Erwin) Panofsky or stylistically oriented literary critics ([Leo] Spitzer, [Erich] Auerbach) do. It is true however that at times they substitute a "logic" of wit and metaphor for the materialist analysis they advocate, a poetic mode that can as easily be subjective as it can enlighten about history.

However the film does take account of the limits of its analysis - a desire to raise new questions for the future for revolutionaries as well as the present. Thus the film concedes that the North Vietnamese have their reasons for circulating the picture: it is of value in appealing to a certain kind of audience as it is also detrimental for the reasons the film gives. In conversation and in public Godard stressed that had he been invited he would have served in the same way as Fonda.

The film is thus more than topical; the photo of Fonda raises questions not only of her visit to Vietnam but of the nature of revolutionary art, film, and reportage as well as the role of the intellectual and artist in the revolutionary movement.

This is obviously a question that troubles Godard and Gorin. In spite of the achievements of his latest flms Godard said he was anxious in his next work to move on to explore questions of depth, angle, lyricism, and music in film. This and Tout va bien indicate that perhaps Godard will again tap the emotional resources that infused his earlier, more narrative films. (Although Gorin shurgs off inquiries about aesthetic questions that were raised in the thirties, that period may be a key one from which to evaluate their future work.)

Godard and Gorin's most recent films have spoken to Mao's observation that "not having a correct political point of view is like having no soul." And while exploring new aesthetic and political questions they have produced some extraordinary films.

##

Whew! Aside from Klein's comma aversion, not too dreadful. Very much of its time, of course. That last Mao quote certainly gives one pause...

Ultimate moral? When in thrall, you shall fall.

TS

##

Supplementary Lin Piao info from Encyclopedia Britannica:

In late 1958 Lin Biao suddenly began to assume a more active and important role in the army and the party. In September 1959 he succeeded Peng Dehuai as minister of defense, after Peng was ousted for opposing Mao's economic and defense policies. Lin then inaugurated a reformation of the army that both intensified the political education of its soldiers and upgraded their military training. As a result, Lin's army in the early 1960s became an example of how, according to Mao's teachings, professional expertise could be combined with political consciousness, and the army even became a model for the rest of society, including the party itself, to emulate. This movement to “learn from the People's Liberation Army” eventually developed in 1965 into the extensive purge of the party known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, whose principal casualty was Liu Shaogi, the party organizer who for more than 20 years had been Mao's second in command. In August 1966 the 58-year-old Lin Biao replaced Liu as the future successor to Mao; this position was formalized in April 1969, when Lin was so designated by the new constitution. From 1966 to 1971 the army effectively took over the role previously played by the party in ruling China.

By 1971, however, Lin and the army may have amassed more political authority than Mao thought desirable. In a desperate move to avoid being purged, Lin and others of the military high command plotted a coup that failed. The Chinese government later announced that Lin Biao was killed on Sept. 13, 1971, in an airplane crash in Mongolia as he was fleeing to the Soviet Union after having plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate Mao. Since then he has been posthumously criticized as a rightist reactionary and a traitor to the cause of Chinese Communism. Speculation that Lin was in fact assassinated by the Chinese leadership was reinforced in 1990 when Mongolian officials cast doubt on the Chinese government's claim that Lin had been among those killed in the 1971 airplane crash. The actual circumstances of Lin's death—and of the power struggle that immediately preceded it—remain an unresolved mystery in the history of Communist China.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hog Heaven (Is a Place Where David Byrne Never Happened)

(Written August 27, posted October 2.)

I am nostalgic for socialism. I've walked the streets of its northern redoubts, combed through the detritus scattered in the wake of its slow desiccation in the East. Believe me, in those distant, inclement zones where ideals persist, folks live better than us. (Maybe even in Cuba, despite crippling shortages of Chanel Précision Ultra Correction Serum.) They have less stuff, granted, and each citizen is taxed a kidney to fund the weaving of the social welfare web, but they enjoy bountiful arts budgets, longer vacations, better (though considerably less prolonged) sex, much nicer restaurant ambience, and the satisfaction derived from begrudgingly providing crucial services for the aimless, pitiful, downtrodden, and malcontent.

