Archive for February, 2011


extinct dog breeds…


a look at canines past…


Alpine Mastiff

The Alpine Mastiff is an extinct Molosser dog breed, the progenitor of the St. Bernard and a major contributor to the modern Mastiff (through such dogs as “Couchez”), as well as to other breeds that derive from these breeds or are closely related to them. The names “Alpine Mastiff” and “Saint Bernard” were used interchangeably in the early 19th century, though the variety that was kept at the hospice at the Great St. Bernard Pass was significantly altered by introducing other breeds, including Newfoundland and Great Dane, and it is this composite breed that now carries the name St. Bernard. Inevitably these dogs filtered through to the wider population, and the original variety dwindled in its pure form, though a rare breed, the “Cane Garouf” or “Patua”, found in the part of the Alps formerly inhabited by the Alpine Mastiff, may also descend from the extinct breed.

Blue Paul Terrier

No one seems to have full knowledge as to how the Blue Pauls were bred or from where they originally came. There was a story that John Paul Jones, the Scottish born American sailor, brought them from abroad and landed some when he visited his native town of Kirkcudbright about 1770. The Gypsies around the Kin Tilloch district kept Blue Pauls, which they fought for their own amusement. They were game to the death and could suffer much punishment. They were expert and tricky in their fighting tactics, which made them great favorites with those who indulged in this sport. They maintained that the breed originally came from the Galloway coast, which lends support to the Paul Jones legend. The first dogs to arrive in the United States with the English immigrants in the mid-19th century were the Blue Paul Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.


The Bullenbeisser (also known as the German Bulldog) was a breed of dog known for its strength and agility. The breed was closely related to the Bärenbeisser (some believe that the two breeds were the same (the names mean “bull-biter” and “bear-biter”), and the Boxer. There were two regional varieties, the Brabanter Bullenbeisser and the Danziger Bullenbeisser. The Bullenbeisser became extinct by crossbreeding rather than by a decadence of the breed, as happened with the Old Time Bulldog, for instance. In the late 1870s, German breeders Roberth, Konig, and Hopner used the dog to create a new breed, today called the Boxer. Some 30 Bullenbeissers were already crossed by the Boxer Kennel Club of Germany at 1900 in with Bulldogs brought from the British Isles. The blood composition was 50/50 at that time, however, the German owners started crossing their dogs with all kinds of Bulldogs and Boxers, which produced an undistinguishable breed after the World War II. One reason why such quantity of German blood was used to create the Boxer dog was the wish to eliminate the excessive white color of the breed, and the necessity of producing thousands of dogs for one of the most popular breeds in the world.

Cordoba Fighting Dog

The Cordoba Fighting Dog originated in Córdoba, Argentina. The breed had such strong aggression toward other dogs that the males and females would rather fight than mate. In addition, many members of this breed died in the dog fighting pits, contributing to the breed’s extinction. The Cordoba was capable of hunting in a small pack of a male and female, otherwise they were more likely to turn on their packmates. The Cordoba was used as a contributing breed to create the Dogo Argentino.

Among the breed’s ancestors, the most notable is the Bull Terrier, which at the time was still used in England for dog fights – at the same time Bull Terriers were being exported to the Indian subcontinent where today their lineage includes the Gull Terr.

Dogo Cubano

Dogo Cubano or Cuban Mastiff or Cuban Dogo or Cuban Dogge is an extinct breed of dog from Cuba. It was of Bull Mastiff type. This breed of dog was used for dog fighting.

This breed of dog was introduced in Cuba to capture runaway slaves (cimarrones). After the abolition of slavery it became too expensive to feed and the breed ceased to exist with time.

Hare Indian Dog

It is thought by some that the breed originated from cross-breedings between native Tahltan dogs and dogs brought to the North American continent by Viking explorers during the Norse colonization of the Americas, as it bears strong similarities to Icelandic breeds in appearance and behavior, such as cat-like body rubbing to express affection. Though originally spread over most of the northern regions of North America, the breed fell into decline after the introduction of firearms made its hunting abilities redundant. It gradually intermingled with other breeds such as the Newfoundland dog, the Canadian Eskimo dog and Mongrels.


Kurī is the Māori language name for the Polynesian dog. It was introduced to New Zealand by Māori during their migrations from East Polynesia sometime around 1280 AD. It was used by Māori as a food source and the skin and hair was used for making dog-skin cloaks, belts, decorating weapons, and poi. The kurī became extinct in New Zealand some time after the arrival of European settlers. The last known specimens, a female and her pup, are now in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Paisley Terrier

The Paisley Terrier was a breed of terrier type dog from Great Britain, bred primarily as a pet and showdog version of the Skye Terrier, and was the progenitor of today’s Yorkshire Terrier. The Paisley Terrier was described in 1894 as “an excellent house dog, and most suitable for a lady who wishes something more substantial than a toy”, but the care requirements for the coat made it less desirable than some other popular breeds as a pet.

St. John’s Water Dog

The St. John’s Water Dog, also called the St. John’s Dog or the Lesser Newfoundland, was a naturally-occurring dog breed from Newfoundland. Little is known of the breeds that went into its creation, although it was likely a random-bred mix of old Irish, English, and Portuguese working breeds. This breed is the ancestor of the modern Retrievers; including the Flat Coated Retriever, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the Golden Retriever, and the Labrador Retriever. The St. John’s Dog was also the founding breed of the large and gentle Newfoundland dog, likely as a result of breeding with mastiffs brought to the island by the generations of Portuguese fishermen who had been fishing offshore since the 15th century. The St. John’s dog was made extinct in its homeland by a combination of two factors. In an attempt to encourage sheep raising, heavy restrictions and taxes were placed on dog ownership during the 19th century.

Tahltan Bear Dog

Raised by the Tahltan Natives to hunt bear, the Tahltan Bear Dog was a mighty power in a small package. The Tahltan Bear Dog had the courage to face a bear, but was friendly and gentle with smaller animals and with humans. They lived in the tent with the family, sharing bed and board. Descended from pariah-type dogs that had come with prehistoric migrations, the Tahltan Dogs were centralized in the remote mountainous areas of northwestern British Columbia and the Southern Yukon. Their usual diet was small bits of birds, meat and fish, and they flourished in the bitter cold. Outside their native environment, they succumbed to distemper, heat prostration and problems due to dietary changes. As white explorers came into the territory, bringing a variety of other dogs, the Tahltan Dog became diluted.


Ancient Egyptians gave the name Tesem Tesem ( = tsm) to curly tailed dogs that resembled a sighthound such as a Greyhound. These dogs were featured on monuments, and in wall paintings that showed their tall, lean body with the noticeable prick ears. They had a greyish-yellow coat, with long legs and a broad prominent forehead. Their size exceeded the Pariah dogs of the time. Their structure of their skeleton was closer to the modern terrier than that of the modern greyhound.

Turnspit Dog

The Turnspit Dog was a short-legged, long-bodied dog bred to run on a wheel, called a turnspit or dog wheel, to turn meat so it would cook evenly. It is also known as the Kitchen Dog, the Cooking Dog, the Underdog and the Vernepator. This took both courage (to stand near the fire) and loyalty (not to eat the roast). Due to the strenuous nature of the work, a pair of dogs would often be worked in shifts. This may have led to the proverb ‘every dog has his day.’ The dogs were also taken to church to serve as foot warmers. Just as the invention of the spinning-jenny abolished the use of distaff and wheel, which were formerly the occupants of every well-ordained English cottage, so the invention of automaton roasting-jacks has destroyed the occupation of the Turnspit Dog, and by degrees has almost annihilated its very existence.


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six years that almost changed the world…


New York City in the 1970s was a place and time of new possibilities—a Renaissance of sorts. A natural extension of the artists, writers, and musicians that came to fruition around Andy Warhol in the 1960s, the decade brought together a group of like-minded individuals aiming for something new. “Let me dream if I want to,” sang Mink DeVille, leader of one of the original house bands at CBGB’s . It was a call shared by many of those who gathered at the nightclub—a group that included future legends the Ramones, Television and Pure Hell. Pure Hell?

“We were always there, doing the same thing as all those guys,” remembers Kenny “Stinker” Gordon, singer of Pure Hell. As the first all black band in the white-dominated punk scene, they are now noted, if at all, merely for their skin color. It was never the band’s intentions to make social change with politics of race. Rather, it was their brand of music—and attitude—that made them notables alongside the myriad of characters in the scene.

Formed in 1974 in Philadelphia, the band consisted of Gordon on vocals, Preston “Chip Wreck” Morris III on guitar, Kerry “Lenny Steel” Boles on bass and Michael “Spider” Sanders on drums. “We were all downtown kids, listening to bands like Mothers of Invention, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper,” Gordon says. “[We] had similar influences that created good chemistry.”

Bashing out in a style that was miles away from the smooth, predisco sounds of Philly Soul, the band felt a closer affinity to the rawer, “street-smart” sounds from its neighbors to the north. “Philly was like a suburb in New York City,” Gordon remembers. “It was like sharing the same underground scene.” So it was not long before the lure of the cit y convinced the band, still in their teens, to make the 95-mile move to NYC.

Soon after arriving, the band found a supporter in Johnny Thunders who, having met Spider in Philadelphia, offered to put them up at the New York Dolls’ loft. Managed at the time by future Sex Pistols Svengali Malcolm McLaren, the Dolls in 1975 held a mentorly presence over many of the young groups in the scene. Patti Smith and bands like Television and Blondie often gathered at the loft, where they met and eventually shared bills with Pure Hell. Says Gordon, “The Dolls helped us out a lot. We were a popular item to share the bill at their Max’s Kansas City appearances.”

While their peers aligned themselves with major labels like Sire and Arista, Pure Hell signed on to a management deal with Curtis Knight, a former bandleader who claimed to have discovered Jimi Hendrix a decade earlier. He soon branded them with the tagline “The World’s First All Black Punk Band.” Says Gordon, “I never liked that moniker. It made us seem like a novelty act.” In late 1978, just before Pure Hell departed for a European tour, the scene suffered a dramatic blow: Nancy Spungen died, and Sid Vicious, who had been backed on several occasions by Pure Hell during his New York residency, was arrested. Much like how Altamont and the Manson murders brought a close to the freewheeling idealism of the hippie era, the Sid and Nancy case put an end to the idealized anarchism of the punk scene. “A lot of things died with it,” Gordon says.

Once in Europe, Gordon says, Pure Hell was greeted with excitement “on the same level as the Clash.” This was in part due to Knight, who had helped generate media buzz prior to their arrival. Typical in his efforts was a fabricated quote printed in the U.K.’s Sounds magazine: “Hi we’re Pure Hell—we’re an all Black punk rock group from Philadelphia, and we’ve been playing punk for five years.” The band’s name was spread across giant London subway posters alongside such disparate acts as Dolly Parton, WAR and the Kinks, with whom they shared the same PR firm.

