Archive for March, 2011

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WERNER HERZOG and 3-D…

03/31/2011

his new movie about the oldest drawings in the world…

by LEO ROBSON

Werner Herzog kicks things off by asking me a question: “Did you see the film in 3-D?” Although a “mild skeptic” of the format, he considers it essential to his 28th cinema film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary about the paleolithic artwork discovered by the archaeologist Jean-Marie Chauvet in 1994. The Chauvet cave is full of bulging and irregular shapes, and Herzog says that the painters, who had “a quest for depicting movement,” “incorporated the drama of these formations into their art”; for example, a bulge in a rock becomes the neck of a charging bison. “There’s a three-dimensional drama which was understood and utilized by people 32,000 years ago,” he says. Then, shrugging, he adds: “But I’m told that it looks pretty good in 2-D as well.”

The French government gave Herzog the unique opportunity of filming, with rigorous restrictions, in the Chauvet cave—”I took it! I took it!” he says, and describes the film as a “big seismic event” for him. He admits that the cave is the film’s chief point of interest: “Everybody speaks of having experienced a cave, nobody talks about having seen a movie.” He evidently sees this as a good thing.

On the morning of our interview, Herzog, who was born in Germany in 1942, is clean-shaven and wearing a black suit. He talks with such animation about the Chauvet cave that I wish I had enjoyed his film more. In his recent documentaries the central point of interest, whatever the ostensible topic, has been the human subjects, usually dreamers and fantasists or the subjects of fantasy—the Dalai Lama in Wheel of Time; Timothy Treadwell, the bear-lover killed by a bear, in Grizzly Man; Graham Dorrington, the aeronautical engineer trying to fly a dirigible over the Guyanan rain forest in The White Diamond. There are two engaging “experimental archaeologists” in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, one of whom repeatedly—and ineptly—throws spears, the other of whom plays “The Star-Spangled Banner” on an imitation paleolithic pipe. But the striving, stargazing characters who really fascinate Herzog have been dead for 30,000 years. The film contains moments of extraordinary beauty but provides little in the way of human interest or drama.

Although Herzog is courteous throughout our interview, he always makes his feelings clear. In response to questions about his film Fitzcarraldo, which concerns a so-called “conquistador of the useless” who wants to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle and who orchestrates a boat being pulled across a mountain, he says: “You are talking so far in retrospect—that’s three decades back.” Returning to the present day, I ask him to expand on a question he asks toward the end of Cave of Forgotten Dreams (“What constitutes humanness?”) and he says: “No—that’s a debate I’m not going to enter.” I make the mistake of using the word adventure and he says: “You can use this word in my presence only in quotes.” I ask him about filmmakers he admires and he says: “I do not watch many films—maybe two or three per year.”

Herzog’s advice to students at his Rogue Film School—where he teaches how to pick locks and forge shooting permits—is “read, read, read, read, read, read, read—if you do not read, you’ll never be a filmmaker,” but he isn’t interested in talking about books: “I don’t want to rattle down 500 titles to you.” The only texts he mentions are those included on the Rogue Film School’s mandatory reading list, among them The Warren Commission Report, the near-1,000-page document that concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. The report has often been questioned—Woody Allen said he was going to give up comedy to write “a nonfiction ­version”—but Herzog says this is “stupid baloney”; other doubters, such as Oliver Stone (whose film JFK proposes a rival narrative), simply haven’t read it. Herzog has and calls it “incredibly conclusive” but also “a great crime story.”

In his own nonfiction films, Herzog wants to tell stories and he doesn’t feel beholden to fact. His approach to documentary is an alternative to cinema vérité, the observational aesthetic that proceeds “as if presenting facts was everything.” Just because something is factually true, he argues, “it does not constitute truth per se.” Herzog likes to respond to and collaborate with his subjects; if he bends fact—by inventing dialogue, for instance—it is to the ends of “truth.” The Manhattan phone directory provides millions of correct entries, he says, “but it doesn’t inspire you”; in the film, he says it doesn’t tell you what Manhattanites dream. Instead of fact, which is the “accountant’s truth,” he is after the kind of “ecstatic truth” available to poetry: “These moments are rare but I’m trying to find them, which is why I have had different goals from some of my colleagues.”

the article continues…

(SLATE  3.26.11)

“CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS” 2010 directed by WERNER HERZOG

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EDUARDO SOUTO DE MOURA…

03/30/2011

winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize

photo by Francisco Nogueira

by DAVID BASULTO

Today, the Pritzker Prize laureate has been announced: Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura.

The 58-year-old architect based in Porto worked on his earlier years at Alvaro Siza’s office, another Pritzker Laureate (1992), and opened his own practice in 1980. Since then he has completed over sixty buildings, most of them in Portugal, and also in Spain, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Along his works we find iconic projects such as the impressive Braga Stadium (2004) and the recent Casa das Histórias Paula Rego.

Braga Stadium by Eduardo Souto de Moura (2004) © Luis Ferreira Alves

During the past three decades, Eduardo Souto de Moura has produced a body of work that is of our time but also carries echoes of architectural traditions. His buildings have a unique ability to convey seemingly conflicting characteristics — power and modesty, bravado and subtlety, bold public authority and a sense of intimacy —at the same time.

- Lord Palumbo, Chairman of the jury

His stadium in Braga, Portugal was the site of European soccer championships when it was completed in 2004, and gained high praise. Nearly a million and a half cubic yards of granite were blasted from the site and crushed to make concrete for the stadium. Precise explosions of a mountain side created a hundred foot high granite face that terminates one end of the stadium. Souto de Moura describes this coexistence of the natural with the man made construction as good architecture. In his own words, “It was a drama to break down the mountain and make concrete from the stone.” The jury citation calls this work, “…muscular, monumental and very much at home within its powerful landscape.”

House Number Two, Bom Jesus by Eduardo Souto de Moura © Luis Ferreira Alves

Another of his projects, the Burgo Tower, completed in 2007, constructed in the city where he lives and works, Porto, Portugal, is described by the jury as, “…two buildings side by side, one vertical and one horizontal with different scales, in dialogue with each other and the urban landscape.” Souto de Moura commented that “a twenty story office tower is an unusual project for me. I began my career building single family houses.”

Souto de Moura has designed numerous residences, one of which, House Number Two built in the town of Bom Jesus, was singled outby the jury for its “uncommon richness throughout the subtle banding in the concrete of its exterior walls.” Souto de Moura’s comments on the project: “Because the site was a fairly steep hill overlooking the city of Braga, we decided not to produce a large volume resting on a hilltop. Instead, we made the construction on five terraces with retainer walls, with a different function defined for each terrace– fruit trees on the lowest level, a swimming pool on the next, the main parts of the house on the next, bedrooms on the fourth, and on the top, we planted a forest.”

Museu Paula Rego, Casa das Histórias, Cascais, Portugal by Eduardo Souto de Moura © FG + SG Fernando Guerra

Regarding the Casa das Historias Museum Souto de Moura stated “After the painter Paulo Regio chose me as her architect, I was lucky to be able to choose the site. It was a fenced off forest with some open space in the middle. On the basis of the elevation of the trees, I proposed a set of volumes of varying heights. Developing this play between the artificial and nature helped define the exterior color, red concrete, a color in opposition to the green forest. Two large pyramids along the entrance axis prevent the project from being a neutral sum of boxes.” The Paulo Regio Museum completed in 2008, is cited by the jury as “both civic and intimate, and so appropriate for the display of art.”

(ARCH DAILY  3.29.11)

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PAINTED MUSIC…

03/29/2011

ART IN CINEMA part 1: pre-cinema color instruments…

by LUCA TANZINI

Since its origins, Occidental Europe has been teeming with theories that link aural sensation to visual sensation, music to painting. Music theorists were the first to approach the idea. They tried to create a “fusion” of music and color by creating an instrument that could produce different colors for different musical notes.

The first attempt at “painted music” was in 1725 and 1735, when the Jesuit Louis-Bertrand Castel introduced the clavecin oculaire (ocular clavichord). The instrument was meant to paint sounds with corresponding colors in such a way, claimed Castel, that a deaf person could enjoy and judge the beauty of a musical piece through the colors it created, and a blind person could judge colors through the sound.

The instrument functioned like a traditional clavichord, excepting that each note was associated, in accordance with Castel’s own exhaustive studies, with a particular color that would be displayed upon the playing of each note.

On the 16th of January 1877 Bainbridge Bishop patented a coloring organ that simultaneously played music and projected colored lights through illuminated windows.

In 1893 Bishop published “A Souvenir of the Color Organ, with Some Suggestions in Regard to the Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light,” a short pamphlet in which he describes his experiments and ideas on the relationship of notes and the primary colors of a rainbow.

In 1895 the Englishman Wallace Rimington conceived of a small music box that contained many apertures with colored glass and an electric wire. The apertures could open and close  projecting colors on a white screen  by playing a soundless keyboard.

The construction of such instruments continued throughout the 19th Century in the attempt to discover the “scientific” link between sound and color, but the period that saw the greatest experimentation was the first three decades of the 20th Century. In that period, everything was tried: organs that produced music or color, or keyboards that created colors without making a sound. Nevertheless, the marriage between music and color could also be made by endowing the picture with a temporal dimension like that of music. This concept saw a flowering of experimentation and theoretical hypotheses in Europe in the 10 years preceding the Great War.

the clavecin oculaire: a six foot frame containing mounted above a normal harpsichord with 60 windows each with a colored-glass pane and a small curtain attached by pullies to a specific key — each time the key was struck, that curtain would lift to show a flash of corresponding color…

Influenced by the experiments and research of Bishop and Remington, in 1909 the Russian composer Aleksandr Skrjabin wrote the symphonic poem “Prometheus,” in part of which the notes are meant to correspond to certain colored lights.

Skrjabin wanted to create a keyboard of lights; colors would correspond to traditional keys according to his own visionary idea of a cosmic synthesis of sound and light. Skrjabin commissioned Alexander Mozer to build the device. Mozer, a photographer and electro-mechanics teacher at the Technical Institute in Moscow, completed the device in a few months time to be ready for the first demonstration of Prometheus (15 March 1911). The device had a fundamental component all Mozer’s own: 12 colored lamps placed in a circle on a wood base were lit up by pulses. It is currently on display at the Museum House of Skrjabin in Moscow.

Arnold Schonberg must have had Skrjabin in mind when he began composing Die Gluckliche Hand (The Happy Hand) in 1909. The score specifically outlines plans to project colors on a screen that move with the music: “The game of light and colors is not based only on intensity, but on values that can only be compared to the heights of sound. Sound and color mingle freely only when their relationship is, at root, reciprocal.

