Monday, December 19, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I'm listening to an old Beck tape I found recently as I drive my Crown Vic to the D Note. I forgot just how good early Beck can be. I'm listening to Stereopathetic Soul Manure. I can't believe how sad it is either. There are very few songwriters I know who can deliver sadness as beautifully as Beck. Will Oldham, Jeff Mangum come to mind. This may be the reason these are my favorite songwriters. It is a true alchemical gift they possess, turning pain into beauty.

I don't even know I am sad as I'm driving down the road listening to early Beck, but suddenly I am exquisitely sad. It is unbearable to be here, and yet the music reveals an utter beauty that can be found only inside such sadness as this and so for the moment there is nowhere else I want to be. I am basking in the darkness, on the sharp point of heart-break. Though emotions are ephemeral, when they crystallize into song it feels as authentically true as any feeling I know of, perhaps because it is loneliness itself that is being shared.

An artwork comes to mind: Spend a year amassing 10,000 pages of the saddest stories I can find. Print the work in ten ten-volume sets. Call it "The Horror".

The following year put out another ten ten-volume sets of 10,000 pages of the happiest stories I can find. Call it "Unicorn Chaser".

If happiness is the ostensible objective of life, the pursuit thereof, then why does the time spent immersing myself in the sad stories seem more productive than time spent with the happy stories? It doesn't quite add up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Magic Trip: Ken Kesey and Merry Pranksters

It was great to see this film released several years after reading Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-aid Acid Test. It brought the characters to life in a way only a documentary film can. I remember reading the book and wishing there were more pictures of the Pranksters.

As much as I enjoyed the film, it did not spark my imagination in quite the same way as the book. On the flip side the book could not capture the reality nearly as well as the film.

Personal side note: After a Rave-like festival in downtown S.F. in the mid nineties (DJ'd by Perry Ferrel!) I found myself helping Ken Kesey push the Further bus to get it started in the rain at 4am in the morning. I remember asking Kesey if we were indeed pushing the original Further bus. This seemed poignant to me at the time because I realized I was as old as the bus was. Kesey didn't answer, but just looked at me and said nothing, as if the answer to my question didn't matter.

As Kesey says in the film, one thing that bothered him: "Reporters who wrote down the hand-painted destination sign as 'Farther.' It’s 'Further'. 'Farther' is about passing a certain measurable distance. 'Further' is about pushing past some invisible limit."

Gopnik, Adam: "The Dragon's Egg": New Yorker essay

Adam Gopnik gives a great overlay of fantasy for young adults in this week's New Yorker. He gives great insight into the success of Twilight, Eragon and The Lord Of The Rings.

"Books win their audiences for a reason. Most popular books wear their artlessness on their sleeve: Stpehenie Meyer, the author of the "Twilight" series, is an awkward writer with little feeling for construction, but the intensity of emotion with which she imbues her characters is enviable. You never doubt her commitment to the material, which is half the battle won."


"one might mock--one does mock--the master of what is, after all, mere mock history. But the fantasy readers' learned habit of thinking historically is an acquisition as profound in its way as the old novelistic training in thinking about life as a series of moral lessons. Becoming an adult means learning a huge body of lore as much as it means learning to know right from wrong. We mostly learn that lore in the form of conventions; how you hold the knife, where you put it, that John was the witty eatle, Paul the winning one, that the North once fought the South. Learning in symbolic fomr that the past can be mastered is as important as learning in dramatic form that your choices resonate. (!)

Hearts Of Darkness

Today finally watched the documentary behind Apocalypse Now. I've been meaning to watch it for years, but finally got around to watching it after Abed on the sitcom community uses it as an example of a documentary that is better than the original movie.

This seems apt. It reminds me of the Les Blanc's documentary Burden Of Dreams about the making of Werner Herzog's Fitcarraldo.

In both films you see an all out commitment to art that goes beyond the ordinary. Both documentaries function as a symbol of the making of art itself.

And in both unyielding perseverence in the wilderness is a key trope. However, great as the Coppolas' result is, Blanc and Herzog's was even better.