While in Holland, the relationship between Pure Hell and Curtis Knight began to sour. Knight began to wield too much control over the band. “He wanted to rein us in,” Gordon says. At the end of their tour of the Netherlands, Gordon recalls, “[Knight] threatened to interrupt the remainder of our show dates. This was due to me screwing him out of a Dutch girl that he wanted.”

Before continuing on to the U.K., the band squeezed in a gig in California. Gordon remembers, “We played a show in L.A. at a place called the Masque with the Dead Boys, the Cramps, the Germs and a host of others. Stiv Bators hung himself from the lights in order to top us as part of the act. Luckily, they got him down in time!”

Back in the U.K., the papers called them “a minor triumph,” comparing “Stinker ” Gordon’s stage act to that of David Johansen and Mick Jagger and guitarist “Chip Wreck ” Morris’ skills to that of Knight’s old band mate Jimi Hendrix. It was during this tour that their one single w as released on Knight’s own Golden Sphinx label: a cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’,” backed with an original “No Rules.” When the single made the charts in several publications, Knight took the band into a studio to record their full length album, Noise Addiction. A s with the single, Knight had hoped to release the album on his own label—a move that, Gordon now believes, may have hindered Pure Hell’s chances of success on a wider scale.

At a party thrown for the band in London, Knight molested an under aged fan. This was enough to put the already strained relationship to an end. On the day they were due to fly back to the U. S., the band went into hiding. Knight was left alone at the airport, forced to fly back on his own. He took the Noise Addiction master tapes with him.

Roy Fisher, who had helped arrange Pure Hell’s European tour, took over management, and immediately sent the band back into the studio. Produced by Tony McPhee of underground legends the Groundhogs— whom Fisher had once managed—the three new songs did not attempt to recapture the recordings they had made with Knight. “[That] was old stuff,” Gordon says. “We were so young when we recorded them.” Despite their efforts for a fresh, new start, these tracks failed to capture interest. Upon their return to New York City, they played one of their final gigs at the famed Max’s Kansas City with old cohort Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys joining them on stage. By 1980, the band w as finished.

“It wasn’t until 1986 that Spider and I started to reform Pure Hell,” rues Kenny Gordon. While Gordon had moved on to new projects— collaborating with the Buggles’ Bruce Woolley, among others— Spider had tried to keep Pure Hell ’s name alive, at one point getting an offer from Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy to manage the band. When Spider relocated to California and urged Gordon to join him, Pure Hell was reborn. Initially joined by original members Chip Wreck and Lenny Steel, they have since made recordings with musicians like Lemmy from Motorhead, Mick Cripps of L.A. Guns and Charlie Clouser, formerly of Nine Inch Nails.

Mike Schneider, owner of the Connecticut-based label Welfare Records, had heard of Pure Hell via punk’s vernacular history and a small handful of articles. In 2004, he caught word that Curtis Knight had passed away and that his widow was having an estate sale. Schneider quickly drove down from his base in Haverhill, Massachusetts, to the Bronx, where he scooped up Pure Hell’s original master tapes. Schneider then had to track down the band members, who had never heard the album, to discuss its release.

“I was totally shocked and surprised that people would still be interested in a recording that took place over 20 years ago,” says Gordon. It was not the first time there had been talks of releasing the album, however. Gordon recalls a time when Spider ran into Curtis Knight, shortly before his death. Knight asked for Spider’s help in releasing the tapes he had run away with all those years before. Spider refused.

Now released for the first time, 28 years after it was originally recorded, Pure Hell’s Noise Addiction can be heard in all of its young, loud and snotty glory on Welfare Records. It will never be known what Spider, who passed away in 2002, would have thought of the album’s release, but Gordon is much appreciative: “Mike has done a great thing by making us known to the new generation of fans.”

But more so than the release of the record, Gordon is excited about new possibilities that have opened up with the renewed interest in Pure Hell. “I don’t want to be flogging a dead horse,” he says, refer ring to the old recordings. “I’ve got all these people getting in contact with me now—Syl Sylvain [of the New York Dolls], [ex-Misfit] Jeff O’Hara, [Sid Vicious biographer] Alan Parker—they all want to do something with me.”

“Anything can happen in my world!” “Stinker” Gordon had once sung on Pure Hell’s anthemic scorcher “No Rules.” Almost 30 years later, it seems this phrase rings truer than ever.

(SWINDLE  no. 10)




number 26

from FIND

Best Feature: BLACK SWAN




Best Male Lead: JAMES FRANCO for 127 HOURS

Best Supporting Female: DALE DICKEY for WINTER’S BONE

Best Supporting Male: JOHN HAWKES for WINTER’S BONE




Best First Feature: GET LOW

Best First Screenplay: LENA DUNHAM for TINY FURNITURE

John Cassavetes Award: DADDY LONGLEGS

Robert Altman Award: PLEASE GIVE

Acura Someone To Watch Award: MIKE OTT for LITTLEROCK

Truer Than Fiction Award: JEFF MALMBERG for MARWENCOL

Piaget Producers Award: ANISH SAVJANI for MEEK’S CUTOFF

(SPIRIT AWARDS  2.26.11)

the complete list of nominees




Joshua Abraham Norton 1819-1880…


Joshua Abraham Norton, the self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California, who in 1859 proclaimed himself “Emperor of these United States”and subsequently “Protector of  Mexico”. Born in London, Norton spent most of his early life in South Africa. He emigrated to San Francisco in 1849 after receiving a bequest of $40,000 from his father’s estate. Norton initially made a living as a businessman, but he lost his fortune investing in Peruvian rice. After losing a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, Norton left San Francisco. He returned a few years later, apparently mentally unbalanced, claiming to be the emperor of the United States.Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.

Though he was considered insane, or at least highly eccentric, the citizens of San Francisco celebrated his regal presence and his proclamations, most famously, his “order” that the United States Congress be dissolved by force and his numerous decrees calling for a bridge and a tunnel to be built across San Francisco Bay. On January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed at a street corner, and died before he could be given medical treatment. The following day, nearly 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco to pay homage to Norton. Norton’s legacy has been immortalized in the literature of writers Mark TwainRobert Louis StevensonChristopher Moore, and Neil Gaiman who based characters on him. In December 2004, a resolution was made to name the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge in honor of Norton, but the idea did not progress further.


Many of the “decrees” attributed to Norton I were fakes; written in jest by newspaper editors at the time for amusement, or for political purposes. Those “decrees” listed here were, we believe, actually issued by Norton.

September 17, 1859 – Joshua A. Norton, who lost his money in an attempt to corner the rice market, today declared himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

July 16, 1860 – Decree from Norton I dissolved the United States of America.

October 1, 1860 – Decree from Norton I barred Congress from meeting in Washington, D.C.

February 5, 1861– Norton I changed the place of his National Convention to Assembly Hall, Post and Kearny, because Platt’s Music Hall had burned.

September 17, 1861 – A new theater, Tucker’s Hall, opened with a performance of “Norton the First,” or “An Emperor for a Day.”

October 1863 – Death of Lazarus, Emperor Norton’s dog.

November 11, 1865 – Mark Twain wrote an epitaph for Bummer, the long-time companion of Lazarus.

January 21, 1867 – An overzealous Patrol Special Officer, Armand Barbier, arrested His Majesty Norton I for involuntary treatment of a mental disorder and thereby created a major civic uproar. Police Chief Patrick Crowley apologized to His Majesty and ordered him released. Several scathing newspaper editorials followed the arrest. All police officers began to salute His Majesty when he passed them on the street.

July 25, 1869 – Decree from Norton I that San Franciscans advance money to Frederick Marriott for his airship experiments.

August 12, 1869 – Decree from Norton I dissolved and abolished the Democratic and Republican parties because of party strife now existing within our realm.

August 1, 1870 – Norton I was listed by the Census taker with the occupation of “emperor,” living at 624 Commercial St.

September 21, 1870 – Decree from Norton I that the Grand Hotel furnish him rooms under penalty of being banished.

March 23, 1872 – Decree by Norton I that a suspension bridge be built as soon as convenient between Oakland Point and Goat Island, and then on to San Francisco.

September 21, 1872 – Norton I ordered a survey to determine if a bridge or tunnel would be the best possible means to connect Oakland and San Francisco. He also ordered the arrest of the Board of Supervisors for ignoring his decrees.

January 2, 1873 – Decree from Norton I that a worldwide Bible Convention be held in San Francisco on this day.

March 18, 1873 – David Belasco made his stage debut at the Metropolitan Theatre playing Emperor Norton in the play “The Gold Demon.”

January 8, 1880 – Norton I dropped dead on California St. at Grant Ave. He was on his way to a lecture at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

January 9, 1880 – Headline in the Morning Call: “Norton the First, by the grace of God Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life.”

January 10, 1880 – Norton I was buried today at Masonic Cemetery. The funeral cortege was two miles long. 10,000 people turned out for the funeral.

June 30, 1934 – Emperor Norton I reburied in Woodlawn Cemetery by citizens of San Francisco.

January 7, 1980 – The city marked the 100th anniversary of the death of its only monarch, Emperor Norton, with lunch-hour ceremonies at Market and Montgomery streets.

for a detailed history of the Emperor’s life go to Encyclopedia of San Francisco




how Godard and Truffaut changed film…


In Emmanuel Laurent’s new documentary, “Two in the Wave,” the “two” are the filmmakers François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The wave, needless to say, is La Nouvelle Vague, a journalistic name that not only stuck to Truffaut, Mr. Godard and their colleagues, but that also changed the way film history is understood. Since the days when that Gallic wave crashed ashore, critics and cinephiles have scanned the horizon looking for the next one, while groups of young directors and critics, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, seek to replicate the daring and self-confidence that bubbled up in France in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Mr. Laurent, for his part, dutifully combs the beach, gathering wonderful bits of detritus from that much-mythologized moment. The surviving members of the New Wave — Truffaut died in 1984 — are by now venerated members of the old guard. (Mr. Godard, at 79, showed his new film at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday.) But “Two in the Wave” wisely resists the temptation to invite them to share memories of youth. Rather, it gathers newspaper clippings, newsreel footage and movie clips to assemble a present-tense essay that is both time capsule and collage. Instead of featuring talking-head retrospective interviews, the movie frames its backward looks with images of the actress Isild Le Besco reading old magazine articles and occasionally visiting a historically significant spot in Paris. Her presence is puzzling for a while, until you begin to absorb some of the images that surround her — Jean Seberg in “Breathless,” Anna Karina in “A Woman Is a Woman” — and recall Mr. Godard’s axiom that all he needed to make a film was “a girl and a gun.” Mr. Laurent displays no firearms, but Ms. Le Besco’s silent presence suggests a corollary, namely that any movie can benefit from a beautiful woman with an interesting face.