In a letter to the Viennese publishing house “Universal Editions,” Schonberg declared “What I’m looking to do is the exact opposite of what cinema normally hopes to achieve. I demand the greatest unreality! The general effect doesn’t have to be dream, but something similar to music, to harmony. “

With the Futurist brothers Ginanni-Corradini, better known as Arnaldo Gina and Bruno Corra, conceived of chromatic music while they were studying Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna. They declared their idea in the manifesto Arte in 1910, claiming that colors create both a harmonious music and a sonorous one. They could, they exclaimed, express feeling and states of being with notes and equally compose harmonies, motifs and symphonies.

Corra sought to put the idea of music to color into practice; he built a piano with 28 keys that correspond to 8 differently colored electric lamps. By pushing one key, a color would be projected over a background. By pushing many keys, the colors would form a harmonious light.

This method soon revealed its simplicity: the effects were pretty, but lacked an emotional core, the fusions were arbitrary, little intensity and nothing of true “orchestral effect.”

Dissatisfied with his first music-color experiment, Corradini decided to venture into new territory: abstract cinema. This time, colors were painted directly onto film in the hopes of creating a chromatic symphony capable of visually reproducing feelings and emotions with music that inspired the compositions.

(UNIVERSITY OF SIENA  2004)

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NOLLYWOOD…

03/27/2011

three films zoom in on the booming Nigerian movie making industry…

from THE ECONOMIST

It is hard to avoid Nigerian films in Africa. Public buses show them, as do many restaurants and hotels. Nollywood, as the business is known, churns out about 50 full-length features a week, making it the world’s second most prolific film industry after India’s Bollywood. The Nigerian business capital, Lagos, is said by locals to have produced more films than there are stars in the sky. The streets are flooded with camera crews shooting on location. Only the government employs more people.

Nigerian films are as popular abroad as they are at home. Ivorian rebels in the bush stop fighting when a shipment of DVDs arrives from Lagos. Zambian mothers say their children talk with accents learnt from Nigerian television. When the president of Sierra Leone asked Genevieve Nnaji, a Lagosian screen goddess, to join him on the campaign trail he attracted record crowds at rallies. Millions of Africans watch Nigerian films every day, many more than see American fare. And yet Africans have mixed feelings about Nollywood.

Among Africa’s elites, hostility is almost uniform. Jean Rouch, a champion of indigenous art in Niger, has compared Nollywood to the AIDS virus. Cultural critics complain about “macabre scenes full of sorcery” in the films. The more alarmist describe Nigerian directors and producers as voodoo priests casting malign spells over audiences in other countries. They talk of the “Nigerianisation” of Africa, worrying that the whole continent has come to “snap its fingers the Nigerian way”.

Governments can be hostile, too. Several have brought in protectionist measures, including spurious production fees. In July Ghana started demanding $1,000 from visiting actors and $5,000 from producers and directors. The Democratic Republic of Congo has tried to ban Nigerian films altogether. Five decades after much of Africa gained independence, its elites fear being re-colonised, this time from within the continent. “The Nigerians will eat everything we have,” says a former official at the Ghanaian ministry of chieftaincy and culture.

Nollywood’s moguls make no attempt to deny their influence over the continent—they just regard it as a thoroughly good thing. “We give Africa development and knowledge,” says Ernest Obi, head of the Lagos actors’ guild, during a break from auditioning a gaggle of teenage girls dressed in ball gowns. “We teach people things. If they call us colonial masters, too bad.”

The history of cinema in Africa is bound up with colonialism. The continent’s first films were imported by European rulers and shown in grand viewing halls with columned porticos. The aim was to entertain expatriates, but also to impress and cow locals. John Obago, a retired teacher, was eight when he saw his first moving picture in 1930s Kenya. “Oh, the elders did not like it,” he remembers. “But we just loved it. We were fascinated sitting there on the clean floor and seeing these white people get in and out of restaurants and buses.”

American and European directors were soon visiting the continent. They enthusiastically filmed elephant hunts, vividly coloured parrots and dutiful but dim native porters. They produced some classics. “The African Queen”, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn and shot on location in Uganda and Congo, has aged particularly well. But many “jungle epics” were greeted with charges of racism. In the heated era of independence they came to be seen as tools of foreign domination.

The first true Nollywood film resulted from an ill-advised business venture. In 1992 Kenneth Nnebue, a trader, ordered a large consignment of blank videotapes from Taiwan. Finding them hard to sell, he hired a theatre director to make a cheap film and copied it onto the tapes to boost their appeal. “Living in Bondage”, the story of a farmer in a big city who loses his wife and is haunted by her ghost, sold more than half a million copies.

Many Nigerians still remember the first time they saw “Living in Bondage”. Odion, a drug addict with a toothless smirk on a street corner in central Lagos, says, “All of us kids at the time, even the under-tens, watched it and we just had to have more. I tell you, I tried many things since then. None is as addictive.”

The market traders control Nollywood to this day. They make films for home consumption rather than for the cinema—a place few can afford, or reach easily. DVD discs sell for a dollar. Print runs can reach a million. Studios, both in the physical and the corporate sense of the term, are unknown. There are no lots, no sound stages and no trailers for the stars. “Films are made on the run, sometimes literally,” says Emem Isong, one of Nigeria’s few female producers, during a shoot. “Some of the guys are hiding from the police.”

All scenes are shot on location and with a shoestring budget of no more than $100,000. Most of the financiers are based in a vast, chaotic market called Idumota. It is a maze within a labyrinth. Crowds push through narrow, covered alleys. The sound of honking motorbikes is drowned out by blaring television sets showing film trailers. The flickering screens light up dim stalls lined with thousands of DVDs on narrow wooden shelves.

Desmond Akudinobi, a small man with darting eyes, runs a stall the size of a double bed. He opened it in 1999. By 2005 he had raised $20,000 to finance his first film. It was called “Without Apology” and made a small profit. Since then he has produced 10 more films. Every six months or so he buys a script from one of the many itinerant writers trawling the market, and hires a producer and crew. He prints discs in Alaba, another Lagos market. Some go onto his grimy shelves; many others are exported.

the article continues…

(THE ECONOMIST  12.16.10)

“NOLLYWOOD BABYLON” 2008 directed by Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal

“WELCOME TO NOLLYWOOD” 2007 directed by Jamie Meltzer

“THIS IS NOLLYWOOD” 2007 directed by Franco Sacchi and Robert Caputo

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THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN MODEL…

03/25/2011

once the largest study of fluid mechanics in the world…

“This effigy of Old Man River is expected to make him behave better.” – Popular Science, 1948

by KRISTI DYKEMA CHERAMIE

For 27 days in January 1937, rain drenched the northeastern United States. The unusually warm, wet weather thawed the frozen ground and sent torrents of water sheeting into the Ohio River. The effect was dramatic: towns throughout the region reported water levels quickly approaching, then passing, flood level. In some areas the water crested as high as 20 to 28 feet above flood stage. With national reports tallying the displaced at over one million people, the event confirmed the growing national fear that the great rivers that had contributed to the nation’s success might also threaten its future.

The country had already endured what was supposed to be the last of the “Great Floods,” only ten years earlier, when the lower Mississippi River Basin suffered the most destructive inundation in U.S. history. In the aftermath of what then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover called “the greatest peace-time calamity in the history of the country,” Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1928. This sweeping legislation called for the immediate implementation of a plan to control the waters of the mighty Mississippi. It was as if the nation had declared war against the river: In the next decade, the Army Corps of Engineers built 29 dams and locks, hundreds of runoff channels, and over a thousand miles of new, higher levees. It appeared that efforts to prevent another Great Flood would be successful.

river channel with mesh used to simulate dense foliage…

But as in so many battles, the combatants misread the enemy. The 1928 plan focused on single targets, presuming that the “menace to national welfare” was the Mississippi River itself; the Corps of Engineers failed to see the river as part of a system of interconnected, aggregating threats. When several rivers in the Northeast flooded in the winter of 1936 (in particular the Connecticut, Allegheny and Monongahela), displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York, and even reaching far enough to evacuate the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross in Washington D.C., the public felt double-crossed. A New York Times editorial called for a more comprehensive approach: “If the floods have taught us anything, it is the need for something more than a dam here and a storage reservoir there. … We need a kind of protection which considers something more than the exigencies of Johnstown, Pittsburgh and Hartford — considers the social and economic future of a nation and a continent.”

Congress obliged the new national consciousness with the Flood Control Act of 1936, which declared flood control a “legitimate federal responsibility” and provided a substantial increase in federal funding for a comprehensive network of levees, dams, reservoirs and dikes. Significantly, it handed complete responsibility for flood control to the Army Corps of Engineers, a division of the War Department (later the Department of Defense), and mandated that the economic benefits of construction outweigh the costs. In essence, the act was driven by commerce but framed as national defense.

As construction began on control structures throughout the Mississippi River Basin, and as floodwaters rushed into the Ohio River Valley in January 1937, a district engineer in Memphis, Tennessee, Major Eugene Reybold, raised concerns about this approach. Although the scope of flood control had expanded beyond the Mississippi, the work was limited by current field research methods; engineers found it difficult to track what was being done at various points along the river and thus impossible to predict how isolated “solutions” might affect one other. To understand the Mississippi River Basin as a dynamic system of interconnected waterways, the Corps needed new, more sophisticated scientific tools.

Reybold came up with a radical idea: a large-scale hydraulic model that would enable engineers to observe the interactive effects of weather and proposed control measures over time and “develop plans for the coordination of flood-control problems throughout the Mississippi River Basin.” Only a physical model of all lands affected by the Mississippi River and its tributaries could meet the three major goals of the Army Corps: “… to determine methods of coordinating the operation of reservoirs to accomplish the maximum flood protection under various combinations of flood flow; to determine undesirable conditions that might result from non-coordinated use of any part of the reservoir system, particularly the untimely release of impounded water; and to determine what general flood control works were necessary (levees, reservoirs, floodways) and what improvements might be desirable at existing flood control works.”

Reybold understood that such a project would require a paradigm shift in the Army Corps of Engineers. His colleague John Freeman ran a small hydraulics laboratory, the Waterways Experiment Station, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, but had been denied funding for more comprehensive research. “Field experience,” said Secretary of War Dwight Davis, “is undoubtedly of much greater value than laboratory experiments could possibly be.” Nevertheless, Freeman’s laboratory drew the attention of young, ambitious engineers who could see the benefit of fluid mechanics modeling. Reybold worked with the Experiment Station to construct a small section of the exceptionally steep Kanawha River as a pilot model. He knew that if he could simulate historic flood events and produce accurate flood hydrographs of the Kanawha, he could build support for a model of the entire Mississippi River Basin. Reybold’s plan worked; in 1943 the Corps of Engineers approved his proposal to build a comprehensive model.