America could have become this sort of demi-paradise if everything hadn't gone to shit in 1969. Fucking Nixon. Fucking Reagan...

In remembrance of foiled futures, First Run Features have released The DEFA Sci-Fi Collection, a restored, unedited trio of East German outer-orbital melodramas that put the ZOOM back into Communism. (If retrospection foists a caul atop one's senses, then please, call me Sugar-Coated Comrade Josef Bonham. Limbless though I may be, my erection has yet to abate. I've been looking for these films for a long time.)

Kurt Maetzig's Der Schweigende Stern (The Silent Star), which for decades drifted through sub-portals of American pop consciousness as First Spaceship on Venus (in a mangled, expurgated version, bereft of context and nuance, though still oddly compelling), kicks as much ass as it did when I first watched it 2,000 years ago at the bottom of a crazed double bill at the Cook Theater in Adel, GA. (It was paired with The Brass Bottle, a wan Tony Randall vehicle which may have been the basis for NBC's I Dream of Jeanie. Ideological incompatibility was the least of BB's faults, and perhaps its sole virtue.)



Why was DEFA so awesome? State-run. Massive budgets for films that would have been relegated to exploitation status in the West. Sick sets and special effects. Hot blonde scientists, not just hot blonde moon maidens. (Or, in the case of Der Schweigende Stern, a ball-twisting, no-nonsense researcher portrayed by Nippon hottie Yoko Tani.) And, most importantly, coolness in infinite supply.



The other films in the set, Hermann Zschoche's taut 1972 cosmo-realist procedural Eolomea and Gottfried Kolditz's 1976 sehr fremd huh?-fest Im Staub der Sterne (In the Dust of the Stars) also merit your attention, and make increasingly insistent demands on mine.

Would that any of this could have been... Finland is colder than Jack Abramoff's inert, faux-obsidian soul, but it (or its neighbors) remains a likely destination for yours truly. As for the remainder of the day, I'm glued.

Best,

TS

Friday, August 26, 2005

To Live and Shave in L.A.: Quasar-Mottled Update

Here's what's been happening: Marky-Mark Morgan performed a solo gig at Tommy's Tavern in Brooklyn on the 24th (no reports yet from the site of the massacre); Andrew Wilkes-Krier is making a handful of detailing tweaks on the Noon and Eternity paint job; Fleming, Wolcott, Bastard and Grier are their usual, preoccupied nogoodnik selves; honorary Shaveling T. Moore is probably juggling one overripe melon and a pair of sputtering chainsaws; TS continues to shake off jetlag while working out details of the forthcoming TSSR release sked.

TLASILA may yet tour Europe in November; US/Canadian dates are possible in December. Noon drops in February. Consult Menlo Park Recordings for further details.

Best,

ommyth

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Turkish Massage (with a Brandy Chaser)

Still on Marmaris/Moscow jetlag time, but the bio clock is slowly winding 'round to EST.

A holiday recap:

August 5, 2005

Delta flights delayed.



(Excitement at the Delta gate, August 5, 2005.)

Land at La Guardia; had to take a shuttle to JFK to make the connecting Aeroflot jet. Shuttle very late. Make it to Aeroflot counter at Kennedy with minutes to spare. Manage only three hours of sleep.



(Mid-Atlantic tedium, courtesy of Aeroflot. At least their food is decent, and the alcohol always flows...)

August 6, 2005

Arrived at Sheremetyevo-2. Elvira cowered behind a column, grinning maniacally. The taxi service failed to show, although scores of touts approached us. We took a mini-bus to Tverskaya Ulitza (Moscow's main drag), and booked a room at the decrepit Hotel Minsk. (For visa registration.) Hit the Metro for a trip to Yaroslavl Vauxhall. Grabbed Elja's luggage from storage, and headed over to Dennis Devchenko's new flat. We bought alcohol. We drank in the park for several hours. We slept on Dennis' floor. Hard parquet, but otherwise, bliss.