There is also a third man in “Two in the Wave”: Jean-Pierre Léaud, the actor who worked frequently with both directors and who became the on-screen embodiment of their attitudes and styles. For Truffaut, Mr. Léaud served as a frequent alter ego, appearing as Antoine Doinel in a series of autobiographical films, beginning with “The 400 Blows” in 1959. That movie and “Breathless,” Mr. Godard’s first feature, occupy much of Mr. Laurent’s documentary, which was written and narrated by the film critic Antoine de Baecque. The triumphant arrival of “The 400 Blows” at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959 and the release of “Breathless” a year later feel almost like a single event, one of those epochal moments that divide time into before and after.

Before, there was a group of young movie buffs, haunting the Cinémathèque Française and the offices of Cahiers du Cinéma, disciples of two high priests of postwar cinephilia: the archivist Henri Langlois and the critic André Bazin. They absorbed everything they saw, forming particular affinities with the American directors we now regard (thanks partly to the Cahiers gang) as idols of classic Hollywood. These Hitchcocko-Hawksians, as they were sometimes known, set out to change French cinema, and in assessing their campaign, “Two in the Wave” becomes frustratingly vague. The grandiose rhetoric of revolution and reinvention is certainly there — mostly courtesy of Mr. Godard, a fount of aphorisms on the nature of “le cinéma” — but apart from a few remarks about hand-held cameras and jump cuts, there is not much in the way of concrete analysis. So the audience is left to guess at what exactly made Truffaut’s and Mr. Godard’s work so transformative.

And yet the evidence provided by the films themselves is a powerful reminder of just how exciting that work remains. “Two in the Wave,” while it provides plenty of biographical information, is above all interested in the artistic personalities of its subjects. It was, after all, the shared love of film that brought them together, despite their differences in temperament and background. And it was partly their divergent ideas about what cinema should become that drove the two men apart.

After their initial triumphs, with “The 400 Blows” and “Breathless,” Truffaut and Mr. Godard continued to work closely together through the 1960s. But as Mr. Godard’s work became increasingly politicized, and as his always uncompromising and prickly personality grew even more so, a schism emerged that would become irreparable in 1973. That year Mr. Godard wrote a letter to Truffaut attacking his film “Day for Night” and enclosing an equally venomous letter to Mr. Léaud. Truffaut returned that letter, along with one of his own — 20 handwritten pages condemning the selfishness and pigheadedness of his longtime friend. And that is where Mr. Laurent’s story ends, as so many tales of artistic camaraderie do. But “Two in the Wave” honors that collaboration by carefully recounting its details and arguing for its significance. The films of Truffaut and Mr. Godard stand or fall by themselves, but together they made history.

(NY TIMES  5.19.10)

“TWO IN THE WAVE” (2009) directed by Emmanuel Laurent




“We were riding on the absurdity of the situation, that we were three nobodies, had no money, had no fame, and didn’t know anybody in the art world. But it was perfect, we were totally free.” — Edit deAk  1974


Edit Deak and Walter Robinson may shudder to hear it, but talking to them recently about Art-Rite I accidentally thought of the olde movie Babes in Arms, in which Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, teenaged and rural, stage a Broadway-type musical in a barn: “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” But since the magazine Deak and Robinson published and edited, and wrote and designed and typeset and distributed, out of their downtown-Manhattan lofts between 1973 and 1978 was so open, democratic, and fresh-faced, they may think the parallel fine, or at least poetic justice: they and a third editor, Joshua Cohn, staged an exhilarating deconstruction (if an exhilarating deconstruction isn’t a contradiction in terms) not only of art but of art writing, so they must take what they get. In any case, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney could really dance.

“An important aspect of Art-Rite,” says Deak today, “was a whole new tone and attitude. It was unheard of to have a sense of humor at the time, or not to be talking about ‘the problem’ of art – the problem of this, the problem of that. A few years later the punk magazines came along, and I realized that’s what I’d wanted – I loved those fanzines. That’s not what we were, we were much more formalist, but we were a very different sound than what was around us.”

The fanzine image carries, since Art-Rite had a loving relationship with the art world and particularly with its own generation. Distributed free, it was “given away,” according to an undated grant application, “in recognition of the community which nurtures it.” The application goes on to describe the magazine’s “close relationship with the art community” and its reflection of “the younger generation’s view. For its collective audience, Art-Rite represents a restless but friendly, constantly evolving entity.” In a statement Deak and Robinson wrote for Studio International in 1976, the editors admitted to “some nasty comments about a few ‘major’ artists,” but those artists “were famous and successful and because they were safe we couldn’t hurt them and since we spent the rest of our life defending babies, we had to attack someplace.” Even when the magazine went negative it did it amicably.

Deak, Robinson, and Cohn met in 1972, when they were all in their early twenties and the three of them took an art-criticism class taught by Brian O’Doherty at Barnard College in New York. Under another hat O’Doherty was the editor of Art in America, which he wanted to make new, and he liked to ask his strongest students to write for it. He extended this invitation to Cohn, Robinson, and finally Deak, who, however, was puzzled: “I thought, aestheticism must be in trouble if they want baby blood – I mean, what do we know? We were in the last year of undergraduate work. I had come from Budapest, didn’t even speak English when I started school. We started giggling; there must be some weird void – what’s wrong with the system that they want us?” She and the pair she still calls “the boys” did write for O’Doherty, but they also began to fantasize about producing a magazine of their own, perhaps as a newsprint insert in Art in America – “piggybacking on the establishment, having the establishment distribute the enemy, our voice. This was the period when people talked about things like that.” The insert idea died but the larger idea stuck, and to make it happen they enrolled in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, for which they proposed to publish a magazine as their class project. Robinson meanwhile had gotten a job as a typesetter and designer for a Jewish weekly newspaper, and, he says, “We stole all the type from there until they caught me and I got fired.” And that’s how Art-Rite began.

the article continues…

(ART FORUM  1.03  via  032c)




remembering the magic that was public access television — PART I…


Colin Malone’s had an interesting ride so far. He dropped out of UCLA in 1990 because there weren’t enough Iron Maiden fans there. Plus, he thought the whole place was bullshit anyway. So he started doing stand-up and improv comedy. While performing at night, Colin was working during the day at various video stores. Eventually he wound up at 20/20 Video in Hollywood where he met Dino, his future co-host of the cult sensation “Colin’s Sleazy Friends”.

Dino hated everybody, except Colin for some reason. And as Dino became more frustrated with his band, and as Colin gave less of a shit about doing stand-up comedy, they decided to do a TV show together. However, no one in the television industy shared their enthusiasm, so they headed to the local cable access station in Van Nuys, CA.

In their first episode, Colin and Dino basically showed some porn clips and joked around. While it wasn’t a huge hit at first, they knew they were on to something. By the next episode, they somehow got legendary porn star Ron Jeremy to take a break from humping, and drop by to do an interview. The next show featured Tiffany Millions naked in a hot tub, and from then on, “Colin’s Sleazy Friends” snowballed into an underground smash in Los Angeles. You got to love a town that lets naked porn stars discuss their sexual escapades on local television.

People from the porn industry were the only guests on the show until Colin received a call from actress Janeane Garofalo. Her appearance opened the door to interviews with other comedic actors like Jack Black, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, and Sarah Silverman. Mixing these celebrity guests with porn stars made “Colin’s Sleazy Friends” even more popular, and it wasn’t long until members of famous bands like Anthrax, Korn, and Weezer were stopping by as well.

At one point, Colin got a call from the casting office at “Seinfeld” to make a guest appearance. Being the genius he is, he turned them down. He didn’t want to join SAG because of the dues he would have to pay. After “Seinfeld” offered to pay his dues for him, Colin was surpirisingly cast as “Sleazy Guy”. He also made appearances on David Cross and Bob Odenkrik’s cult hit “Mr. Show“, as well as an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. When “Angel” wanted to cast him, Colin came in a few times and went over his lines, but turned down all their offers. He thought the show sucked, and was only going in because the girls that worked at the casting office were hot.

After 240 episodes of “Colin’s Sleazy Friends” on a cable access channel, Colin finally had enough. In his words, “There’s only so many times you can ask a porn star what they like most about fisting.” Besides, FOX had already given him the green light to shoot a pilot episode of a new talk show – “Colin After Dark“. It didn’t contain nudity, but it was still edgy for network television. The show never made it to TV though because shortly after filming it, Janet Jackson showed her tit at the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show, and FOX didn’t want to take any chances with the FCC by putting Colin on the air. So Colin walked away from the scene for a few years to lay low. But now he’s back and ready to spread the di-sleaze all over again.





cheers Andy…


neen piece:

1. a web-based artwork (one-piece-in-a-domain)

2. a sentimental work made with computer or in reference to computer

3. a self-generated artwork created by an artificial intelligence or a network.

classic neen: by Miltos Manetas (top) by Rafael Rozendaal by Rafael Rozendaal

don’t be alarmed by the blank page — try one and click on it…


also see single serving sites like the Abe Vigoda status pageDefiant Dog or Thank You Andy Warhol




between a rock and a hard place — kids are skating in Kabul…


There aren’t many positive stories emanating from Afghanistan these days, but one uplifting and very unusual story is rising out of obscurity in Kabul. It involves a school that uses skateboarding, of all things, to help empower displaced youths by providing a common passion and a means through which to build relationships.

Skateistan, which was founded in the spring of 2007 and presently boasts an co-ed enrollment of more than 330 students, will fall under the spotlight this week when the short film, “Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul,” premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

A feature-length documentary, “Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul,” will premiere Jan. 29 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. This will further increase awareness about an project that has come to symbolize hope for children growing up in an Islamic republic torn apart by civil war and fraught with fear and uncertainty.

The idea for the school was born after Australians Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan visited Kabul with skateboards in 2007. The moment they set the boards down, in front of a crumbling Soviet-era fountain, curious kids gathered to see them ridden and to hop aboard and ride them.

Today dedicated teachers and volunteers provide schooling and skateboarding lessons in a 19,000-square-foot facility built on land, in one of Kabul’s poorer districts, donated by the Afghan National Olympic Committee. The school is funded largely through private donations.

The short film, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, provides a glimpse into the lives of two Skateistan students. Murza, 17, talks about having grown numb to bomb blasts and violence, and about his former job washing cars, often in freezing temperatures, to make ends meet. He attended Skateistan and still works there, helping to maintain the skate ramps and teach new students how to skate.

“Skating has become a habit and I’m addicted to it,” he says in the film. “If I don’t skate, I become ill. Life is hard in Kabul. It is solely because of the support of Skateistan that I am standing now.”

Surprisingly, given Kabul’s recent hard-line governance by the Taliban, more girls are becoming part of the Skateistan program. Fazila, 12, sells gum on the street but also is a student. “Life is hard for me personally because my family is poor and sometimes we can’t afford enough to eat,” she says. “[But] at Skateistan I don’t feel that my surroundings are ruined, I feel as though I’m in a nice place.”