What Reybold needed next was a site and a workforce. World War II had commandeered the Army’s stateside labor force and depleted its funding for civilian hiring. So as Reybold surveyed the area near Vicksburg for suitable topography on which to build the basin model, he also negotiated for the transfer of prisoners of war to a new internment camp. He settled on a large area of undeveloped land in Clinton, Mississippi, and under his supervision 3,000 German and Italian POWs began construction on a 200-acre working hydraulic model. The ambitious model would replicate the Mississippi River and its major tributaries — the Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri Rivers — encompassing 41 percent of the land area of the United States and 15,000 miles of river. It would reflect existing topography and river courses throughout the Mississippi Basin, using the best data drawn from hydrographic and topographic maps, aerial photographs and valley cross-sections.

POWs at work August 1943…

The prisoners cleared the site of a million cubic yards of dirt and rough-graded the land to match the contours of the Mississippi River Basin. To ensure that topographic shifts would be apparent, the model was built using an exaggerated vertical scale of 1:100 and a much larger horizontal scale of 1:2000. While the existing topography offered a close approximation of the actual Mississippi Basin, some areas required significant earthmoving; the Appalachian Mountains were raised 20 feet above the Gulf of Mexico, the Rockies 50 feet. An existing stream running east-to-west provided the model’s water supply. The streambed was molded to take on the shape and form of the upper reaches of the Mississippi, and a complex system of pipes and pumps distributed water throughout the model; it was regulated by a large sump and control house sited near what would become Chicago, Illinois. To simulate flood events, Reybold needed to introduce large volumes of water over short periods of time, so he designed a collection basin and 500,000-gallon storage tower system at the model’s edge. Small outflow pipes at anticipated data collection points channeled excess water to 16 miles of storm drains.

A 20-acre section in the center of the 200-acre site would be subject to high-intensity tests. Here the engineers installed a “fixed-bed model” that enabled greater precision and control, modeling the river channels and overbank flood areas in concrete. This section represented the areas of the central and lower basin perceived to be most vulnerable to catastrophic floods: the Mississippi River from Hannibal, Missouri, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the Atchafalaya River from its confluence with the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico; and the lower reaches of key tributaries, the Missouri, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Arkansas and Ouachita Rivers. [13] Large concrete panels, flat on the underside and uniquely molded on top to reflect particular topographic shifts, were installed over the pipes and held in place with a secondary structural system. Although the fixed-bed model accounted for only 10 percent of the site, it represented a large enough area that the curvature of the earth played a significant role in the design and construction of the concrete panels. Engineers overlaid the traditional grid system with the conical Bonne Projection, skewing the surface of each panel to respond to the topographies of both the model site and the basin itself.

The panel surfaces were enhanced with concrete riverbeds, sheer cliffs, flat plains, tributaries and oxbow lakes, as well as railroads, bridges, levees and highways. The engineers faced the significant challenge of achieving an accurate degree of “roughness,” the measure of frictional resistance experienced by water as it passes over a particular surface. Because the concrete created an impermeable (fixed) ground, they installed 3/8″ metal plugs of varying length, called “parallelepieds,” to create drag in the water flow and simulate scouring. These brass plugs were used in conjunction with brushed and scored concrete and periodic concrete ridges to model channel roughness. To add further surface detail to “overbank phenomena” such as the vegetation observed in aerial photographs, an accordion-folded metal screen was cut to scale and placed (unfixed) at appropriate locations.

the article continues

(DESIGN OBSERVER  3.21.11)

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DISCO DEMOLITION…

03/23/2011

the great Chicago disco riot of 1979…

by PHIL VETTEL

Comiskey Park had seen more than its share of oddball promotions, what with White Sox owner Bill Veeck‘s penchant for the colorful (a scoreboard that lit up and exploded with fireworks) and the offbeat (having his players wear shorts). But nothing compared to Disco Demolition Night, staged at Comiskey on this summer Thursday evening. Anyone bringing a disco album to the game–a night double-header between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers–would be admitted for just 98 cents. Between games, radio personality Steve Dahl–then the morning man for rock music station WLUP-FM–would blow up those disco albums with fireworks.

Dahl, who had been fired from WDAI-FM when that station switched to an all-disco format, had garnered national recognition for his crusade against what he called “Disco Dystrophy.” Comiskey was filled to capacity; the official attendance was more than 59,000. An estimated 15,000 fans milled outside the park.After the first game, which the Sox lost 4-1, Dahl ceremoniously blew up a crate filled with disco records. All was orderly up to that point. But as Dahl finished, thousands of fans stormed onto the field, tearing up clumps of sod, burning signs, knocking over a batting cage and flinging records like so many Frisbees. Police arrested 37 people; by the time order was restored, the grounds were little more than a grassy moonscape. The second game was canceled and later awarded to the Tigers by forfeit.

(CHICAGO TRIBUNE  7.12.79)

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EAST VILLAGE RADIO…

03/21/2011

on the front lines of a new medium

by JORDAN HELLER

How a start-up like EVR can gain a toehold in an industry that for decades has been unfriendly to the little guy can be summed up by a slight tweak to the illuminated sign hanging in the booth: In place of the familiar “ON AIR” is a sign that reads “ONLINE.”

“Clear Channel” – the multibillion-dollar radio conglomerate – “kicked out a lot of people wherever they could, and just beamed in from another city,” says Wareham. “Now, with the Internet, you don’t have to have this huge transmitter.”

With more than 1 million listeners a month, EVR is at the forefront of this emerging medium. In addition to fostering more independent voices and breaking underground acts, EVR has become a must-visit for big-label stars like Wareham and, more recently, Big Boi of the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling hip-hop group Outkast.

You’d think the sky might be the limit for an organically grown station such as EVR deftly leveraging street cred, an easy relationship with artists, and the identity of a bohemian counterculture neighborhood into a burgeoning Internet audience. But EVR general manager Peter Ferraro has to be very careful when it comes to growing his business. The way the current performance-royalty pay structure is set up for webcasters, if EVR’s audience numbers do in fact reach the sky, so, too, do their operating costs.

Under the Congressional Digital Music Copyright Act of 1998, Internet broadcasters are required to pay a digital performance royalty for each and every listener, making it very difficult to scale up their business. By contrast, their terrestrial counterparts benefit from a flat royalty rate: As their audience grows, the cost per listener falls.

“The very existence of EVR in the current royalty climate is pretty punk rock,” says Mr. Ferraro, who is trying to avoid the same fate as WOXY, an independent rock webcaster that was forced to shut down earlier this year for ostensibly becoming too popular.

Unlike WOXY, Ferraro is going to great lengths to make sure EVR’s revenues – a mix of Web advertising, show sponsorships, and events with corporate sponsors – keep pace with their growing music-licensing costs. As of now, 30 percent of EVR’s annual operating costs goes to paying performance royalties. As their audience grows, theoretically that percentage will increase until EVR is potentially snuffed out.

But there is hope: Pending legislation in Congress (the Performance Rights Act) would compensate artists when their performances are played on terrestrial radio (currently, only the composer and music publisher are paid), and offer fixed, discounted royalty rates to small terrestrial broadcasters. Last year, at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the bill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California said she believed “strongly that parity and fairness require that we provide the same discounts for small webcasters.”

Currently, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Record Industry Association of America are negotiating the terms of the proposed legislation. Though a Senate Judiciary Committee source told the Monitor that webcasters shouldn’t rely on the NAB to carry their water, the source did say that Senator Feinstein remains committed to webcasters.

If webcasters are included in the bill, Ferraro says there might be a “small business explosion” in the Internet radio space, “a sector that will pay royalties and expose people to music that is often characterized as existing in the ‘long tail.’ “

(CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR  9.21.10)

read the full article here — and LISTEN LIVE to East Village Radio…

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FILMEX…

03/19/2011

the Los Angeles International Film Exposition — the original film fest in L.A

“Filmex was, for many of us, the introduction to alternative film in Los Angeles,” recalled producer Tom Pollock, who served as chairman of the board of trustees of Filmex in those early years.

The first Filmex was launched on Nov. 5, 1971, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with the premiere of “The Last Picture Show” and featured a circus-like opening night with a tightrope walker, a fire-eater and an elephant greeting the guests.

Pollock said the elephant was the brainchild of the late Gary Essert and the late Gary Abraham, who ran Filmex and were fondly referred to as “The Garys.” “Filmex was a different kind of film festival,” Pollock added. “You wouldn’t see elephants at Sundance.”

Filmex featured a 24-hour movie marathon at the El Rey Theatre one year. Snow globes were given away as favors in 1981. There was a special license plate on the second official vehicle of Filmex, used in 1985 for transporting prints and guests.

Director Alfred Hitchcock arrived for the premiere of his film “Family Plot” in 1976 driving a Universal Studios tour bus and was later seen dining with Jimmy Stewart and Hitchcock’s wife, Alma.

By 1987, Filmex had morphed into AFI Fest, which in 1990 honored the Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, for his film “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”

(L.A. TIMES  11.1.06)

by VIRGINIA YAPP

1971: Gary Essert (along with partner Gary Abraham) founds the Los Angeles International Film Expo (a.k.a. Filmex). The festival’s first edition, opening Nov. 5, featured The Last Picture Show (dir. Peter Bogdonovich) as its opening-night film, in addition to 40 other filmic selections. L.A. Times critic Arthur Knight reported that year that the L.A. Filmex could be an excellent avenue for garnering prestige for challenging and creative American films, which were largely being ignored on the international festival circuit and by American audiences (unfortunately, in its early years, few American films were entered). New films (by the likes of Pasolini, Demy, Chabrol and Bresson) screened at Grauman’s Chinese Theater alongside retrospectives of silent comedy icons like Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, film noir and Alfred Hitchcock. At its inception, the festival was non-competitive.

1972: Despite strong attendance, Filmex ends its second year with a budget deficit.

1974: Filmex moves from Grauman’s to the Paramount Theater in Hollywood. Films by Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain), Orson Welles (Fake) and Paul Verhoeven (Turkish Delight) have their American premieres at Filmex.

1980: Ten years on, the festival’s annual budget rises to about $600,000. At this point, Filmex is, as Charles Schreger writes in the L.A. Times, a film festival for the film industry (or, as Schreger writes, a festival “for the cineaste who would rather burn his copy of ‘Agee on Film’ than admit he enjoyed ‘Star Trek’”). Schreger estimates that 50,000 filmgoers were in attendance. In 1980, Essert boasts that Filmex is second to none.

1983: Personality clashes lead to Essert being ousted from the festival he created. Essert goes on to create American Cinematheque.

