Saturday, October 31, 2009

Currently listening to...

...the driving, spooky "Spellbound" by legendary Siouxsie and the Banshees.

"From the cradle bars comes a beckoning voice/
It sends you spinning, you have no choice/
You hear laughter cracking through the walls/
It sends you spinning, you have no choice"

"And don't forget: when your elders forget/
To say their prayers/
Take 'em by the legs/
And throw 'em down the stairs."
Happy Halloween

Just finished reading...

...YEAR'S BEST SF 6 Edited by David G. Hartwell

A 2000 collection of thought-provoking science fiction/ social fiction short stories. Many of them, whether directly or indirectly, feature the looming reality of genetic engineering, shortened to "gen-eng" in some stories. This collection also features a nice Ursula Le Guin creation called "The Birthday of the World."

Recommend? Sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The same place...

“Of course if a person looked at his life from above, he could see the whole thing for what it was; he’d only feel lost while he was living it, when he still hadn’t figured out that it was in fact a maze and that both the way in and the way out led to the same enormous empty place surrounding it.”
--Kathryn Davis, in her novel THE THIN PLACE

"True fullness seems empty
yet is fully present."
--Lao Tzu

"There is every reason to believe that there is a certain point within the mind from which life and death, the real and the imaginary, the past and the future, the communicable and the incommunicable the high and low are no longer perceived contradictorily."
--Andre Breton

BEAUTY: Clothing--Ann Demeulemeester

Ann Demeulemeester is my new favorite fashion designer. Her Menswear F/W '09-'10 show speaks to another era: Romantic, Bohemian, still masculine.

Music That Makes Me Cry

A recent open thread on a blog I follow asked "What songs make you cry?"
The answers ranged across musical genres, and some people even said that there is no music that makes them cry.

Music is so essential to my life and expresses so much that is ephemeral and transcendent.

Here is my list:

“Moments of Pleasure” by Kate Bush—This song makes me WEEP, especially at the end where she recounts all the people who are gone.

“Watching You Without Me” by Kate Bush—A devastating song from HOUNDS OF LOVE… part of the NINTH WAVE, a story about a girl who fell through the ice while skating and is trapped, encountering her last moments of life. In this song, she has a vision of her loved one at home, waiting for her, wondering why she is not home yet, why she is late. This is holy music.

“A Coral Room” by Kate Bush—Yet another Kate song that makes me WEEP. This one is about the grieving process after the death of a loved one (her mother in this song).

“Secret World” by Peter Gabriel—Sad, plaintive musings on the destruction of a relationship.

“The Feeling Begins” by Peter Gabriel—The incredibly powerful opening theme to the film THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.

“Gravity” by Rickie Lee Jones—Heavy emotional piece about feeling isolated, and how sometimes nothing makes sense.

“The Headmaster Ritual” by The Smiths—Because I lived it. (Read the lyrics.)

“The Letter” by Kristin Hersh—About a break with reality, filled with such despair and agony.

“Little Rough Rhinestone” by Soft Cell—“I never knew sorrow could hit me this way/ I once had a friend but he moved away/ And even my mother when she turned on me/ Couldn’t put emotion like this in me.” Wow.

“Svefn-g-englar” by Sigur Ros—Rolling Stone magazine said “If heaven had a house band, it would be Sigur Ros,” who make music of such cosmic beauty and intensity. This song never fails to wring a tear.

“Track One” from ( ) by Sigur Ros—Another cosmically enormous ditty—the high falsetto at the end of the song when that crescendo happens is like voices of universal compassion crying for all of us.

“Hejira” by Joni Mitchel—Well, just listen to it. I mean, really... with lyrics like "We all come and go unknown/ Each so deep and superficial/ Between the forceps and the stone," how can you NOT cry?

“Coming” by Jimmy Sommerville—Yet another cosmically enormous song about birth, life, death, existence. From Sally Potter's brilliant film ORLANDO starring the heavenly Tilda Swinton.

“Cornfield” by Michael Nyman—From the soundtrack to the Peter Greenaway film PROSPERO’S BOOKS.

The Barber Adagio…

“Move On” and “Sunday” which is the final piece from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE by Sondheim... the glorious finality of it...

“Symphony #3, Op. 36, 1st movement” by Gorecki—It rises from the depths of nothingness, shows us the kernel of the universe, and descends back into nothingness. Truly holy.