Her father does not support her new hobby. Neither do many adults look favorably upon any kids rolling down streets on skateboards. But as societies have learned, once kids fall in love with skateboarding they’re not easily dissuaded. “Their opinions are meaningless to me,” Fazila says. “I really like skating and I won’t stop.”

The feature-length documentary was produced by Rene Kock and co-produced by Percovich, who is a co-founder of Skateistan. It chronicles the grassroots effort behind the creation of Skateistan. It shows the first skateboarding sessions at the fountain and chronicles the titanic struggle to overcome social, ethnic and gender barriers, and to build bridges of understanding among different cultures.

The movie provides glimpses into the fragile lives of Afghan youths and how some of their lives were changed because of the school, whose crowning moment was the grand opening of a state-of-the-art indoor skatepark facility on Oct. 29, 2009. For that event pros were brought in to demonstrate what can be done on a skateboard.

Reads the closing line in the documentary synopsis: “In the end we show the kids of Kabul skating this amazing new park with the international pros, witnessing the incredible joy and hope that can be generated with the help of four wheels and a board.”

(GRIND TV  1.18.11)

“SKATEISTAN: FOUR WHEELS AND A BOARD” 2011 directed by Kai Sehr

“SKATEISTAN: TO LIVE AND SKATE KABUL” 2010 directed by Orlando von Einsiedel


UFO drawings…





see PART 1 for more…




the sketchy times of drug smuggling surfers in ’70s Indo…


Director Michael Oblowitz will tell you straight to your face: “This is not a surf movie.”

Perhaps not, but those who were lucky enough to see the movie will attest: Sea of Darkness is most certainly about surfing, and about a group of surfers who blazed a trail of adventure, self-discovery, mysticism and crime throughout Bali, Java and other, more remote parts of Indonesia long before the days of the fully catered boat trip. At its core, Sea of Darkness is a film about choices.

It follows the life-changing decisions made by early Indo surfers Mike Boyum, Jeff Chitty and Peter McCabe, who turn to drug-smuggling to fuel their passion for surfing — and those made by Martin Daly, Bruce Raymond and Dave Barnett, who funnel their wave addiction toward more legal pastimes that gain them fame, fortune and a lifetime of perfect waves.

The movie took Oblowitz over three years to make, and, beyond Daly, McCabe and a host of other Indo adventurers, features Steve Spaulding, Jeff Divine and John Milius.

Surfline: This is a movie about a curious place and time. How did the project get started?

Michael Oblowitz: I was flying on an airplane to the Turks and Caicos. I had been hired to do a TV show there — one of these crazy vampire TV shows. In a prior lifetime I had films in the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes, Edinburgh, Berlin. But poverty dictates that very often I have to take real jobs, such as directing Steven Segal movies or chasing a bunch of lesbian vampires down to the Turks and Caicos and making a television show out of it, right? And lo and behold I am sitting in the airport in Miami, and the guy next to me looks extremely familiar; he looks like a grey-haired version of Martin Daly, who I was very familiar with because I read Surfer Magazine regularly, as all of us do when we’re not surfing. And it is Martin. And the two of us get to chatting. And we talk about what we respectively do. We are about the same age. We both love surfing. I am from South Africa and I talk about the early days of surfing in South Africa. So Martin and I were having this conversation about all these strange and mysterious waves, and he had his Mac with him and it was just loaded with amazing, exotic photographs because he was in the midst of the Quiksilver Crossing at the time. And he showed me all these fabulous pictures of these young kids and then he started talking about Jeff Chitty and Dave Barnett and the elder guys and how all of this had come about — what his boat had previously been used for. And of course out of all these names comes the illustrious Mike Boyum. And how Mike Boyum had a built a camp at G-Land. How Boyum was dodging the cops in fifty countries. How he got booted out of G-Land, and how he came to live with Martin and Jeff Chitty in a place in Jakarta — a little house called the “Skull Cave” from which Boyum conducted many, many sojourns, forays and drug dealings. And all of this was done to fund Boyum’s dream of building another G-Land somewhere. Now I said, ‘You know, Martin, we’ve had five Scotches each, but this is a movie I’m going to make.’

SL: Not many people are clear about what happened to Mike Boyum. Did he disappear or die or…?

MO: The film revolves around a fork in the road. And that fork in the road really turns at a certain point when Boyum is presenting to Bruce Raymond and Martin Daly and various surfers: ‘Let’s get together with all your technical and oceanic knowledge and let’s build a fleet of drug-smuggling boats that could really work and could really get that 60-feet on the waterline filled with tonnage. We can pick it up in Engano in Sumatra and drop it off on the West Coast of Australia. We’ll make millions.’ And Martin and Bruce turn him down. Jeff Chitty and Peter McCabe, on the other hand, allow him to contract them to smuggle drugs and they do all kinds of crazy stuff like swallowing pounds of cocaine. They eventually all get arrested. When they come out of jail they decide to do one more big run to build up some money for Vanuatu where they are going to set up another surf camp. And Chitty has a kilo or two that he gets busted with in Australia and goes to Boggo Road Prison for ten years, and with him goes Boyum’s stash money. Boyum arrives in Australia but he can’t access the stash money because Chitty has already been sent to solitary confinement. He attacks Chitty’s beautiful girlfriend; tries to get it that way. In the end, he can’t get the money. Boyum goes off to the Philippines, to Siargao; you know that island there, Cloud Nine? And we have a number of different stories about what happens to him. But the general story is he tried to cleanse himself through a diet and absolve himself from his sins and start all over again. One of the interviews we did had him lying dead; found by a pastor in the town, of starvation.

SL: One of the people interviewed in the film calls Bali in the ’70s ‘Heaven on Earth’ or ‘The Center of the Universe.’ Why do you think they described it in those terms?

MO: Steve Spaulding, who was wonderful in the movie, describes Boyum as having nowhere else to go. He was a fugitive from the law, he was a draft dodger; he had to be in a country that didn’t have an extradition policy. And Bali was an exotic, amazing place — free-flowing opium, free-flowing hashish, free-flowing Thai sticks, free-flowing magic mushrooms; young girls willing to try everything. As Milius put it, it was a wonderful place for sheer hedonism.

SL: What year does the story begin?

MO: I’d say it starts in the early seventies. It’s a little sketchy because Milius and Jeff Divine talk about disconsolate Americans — either draft-dodging or finishing the Army and coming back to America and getting a bad reception — feeling more allure for the Asian Peninsula than America. ‘Going Asiatic’ as Milius calls it. And they go Asiatic and we go through the late seventies, eighties. Mike Boyum drops out of the picture around 1989. And in ’91-’92 Quiksilver hires the Indies Trader, formerly called The Rader. It was a purpose-filled boat made by Dave Barnett to pillage the ocean floor. Because these guys were all salvage divers remember — that’s where they began. And so we go all the way through these…they are almost hilarious stories. Boyum and Chitty are like the Keystone Cops of smuggling. They are the opposite of Cocaine Cowboys. They are not smuggling to make millions; they are smuggling to keep their surf life going. And by ’93 Boyum has vanished. Peter McCabe has spent four years in jail. Jeff Chitty’s in jail for 12 years. Martin is looking for a job and he hooks up with Bruce Raymond and they start the Quiksilver Crossing. That goes on for a while, and that seemed like the be-all-and-end-all of the career, and that was more or less when I met Martin, but then I lived through the entire collapse of the Quiksilver Crossing with Martin. So there were other phases after that and really it comes to the present day. 2007 is when I think the final shot was made. Jeff Chitty is now out of jail after being there for 15 years and he is sitting on Martin’s boat, along with Martin and Dave Barnett, and he is talking about what might have been, and Martin’s pretty happy with what is.

SL: A fork in the road…

MO: It’s an amazing story. It’s a terrific story. John Milius said it’s one of the great surfing films, because it’s not about surfing. It’s about people who are engaged in surfing. What I’m really glad about is that I’ve made a movie that really isn’t a surf movie; it’s a character driven movie about a period of time. It’s not surf pornography, you know?

SL: I noticed in the movie that Martin gets philosophical about some of the reasons why people like Boyum did what they did. Was there a lesson in there for you?

MO: Absolutely. Surfing is an addiction and it’s like all addictions — if you let it consume you, it will consume you. Milius very clearly says at the end of the movie: ‘There are absolutes and there is a right and there is a wrong, and even though the universe may appear indifferent, it does matter.’

(SURFLINE  8.17.09)

“SEA OF DARKNESS” 2008 directed by Michael Oblowitz




“one of the great obsessional passions of all time…”


One night during the pre-production phase on A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell asked Stanley Kubrick why he was eating ice cream at the same time as his main course steak. “What’s the difference?” said Kubrick. “It’s all food. This is how Napoleon used to eat.”

Well that’s how McDowell tells it anyway. There are lots of near-mythical stories about Kubrick’s comprehensive research. That he was probably the most meticulous of film directors known to man is not open to debate, and Napoleon, the film he tried and failed to make for decades, is the best example of his attention to detail. Kubrick believed nobody had ever made a great historical film, and planned to change this with a three-hour epic, telling the story of the French emperor’s entire life.

Kubrick thought Napoleon was the most interesting man to have ever walked the Earth. He called his life “an epic poem of action”, thought his relationship with Josephine was “one of the great obsessional passions of all time”, and said, “He was one of those rare men who move history and mold the destiny of their own times and of generations to come.” Getting to work on the film in the mid-60s, after 2001 was released, he sent an assistant around the world to literally follow in Napoleon’s footsteps (”Wherever Napoleon went, I want you to go,” he told him), even getting him to bring back samples of earth from Waterloo so he could match them for the screen.

He read hundreds of books on the man and broke the information down into categories “on everything from his food tastes to the weather on the day of a specific battle”. He gathered together 15,000 location scouting photos and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery.

the production outline…

He would shoot the film in France and Italy, for their grand locations, and Yugoslavia, for their cheap armies. These were pre-CG days, and he arranged to borrow 40,000 Romanian infantry and 10,000 cavalry for the battles. “I wouldn’t want to fake it with fewer troops,” he said to an interviewer at the time, “because Napoleonic battles were out in the open, a vast tableau where the formations moved in an almost choreographic fashion. I want to capture this reality on film, and to do so it’s necessary to recreate all the conditions of the battle with painstaking accuracy.”

He wanted David Hemmings and Audrey Hepburn for the leads, with Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier as supporting characters, but it all came crashing down when, partly as a result of another Napoleon film, Waterloo, being released in 1970, studios decided Kubrick’s dream was too financially risky. In the early 1980s, he still talked of wanting to make the film, but it wasn’t to be. Although he died in 1999, there’s a chance his vision may see the light of day; it’s been offered to the likes of Ridley Scott and Ang Lee.