1985: Jerry Weintraub elected director by Filmex’s board. Weintraub announces plans to introduce compeition into Filmex by 1987 and plans to make Filmex more populist. Amidst other ambitious claims, Weintraub claims, “I’ll go head-to-head with Cannes for films.”

1986: Saddled with debt, Filmex merges with Essert’s American Cinematheque. Jerry Weintraub steps down as director.

1987: Filmex becomes the AFI Fest, in the wake of Filmex’s financial struggles (an estimated debt of over $300,000). AFI Fest, held at Hollywood’s Los Feliz Theater, is declared a success, despite lower ticket sales, reaching new audiences.

1992: Filmex (and American Cinematheque) founders Gary Essert and Gary Abrahams, partners for over 20 years, die of AIDS within a week of one another.

1993: AFI Fest’s budget is around $400,000. Its new incarnation is trimmed down and less flashy.

1995: Festival changes names again (it becomes simply the L.A. Film Festival).

(EXAMINER.COM  6.28.10)

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“DUKE VIN AND THE BIRTH OF SKA”

03/17/2011

in the 1950s, Duke Vin and Count Suckle emigrated to London stowed away on a boat, bringing with them that Jamaican sound…

by LEILA HAWKINS

“Duke Vin and the Birth of Ska” by Gus Berger, tells the story of Duke Vin, the man who built the UK’s very first sound system in 1956, and who, alongside DJs Count Suckle and Daddy Vego, helped popularize Ska in the UK and make it one of the most influential musical styles, the effects of which can still be heard today. The documentary shows the rise of this unique music: music which evolved from speeded up American R&B covers to brass heavy songs that spoke of freedom and independence.

Leila Hawkins: What is it about ska that made you want to pick up a camera?
Gus Berger: It was a combination of my love of the music and its origins, and my fascination with the original Jamaican record shops in London, which, being from Melbourne, I wasn’t used to. My original plan was to tell the story of the development of Jamaican music through the eyes of the Jamaican record shop owners – however, the stores were closing so quickly that I knew that I needed to pick up a camera and start talking to these guys and hearing their stories and their view on the impact of Jamaican music, particularly in London.

LH: How did you get involved with the main contributor, Duke Vin?
GB: I got to know Duke Vin personally, initially though Gaz Mayall who runs the famous Soho club, Gaz’s Rockin Blues. Once I had met Duke and seen him DJ numerous times, it occurred to me to change the focus of the story away from the record shops and more towards Duke himself. It seemed like a much more positive angle: the shops were closing yet Duke was still playing records – 50 years on!

LH: There’s a moving scene of some archive footage depicting a young, suited black man trying to find a room to rent, but is turned away by numerous hostel owners because of the color of his skin. Did you feel it was important to add a political element to the documentary?
GB: Yes, for two reasons. Firstly, I felt that politics and music have always been intertwined in the Jamaican music scene so it wouldn’t have been unusual to include a political element. The second reason, and I guess more importantly from the film’s perspective was that I felt it was necessary to illustrate the obstacles that the West Indian community faced when they came to Britain. In particular, the original sound men like Duke Vin and Count Suckle, and others, were up against tremendous barriers and for these guys to not only take these on, but to do so in such a positive fashion I thought was incredibly inspiring.

LH: You recount Duke Vin’s creation of the UK’s first ever sound system. What are the other seminal moments in the history of ska for you?
GB: Duke Vin and others before him (like Sir Coxsone and Duke Reid) provided the inspiration for others that they could do the same, but in their style. So the growth and development of the sound system culture in the UK was a huge turning point. In terms of the sound of ska, it evolved into other styles, such as rocksteady and reggae.In the UK, ska was reinvented by bands such as The Specials, The Beat and Madness. These bands inspired their fans to discover what their records were actually based upon, which was Jamaican ska. So all of a sudden, people started buying all these classic Jamaican records, some 20 years after they were originally produced. I think the longevity and popularity of these UK bands is a real testament to the amazing sound that was created by the Jamaican musicians back in the early 60′s.

LH: The film premiered at a trade union meeting (SERTUC film club). Where you would like it to go next?
GB: I would love this film to be seen by wider audience as I don’t think people truly appreciate the positive impact that Jamaican music has had upon British culture in general. I am entering this film into various film festivals in Europe and the US and from this effort I would love the film to be picked up and shown by a TV network. A distributor would definitely help me as I would also like to clear the rights for the film to be sold as a DVD.

(OPEN MAGAZINE  9.2.08)

“DUKE VIN AND THE BIRTH OF SKA” 2008 directed by Gus Berger

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THE ROUTE OF FRIENDSHIP…

03/15/2011

19 monumental sculptures created for the ’68 XIX Olympics in Mexico City

by KAREL WENDL

One of the cultural artistic realizations of the Mexico City Olympic Games of 1968 was the planning and execution of nineteen abstract, monumental, concrete sculptures on the Southern part of the “Anillo Periferico”, the superhighway leading around the capital of the country. It was an example of team work on a large project of an artistic nature made possible especially by two distinguished personalities, architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, who was the President of the organizing committee of Mexico’s Olymic Games, and Mathias Goeritz, a German sculptor who was the creator and director of the project.

At that time architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez had already received both national and international acclaim for having designed the acclaimed National Museum of Anthropology, the Aztec Stadium, and other outstanding buildings as well as hun- dreds of public schools built by local labor and materials. He later became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and, together with his Swiss col- league, Jean Pierre Cahen, designed both the administrative building of the IOC and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Mathias Goeritz was a noted sculptor, born in the free city port of Danzig, who had to flee from the Nazis because he was partly of Jewish origin. He settled in Mexico after the Second World War. In 1957 Goeritz had designed a group of concrete towers called the “Torres de Satelite” in the suburb “Ciudad Satelite” near Mexico City. These tower-sculptures were conceived with a direct relationship to a super-highway. Today they are situated in a densely populated area of the huge megalopolis.

In 1966 Mathias Goeritz proposed to Pedro Ramirez Vazquez that the organizing committee of the Games of the XIX Olympiad convene an international meeting of sculptors in Mexico as one of the cultural events of the Olympic Games. Numerous meetings devoted exclusively to aesthetic questions had already been held in the past in different parts of the world, but the idea was that this one should give the artists a specific task or theme. The meeting was supposed to gather together sculptors from every continent, from all ethnic groups and from all the main political trends of the world at that time. It thus had an idealistic and humanistic nature that transcended aesthetics and was in conformity with the fundamental principles of the Olympic

The Route of Friendship Movement was to be an international event with the unifying theme of brotherhood of all the peoples of the world. The particular problem the sculptors were to solve limited their artistic liberty by the following restrictions: the sculptures had to be made of concrete, be monumental, and abstract. Furthermore, the sculptors were supposed to have in mind solutions related to being located adjacent to a superhighway. The President of the organizing committee gave his full support.

The nineteen monumental sculptures were executed along the “Anillo Periferice” on both sides of the Olympic Village. At that time this expressway which was in the process of construction passed through zones outside the city as well as urbanized areas. It also went through parks and sparsely inhabited zones which later became part of the city.

(OLYMPIKA  Vol. VII 1998)

the participating artists: Angela Gurría – Mexico, Willi Gutmann – Switzerland, Milos Chlupác – Czechoslovakia, Koshi Takahashi – Japan, Pierre Székely – France/Hungary, Gonzalo Fonseca – Uruguay, Constantino Nivola – Italy/United States, Jacques Moeschal – Belgium, Todd Williams – United States, Grzegorz Kowalski – Poland, Jose Maria Subirachs – Spain, Clement Meadmore – Australia, Herbert Bayer – United States/Austria, Joop J. Beljon – The Netherlands, Itzhak Danziger – Israel, Olivier Séguin – France, Mohamed Melehi – Morocco, Helen Escobedo – Mexico, Jorge Dubón – Mexico…

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THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER TRAIL…

03/13/2011

a bike path from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico…

by BOB ROBINSON

As it follows the Mississippi River corridor from its headwaters in northern Minnesota to the southernmost point in Louisiana, the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) provides a 3,000-plus-mile ride through America’s heartland. For those cyclists looking for an enjoyable multi-day tour—by crossing the river on one of the many biker friendly bridges, or via a ferry ride—the options for extended multi-day loop tours are unlimited. Although the Mississippi River Trail Project was first conceived in 1996, it wasn’t until 2008 that a designated bike route along the entire length of the Mississippi River had been established. It was not until the publication of Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail that the entire route had been fully documented, including maps, turn-by-turn directions, points of interest, and services. From the ankle deep headwaters of the Mississippi River, as it flows over the natural rock spillway of Lake Itasca, to when it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, the MRT does a great job of following the corridor of this mighty waterway. The route planners utilized existing roadways, and where available bike/pedestrian pathways, to guide cyclists to the many recreational and historical destinations along the corridor. Since early explorers, the Mississippi River was a major means of transportation; therefore, many of the communities have been accommodating travelers for generations and are adjusting to serve the needs of two wheeled travelers. MRT, Inc. is the governing body behind the creation of the Mississippi River Trail. The board members and management staff have unselfishly contributed to making the MRT a reality. It is their goal to make this a world-class bicycling route that will guide cyclists through the 10 states that border the Mississippi River. To accomplish this goal they work diligently to encourage use of the MRT. One means of encouraging cyclists to ride the route is to offer those who have ridden the length of the MRT, either as a cross-country ride, or a series of multi-day tours, an official Certificate of Completion award. This award will be signed by the Executive Director of MRT, Inc. and include a serial number reflecting the order in which the recipient has completed the ride in relation to other cyclists.

(BICYCLE TOURING PRO  12.9.08)

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GROUP f/64…

03/11/2011

photography in the raw…

by LISA HOSTETLER

On November 15, 1932, at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, eleven photographers announced themselves as Group f/64: Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Preston Holder, Consuelo Kanaga, Alma Lavenson, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Willard Van Dyke, Brett Weston, and Edward Weston. The idea for the show had arisen a couple of months before at a party in honor of Weston held at a gallery known as “683″ (for its address on Brockhurst Street in San Francisco)—the West Coast equivalent of Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291—where they had discussed forming a group devoted to exhibiting and promoting a new direction in photography that broke with the Pictorialism then prevalent in West Coast art photography. The name referred to the smallest aperture available in large-format view cameras at the time and it signaled the group’s conviction that photographs should celebrate rather than disguise the medium’s unrivaled capacity to present the world “as it is.” As Edward Weston phrased it, “The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.” A corollary of this idea was that the camera was able to see the world more clearly than the human eye, because it didn’t project personal prejudices onto the subject. The group’s effort to present the camera’s “vision” as clearly as possible included advocating the use of aperture f/64 in order to provide the greatest depth of field, thus allowing for the largest percentage of the picture to be in sharp focus; contact printing, a method of making prints by placing photographic paper directly in contact with the negative, instead of using an enlarger to project the negative image onto paper; and glossy papers instead of matte or artist papers, the surfaces of which tended to disperse the contours of objects.