“Music was invented to confirm human loneliness.”
--Lawrence Durrell

Currently listening to:

...the somber, chilly "Hayling" by FC Kahuna.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Maurice Sendak--A Fiction"

Maurice Sendak--A Fiction

5 A.M., Ridgefield, Connecticut,
that steel morning light.
The electric transformers,
towering like fairy tale giants,
feet planted in the ground
yet stomping across fields
on the horizon--
did they come from a dream
or from
one of your books?
I can see them
through the kitchen window.
I smell
coffee and citrus.
“Did you feed
the dogs yet?”

In the afternoon,
we walk
and you say
the planets are like
children on a playground,
chasing each other
in circles.

At night,
you write a story
on the sheets.
It starts on the pillow,
sentences wrap around me,
curve over my stomach,
I can see the ending
near my feet.
You begin sketching
on the blanket...
draw me in a book,
draw me with the Wild Things,
draw me in your head.

©JEF 1986

“My great curiosity about childhood as a state of being and how all children manage to get through childhood from one day to the next, how they defeat boredom, fear, pain, and anxiety and find joy. It is a constant miracle to me that children grow up.”
--Maurice Sendak when asked for the theme of his writing

DREAM 10.25.09 The Booth

In a big hardware store like OSH, a simulated storm—rain, wind, thunder, lightning—happens every half hour. I'm with a friend. We think the fake storm is fun and run into the rain area to get wet. The other end of the store is an antiques mall. I have a booth there, full of my own belongings. I look through tee shirts and recognize them from outer life as shirts I have given to Goodwill over the years. Then I see more—things I still own! A man who works there says having a booth is a good source of extra income. I tell him I honestly can’t remember renting this booth.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BEAUTY: The Omo People

The hypnotizing beauty and surreal playfulness of the Omo People are breathtaking. The living headdresses and colors are sublime. This is dream-like poetry. (Thanks Odette!)

BEAUTY: Clothing--John Galliano

John Galliano S/S '10.
His Homme collection for Spring/ Summer 2010 is wild: a highly imaginative concept of hilarious Bombay savagery crossed with a tanned-swaddled-dusty Peter O'Toole in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.


I am not the first to notice the resemblance between Aaron Eckhart (left) and Thomas Jane (center) nor, I am sure, will I be the last. I added the amazingly handsome Mike Rowe (right) not because he looks so much like Aaron and Thomas, but because he seemed to be the next logical step.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just finished reading...


And short it is. At 125 pages, it is more like an essay. Because of this brevity, it is a wonderfully concise and clear explanation covering the origins, history, evolution and practice of Buddhism in all its forms and locations. I have been interested in Buddhism for many, many years and have read many books on the subject as well writings such as THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, and I must say this book is very easy to understand. If you have wondered about Buddhism, where it came from, or, say, the difference between Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, read this highly informative yet simple pocket-sized book.

Recommend? Yes!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

BEAUTY: Clothing

Missoni F/W '09/'10.

Angela Missoni is taking steps to update the look of her parents' venerable clothing house. The subtle knit patterns, arm warmers, slim trousers and boots on these models say "luxury 2010," not "Dr. Huxtable 1986."

BEAUTY: Interior

The sleekly sophisticated home of Bruce Glickman and Wilson Henry, owners of Duane Antiques and Duane Modern in New York City (pictures via Brad Ford at Design Therapy). Neutral tones and natural finishes in a smooth, refined application.

BEAUTY: Interior Design--Tableau

Restrained mid-century modern from Duane Modern in Manhattan.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

"The Monarch"

It's that time of the year...

The Monarch

He’s volatile,
All Halloween orange
and witch black,
he’s the kind you
drew in school
with crayons you couldn’t
do anything else with.

I was nine
at my sister’s wedding,
drinking Crush,
giggling with the silvery bubbles,
following him under tables,
through hedges.
He whispered a promise of
warm, sweet potato houses
and outside,
solid and numbing.

Some kids play on
the jungle gym
while other kids like to
stay inside and draw
but some children,
curious about a
momentary flutter,
wander through the meadow,
to the edge,
not returning
with nightfall.

©JEF 1987

Friday, October 9, 2009

Just finished reading...

...ULYSSES by James Joyce.

Before I read it, my impression of this novel, from the common cultural conceptions I have encountered, was that it is basically unapproachable, impenetrable… don’t bother reading it, it’s too time consuming, the return is not worth the investment. Interestingly, one of the things about ULYSSES that doesn’t seem to be part of the common cultural knowledge is that it is based on Homer’s THE ODDYSSEY. Luckily, I came across that fact right before I started reading so I was able to approach it understanding what James was doing with the story and narration.

And now that I have read it, I both agree and disagree with these common conceptions.