Tony Frewin was Kubrick’s assistant from 1965 until the director died (and beyond). I called him up for a first-hand account of what it was like to be in Kubrick’s Napoleonic vortex.

Vice: So tell me how your life with Stanley began. You were an office boy for him, right?
Tony Frewin: Well, a runner. Office boy I think rather glorifies it.

V: How did you come across him in the first place?
TF: I grew up in Borehamwood and he’d just moved in to MGM Studios down the road on the pre-production of 2001. My father had just quit the management at MGM but he’d gone to work for Stanley, and he just kept on at me, saying, “Come down, we need a runner on this.” I think I said something crass – in those days, in the mid-60s, we only ever went to see foreign language films, French films: Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman, Bunuel. Terribly snobbish. And I think I said something crass like, “Well if it was Jean-Luc Godard I might be interested.” Ah God. What a prick.

V: The pretentiousness of youth.
TF: Oh absolutely. You squirm when you think of it. Oh God. Anyway, I went down one Sunday afternoon and my dad showed me into this office, which was absolutely full of books on fantastic art, surrealism, Dadaism, cosmology, flying saucers, and I thought, “Fuck, I wouldn’t mind working here just to have access to these books.” And then Stanley came in, who I thought was an office cleaner, with a baggy pair of trousers and a sports jacket with ink stains all over it. And we got chatting, for about two hours, and he said, “When can you start?” and I said, “When do you want me to?” and he said, “Seven o’clock tomorrow morning.” I said, “You’ve got a deal.” That was a week after my 17th birthday.

V: What sort of running work was it? Anything that was required?
TF: Yeah, and it was always like that. People used to say, “What’s the management structure like there?” at Hawk Films, or whatever we called ourselves, and I’d say, “Well, there’s Stanley at the top, and then everybody else.” There were no tiers of middle management, there was Stanley at the apex and all the rest of us on the bottom line. But it was a tremendous education working for Stanley; he was an intellectual Catherine Wheel of ideas and projects and ideas and enthusiasm. You really earnt your nickel working for Stanley, but as [Full Metal Jacket writer] Michael Herr says in that lovely little book [Kubrick]: nobody earnt their nickel more than Stanley himself. He lived by example, not by dictat.

V: When do you remember him first talking about Napoleon?
TF: I remember when we were working on 2001, he had a sort of fascination with military figures, he was always very interested in Julius Caesar, particularly the invasion of Britain, but this ability to be a man of action, an intellectual, a strategist, with political objectives, and how you balanced all this and did what was right, I guess Napoleon grew out of that.

V: The research and planning he did for Napoleon is near legendary.
TF: Yeah. He did a lot on all his films, not least of which was on the abandoned project, Wartime Lies, about the Holocaust. We spent nearly two years, day in day out, researching that. And in that same period Spielberg got the idea for Schindler’s List, did the pre-production, made the film, released it, and we were still shuffling index cards.

V: So Schindler’s List just killed it for him?
TF: Well, he’d always wanted to do a film about the Holocaust, but it presented certain problems. As Stanley said, if you really want to make an accurate film about the Holocaust, it’s got to be unwatchable. But he thought Schindler’s List was a hard act to follow, and it wasn’t the right time to do Wartime Lies. You know what [historian] Raul Hilberg said about Schindler’s List? He wrote this massive three-volume study of the destruction of the European Jews, quite witty and funny too, but he said Schindler’s List was a success story. A feelgood picture.

V: That’s one way of looking at it. In terms of Stanley’s fascination with Napoleon, what do you know of Malcolm McDowell’s story about him eating dessert and steak at the same time, because that’s how Napoleon used to eat?
TF: I’d take that with a pinch of Bolivian marching powder.

V: Do you think the levels of research he carried out and his attention to the smallest detail was all part of the fun?
TF: Well, it was a means to an end. He said, “God is in the detail.” But he knew when to cut his research, when to stop it. Barry Lyndon is a wonderful example of a historical film correctly done, right down to the lighting. Unlike all this crap you see on the BBC now. What he aimed for was for that it actually looked like at the time. It’s a wonderful film.

V: Do you think if he was making films today he would have utilised CGI?
TF: Oh absolutely.

V: What about for extras? He’d hired 40,000 or so troops for Napoleon; do you think now he would have done that with CGI, or would he still have hired all those people for authenticity’s sake?
TF: I think it would depend very much on the shot. Some shots you might need a couple of thousand, and then some CGI. Although I don’t think he would have automatically thought, let’s CGI everything.

V: Was he enthusiastic about new technology in that area?
TF: Oh absolutely, from the word go. He used to say anything that saved time was worth its weight in gold. The rest of us were sort of luddites, but he wasn’t. In 1980 he bought us all IBM green screens. These were the first PCs that were generally available, little 12″ screens. You didn’t even have a hard drive, you had two floppies. And Stanley said, “This is the future, this is what we’ll be using.” And I told him, “No, I like to type something and take out the piece of paper and see what’s on it,” and he said, “No, listen, you’ve got to get rid of that, this is the future, it’s arrived now.” He wasn’t at all conservative in that way; we had fax machines before anybody else did. People would say, “What the fuck do you want a fax machine for?” But he’d grab anything that saved time and made things look better.

V: How would you feel about Ridley Scott making the film?
TF: Well, he’s a very competent director, but it would be a very different film from Stanley’s. There’s only one Stanley who could make a Stanley Kubrick film.

(VICE  2.10.10)

read Kubrick’s screenplay here




Lester Bangs‘ 1981 Village Voice review of the “Philosophy of the World” reissue…


I have been getting whiny letters from a lot of you lately complaining about the general state of the art. “What is all this shit?” you ask. “We thought New Wave was supposed to be this awakening of New Avenues of Self Expression and Freedom, resulting in new musical verities and new insights into the human condition even! Instead we went out and spent all this money, and all these records are shit!” You’re right about about one thing at least: all those record are shit, and you might as well have burned all those dollar bills. (Closer, 12 bucks, haw haw haw!) But those records aren’t shit for the reasons that you think: those records are shit because they’re all too good! That’s right. All those stupid bands were so stupid they plumb went out and learned to play their instruments, a process as ineluctable as the putrefaction of a corpse. Teach ‘em a chord or two, then just watch those little bastards practice till they can switch off, back and forth between those two chords (then three, then four … never shoulda learned even one!) deft as Al DiMeola if he wanted to play that which he probably will soon! Damn!

Which is why the only hope for rock’n’roll, aside from everybody playing nothing but shrieking atonal noise through arbitor distorters, is women. Balls are what ruined both rock and politics in the first place, and I demand the world be turned over to the female sex immediately. Only hope. Valerie Solanas was so much greater a prophet than Warhol that I can only pray she might consent to lead the group I’m forming. The absolute best rock’n’roll anywhere today is being played by women: the other night I saw God in the form of the Au Pairs, the Slits are stupendous, the Raincoats are better than London Calling or anything by Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde doesn’t count, Joan Jett deserves her place in the sun if not reparations, Lydia Lunch is the Female Role Model for the ’80s besides being one of the greatest guitarists in the world… the list is endless. (Patti, come home!)

But credit must be given to the foremothers: the Shaggs. Way back in 1972 [sic] they recorded an album up in New England that can stand, I think, easily with Beatles ’65, Life with the Lions, Blonde on Blonde, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks as one of the landmarks of roll’n’roll history. The Wiggins [sic] sisters (an anti-power trio) not only redefined the art but had a coherent Weltanschauung on their very first album, Philosophy of the World. Basically what it comes down to is that unlike the Stones these girls are saying we love you, whether you’re fat, skinny, retarded, or Norman Podhoretz even. Paul Weyrich. Don’t make no difference, they embrace all because they are true one world humanists with an eye to our social future whose only hope is a redefined communism based on the open-hearted sharing of whatever you got with all sentient beings. Their and my religion is compassion, true Christianity with no guilt factors and no vested interest, perhaps a barter economy, but certainly the elimination of capitalism, rape, and special-interest group hatred. For instance, in their personal favorite number, “My Pal Foot Foot,” they reveal how even a little doggie must be granted equal civil rights perhaps even extending to the voting booth. Hell, they let Nancy Reagan in! They also believe that we should jettison almost completely the high-tech society which has now perched us on the lip of global suicide, and return to third world-akin closeness with the earth, elements, nature, the seasons, as in my personal favorite on this album, “It’s Halloween,” which emphasizes that seasonal festivals are essential to a healthy body politic (why d’ya think all them people in California got no minds?).

Unfortunately the Wiggins’s masterpiece was lost over the years — it came out on a small label, and everybody knows the record industry has its head so far up its ass it’s licking its breastplate. But this guy from NRBQ had the savvy to rescue it from oblivion (in a recent issue of Rolling Stone, he compared their work to early Ornette Coleman, and he’s right, though early Marzette Watts might be more apt), so now we got it out on the Red Rooster label, which of course is a perfect joke on all those closet-queen heavy-metal cockrockers. How do they sound? Perfect! They can’t play a lick! But mainly they got the right attitude, which is all rock’n’roll’s ever been about from day one. (I mean, not being able to play is never enough.) You should hear the drum riff after the first verse and chorus of the title cut — sounding like a peg-leg stumbling through a field of bald Uniroyals, it cuts Dave Tough cold and these girls aren’t even junkies (of course!). They just whang and blang away while singing in harmonies reminiscent of three Singing Nuns who’ve been sniffing lighter fluid and their voices are just so copacetic [sic] together (being sisters, after all) you’d almost think they were Siamese triplets. Guitar style: sorta like 14 pocket combs being run through a moose’s dorsal, but very gently. Yet it rocks. Does it ever. Plus having one of the greatest album covers in history, best since Blank Generation. God Bless the Shaggs. Now if they will only emerge from (semi?) retirement (?) no one ever will have cause again to say “Rock’n’Roll is dead, man…” Up an’ at ‘em, Valerie.

(KEY OF Z  2000)


oysters have become functionally extinct…


another dispatch from the end of the world as we know it

from YAHOO

A survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the succulent mollusks are disappearing fast and 85 percent of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.

Most of the remaining wild oysters in the world, or about 75 percent, can be found in five locations in North America, said the study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

An international team of researchers led by Michael Beck of the Nature Conservancy and the University of California, Santa Cruz, examined the condition of native oyster reefs in 40 ecoregions, including 144 bays.

“Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent),” said the study.

“They are functionally extinct — in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) — particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.”

By averaging the loss among all regions, the researchers came up with an estimate that 85 percent of oyster reef ecosystems have been lost, but said that figure was likely low because some areas lacked historical records for comparison.

The study also did not include oyster reefs in parts of South Africa, China, Japan, and North and South Korea.