Such methods transformed the role of the artist from printmaker to selector: it was the photographer’s choice of form and his or her framing of it that made the picture. The use of a view camera enabled the photographer to preview his scene on the ground glass (a flat pane of glass on the camera that reflected the scene from the point of view of the lens), the view camera’s equivalent of the viewfinder in the 35mm single-lens reflex camera, before he snapped the shutter and developed the print, and the extensive employment of this device was a hallmark of Group f/64. Weston dubbed its effective use “previsualization.” Group f/64 photographers concentrated on landscape photography—notable examples include Adams’ Winter Yosemite Valley and Weston’s Dunes, Oceano —or close-up images of items from the natural environment, such as plants and pieces of wood, subjects that highlighted the photographer’s creative intuition and ability to create aesthetic order out of nature’s chaos. In addition, a significant number of Group f/64′s photographs were of industrial structures, quotidian objects from the modern world (such as Weston’s Bedpan), and nudes (particularly exceptional ones exist in the oeuvres of Weston, and Cunningham). While at first glance, these subjects seem to have nothing in common, Group f/64′s photographs of them do. The photographers’ meticulous concern for transcribing the exact features of what was before the camera bound them together and rendered the emotional experience of form the primary feature of their photographic art.

(THE MET)

the Group f/64 Manifesto

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JOHN CASSAVETES…

03/10/2011

“I don’t give a fuck what anybody says. If you don’t have time to see it, don’t. If you don’t like it, don’t. If it doesn’t give you an answer,  fuck you. I didn’t make it for you anyway.” – J. C.

by HADRIAN BELOVE

In preparation for our month-long retrospective, I’ve been steeping myself in the subject of Cassavetes: reading interviews and biographies, watching documentaries, and most of all, viewing his films. Like many a film lover before me, I’m going down the rabbit hole, because the more deeply you go down, the more rewarding it is.   And I’m having a blast.  In fact, it’s only by doing this that I’m just now I’m realizing what we’ve done here at Cinefamily, and why I think you should really participate this month: this retrospective is a kind of “master class” in the work of one of America’s most fascinating directors.

To start with, I think Cassavetes himself would appreciate my honesty when I say I’ve always had mixed feelings about his work before now; there are scenes and moments that destroy me (in a good way), and other moments that feel false, bombastic, or just seemed sloppy.  I had trouble grasping the films as a whole, and long chunks would consequently bore me as I floated adrift on the sea of emotion, until some undeniably explosively awesome moment would happen.  But the films always haunted me.  What I see now is how his films improve over repeated viewings — from seeing them consecutively, getting on his wavelength, and learning to speak his language. These films are like people, interesting and complicated people. You don’t always understand them at first, but as you get to know them, all of their quirks make more and more sense. They reveal themselves.

Rewatching his films, I often have an epiphanous moment when the code cracks, and suddenly the whole crazy experience falls into place. I immediately want to see the whole movie again, or at least revisit it in my mind, now that I know how it’s all working.  His films are like relatives; my feelings towards them change as I get older, and as I understand them better. I may still hate the way my mother screams like she’s witnessed a murder just because she drops something in the kitchen, but more and more it becomes inextricably interwoven with my deeper understanding of who she is, and why I love her.

If I had to sum up one thing I’ve gotten out of all this, it’s a knowledge of the incredible focus Cassavetes had.  Truffaut once said that all great directors must sacrifice some aspect of filmmaking to achieve something brilliant — in essence, the bedsheet never covers the whole bed.  And no one has worked harder to go as deep as possible exploring the complexity of human interrelationships than Cassavetes, and while he did love other aspects of film, he would give up anything — the framing, the editing, the continuity, the smoothness of the story, paradoxically even his own understanding of the characters — to reach a certain ecstatic emotional depth.   He wanted you to feel as intensely and thoughtfully about his films as you did about your own life, and sometimes (perhaps by definition all the time) that means you can’t fully understand them.

As I said before, here’s your chance to have a “masters class” in John Cassavetes. We’re showing not just every film he directed, but films he starred in, his rare television work, and even films made with people he just worked closely with — ’cause we know what it’s like when you get obsessed: everything and everyone he touched takes on a certain interest. We’ve got restored prints from UCLA, rare trailers, and lectures.  We’ve got sidebar tributes to Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel and Gena Rowlands — all appearing in person — where we’ll tour through their own careers as actors. We’ve rounded up virtually every guest that could be had. This is the best chance you’ll ever have to do this right.

The whole shebang starts tomorrow with Shadows, screened from a gorgeous restored 35mm print courtesy of the UCLA Film &Television Archive. After the film, join us for a  conversation with its star, Lelia Goldoni, the memorably gorgeous face turned on its side in the film’s signature image. She’s still gorgeous, charming, and as one of the last remaining members of the Shadows cast, an important link to one of the most historically significant films of the 20th century (virtually the first truly successful independent film).

THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY BEGINS TONIGHT!!!

3.10 @ 8pm — “SHADOWS” 1959 directed by John Cassavetes.  Co-star Lelia Goldoni Q&A after the film…

3.11 @ 7:30pm — “TOO LATE BLUES” 1961 directed by John Cassavetes.  @ 9:30pm — the best of “JOHNNY STACCATO”

A New York counterpart to the crime-solving hipsterism of its contemporary “Peter Gunn”, “Johnny Staccato” is still riveting in ways long removed from its lone ‘59/’60 season. Cassavetes-lovers can get hours of our main man as a moody jazz combo pianist who moonlights as an unorthodox detective, and the style points go through the roof from there: amazing wardrobe, fakey sets, and superb jazz music on the soundtrack, all bubbling within overblown plots and chewy dialogue. The young, mercurial Cassavetes is a blast, updating the old ‘40s noir detective fighting a confused world to the ‘50s fresh jazz era — and the series’ parade of guest stars is equal fun, as the show’s run included one-off turns by Dean Stockwell, Cloris Leachman, Martin Landau, Mary Tyler Moore and even Gena Rowlands! As well, Cassavetes even got to direct some of the episodes, giving him the opportunity to hone the skills he would simultaneously use on the production of Shadows. Join us for a program of J.C.-directed episodes from this hidden treasure of golden-era television!

3.12 @ 7:30pm — Ben Gazzara Q&A.  @ 9pm — “HUSBANDS” 1970 directed by John Cassavetes…

3.13 @ 5:30pm — Gary Oldman Q&A with Ben Gazzara.  @ 6pm — “THE STRANGE ONE” 1957 directed by Jack Garfein.  @ 8pm – “THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE” 1976 directed by John Cassavetes. @ 10:45pm – “SAINT JACK” 1979 directed by Peter Bogdanovich…

“The Strange One” is an odd little movie, an allegory of evil that seems made by a studio that only exists in an alternate reality, and beamed onto a local TV station late into the night. In his first starring role, Gazzara immediately proved he had serious acting chops, oiling up the screen with his creepy, charismatic portrayal of a Machiavellian military cadet who’s rotten to the core. Looking dapper in a sailor cap and robe, a casually manipulative Benny spews out his hyper-articulate lines with the coolness of a proto-Buddy Love type, sadistically getting pleasure out of destroying the lives of everyone he touches. Directed by fascinating film footnote Jack Garfein (a teenage Holocaust survivor cum successful Broadway theater director who only directed two films) and largely populated with fellow skilled Actors Studio members including George Peppard and Pat Hingle, is not quite like any other film you’ve seen, and is not easily forgotten. The Strange One is indeed a strange one.

3/15 @ 8:00pm — Seymour Cassel Q&A.  @ 9:00pm — “MINNIE & MOSKOWITZ” 1971 directed by John Cassavetes…

3/18 @ 7:30pm “FACES” 1968 directed by John Cassavetes.  @ 10:15 — “A CHILD IS WAITING” 1963 directed by John Cassavetes…

In one of her final dramatic roles, Judy Garland stars as an unorthodox teacher of special-needs children who stands up against Burt Lancaster’s stern, by-the-book mental hospital psychiatrist in A Child Is Waiting, Cassavetes’ nouvelle vague melodrama that was to be his last for-hire feature directorial gig until the tumultuous production of Big Trouble almost 25 years later. A Child Is Waiting has all the trappings of a standard “social issue” movie, but in Cassavetes’ hands, the focus is shifted most interestingly onto its young characters. Cassavetes insisted on casting real-life mentally-challenged youngsters, whose intriguing performances at times even upstage the mighty Miss Judy, and are the true heart and soul of the film. Along with the stylistic touches (tight close-ups, handheld camerawork, long takes) that would later become his hallmarks, Cassavetes infuses the film with an elevated level of genuine tenderness and sadness rarely reached by other studio pictures of the day.

3/19 @ 7:00pm Gena Rowlands Q&A.  @ 8pm — “A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE” 1974 directed by John Cassavetes.  @ 10:45 — “GLORIA” 1980 directed by John Cassavetes…4

3/20 @ 5:00pm Cassavetes-As-Actor.  @ 5:30 –  film TBA.  @ 8pm — “MIKEY AND NICKY” 1976 directed by Elaine May.  @ 10:30pm — “MACHINE GUN McCAIN” 1969 directed by Giuliano Montaldo…

This delirious Vegas gangster saga, featuring Cassavetes as an ex-con offered a too-good-to-be-true casino heist gig, is a major rediscovery. J.C. had already earned a critical reputation for directing pioneering works like Shadows and Faces, which he largely financed by taking surprisingly good paycheck roles in films like The Dirty Dozen, Rosemary’s Baby and this crackerjack Italian production with a cast to die for. The co-star here, Peter Falk, immediately hit it off with John, beginning a partnership that continued with Husbands, A Woman under the Influence, and Mikey and Nicky. Gena Rowlands also appears in a key supporting role, while the gorgeous Britt Ekland is seen in her prime as the female lead. Meanwhile, Eurocult devotees will get a huge kick out of the infectious Morricone score, and ‘60s aficionados will thrill to plenty of terrific on-location footage of Vegas in its swingin’ prime. The fact that McCain is a really solid crime film to boot is just icing on the cake!