There are some sections that I quite liked. I appreciate the fact that the entire novel examines life in Dublin for a group of related and sometimes unrelated people during the course of a single day.
The beginning unfolds nicely as we are introduced to the stream of consciousness device. I quickly realized that Joyce uses no quotation marks to show speaking or dialogue and that, in passages where characters are conversing, it is often difficult to tell where the actual verbal statements stop and the inner monologues of the speakers begin. Without punctuation it can be puzzling to determine what is spoken and what is thought, but with a tiny bit of effort, it is easy enough to figure out.
The stream of consciousness device is wonderfully utilized, and renders beautifully the quiet, intimate slowness as well as the volatile incompleteness of patterns of thought in the human mind.
And I liked an episode where we, the readers, bounce down a Dublin street, from the mind and point of view of one person to another, privy to their thoughts, wonderings, concerns, and preoccupations.
The final episode where we are treated to the private thoughts and stream of consciousness of Molly Bloom, the wife of the main character Leopold Bloom (and stand-in for Ulysses himself) is refreshing. Not only do we get the direct thoughts of a woman (most characters and narrators in the book are male), but we get the counterpoint to much of what Bloom has done and thought during the course of the day and in some instances, his life.
And I must admit that it is quite a literary feat to conjure up so many unique, individual and complete lives, attitudes, situations, and personalities.

But the book is lengthy and dense (nearly abstruse in parts) and I will confess that I quickly skimmed certain passages and pages. I saw no reason to carefully and slowly read a very long paragraph listing names of people in Dublin (which seems to happen several times in this manuscript). There are sections that recreate lofty Biblical verse—these too I skimmed. I found no joy in reading such passages, as I do in reading, say, Proust or Marquez.
The centerpiece of the novel is a very long hallucination written in the form of a theatrical script complete with stage directions and character descriptions. Now, I am usually all for surreal art but this pushed my patience, vacillating between action/ character development and an attempt seemingly to simply annoy the reader. I sense that Joyce was trying to parody many social and religious institutions, but… it’s just not that interesting.

Recurring motifs in ULYSSES include sex, anti-Semitism, sex, Shakespeare, sex and food. And sex.

I can see how this was ground-breaking in its day. ULYSSES seems to be considered by many to be the epitome of the Modernist movement in literature. But I have read other Modernist writers such as Gertrude Stein (author of the fascinating, hypnotically repetitive and challenging THREE LIVES) and Virginia Woolf (whose language makes me swoon and whose book TO THE LIGHTHOUSE made me weep). I have enjoyed them, and other Modernist authors so much more than ULYSSES. Indeed, I enjoyed Joyce’s THE DUBLINERS far more than ULYSSES. It is my feeling that THE DUBLINERS did with economy and interest what ULYSSES was trying to do.

Recommend? Perhaps... with warnings.

DREAM 10.8.09: Tsunami

I am in rehearsal with Kate Bush for a small-scale concert. We are working on a song that is a cross between "Hounds of Love" and "King of the Mountain," taking turns on the verses while I sing back-up on the chorus. We take a break. I go to another room with a large picture window looking out to the ocean. This building is on a beach, so close to the water that I wonder if the ocean covers the window at high tide. To the right I see a very odd sight: an enormous tsunami wave about to break on shore, somehow frozen, as if on "pause." Waves continue to pile up on top of it, making it larger and larger. Farrah Fawcett stands in front of it with a camera. I run out of the building to find higher ground. Suddenly, the wave unpauses and crashes on the beach. I come around the building and ask Farrah if she is okay. She says yes, but there is another wave frozen and building , bigger than the last one, so we continue to run.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

BEAUTY: Interior--Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler

BEAUTY: Tableau--Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler


"Morning Yellow Summer"

(In honor of this Indian summer...)

Morning Yellow Summer

Waking in morning, white sheets,
curtains open onto yellow brightness,
clear yellow, orange tinged, already warm and warming,
the promise of white roses, the day ahead, I can see it,
the shape of it,
I can get my arms around it.
I am singing on the inside,
I am singing songs of blindness on the inside,
I can only sing of today
and they are still alive and I know where I have to go.

And they are still alive and I know where I have to go today.

And the room is furnished with
everything I have ever loved and
everything I will ever need
and they are still alive today.

I know it’s not heaven, Catherine says, “Not exactly,”
but it is today, shaped like today,
feeling like today, that’s all.
This iron trellis the white roses climb,
this plot near the road, near the freeway,
near the town, nearer to something
I don’t yet know
and they are still alive

©JEF 2008