Other studies and observations in those areas “suggest that wild oyster abundance was much higher in the past and that reefs have declined greatly in abundance or have disappeared altogether,” the authors said.

The one bright spot in the oyster world was in the Gulf of Mexico, where native oyster catches are “the highest in the world despite significant declines in abundance and reefs,” according to the study.

Five regions where oyster catches were globally the highest were located in eastern North America, from the Virginia coast southward and also in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oysters are important to ecosystems because they filter impurities from water and provide food and employment for people living in coastal communities.

The decline in oyster population often begins when trawling or dredging destroys the structure of parts of the reef, leaving surviving oysters vulnerable to stresses in the environment.

In some cases, non-native species of oysters are introduced after a population decline, and they bring with them diseases that further kill off the native oysters.

The authors recommended that any reefs with less than 10 percent of their former abundance be closed to further harvesting until the oysters can build up their numbers again.

(YAHOO  2.3.11)




mystic leader, heath food commune, jam band…


On August 25, 1975, former Sunset Strip restaurateur Jim Baker launched himself off a 1,300-foot-high cliff on the easternmost shore of Oahu. Although he had never hang-glided before — or even trained for it — he was confident his instincts would kick in and allow him to negotiate the notoriously tempestuous thermal trade winds off the mountainous coastline. And they may well have, except for a sudden calm that caused him to immediately plummet downward hundreds of feet. He recovered control and managed to glide out over the Pacific for 10 minutes before navigating back to crash-land on the beachfront Waimalano campground. Although he appeared to have no serious injuries, Baker was unable to move and was taken home, where he died some nine hours later. He was survived by his 13 wives and 140 or so sons and daughters.

For the most part, these were his “spiritual” sons and daughters, as Baker had been going by the names Father Yod (rhymes with load) and YaHoWha for five years as the leader of the Source Family, a quintessential sex, drugs and rock & roll New Age hippie commune that lived in the Chandler mansion in Los Feliz and operated a highly successful health-food restaurant — also called the Source — at Sunset and Sweetzer. “Father,” as Baker was most consistently referred to, was a Cincinnati-born Medal of Honor Marine and jujitsu expert who came to L.A. after WWII to audition for a role as Tarzan and fell under the sway of Philosophical Research Society founder Manly P. Hall’s eclectic mysticism and the proto-hippie lifestyle of barefoot granola-munching Nature Boys like eden ahbez and Gypsy Boots. Baker opened a Topanga Canyon sandal shop, followed by two successful health-food restaurants favored by the Hollywood elite.

Things started getting freaky early in 1969, when Baker opened his third restaurant — the Source — and became a devotee of Sikh kundalini master Yogi Bhajan. Baker began speaking and directing meditation sessions in the restaurant, and — though still a follower of the yogi — channeling a new synthesis of traditional and original esoteric teachings. Attendance soared, and soon Baker and his growing group of followers were dressing in white cotton robes and turbans, living communally in the Chandler mansion (a.k.a. the Mother House) and following a rigorous program of spiritual practices involving elaborate breathing techniques (beginning with a single six-second hit of sacred herb at 3 a.m.), cold showers, radical shifts in gender roles, yoga, chanting the Tetragrammaton, natural home birth, magickal visualizations, Aleister Crowleyian ego-suppressing rituals and tantric sex.

During this period, the Source Family was one of the most high-profile and unusual of the many new religious movements proliferating in Los Angeles, not least because of their uncommonly high standards of grooming and cleanliness, their economic self-sufficiency and work ethic, and the fact that they didn’t openly proselytize. Potential members, in fact, were obliged to undergo a period of sexual abstinence and cross-examination as well as surrender all their material possessions to the group, washing dishes (or other chores) at the restaurant and taking a vow of confidentiality in order to partake of the spiritual teachings.

It was this commitment to secrecy and the modest recruitment schedule (along with the fact that the story ends with a hang-gliding accident instead of a mass suicide in Guyana) that kept the Source Family a vague rumor for 30 years. In fact, they probably would have remained in limbo had it not been for the efforts of an on-again, off-again member of the group called Arlick — known in the mundane world of maya as Sky “Sunlight” Saxon. Saxon had been the driving force behind the seminal L.A. garage band the Seeds, whose “Pushin’ Too Hard” was a national hit and was later recognized as one of the essential precursors of punk. By the punk era, Saxon had pretty much fallen off the cultural map except for occasional where-are-the-acid-casualties-now appearances marked by cryptic utterances concerning God being a dog. Then, sometime in the ’80s, rumors began circulating among record geeks about Saxon’s involvement with an obscure psychedelic tribal musical collective called Ya Ho Wa 13 — whose flurry of self-released recordings quickly became one of the most sought-after (not to mention strangest) of vinyl rarities.

Ya Ho Wa 13 was, it turned out, the musical wing of the Source Family. Between 1973 and 1975, various incarnations of this loose subcult (Father Yod and the Spirit of ’76, the Savage Sons of YaHoWha, Fire Water Air, etc.) recorded approximately 65 albums’ worth of mostly improvised material — nine of which were released on their own Higher Key label and sold through the restaurant. The earliest recordings featured actual songs written and performed by newly renamed members of the Family — primarily Djin, Pythias, Sunflower and Octavius. It wasn’t until Baker — now known as YaHoWha — mandated improvisation and began contributing freestyle vocalizations that something extraordinary occurred. Just how extraordinary would remain pretty much a secret until 1998, when Saxon — who turns out to have been only peripherally involved with some of the later recordings — negotiated the release of a now-legendary 13-CD box set by the Japanese specialty label Captain Trip.

Over surging psych-rock jams, YaHoWha sang, howled and chanted extemporaneous sermons (as well as playing gong, kettle drums and a whistle that sounds almost like a theremin) that summarized much of his philosophy in catchy slogans like “Die to live again” or “I can be you and you can be me — ultimate orgasm we will see!” The originality of the best of these albums ranks them with the greatest outsider musical artifacts of the era, on par with An Evening With Wildman Fischer or lounge-singer-turned-acidhead Johnny Arcesia, whose vocals are often remarkably similar to YaHoWha’s. Most strikingly, YaHoWha’s obvious humor about himself and his situation dissolves the prejudices that most of us have regarding “cults” and their often difficult cultural byproducts. (Battlefield Earth, anyone?)

In spite of the sudden availability of this wealth of rare material, the Source remained pretty much an unknown quantity — though speculation was plentiful. Unbeknownst to the world at large, the remnants of the Source Family — which had officially dispersed within a couple of years of YaHoWha’s death — were coming to terms with its legacy. A couple of Hawaiian reunions occurred — first to finally scatter YaHoWha’s ashes on the 20th anniversary of his fatal flight, and then to observe the birth of the Aquarian age on September 17, 2001 (as predicted by the Great Pyramid). Family archivist Isis began organizing the enormous quantities of photographs and ephemera and writing a definitive history of Baker and the group. Initially published privately for Family members, The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family came to the attention of Jodi Wille and Adam Parfrey of the maverick publishing house Process. Wille helped edit and expand the history, which now includes a number of dissenting voices regarding the purity of YaHoWha’s motives (and a CD of previously unreleased recordings, including a live gig at Beverly Hills High!).

Not that Isis’ version of the story is all peaches and cream. As with most prophets, YaHoWha’s thoughts began turning to the coming apocalypse. At around the time he began to lose interest in the musical project, he became convinced that America was on the brink of a series of cataclysmic upheavals — nuclear war followed by earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions. When one of the Family children became seriously ill with an untreated staph infection, emergency-room doctors alerted the authorities. Fearing a crackdown, YaHoWha realized it was time to sell the restaurant and head for the hills of Hawaii. No danger of military invasion, tsunamis or volcanoes there!

While the inside scoop on the high-functioning days of a utopian religious movement is a rare and fascinating thing in itself, it is the account of its unraveling that makes for the most compelling reading, throwing the accomplishments of the spiritual social experiment into high contrast. Without the income provided by the restaurant and the relatively tolerant and supportive environment of Los Angeles, the vision began to fray at the edges. The populace of the Family’s first Hawaiian destination, Kauai, was decidedly unwelcoming, and doubts and paranoia arose among the flock — and their shepherd. A contemporary article from the local paper The Garden Island quotes YaHoWha desperately offering the services of the Family to “police the airports” to drive the also-unpopular hippie “parasites” off the island, if only the authorities would “look the other way.”

That didn’t work. In 1975, YaHoWha bailed with a small entourage on a peripatetic world journey, searching for a new home in Thailand, India, Nepal, Egypt, Greece and a half-dozen other locales. The remaining Family members had to persuade the Hawaiian welfare authorities to buy them airplane tickets back to the mainland. After regrouping briefly in San Francisco (where they refurbished a haunted mansion and YaHoWha basically revoked the sexual privileges of his sons in a vain attempt to make them get jobs), they decided to try Hawaii again. It was around this time that Father got interested in hang-gliding.

Usually, accounts of communal spiritual movements are sensationalistic “exposés of brainwashing cults” or whitewashing “defenses against prejudicial conspiracies.” The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family is something else. The participants in this story seem uniformly intelligent, straightforward and better off for their brush with the infinite. Most cherish their time with YaHoWha as a central transformative period in their lives, even when they have gone on to make millions in the construction industry or found other fringe spiritual communities to shelter them. And the Source Family is just one of many such under-documented experiments from a period of recent American history that was quickly swept under the rug with unwarranted ridicule and fear mongering. I’m not convinced that the release of this book is a harbinger of the imminent transformation of our species’ consciousness and the basic structure of society. But it at least allows us to discuss the possibility again without snickering.

(LA WEEKLY  11.29.07)




reading the architecture of Los Angeles…


Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christoper Hawthorne announced in the January 26th issue of the Times an ambitious one-year reading program Reading L.A. which will take a detailed chronological look at major works in the history of the development of Los Angeles and Southern California. One of his goals is to by the end of the year have a better handle on how the city has been explored by the critics and writers who have preceded us here.

This 12 month immersion in our storied past seems like a fun trip for aficionados of Los Angeles history and the evolution of modern architecture to embark upon with him. I plan to closely follow along, especially on the books I have as yet not read. For those of you who choose to join Hawthorne on this trek through our past he states that this effort is not organized as a formal book club as many of the titles are out of print and some are almost impossible to find.