3/24 @ 7:30pm — “LOVE STREAMS” 1984 directed by John Cassavetes.  @ 9:30pm — “OPENING NIGHT” 1977 directed by John Cassavetes…

(CINEFAMILY  3.8.11)

The Cinefamily — 611 N Fairfax Avenue, 323-655-2510…

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the MUSEO SOUMAYA…

03/09/2011

Mexico City’s new art container designed by Fernando Romero and brought to you by the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helú…

by NICHOLAS CASEY

Encased in glimmering aluminum, the building rises up 150 feet, before it canopies like an oversize mushroom thought up by Magritte. The facade is a honeycomb of shiny silver hexagons. The structure is top-heavy, almost threatening to tip itself over in this city of earthquakes. Passersby look up, half curious, half concerned. It will soon be a contemporary home to an eclectic private collection of some 66,000 pieces: Da Vincis and Toulouse-Lautrecs, Picassos and Dalís, Riveras and Renoirs, religious relics and even a treasure of coins from the viceroys of Spain. A Rodin collection—the second-largest in the world, the largest in private hands—sits perched on the sixth floor, boasting works like “The Kiss.” But the Soumaya, which cost an estimated $70 million to construct, also houses something else: Mexico’s biggest hope yet to create an art museum worthy of international buzz.

It’s something that Latin America lacks. Mexico City, for all its marvels, like murals by Diego Rivera, is best known in art circles for the house-museum of Rivera’s lover, Frida Kahlo. Sure, the city has a great anthropology museum, if your idea of fun is staring at pre-Columbian figurines for several hours. But in terms of art, the region is wanting. São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Santiago—all world-class cities, all bereft of the caliber of museum that anchors so many cosmopolitan destinations.

Mexico, however, does boast something no other Latin country does: the world’s richest man. Carlos Slim Helú, owner of the Soumaya bounty and ranked No. 1 in Forbes’s 2010 list of the world’s richest billionaires. In addition to collecting companies, Slim collects art—lots of it. For years he’s displayed some of it in a tiny space in the south of the capital. Now at 71, he is building a museum writ large in honor of his late wife, Soumaya Domit, who died of kidney failure in 1999.

If there’s a Mexican version of the American Dream, the Slim family lays claim to it. Slim’s father, Youssef, was a Lebanese immigrant who changed his name to Julián. In 1911, he founded a general store in Mexico City’s downtown called “The Star of the East.” The Mexican Revolutionhad broken out in 1910 and the elder Slim bought up his competitors on the cheap as they fled mounting violence. When the country stabilized, the Slims were a clan of considerable wealth. Carlos has nourished his part of the family fortune in very much the same way: Buying companies at low prices, he then builds them into profitable monopolies. In 1982, family history repeated itself when Mexico’s president nationalized the country’s banks and caused a scare that more expropriations would be on the way. Slim bought up a stable of companies at fire-sale prices—big operations were going for 5 percent of their value. Some of the companies, bought for tens of millions of dollars in the ’80s, are now valued in the billions today. Slim’s personal wealth has been estimated by Forbes at $53.5 billion.

“It’s a container… a container for art.” — Romero

People in Mexico often joke that Carlos Slim owns every cactus in the country. And it is hard to find sectors his empire doesn’t own: telecommunications, banking, restaurants, construction, drilling, airlines, the list goes on. He even owns a large stake in the New York Times, which he acquired when its stock was slumping. Slim’s eye over the art market is keen to spot deals, too. In the 1980s, when Rodins were valued at a lot less than they are today, Slim began snapping them up. In later years, prices for the sculptures had surged, and Slim was atop a collection of more than 100 pieces, many of them highly priced and prized, like “Eve” and “The Burghers of Calais.”

Not every commission has gone smoothly for architect Fernando Romero, the imaginative creator behind the Soumaya. Once when he was building a house that was meant to be his home, his wife saw the angular frame and rejected it, one of his colleagues recalls. Romero says it was simply over budget. Whatever happened, what existed of the thing was eventually torn down. But Romero has little to worry about when it comes to finding a patron with big pockets: Carlos Slim is the architect’s father-in-law.

the 150′ structure is sheathed in 16,000 aluminum plates…

The buildings that Romero has built, mainly corporate offices for his father-inlaw, have been much more conventional. But with the Soumaya, Slim appears to have let Romero’s imagination run wild. Each floor space is a different shape; a fleet of snaking vertical columns hold most of the weight, like an exoskeleton. The two men (Slim himself a trained engineer) discussed the project “everywhere,” Romero recalls—more than once at the dinner table with Romero’s wife, who is also named Soumaya. “[Slim has] an extraordinary capacity to get to the essence of problems,” Romero says. “He’s iluminado” (the Spanish word for “enlightened”).

Still, the world’s richest man didn’t make his billions by sparing no expense—something Romero learned firsthand. Romero wanted a translucent facade; Slim preferred aluminum made by one of his companies. Even Romero’s clever design of stacking columns around its exterior was revised by Slim, who asked that some columns run through the center, which could be produced more cheaply even if it meant obstructions on the gallery floors.

“Slim told me, ‘There will be two architects on this project—one of them will be me,’ ” Romero says. Adds Slim: “It’s not the easiest to work with me, but it’s easy for me to work with him.”

read the entire article here

(THE WALL STREET JOURNAL  3.3.11)

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“POLAR BEAR: SPY ON THE ICE”

03/07/2011

taking wildlife photography to the next level…

from BBC ONE

Shot mainly using spy cameras, this film gets closer than ever before to the world’s greatest land predator. Iceberg cam, Blizzard Cam and Snowball Cam are a new generation of covert devices on a mission to explore the Arctic islands of Svalbard in Norway. Backed up by Iceberg Cam and Drift Cam, these state-of-the-art camouflaged cameras reveal the extraordinary curiosity and intelligence of the polar bear.

The cameras are just a breath away when two sets of cubs emerge from winter maternity dens. They also capture the moment when the sea-ice breaks away from the island in the Spring. As one set of mother and cubs journey across the drifting ice in search of seals, the other is marooned on the island with very little food. How they cope with their different fates is captured in revelatory close-up detail.

The cameras also follow the bears as they hunt seals, raid bird colonies, dive for kelp and indulge in entertaining courtship rituals. Icebergcam even discovers their little-known social nature as seven bears share a washed-up whale carcass. Often just a paw’s swipe from the play-fighting and squabbling bears, the spy cameras face their most challenging subject yet. When their curious subjects discover the cameras, they are subjected to some comical-but-destructive encounters.

SNOWBALL CAM

The polar bear’s investigative and often destructive nature required a device that was polar bear proof. Snowball cam was the solution. Its large spherical shape prevented bears from getting a firm bite or hold. Its tough reinforced shell protected it from most polar bear encounters making it perfect for front line filming. Snowball Cam has no visible moving parts but was able to roll across most terrains, even up hill. It could also film on the roll thanks to a self-leveling high definition camera. Having the ability to dock and undock from Blizzard Cam was essential for safe and effective deployment into the thick of the action.

BLIZZARD CAM

Designed to operate in extreme arctic environments ranging from the perilous sea ice, frozen glacial fjords and treacherous snow covered mountains. Speed and stealth was achieved by its two powerful electric motors that quietly propel it on skis to 40 mph. Blizzard Cam’s robust camera turret was designed to resist temperatures below minus 30 degrees C. The onboard high definition camera was remotely operated over a distance of 1 km. The very real threat of attack from polar bears was thwarted by an onboard decoy device “Snowball Cam”. This could be deployed remotely from Blizzard Cam for front line camera operations, allowing the more vulnerable Blizzard Cam to retreat from dangerous situations.

DRIFT CAM

Drift Cams were specifically designed to film autonomously without the need for a camera crew. Drift Cams are triggered by detecting infrared heat. Their sensitivity could detect a polar bear from a distance of 50 meters. Once deployed, they can remain in standby for up to a week, even at minus 30. This proved crucial for filming mother and cubs emerging from their maternity dens. Each Drift Cam was fitted with a solar powered satellite phone that alerted the crew every time it was triggered. Drift Cams made it possible to capture the emergence even when the crew was snowed in by severe blizzards.

ICEBERG CAM

For the bears on the sea ice, a very different spycam was needed. Iceberg Cam was designed to blend seamlessly amongst the ice flows. It’s powerful thrusters produced enough speed to keep up with swimming bears. Iceberg Cam was decked out with two cameras for above and below water filming. This remarkable spycam captured revelatory footage of hunting and scavenging polar bears in breathtaking detail never before seen.

(BBC ONE)

and check out these other excellent clips of the cams in action…

spycams film baby bear
polar bear stalks seal
polar bear flirts with mate

“POLAR BEAR: SPY ON THE ICE” 2010 directed by John Downer

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KLAUS KINSKI…

03/06/2011

excerpts from a 1985 Playboy Magazine article…

by MARCELLE CLEMENTS

I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to explain “the thing” to you, though I believe that I understand it perfectly after spending some time with Kinski. It is not so much any specific thing he said, any one word he uttered; it is the accumulation of many words, images, metaphors, examples that he used, but also gestures, facial expressions, tone, the settings in which we talked and, above all, the moods he can generate when all those arc combined. During one of our conversations, I tried to pin Klaus Kinski down for a name, and he reminded me of the fairy tales in which people die when they find out a forbidden name.

KINSKI: “There can be no word to express this thing, this secret. Because this secret, which is not actually a secret, it is very simple, but it includes, includes, endless, endless, almost everything, you know. The thinking about it and being conscious of all this means at the same moment changing everything, like in nature, changing and changing and changing, endless, always, never-ending movement, you see…”

Kinski speaks elliptically.  He calls it “telegraph style.” Sometimes his meaning is clear only by inference. But in talking with him, I soon understood how skillful he is, by instinct, at leading one to leap from an image to an idea. I realize now that Kinski could have talked to me in this seemingly inexact manner about the quantum theory and I would have learned a great deal of physics. In fact, in a way, that is exactly what he talked to me about: the emission and absorption of energy in nature. This was my first important lesson about what it is the actor does. In trying to convey its essence to me, Kinski sometimes also called it “the force,” or the power, or nakedness, or receptivity, or “the incarnation of all that is alive.” Sometimes he used the phrase “participation in the universe.” Indeed, Kinski admits that certain of the states he sometimes enters resemble meditation and embody some of the tenets of yoga.

“But, I don’t need anybody to tell me how to be alive…”

I’d become accustomed to his yelling. Tricks of the print medium cannot – capital letters cannot – convey the intensity of Kinski’s voice when it rises, as it often does. And in the several long telephone conversations we’d had before I went to see him in Northern California, I’d been frightened by it.

“Why should I do any interviews? It is all shit. Why me? Because I am what they call an actor? It is me or someone else, a murderer or a conductor, or anybody, anybody, anything, that can be consumed. They consume everything – art, executions, hamburgers, Jesus Christ. It is all supermarket talk. It is consumer SHIT to fill up their pages.”