(Elvira Solodkaya spooling southward on a Metro escalator, August 6, 2005.)

August 7, 2005

Returned to the Minsk in time for checkout. Visited a travel agent. They didn't take credit cards. Took the Metro to Marina's flat in Moscow's northwestern suburbs. A six floor walk-up, home for the remainder of our stay. An annoying menagerie of pets. (With fleas.) Marina was a poor pet owner, but a semi-gracious hostess. I sort of slept, still weary from the ten-hour flight and the crosstown schlepping. (And the many years, er, hours of drinking we'd already put behind us.)

August 8, 2005

Realized I've forgotten my passport after leaving Marina's flat. A drag, since you can't book a flight with Russian travel agents without all your goddamned documents. Headed back to Marina's apartment, retrieved the passport, and took a third stab at booking the excursion. Found an agency on Tverskaya. Booked a holiday to Marmaris. We had to stay up all night, as our flight left for Dalaman from Domodedovo too fucking early in the AM. Got maybe ten minutes of sleep in the second floor passenger lounge, but in retrospect, no complaints. I saw things very few people (from America, at least) ever have the opportunity to witness. Really want to fly Air Siberia, and soon.

August 9, 2005

Stocked up on fragrances and booze at Domo duty-free. At least we won't smell like abject drunks in Turkey. We flew VIM Aero to Dalaman; many of our fellow passengers were getting shit-faced on the flight. One was fined 1,000 rubles (about $32) for drinking to excess. (He downed a quart of vodka, then got stupid.) I shot video of a black butterfly as it fluttered about the cabin. It landed on the face of the male flight attendant during coffee service! Amazing... As soon as the dazzling Mediterranean coastline came into view, spirits soared.



(Marmaris: okay, I suppose, but it's no Harrisburg.)

We dashed through the visa queue ($20, all comers), and pressed beyond passport control into the terminal, past the doors onto Turkish soil. Dalaman was scorching; brilliant light, a cloudless sky. Found seats aboard the hotel bus, and began the 200 kilometer trip to Marmaris. Mosques everywhere. I felt glorious, intensely alive.

So wonderful to be in a country with no fucking Christians.

A rugged, heavily forested landscape. Hairpin curves, dramatic valleys. Anticipation mounted... Yes! Marmaris was, as advertised, a paradise on Earth. (Albeit a slightly overdeveloped one.) We checked into the Mersoy, unpacked our beach clothes, and for the next eight days alternated between the pool, the Mediterranean, and the hotel bar.



(TS luxuriates in the hotel AC after another scorching 100-degree morning. Bananas were once relatively rare in Turkey. They're still commonly referred to as "money." Snap by ES.)

In between, Dalyan/Kaunos, Bar Street (astonishing), and strange offerings on local television.



(Elja, relaxing on Dalyan's astounding Turtle Beach... You have no way of knowing how fantastic the place is until you see it for yourself. Pic TS.)

Constant video play of Crazy Frog's "Axel F" remake. (Why is the little CGI dude's dick censored in the American version?)



(Ubiquitous, retarded, but never annoying, "Axel F" ruled Turkish satellite channels. Wish I'd created it...)

The sun was incredibly intense. No clouds, ever. Always beautiful. Bastards!



(TS and ES sneaking through the palms, Marmaris, Turkey, August 15, 2005.)

Eight days of splendor, then...

August 16, 2005

We set the Wayback for Moscow.



(A final flash of sunlight from Marmaris. Can't wait to get back there... Photo by ES.)

Weather was as balmy as it was on the Mediterranean. Chill at Marina's after washing off the travel grime.

August 17, 2005

Hit Red Square: GUM, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb. Forgot to bring the stupid visa registration stamp; busted. Two Metro cops shook me down for a small bribe. Corruption is overt, conducted with a smile. Afterwards, we took a bus tour of the city just for the hell of it. Best weather I'd ever seen in the capital, and I've been visiting there since 2002... We called Dennis for one last round of carousing and conversation. Autumn fell; temps dropped into the mid teens (approx. 50 F). A final night with Elvira.