January:  “The Truth About Los Angeles” by Louis Adamic (1927) and “Los Angeles” by Morrow Mayo (1933)

February:  “Southern California: An Island on the Land” by Carey McWilliams (1946) and “Five California Architects” by Esther McCoy (1960)

March:  “Eden in Jeopardy: Man’s Prodigal Meddling With the Environment” by Richard Lillard (1966) and “The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930″  by Robert M. Fogelson (1967)

April:  “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies” by Reyner Banham (1971) and “Guide to the Ugliest Buildings of Los Angeles” by Richard Meltzer (1980)

May:  “L.A Freeway: An Appreciative Essay ” by David Brodsly (1981) and “Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture ” by Thomas Hines (1982)

June:  “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water ” by Marc Reisner (1986) and “City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles” by Mike Davis (1990)

July: “Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture” by Charles Jencks (1993), “Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir” by D.J. Waldie (1996), and “The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory,” by Norman M. Klein (1997)

August:  “Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses” edited by Elizabeth A.T. Smith (1999) and “Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis” by Greg Hise (1999)

September:  “Eden by Design: The 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region” edited by Hise and William Deverell (2000) and “The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-41″ by Richard Longstreth (2000)

October:  “Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving: Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City” by John Chase (2000) and “Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles” by William Alexander McClung (2000)

November:  “Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles” by William Fulton (2001) and “Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture” by Sylvia Lavin (2005)

December:  “Making Time: Essays on the Nature of Los Angeles” by William Fox (2006) and “Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City” by Robert Gottlieb (2007)



border wall volleyball…


on the Tijuana River delta…


California’s most desolate and unknown beach is desolate and unknown for a reason. It has no name, no facilities, no parking lot. There are no signs for it inside Borderfield State Park. There are no signs for the park either. To get there, you depart the 5 freeway 10 miles south of San Diego, follow the roads to where the gas stations give way to horse stables, get lost in the overgrowth and streams of the Tijuana River delta, and from there walk the dirt road two miles through coastal dunes to emerge at the Pacific.

This is a filthy beach, where the Tijuana River deposits human waste, heavy metals, toxic poisons and other industrial effluvia from Mexico into the ocean. “CONTAMINATED WATER; DEEP HOLES; RIPTIDES; NO LIFEGUARD; NO SWIMMING!” the signs announce.

This is also a geopolitically divided beach, purposefully hidden, a DMZ in miniature where the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol would prefer no distractions as they monitor the fence of metal pylons that draws a 20-foot-tall line in the sand all the way into the sea.

It is the perfect beach, in other words, for the world’s first game of international border volleyball. Through the pylons we can see hundreds of people — families, kids, ice-cream vendors and fishermen — all hanging out on Mexico’s side. The fence itself has kind of a beach vibe here: It’s broken in parts, and Mexican nationals wander back and forth, left alone by the border-patrol units perched up on the hill unless they happen to wander a bit too far.

With Brent Hoff’s three collaborators filming, he needs a second, and so I am volunteered to be the other half of Team USA. By chance, we are both wearing white tank tops, beaded necklaces and swim trunks — just the right uniforms for Team USA to show everybody who’s boss. (U-S-A! U-S-A!) Hoff’s shades are yellow and mirrored for a nice finishing touch. We approach the fence. Within seconds Team Mexico is formed, and the match begins.

Beach volleyball is a much different game when played over two-story metal pylons. Strategy and nuance go out the window. There are few sets and certainly no spikes. Mostly, it’s tit-for-tat power bumps that send the ball in 30- and 40- and even 50-foot arcs. The ball hangs in the air so long that a lot of time is spent looking skyward, bracing for another bump that hopefully goes in the right direction. As I wait for one good knock to fall from the blue, it occurs to me that our entirely new sport makes for some extreme, if inadvertent, political theater. Despite the difficulty, the game is fun — and surprisingly uninteresting to the border patrol, who zipped down at the drop of a hat several times earlier but now seem content to observe us with binoculars.

Spectators line up on the other side too. Beachgoers watch the game, and a bunch of kids doing a college art project film us as well. We learn that our opponents are two guys named Jerry and Larry. Jerry grew up in El Monte. He’s in Mexico because he “made mistakes in his life” — I notice a big “EMF” for the El Monte Flores gang on his arm. But now, he says, he’s on the right path. Larry is a student with long, rocker hair; he’s wearing a black shirt and jeans.

Although we’re not really playing for points, it’s clear we’re losing. Hoff makes heroic dives, and I’m (sort of) pulling my weight in the volleys that develop, but Jerry and Larry have strength and stamina, despite the fact that Jerry is older and wider than me and Hoff combined, and Larry looks like he should be melting.

After an hour or so, we call it quits. Our wrists are red and raw as we go to the fence to shake hands. A crowd gathers for this moment of cultural exchange, which turns into a photo opportunity. Like China’s pandas, Hoff and I are goodwill ambassadors. See how furry and friendly we really are? We’re not all saber rattlers up here! We take pictures with Jerry and Larry, with the art-school kids, with some tourists from Canada who are marveling at the whole thing.

All this activity finally brings down the hammer of the border patrol, and a jeep shows up to separate us. The officer is friendly but firm. He’s just come on shift and has no idea we’ve been playing volleyball over the fence for the past hour.

(LA WEEKLY  7.26.06)







František Vláčil’s masterpiece


Dawn breaks against a black and white snowscape and a party of wolves makes its way obliquely towards the camera. A hawk hovers above the marsh reeds and we note that it is linked to the hand of its master. The sombre photography and the images of hunters, both animal and human, establish the context of a harsh and predatory world.

This is the opening to František Vláčil‘s 13th-century epic Markéta Lazarová. It’s a film from the mid-1960s, and by no means a familiar title, yet some rank it as one of the best films ever made. In the Czech Republic, a poll of film professionals has ranked it as the best Czech film. That places it above the work of Miloš Forman, Jan Švankmajer, and Oscar-winning titles such as Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Observed Trains) and Obchod na korze (A Shop on the High Street).

Adapted from a pre-war novel by the avant-garde writer, Vladislav Vančura, Vláčil’s film deals with the conflicts between the rival clans of the Kozlíks and the Lazars, and the doomed love affair between Mikoláš Kozlík and Markéta Lazarová. Interwoven with all this is an evocation of the conflict between Christianity and paganism.

Revealing the essence

Vláčil’s objectives run counter to the traditional historical film in which he felt he was “seeing contemporary people dressed up in historical costumes.” He sought instead to penetrate the psychology of the times. “People then were much more instinctive in their actions, and hence much more consistent. The controlling emotion was fear, and that brought its pressure to bear mainly at night. That is why some pagan customs stayed with man for such a long time.”

Not satisfied with a purely intellectual exercise, he took his cast and film team to the Šumava forest for two years. “There we lived like animals …lacking food, and dressed in rags. I wanted my actors to live their parts. Finally they did. And they loved me, because I gave them the opportunity to live the way they always wanted.”

While he was clearly influenced by models such as Ingmar Bergman’s Det Sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957) and Akira Kurosawa’s Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai, 1954), Vláčil’s ambitions reached further. Apart from authentic clothes, implements, and sets constructed by traditional methods, he drew on anthropological studies and used historical language. Like the original novel, he attempted to reveal the essence of human nature.

Despite its extended period of preparation and shooting, the film has the intensity of an almost instantaneous inspiration. The combination of an elliptical narrative with a visually rich and evocative style produces a powerful and fascinating film.

Dramatic scenes such as the attack on a Saxon count and his retinue, a battle filmed as hallucination, and scenes of sexual passion, contrast with rare episodes of repose. The story is complemented by powerful animal images—the raven, the snake, the deer, and the lamb—a poetic menagerie of hunters and hunted. The superstition of the werewolf, common at the time, hangs over the characters’ actions.

The part of Markéta Lazarová is played by the strikingly beautiful Slovak actress, Magda Vášáryová, who was once slated to play the lead role in Sophie’s Choice, but lost out to the better-known Meryl Streep. More recently, she has been Czechoslovak ambassador to Austria (1990-1992) and a candidate for the Slovak presidency (May 1999).

History and genre

Markéta Lazarová, finished in 1967, was Vláčil’s second historical film and he was soon to become a specialist in the genre. Ďáblova past (The Devil’s Trap)(1961), set during the counter-Reformation, dealt with the Jesuit persecutions and had already created a sense of history as present. The theme of Christianity vs paganism and the distorting effects of organised religion is again the subject of Údolí včel (Valley of the Bees, 1967), where the Czech hero is raised as a member of the Order of St Mary of Jerusalem (the Teutonic Knights).

In Adelheid (1969), he treats the subject of a Czech who inherits German property after the expulsions from the Sudetenland after the Second World War. The almost silent examination of his relationship with Adelheid, daughter of the former German owner and now his servant, provides a profound analysis of the human distortions caused by ideology.

Vláčil, who originally studied art history and aesthetics, reveals an intense interest in the power of the poetic image and, in this respect, his work has been compared with Tarkovsky. But Vláčil’s approach focuses on drama rather than reflection. As a student, he apparently drew Eisenstein’s Bronenosets Potëmkin (The Battleship Potemkin, 1925) frame by frame, and maintained this storyboarding technique in his own work.

The present seen through the past

His taste for composition—horses against landscape, castles against the sea—often attains a Wellesian epic grandeur. Yet, in Markéta Lazarová the wide screen composition is complemented by a battery of poetic, associational, and disruptive effects. The bardic titles that break up the film give it the epic quality of the picaresque novel and the violence of the film’s rapid forward tracking movements, flashbacks and flashforwards disturb both narrative and visual convention.

Although Vláčil was temperamentally drawn to historical reconstruction, his films were always intended, he said, as a dialogue with his own times. His themes can be summarised as reflecting the human distortions caused by cultural and ideological conflict. The historical themes of East vs West, Christianity vs paganism, and Czechs vs Germans could easily find their parallels in more contemporary ideological conflicts. The invading Ukrainian guerrillas in Stíny horkého léta (Shadows of a Hot Summer, 1977), where a Moravian farmer defends his home against occupation, were even interpreted as standing for the Warsaw Pact armies that invaded Czechoslovakia during the suppression of the Prague Spring of 1968.

While he was initially unable to work in features immediately after 1968, Vláčil returned with Dým bramborové natě (Smoke on the Potato Fields, 1976), a reflective and elegiac study of a country doctor and his relations with a young pregnant girl. By holding to simple (but resonant) themes, he was able to maintain the integrity of his work in the difficult years that followed.

He inevitably projected his own and his society’s preoccupations into the past. But his attempts to see historical periods, including the post-war years, in terms of their own values and contradictions, is still rarely attempted.

(CE-REVIEW  16.10.00)

“MARKÉTA LAZAROVÁ” 1967 directed by František Vláčil




an interview…


This interview was her first in the United States. She wore faded denims, smoked frequently, looked thinner and more intriguing than in “Last Tango in Paris” and seemed ready to revise her European image.

Roger Ebert: Why California?
Maria Schneider: The main thing was the space. It was getting hard to breathe in Europe – it’s too compact, too compressed. I lived in France about three years, traveling around a lot, and then I tried London, and about six months ago I settled on here.

