Saturday, October 16, 2010

How Should a Person Be, Teenager Hamlet and Don’t Go to School: MFA, Oct. 14, 2010

Granted, it is a bit much to be cataloging articles that include the mention of one's own projects. But it was bound to happen: my theoretical concerns have a lot to do with what's happening in a space beyond these reassuringly (to me) static, impersonal texts. Carl Wilson's most excellent article on being "life-sampled." Of critical interest: relationships as units of exchange.


"There are many tests and lessons involved in being a close part but not a collaborator in other people’s projects. Some have to do with ego, with the way the bubble can envelop you in warm inclusion but then pop you out into chilly dispossession. It’s good for the metabolism to get used to the coming-and-going. More importantly it’s really educational to be sampled – that is, to be reproduced, in snippets, to be recontextualized and rewritten, to meet a blurry third-gen doppleganger who sounds more like someone else."

Tonight, in a couple of hours, three of my closest friends are holding a launch party for the results of their three respective long-term projects, a novel and a movie and an album.

They all examine the relationship of life to art, using the people and places right around them as their subjects and sources. (It’s less obvious with the album, but we tend to forget that almost always when a band plays, we’re listening to a set of dynamic relationships in space; the “community band” element of Tomboyfriend emphasizes that.) They also served as each others’ characters and aides-de-camp.

The launch party takes place in a bar basically across the street from the apartment where I lived in the years they worked on their projects. And that seems apt. I was a participant too: I played a plump, pasty-skinned, city-slickened swamp ghost in the play-within-the-movie, the “ex-husband” around the peripheries of the action of the novel, and the music critic doing what he can do for friends-within-a-band. But mostly I was in another room, at middle distance, framed by a window, finishing my own project, my own book about art and life, which likewise involved them, though mostly less visibly. I almost wish I hadn’t finished it so long ago so I could be launching it tonight too. Instead, I marked the occasion by moving out of that apartment.

There are many tests and lessons involved in being a close part but not a collaborator in other people’s projects. Some have to do with ego, with the way the bubble can envelop you in warm inclusion but then pop you out into chilly dispossession. It’s good for the metabolism to get used to the coming-and-going.

More importantly it’s really educational to be sampled – that is, to be reproduced, in snippets, to be recontextualized and rewritten, to meet a blurry third-gen doppleganger who sounds more like someone else. Most of us aren’t 1970s funk musicians so we’re probably more accustomed to being on the other side. We may be accustomed to being linked or quoted in social media, but being sampled is a more intense sense of self-displacement. To adapt to your life being sampled may be a 21st-century necessity.

That it’s a little harder than you expect gives you sympathy for some of those older artists who take the copyright issue so much more personally than the scope of the financial issues involved. There’s the nightmare vision of being disassembled and reassembled atom by atom in a Star Trek transporter, but put back together in an utterly wrong order. (See also Cronenberg’s The Fly.) Or the subtler nightmare of being reassembled perfectly and yet no longer being “right.” Yet it is also deeply meditative, allowing oneself to be copied, mistranslated: When you think, “Wait, that’s no longer myself,” the next natural step is to wonder whether it was yourself to begin with and whether there is such an animal as yourself or whether you would recognize it if you met it.

So sweetly intoxicating to dare to think not, especially when a crowd of people are daring it with you (out of bravado, perhaps, too proud to be the one to say no, but it doesn’t really matter why, only that you did). It’s becoming the done thing, perhaps, in commercial and fame-economy culture to look at reality as a liquid commodity, worth more in exchange than in savings. But when what you’re buying with it is a dispersal rather than a magnification of self, it seems different enough to matter, which may be as far away from a dominant paradigm as one is usually able to get.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Phantom Empire (1935)


"When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitant survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried beneath his own Radio Ranch. The Muranians have developed technology and weaponry such as television and ray guns. Their rich supply of radium draws unscrupulous speculators from the surface. The peaceful civilization of the Muranians is corrupted by the greed from above, and it becomes Autry's task to prevent all-out war, ideally without disrupting his regular radio show."

This 12-chapter Mascot serial offered singing cowboy Gene Autry his first starring role, in what has to be one of the most sublimely, surpassingly surrealistic serials ever made. Consider the following--5 or 6 miles underground below the dude ranch owned by Gene is the long-lost superscientific civilization of Murania. Gene has not one but two juvenile sidekicks (Frankie Darrow and Betsy King Ross). Further, Gene has not one but two comical sidekicks (Smiley Burnett and Bill Moore). Gene will lose the ranch unless he shows up every day to do a live radio broadcast of western songs -- so simply being locked in a closet by his enemies (and he has many, both above and below ground-level) will result in an agonizingly suspenseful chapter ending. But there are many exciting chapter endings, including the forever classic situation in which Gene, Betsy and Frankie are left literally hanging from a cliff by their fingertips!