August 18, 2005

No time for protracted farewells at Sheremetyevo - the goddamned flight began to board as soon as we hit the terminal. Lots of kisses; Elja was crying... We'd realized our relationship had come to its end. Too many obstacles, too much distance. Bittersweet, worth every second, long sighs, etc.

Flew into JFK. Took a cab to Newark. Late evening flight to Hartsfield-Jackson...

August 19, 2005

Back in the USSA.

---

That's it. A great holiday, despite the melancholy outcome. (No regrets, etc.) I'll likely see Russia again in November. Turkey? A sure bet.

Best,

TS

Mainstreaming...

Broke down today and bought those new Rhino two-disc reissues of The Stooges and Fun House. I'd already downloaded them, of course, but sometimes you just have to pay tribute. Save for a brief demo of "Loose," there's nothing new on the Fun House release (that is, if you've already absorbed the contents of the R. Handmade seven-disc box), but the second disc of The Stooges made this long-desiccated dog salivate. Original Cale mixes, alternate Ig vox etc. Great (full-length) mixes of "Ann" and "No Fun" seal the goddamned deal. Bliss, albeit short-lived, returns.



(Jimmy y Ron en acción, 1969. Snap by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archive, as found within Rhino's new 2-CD reissue of The Stooges.)

---

Until we again collide,

TS

Monday, August 22, 2005

Moog Bites the Envelope, Soul Tweaked with "Tarkus" Filter

I've always hated Stereolab. I hated them first, hated them better, hated them far more fervently than you.



TS

Sunday, August 21, 2005

DVD Only Seven Short Prosthetic Skips from WOW...

0. WOW
1. XPX
2. YQY
3. ZRZ
4. ASA
5. BTB
6. CUC
7. DVD

But not entirely wowed by the latest Russki haul. Most very poorly scanned, transferred from hoary VHS prints, hobbled with crap-ass menus, etc. But, of course, of inestimable historical import, etc. (Wake me in an hour.)



In an ill humor for the third (or thirtieth) consecutive day. Sleep patterns skewing toward 21:00 collapse and 04:00 resuscitation. Brain in supercollider mode, however.

Holiday recap on the way.

TS

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Dreaded Thousand Centimeter Stare

Goddamned jet lag! Hopping aboard the fiery Amtrak Somnambulant every few hours, but conductors refuse to punch my ticket. My head's stuck at the Mersoy bar in Marmaris, and my ass continues to walk up Tverskaya Ulitza. Elja was crying at Sheremetyevo-2; that last kiss must have poisoned soft tissues. Peering a hole through the Samsung...

TS

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Lesser, More Annoying Variety of Jet Lag...

Made it back yesterday. Sleep (again) all fouled, still on Marmaris/Moscow time. Checked into a hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson, cranked down the A.C. to polar levels, drank a quart of green apple algae protein goo, and... Not even Bob Costas could put my brain to bed. Drove south through appalling rain, and now that I'm home I'm too jittery to snooze. Fuck it. I've no reason to complain. Turkey was splendid, and Russia was enveloped in a delightfully balmy shroud... I'll sleep later.

More reports as consciousness returns.

TS

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Грахданский Кодекс в Москве...

Sitting in the suburban Moscow study of Marina, a friend of Elvira's... Dennis Devchenko (IVB Recs) has just walked in with a revolver. Everything is normal. More later.

TS

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Not Quite Bourke-White #10



(The final outrage. Chris Grier conjures his inner Rodchenko to create this bleak portrait. Cheers, matey! From TLASILA's stand at Providence's Safari, September 17, 2004.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Not Quite Bourke-White #9



(Another woeful Mark Morgan snap by TS, après le petit déjeuner, September 14, 2004, somewhere way out the fuck in our morbidly obtuse heartland.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Not Quite Bourke-White #8



(Mark Morgan at the Flywheel, Northampton, MA, September 16, 2004. Photo by TS. The prosecution slumps.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Not Quite Bourke-White #7



(Don Fleming, captured with preternatural insensitivity, September 11, 2004. The culprit, again, TS.)