You can witness Klaus Kinski having a mood Swing within a minute, within a sentence, as his mind conveys him from an infuriating image to a soothing one to a humorous one. If you watch his face while he speaks, you will see it become a mask of ire, his glance menacing as he spits out words of contempt and outrage. Then, suddenly, there’ll be a smile so gentle that something will constrict in your chest. It is impossible not to respond. He’s so close to the surface, I had thought during one of our first long telephone conversation. But after I’d spent some time with him, I sometimes felt there was no surface at all. I think of him now as exposed consciousness, as fragile as a human organ taken from the protective case of the body. I think that’s why, between films, he lives alone, in a cabin in the middle of his 40 acres of forest in Northern California.

“Freedom! Freedom! That’s what every shitty ruler promises you before he takes over!”

He won’t drive a car other people have driven. He won’t read a copy of a book anyone else has read and that, in fact, one of the reasons he hates old houses and hotel rooms is that he can sense the lingering presence of their former occupants.

“Fun? There is no fun.”

Eating a chili dog: “These beans are disgusting, they are hard. Look at this sign, HOMEMADE. What does this mean, ‘home’? Does it mean that the beans are even more disgusting than others? I don’t understand their signs. I don’t WANT to understand their signs. This HOMEMADE, it’s supposed to tell you these disgusting beans are good. These fucking signs! Signs everywhere that lie.”

Kinski often goes for weeks without speaking to another human being. He reads no newspaper. He watches no television. “I climbed up to the roof and smashed down the antenna.” He keeps few possessions. When he has finished reading a book, he uses it to start a fire in the hearth that is his sole source of heat. He cuts his own hair. He grows his own vegetables so that he will not have to drive into town. The animals in the forest do not threaten him as do people and their societies, nor do the storms, the wind, the trees. In the cabin, surrounded by vegetation through which there is no path save that made by the passage of his own body, and in his forest, he is safe. Except from “the thing.”

“I am like a wild animal who is behind bars. I need air! I need space!”


Kinski was about five years old when he first felt this thing. He says he can recall looking at a dog or a tree or a whore on the streets of Berlin and hurling his own consciousness into the creatures or even the inanimate objects, not pretending to be but becoming the dog or the tree or the whore. “Incarnating” is what he came to call it later, not playing a role. Being, not acting. He detests the word entertainer. He also hates the word actor and mocks the European critics who have called him the greatest actor of the 20th Century. Not surprisingly, he loathes all critics and refers to them as “the masturbators.”

Directors in general understand shit.”

On Herzog: “He is a less big asshole than the others.”

On doing another take: “ASSHOLES! Do you ask a car crash for another take? Do you ask a volcano for another take? Do you ask the storm for another take?”

On method acting: “Completely worthless shit.”

“I am like a wild animal born in captivity, in a zoo. But where a beast would have claws, I was born with talent.”

On films: “I make movies for money, exclusively for money. So I sell myself for the highest price. Exactly like a prostitute. There is no difference.”

“Why do I continue making movies? Making movies is better than cleaning toilets.”

On awards: “(rejecting them) if they’re not changeable into cash money. It is the Nobel Prize I want, It’s worth $400,000.”

On the girl behind the McDonald’s counter who says “next”: “I will NEVER be next!”

On traffic signs: “There is a sign that says, RIGHT LANE MUST EXIT. Right lane MUST exit! MUST! And I say to myself,  MUST? Fuck YOU!”

Of course, I had no control over these conversations, which Kinski conducted entirely according to his fancy. He followed none of he rules of the interview situation – not one, not even the most basic. “I don’t want to talk too much about myself.” He refused to sit in a quiet room with a tape recorder; all of our conversations took place in cars, at the beach, in noisy restaurants. But, to be precise, he didn’t refuse anything: I never had a chance to ask him. He would simply announce our schedule for the day. And I soon realized that it was almost always hopeless to ask him any direct questions; if he didn’t interrupt them, he argued with their wording or with their relevance, or would simply digress to another topic.

“You have to protect yourself, your body, your being. You cannot treat it badly; you have to keep it, not only to keep it but to make it sensitive, as sensitive as possible. Since I was born I have been like this, till today. Nothing changed. Even more, even worse. Once, about 25 years ago, I was in an apartment or somebody gave me a room to live in, I don’t know what, and next door, they put on the radio, so I struck the wall with my fist, but they did not put the radio down, so I took a tool and banged and banged until I made a hole through the wall. It was like a comedy movie. I didn’t laugh then. And then I left, of course, the apartment, because they didn’t let me live there anymore. When I come back here from the airport… most of the time, when I travel, I leave my car at the airport, even some weeks it costs me some hundreds of dollars; I don’t care. But once, I took a taxi. I hate those, what do you call them, limousines. They stink and their drivers have been driving dead people to the cemeteries. I hate those. OK, I took a taxi, and now this guy had a radio on. First of all, he had this thing EE-AAAH-UGGHH-ACHHHHHHGGG – these machines, how can somebody all day long hear this? He must be already deaf. I don’t know what. And then I say — Do you need this? I say — this machine? And he looked at me, like maybe I am crazy or whatever. I say, I just come from Tokyo, Hong Kong, long flight, I am exhausted. I said, look, just half an hour. Do I have to listen to that crap? Can you turn the radio off?. And he was even willing. He turned around, and he said — but it’s the news. I say, I don’t need this. I say, I don’t want to, I have never listened to it, never in my life,OK? I am almost on the border. I need to stop. I have to get out of your car. And he switched it off, but saying, as though really surprised and almost sorry for me. How can you know what’s going on?’ There, you see: THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!”

“No, no. I never said money is freedom! I said money buys freedom. BUYS! What does that mean, money is freedom? This is ridiculous: money is freedom. It means nothing. What do you think, that a dollar in a savings account is freedom? Maybe you have understood nothing I have said. You are trying to make me sound like an American average citizen.”

His arguments in response to my questions were often semantic. Kinski hates words; he resents having to use them to express himself, he finds them untrustworthy, confining, reductive.

“Experiencing the ocean is an experience of liberty. When you talk about the ocean, is it liberty? Even looking at the ocean is not liberty. It is like a wounded bird looking at the sky and saying, ‘Why are my wings broken?’ Or even worse: putting a bird cage near the window so that the bird can see the sky. But, of course, it’s much better to look than not to, even if it hurts. But words – words are not enough! It is true what Rimbaud said once; It’s absolutely true; I proved lt. He said, ‘If you think a book is strong enough, try it at the ocean, in the wind, at the waves. If the book can resist the ocean, the elements, then it exists. Otherwise, throw it away.’”


Afterward, I tried to write what he had told me when he’d started explaining this thing to me. He had given me examples, images that he thought I would grasp. The “thing” was comparable, by analogy, to the power of kung fu, he had told me. He had mentioned Bruce Lee, for example, and how it is possible to observe that the concentration, the energy that the kung-fu artist taps into begins long before the point of impact and continues afterward. He talked with me also about how this thing that enables you to create is the thing that makes you suffer, suffer so much that you hate your fate, which has driven you to it, because it is not a choice. You start doing it and then you cannot stop, and the more you do it, the more it makes you suffer. And you cannot get rid of it once you have felt lt. You cannot kill it, no matter how much you hate it for making you suffer. You try to kill it, but it is like the snake with 100 heads; there is always another head. “But you need a framework,” I said.

“You need a framework? What is this, a framework? You don’t need a framework. They told you you need this. You don’t need this. You need a painting, not a frame. You are going too slow. Just go.”

“It should not be necessary to explain things, I don’t know… maybe it comes from this fucking occupation that they call art. I don’t know what the meaning of that is. And they call me ‘actor’ and I know this is shit, OK, because it just means that some idiot, absolutely imbecilic, cretin, illiterate director can say what he wants to me, can even harm me. So I say to him — FUCK OFF! Or I go home or whatever. And then they say ‘He is mad, he just happens to be an artist.’ These people who do not see the terrible things and therefore do not see the beautiful things, either. But I cannot dump, dump this thing. They think you can dump all this and be an actor. Then they say ‘Good job.’ Do you say ‘Good job’ to an earthquake?”

“I don’t know. Why have I had this life? If I knew, I wouldn’t have done it. Do you know what I mean? You cannot even say, I cannot even tell myself, why did I do it? I shouldn’t have done it. It’s ridiculous. It wasn’t a choice? It wasn’t my choice.”

For the first time in his presence, I felt afraid. Not of him but of the furor of that younger self he was reincarnating in the small, cramped space where we sat, yet another cage to be filled with that power and rage that I finally understood to be his furor at his own fate. And I saw that same vein stand out on his forehead that I had seen on Aguirre’s, and the same intensity in the set of his jaw: It was not the rage of helplessness, it was the rage of defiance.

“So it means, the only thing I can say is — OK, shit! Just like saying — Shit! to yourself. You say SHIT ten times when you hurt yourself. You say SHIT. Nobody is there. You just say SHIT. So I could tell myself — Oh, shit, why, WHY, why did all that happen to me? Why was I not a bird on the ocean? You know? Instead of this, you know? This I could say, but just to myself. SHIT! It doesn’t even make sense after a while when you say SHIT from morning to evening, but there was a time when I could not stop. It was like a tic. I said SHIT all the time. SHIT!”

Kinski opened his eyes, which had been clamped shut, and then looked away at the ocean. In the car, the silence seemed new. Well, it wasn’t a silence. There was still the wind, the sound of a sea gull’s wings flapping. It only seemed like a new silence to me, because I had watched a man say “Fuck you” to his own pain. Kinski stared steadfastly at the ocean.

“Yes, love is the salvation. I didn’t choose to be alone. But I cannot explain this. I could be with a woman in a bed, for weeks even and it would seem to me like three seconds. Or 300 years. There is no time sense because of things that are going on in you. I don’t know, there is no explanation of this. But every time, even with someone I…. But whenever I was with a woman, I always sort of want another one. So there was always another one. I can’t explain this, but it means that these women, they were not sharing my solitude. I wanted to stay with somebody, but I couldn’t, it wasn’t possible, because of this thing moving in myself. I had to learn this. I didn’t want to be alone, but I had to learn that the dimensions of my feelings are too violent. I had to learn this. It is what I was just telling you before. Why? Why am I like this? It is the same as — why wasn’t I born a fisherman? This is not a choice. There is not a why. Look at this bird there. Why does he fly to the left? Why?”

We watched as the gull flew out of our sight, toward the mountains. A few hundred feet away, on the road leading to the beach, a truck pulled up and some men got out, carrying pneumatic drills and jackhammers. They set to work, and it was the sounds of the drills and the hammers that now reached the car.