RE: So far you’ve been in two movies with two top directors, Bertolucci and Antonioni . . .
MS: Six movies. Nobody knows, but I did six movies before “Last Tango in Paris.” I don’t think any of them ever played here. One was directed by Roger Vadim, after he made “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” And I did some theater, and a couple of underground French movies. I walked out on one of them when I wasn’t paid. I fought with the director, went back to Paris, and met Bertolucci. He offered me the role in “Tango.” Dominique Sanda was going to do it, but she got pregnant.

RE: And you got a sort of immortality, because the movie’s already a landmark.
MS: So much of that was because of Brando. He was wonderful to work with, for an actor like myself who was still beginning. He had just finished “The Godfather,” and now this was also part of his comeback, and you’d think he’d want the advantage in all of the scenes. Actors always try to look their best. But he gave me the advantage, the material to work with. And he was brilliant when we improvised . . . the bathroom scene was improvised.

RE: And Bertolucci?
MS: He’s a great director, but . . . well, I was 20 when I did “Tango.” Bertolucci made me wear very heavy black makeup under my eyes. Makeup on a girl who’s too young gives her the wrong character, gives her a funny look. I argued with him, but with no luck. I don’t know who he thought I was supposed to be. Marlon was such a good force on the picture. We were working like dogs with an Italian crew, filming in Paris, overtime and all that, and two crew members came down with stomach ulcers. And Marlon was the one – not Bertolucci, who goes on about being a member of the Italian Communist party – but Marlon was the one who brought sandwiches and wine for the crew and worried about them.

RE: After the film was released you were suddenly famous – or infamous – all over the world.
MS: And Marlon told me about that, too. He was the first to tell me about the bad parts of fame. How the press can seize on everything and make it as sensational as they can. And there the European press is worse than the American. I think they’ll print anything.

RE: There were some amazing quotes attributed to you.
MS: I think I said a lot of them. After “Tango” came out, I amused myself at interviews by saying scandalous things, thinking they were funny. I talked about going out with men, women, I sounded promiscuous, I took it all as a joke. I see now it wasn’t funny . . .

RE: And then you went to Antonioni . . .
MS: For “The Passenger.” It’s an interesting thing about that film. It did better in America than it did in Europe. And Antonioni is supposed to be a star in Europe. I’m glad the Americans could watch something slower and more thoughtful for a change, instead of all the violence and crime. Still, I think Michelangelo has a problem with his English. He doesn’t speak it very well, and I think some of the dialog in “The Passenger,” which was supposed to sound real, sounded falsely poetic. Like when Jack Nicholson says, “What the hell are you doing here with me?” And I say, “Which me?” You see how wrong that sounds? And in another scene he says, “I met you before – you were reading” And I say, “That must have been me.” Terrible!

RE: Paul Kohner was thinking out loud about the idea of a movie of Hemingway’s “Across the River and into the Trees,” which would be directed by John Huston and might star Robert Mitchum as the old colonel and you as the young contessa . . .
MS: And be shot in Venice. I’d love to work in Venice. I lived there for a while. The light and the silence and all around the sound of the footsteps. You know, I saw Mitchum just last night in “Farewell, My Lovely.” It stayed in my mind all night. I loved Jack Nicholson playing the detective in “Chinatown,” but I much preferred this detective by Mitchum. What do you think of the . . . the chemistry if Mitchum and I were to be together?

RE: Dynamite.
MS: (Laughs) And yet, you know, I always act with these men like Brando and Nicholson, who are much older than me. I wouldn’t be with a man that age in my own life. And I think there’d be a problem in filming in Venice, too.

RE: The canals?
MS: No, the insurance. You know, I have a problem in Italy since my last film with the companies that insure a film. I signed myself into an asylum for a friend of mine. They locked her up, and so I had to do it out of loyalty.

RE: That was in all the papers here.
MS: And all the papers everywhere. But they never printed that I finished the movie.

RE: You did?  I got the impression it was closed down.
MS: Oh, yes, I finished it. It was called “The Baby Sitter,” it’s a thriller by Rene Clement, who did “Forbidden Games.” It’s a good thriller, well made, nothing poetic about it. They took away two-thirds of my salary to keep the insurance people happy. The producer was Carlo Ponti. He’ll come out ahead any way he can. When Clement wanted me for the movie, he wanted me to play the role that was negative. There were two girls in the movie, and one was perverse and destroyed, and of course that was the one he wanted me for. But Antonioni showed him “The Passenger,” and then I got the other role. He only knew me from “Tango.” God knows what people think I really look like and act like!

RE: After “The Baby Sitter,” did you split for Hollywood?
MS: More or less. I was supposed to make a movie in Paris with Jean-Luc Godard. You know, he works in eight millimeter now. He gave a brilliant press conference about it in Cannes. He explained to me that the actor would put up $40,000, and he would put up $40,000, and then we would make the movie together. I would have, too, but I didn’t have $40,000. And I still don’t.

RE: But “Tango” made millions and millions . . .
MS: Ha! You know what I was paid? Five thousand dollars! That’s all. I didn’t even get a percentage of all those profits. Jack Nicholson told me that after “Easy Rider” made so much money, they gave him something more in addition to the little he made in the first place. But no Italian producer would ever do that. I’m glad I’ve got Paul as my agent. He’ll look after things like that. I’m no good with money. Working on my own, I constantly got ripped off. I just can’t handle money.

RE: And in the meantime you’re keeping life uncomplicated?
MS: That’s right. I don’t own anything. Well, I own a pickup truck. I don’t have any maids or answering services or any of those things. I spend my money on food and travel and cameras. I live in Laurel Canyon with some friends, including some writers. None of my friends are actors or directors or Hollywood types. I’m not interested in that crowd. And I’ll just hold out and look for a decent role for a woman. “The Story of an African Farm” looks about the best.

RE: What else is around?
MS: Paramount wants me to do “Black Sunday,” which is about terrorists, and I play a Palestinian guerrilla. That’s their idea of a woman’s role. But things are changing. Most of the members of my generation are gay, or bisexual, they have more open minds about sexuality, about what a woman’s role can be, or what the potentials are.

RE: Did you say most of your generation?
MS: Most of my friends, anyway. Or maybe it’s just California.

(ROGER EBERT.COM  9.14.75)




three projects for NYC…


Terreform ONE [Open Network Ecology] is a non-profit design group co-founded by leader in ecological design and urbanism  Mitchell Joachim, [jo-ak-um], that promotes green design in cities. Through our creative projects and outreach efforts, we hope to illuminate the environmental possibilities of New York City and inspire solutions in areas like it around the world. Terreform ONE is a unique laboratory for scientists, artists, architects, students, and individuals of all backgrounds to explore and advance the larger framework of green design.  The group develops innovative solutions and technologies for local sustainability in energy, transportation, infrastructure, buildings, waste treatment, food, water, and media spaces.

City of the Future: Urbaneering for Tomorrow

Our primary assertion for Brooklyn 2110 (top photo) is that all necessities are provided inside its accessible physical borders. We have designed an intensified version of Brooklyn that supplies all vital needs for its population. In this city, food, water, air, energy, waste, mobility, and shelter are radically restructured to support life in every form. The strategy includes the replacement of dilapidated structures with vertical agriculture and housing merged with infrastructure.

Former streets become snaking arteries of livable spaces embedded with; renewable energy sources, soft cushion based vehicles for mobility, and productive green rooms. The plan uses the former street grid as the foundation for new networks. By reengineering the obsolete streets, we can install radically robust and ecologically active pathways. These operations are not just about a comprehensive model of tomorrow’s city, but an initial platform for discourse. We think the future will necessitate marvelous dwellings coupled with a massive cyclical resource net. The future will happen, how we get there is dependent upon our planned preparation and egalitarian feedback.

Waste To Resource City  2120

New York City is disposing of 38,000 tons of waste per day.  Most of this discarded material ended up in Fresh Kills landfill before it closed.  The Rapid Re(f)use project supposes an extended New York reconstituted from its own landfill material.  Our concept remakes the city by utilizing the trash at Fresh Kills.  With our method, we can remake seven entirely new Manhattan islands at full scale.

Large Scale 3d Waste Printers

“Away has gone away” — robot 3d printers…

Automated robot 3d printers are modified to process trash and complete this task within decades.  These robots are based on existing techniques commonly found in industrial waste compaction devices.  Instead of machines that crush objects into cubes, these devices have jaws that make simple shape grammars for assembly.  Different materials serve specified purposes; plastic for fenestration, organic compounds for temporary scaffolds, metals for primary structures, and etc.  Eventually, the future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.

Human-Powered River Gymnasiums for New York

The motion starved environments we live in are the antithesis of our being.  Perhaps the most primal of all human function is locomotion.  We need to move more!  Our concept encapsulates a new typology for the contemporary urban gym.  It is  intended to challenge our innate proprioceptive and multi-planer locomotive abilities while synchronously altering the surroundings.  The River Gym will fulfill one of the major contemporary fitness goals of “functional training”. This training protocol will exploit the inherent disequilibrium of floatation devices.  Often the average urbanite exercising at the gym performs controlled repetitive single plane movements using industrial fitness equipment.  All of this energy is summarily dissipated and ultimately exhausted for the sake of a single individual’s wellbeing.  Other potentials exist to harness this vast human expenditure of caloric energy.  Why not have the simple transfer of this workout vigor supply New York with needed supplemental transport and amenities?  How can we extend and capitalize on this untapped group potential?  Into what form will this new kind of gym evolve?

By continuing to provide vital health amenities, the River Gym can leave the realm of the glass box and become a useful multi-planar kinetic space.  Envision your gym becoming a machine of human propulsion that helps purify water, provide spectacular views, and transport less-motivated citizens. Why should gym members be forced to stare restlessly at a mirror, television, or static streetscape when their entire body is active?  Imagine this new fitness center as a series of many soft floating micro-islands revolving on a fifteen minute river loop with an exquisite ever-changing panoramic view.  Each River Gym vessel varies in size and critical mass population.  Therefore some vessels will need only a few members to boost the craft on its predetermined computer navigated loop.  Other larger floating units would require a superior sustaining population of club members and would only be used during peak hours.

These River Gyms would travel circuitously along the Hudson and East Rivers.   Fitted with onboard purification devices, they would help mitigate water pollution.  Equally as significant, they would ease the transportation burdens on various ferry lines and carry volunteering commuters in tow.  The benefit of extra passengers increases the vessels’ mass and amplifies the intensity of the exercise.  Along the edges of each river body a modest docking facility would serve members as a point of departure with lockers, a reception desk, health food kiosks, etc.  The idea is that you can easily access your River Gym vessel to travel to and from multiple points in the city.  The notion of transforming wasted human mechanical energy into a useful kinetic gymnasium is unique.  The multiple benefits of increased transportation, water purification, caloric energy expenditure, and superior changing views is invigorating.  Our proposal is intended to redefine the urban gym in a cost effective and environmentally friendly manner.  This is the kind of munificent vision for which the great city of New York is renowned.



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