The serial's real focus is on the city of Murania, represented by a surprisingly detailed miniature, and by some great, huge-looking futuristic sets. You can count on the fingers of one hand all the super-scientific future cities we ever got a glimpse of in the early 1950s, either on film or TV, and Murania is at the top of the list. As presided over by the regal Queen Tika (icy blonde Dorothy Christy, who also portrays Stan Laurel's terrifying wife in SONS OF THE DESERT), Murania is a hotbed of cardboard robots, scheming noblemen, mad scientists, and labs full of giant levers, spinning dynamos, gigantic pistons, spheres emitting large sparks, bubbling chemical retorts, flickering gauges, giant rayguns, huge TV screens, welding torches that emit 6-foot flames, and other high-tech wonders. Almost every detail of Murania is surpassingly strange. One aspect that delighted me and my brother when we saw it in the early 1950s is that whenever a recently-dead corpse is returned to life, by the marvelous medical technology of Murania, he speaks incomprehensible words --"The language of the dead," as the chief scientist helpfully explains! (doctors in Murania wear black instead of white surgical outfits!)

For reasons unknown, Murania has an armored cavalry, the "Thunder Riders," who every once in a while take the miles-long elevator trip to the surface and ride around Gene's ranch. And as a wonderful example of how this serial always piles it on, Frankie and Betsy are leaders of a gang of kids who call themselves the "Junior Thunder Riders," and ride around Gene's ranch too, with water-pails on their heads in imitation of knight's helmets! Frankie even has a workshop/lab just as many kids dreamed of having in 1950, where he dabbles with radio and a chemistry set. Above ground, some gangsters plot to seize Murania for its mineral wealth, while in Murania itself, revolutionaries plot the overthrow of Queen Tika, and the last chapters feature a Muranian civil war with large numbers of exotically-costumed extras! This is truly a serial that touches all the bases, each more than once.

In the leading role, Gene Autry is extremely likable and unassuming. The audience cares deeply what happens to him, despite the often absurd goings-on that surround him. For him, it was the auspicious beginning of a long, richly successful movie, radio, TV and recording career. Note too the very subtle chemistry between Gene's character, and Queen Tika. In Gene's later singing westerns, he would win over even the most feisty females just by singing them a little song; probably the serial's only lapse is that he never gets to sing for the Queen!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Masdar City: A Desert Utopia


Abu Dhabi's Masdar City is intended to support 40,000 residents and 50,000 commuters. It will be car free relying on an individualized sort of public transportation, comparable to riding your private metro car.

George Sylvester Viereck - Writing Online

Pulp Magazine and Paperback Covers on Filkr

Pulp magazines
Old Paperbacks


The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer (Online)

Counsels and Maxims
On Human Nature
Religion, a Dialogue, Etc.
Studies in Pessimism
The Art of Controversy
The Art of Literature
The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: the Wisdom of Life
Essays of Schopenhauer
Studies in Pessimism

Letters to A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Cose Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

A catalog of contemporary uncanny environmental, ambient effects for modern suburban settings.


Script part 1.
Script part 2.

Biker Slang

BAB — A Born Again Biker.
Betty — Female biker.
Big End — At Top Speed.
Big Slab — The Interstate Highway.
Bubble Gum Machine
— Police Bike. 
Burnout — When you spin the rear wheel while holding the front brake.

Cage — A Car.
Cager — A Car Driver.
Crack It — Turning up the throttle.

Death Grip — How a first time biker tends to grab the handle bars.
Dialed In — When your bike is set up just right.

Fluid Exchange — Stop for gas and to take a leak.

Ginmill — bar.
Granny Gear — Lowest gear available on a bike.

Hammer Down — Openening the throttle fully.
High Siding — Wrecking a bike by flipping it over.

"I" — the "Interstate".

Lid — Helmet.

Potato Chip
— Wheel that has been badly bent.

Roadie — Rider who prefers riding on paved surfaces.
RUB — Rich Urban Biker.

Table Top — Jump in which the rider throws the bike sideways.

Wash Out — When the front tire loses traction.
Weekend Warrior — Instant Biker types.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jens Peter Jacobsen (Texts Online in Translation)

1880 Niels Lyhne

1882 Mogens and Other Stories

The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online

Complete publications
    Origin of Species
, Voyage of the Beagle,
    Descent of Man, Zoology of the Beagle,
    Articles, Translations, Published manuscripts,

International bibliography (Freeman)

The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft

c/f The myth maker by Michel Houellebecq