“Look at them! They are not happy if they don’t hammer. They hammer, they hammer; it is unbearable. That is why you have to go away. It is not a solution, but you have to go away, to protect your feeling of life, where people won’t shock you and hurt you. They hammer everywhere! Everywhere they can possibly hammer! They hammer in your brain! Hell, these idiots, they come with their hammer, where people are sitting, to hammer, to hammer, to hammer! LET’S GO!”

(HOMAGE TO KLAUS KINSKI)

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the DESERT DOMES of CASA GRANDE…

03/05/2011

a melting pot for ghosts and space people

by AP

A little over 27 years ago, ground was broken for an electronics assembly plant on Thornton Road near Interstate 8, at a site now referred as “the Domes.” About 75 people attended the event that included a preview of a Thermoshell dome. A total of four dome-like structures were built. An office was used for a while in one of the domes but the plant never opened. Long abandoned, the site was acquired by new owners in 2006.

Back in 1982, InnerConn wanted to make circuit boards used in all types of equipment ranging from quartz watches to large computers. The original site had 135 acres and the plant would have used 10 acres. The shells or domes were constructed by pouring three inches of polyurethane followed by three inches of concrete against a balloon inside, held up by a steel skeleton. At the time each dome cost about $150,000 and construction took about six weeks for each. The domes were constructed for insulation efficiency and lower costs and construction time.

At one point the Domes property was fenced but that has fallen into disrepair with vandalism. Today the ceilings of several domes are falling in and could be dangerous. InnerConn Technologies defaulted on a loan from Union Bank of California in 1983. The bank became owner of the InnerConn property in California and later the harmful chemical trichloroethylene was discovered in groundwater beneath that site. The Domes had been an illegal dump site for years. A cleanup started in 1989. In 1982, the area around the Domes was pretty remote. Now there are signs of growth such as the nearby Wal-Mart Distribution Center, about two miles away.

(AZ CENTRAL  8.21.09)

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CROVATTO MOSAICS…

03/04/2011

from the Travisanutto Giovanni SRL Studio in Italy…

selections from “Hollywood Highlights” 1994 a collaboration with Margaret Nielsen for a Percent for the Arts project at the MPAA offices in Encino (photos SCRIBBLES FROM L.A.)…

and from the Washington D.C. National Airport gallery walk, a collaboration with Frank Stella — one of eight installations teaming with various artists…

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BUNKER SPRECKELS…

03/02/2011

an interview…

by CR STECYK III

Born in 1949, Adolph B Spreckels III – great grandson of a Germany-born sugar baron, railway tycoon and publisher, Claus Spreckels – grew up in the lap of luxury. When he was five, the world’s most famous man became his stepfather. Clark Gable schooled him in the art of hunting and revealed the illusory insanity of the image factory to his young charge. Following Gable’s death in 1960, he would use the star’s Oscar as a doorstop.

From an early age, the beach boys at Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel taught the lad the intricacies of fishing, canoeing and surf riding. Little ABS III’s family was revered by the native populace in the land of Aloha because they had supported King David Kalakaua, the last absolute Hawaiian monarch, in his battles against the interlopers. He was taught things few would ever learn because of his lineage. Old kahunas, the keepers of island lore, proclaimed that he was a reincarnated Hawaiian prince. Back on the mainland, the boy evolved into a highly skilled surfer, practising in the manicured perfection of the private-access beaches of Point Dume in Malibu. He was universally called by the family-bestowed nickname of Bunker, and society columnists charted his every move.

Bunker dated Miss Teen California, became a nationally ranked archer, was on track to become a stockbroker, and seemed doomed to the sweet ride of those groomed for success. But, at 18, Bunker would turn his back on the family fortune and return to Hawaii, to the North Shore of Oahu, where he became a penniless, itinerant surfer. Surviving by building surfboards and living by his wits, he pioneered a revolutionary approach to board design and wave riding that has never been equalled. Bunker crafted radically short, hard-edged boards that he rode lying down, on his knees, and standing up, changing to the most effective body position several times during a single ride.

As international magazines began to mention him regularly, the surfer retreated to the obscure outer islands of Hawaii. When he finally allowed his inheritance (believed to be in the region of $50m) to fall upon him, Bunker immediately established ‘branch offices’ around the globe. Hotel George V in Paris. Hotel Edward in South Africa. Yacht Harbor Towers in Honolulu. Kuilima Estates in Kahuku. Sunset Tower in Hollywood. Divergence became Bunker’s avocation. Surfing remained a passion, but the earlier simplicity of his monk-like existence was replaced with vengeful, spectacular excess.

I first met Bunker in 1962 at Malibu. We became good friends over the ensuing years, travelling, building boards, doing things like that. These interviews were done over October and November of 1976 on the North Shore and in Honolulu. Bunker was working on a film of his own (“Decado”) then and also on the Lucifer Rising project with director Kenneth Anger. He died just after our interview sessions, in January 1977, aged 27, and neither of the movies was completed. The thing that strikes me now is how prophetic Bunker was. He was considerably ahead of things in term of style, concept and attitude. Now the big irony is that Takuji Masuda and Anger are both working on finishing off Bunker’s film.

I. Family

CR Stecyk III: How do you react to being called the most decadent person in surfing?

Bunker Spreckels: I suppose it’s reasonably satisfying to have that sort of reputation, because it’s a reputation that I alone have built for myself, without the help of advertisers or manufacturers.

CR: Do you know much about your ancestors?

BS: Quite a bit actually, about some of them, just maybe the key people in the family. I’ve read books on them. We come from a Viking line of Teutons. My great-grandfather Claus Spreckels – only then it was Von Spreckelsen, but in America we dropped it to Spreckels – sailed over from Germany in 1846.

CR: What was it like growing up around Clark Gable?

BS: He couldn’t go out on the streets without causing a riot. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s come around today as far as just out-and-out being a superstar that’s more famous than Clark Gable was, and still is. I’m not talking about rich, I’m just talking about fame. I got to know him on a level that people wouldn’t ever normally get to know him. I’ll say one thing – he was the same way at home that he was on the screen. He didn’t change very much. He was from that no-crap school of acting and that’s the way he lived, too. He was never one to talk about himself. He’d always talk about other people or other things rather than himself. If you listen to people most of the time nowadays they’re usually talking about themselves.

CR: What did you learn from him?

BS: I learned a lot about grooming. I heard from him what a fuck-tit the acting business is. I learned a lot about words, how to use words. He taught me how to use the dictionary.

CR: You mentioned women once before …

BS: Oh, yes, he taught me quite a bit about women, and that I better watch out for them, too. Also, some women don’t keep themselves so clean so you got to watch out for that, too.

CR: Did you learn anything else from him?

BS: He taught me how to shoot. He taught me how to use different weapons – knives and bullwhips, that type of thing. He was good with a whip. He was good with a lasso, good in the cowboy arts. Good with horses. He was good with animals. He was into hunting and fishing.

CR: What future did your family envision for you?

BS: They wanted me to be a banker, I believe. International banker. Or an ambassador. Some sort of diplomatic job. That type of thing. I wanted to go through military school and then get into the air force academy or just go right into the air force. I wanted to go to Vietnam to fly missions. Those were my plans, but I got sidetracked.

CR: How so?

BS: By the lifestyle that I started to lead in Hollywood. The fringe American youth lifestyle activities, and surfing, and fucking off. I got caught up in that whole Sixties culture-shock thing and sort of dropped out from society by spending all my time surfing and making car models. My plans to go into the air force fell through. All of a sudden I didn’t want to go to Vietnam and kill anybody or even go over there at all. I wanted to go surfing instead, so that’s what I went and did.

CR: What was your life like then?

BS: I was living on the Gable ranch. It was pretty exciting because I had a job and made a few dollars here and there doing this and that. I had a girlfriend who was Miss Teen California at the time. They gave her a fur coat and $5,000 and a free car. Between her bankroll and mine, we both made out pretty good. We went on expensive dates and took little trips and that sort of thing.

CR: Did you make enough money from your job to support your emerging lifestyle?

BS: No, I found other avenues in Hollywood and the beach to make money.

CR: Such as?

BS: I set up a little business of my own, selling a little bag of this or a little bag of that to the kids.

II. Surfing and surfboards

CR: You have 39 surfboards right now? Nine of them that you are using all the time?

BS: Yeah. Some of them are either retired or in storage or I don’t ride them any more. I’ve ridden a lot of surfboards. I went out and bought all my surfboards. I never surfed for a company or manufacturer or anything like that.

CR: Why not?

BS: Because I always had the money to go buy my own surfboards. That’s why I went surfing in the first place, because I didn’t want to be part of some team. Like at military school, I used to play sports and be involved with a team. You had to do what the coach said. The team had to show up here at a certain time and do this and do that and do the other thing. Same thing I feel about professional surfing for myself. Had I made it professionally this year, all of a sudden I would have been playing the surfing game by their rules. That to me is defeating the whole purpose of surfing, which to me is getting off the land and going out and being free in the water. I just felt the whole thing was self-defeating.

CR: How would you rank yourself in terms of the surfing pantheon these days?

BS: If you put everybody who’s anybody in the water at Sunset [a beach on Oahu] and you’ve got some good waves going on out there, I feel that if it was my day, I could surf as good, if not better, than anybody else. I still feel capable of doing that. But the thing about my surfing is, I’ve never been real consistent because I’ve always had other problems that have kept me from being consistent in the water. I had things happen to me on land that had me connecting with drugs, women, or physical violence that have kept me from turning in a first-class performance every time I go out.

CR: But you figure you’re as good as anybody on the pro circuit on a given day?

BS: Oh, yeah, sure. I can ride big waves. I can ride small waves. I can ride rights. I can ride lefts. Plus I have a style that I’ve developed that I’ve learned watching the masters of surfing over the years and studying the magazines and films and watching a lot of surfing. If it comes down to it, I can imitate a lot of surfers, too. And I do.

CR: Talk about the roots of surfing.

BS: Surfing after all these years is still considered by many of the Hawaiian surfers and California transplants and what-not here in Hawaii as the sport of kings and the king of sports. In the old days it was only the kings that were allowed to surf. That is all the more interesting when one learns that surfboarding has a background in pagan and primitive life. Surfing almost disappeared during the 19th century, when almost everything was called ‘wicked’ by the missionaries. Surfing was revived about 50 years ago by white men who found that redwood trees in California made the best surfboards. In the old days in Hawaii there were a lot of ceremonies attached to surfing. The kahunas would come down and bless the events. There were certain rituals and details that were performed by the surfer himself.

CR: You once mentioned something about Hawaiian reincarnation …

BS: There’s a group over here that believes I’m a reincarnation of a Hawaiian prince. I was told that by two Hawaiian women who claim to be kahunas.

CR: Do you feel like you’ve had all the experiences there are in surfing?

BS: I think I’ve done as much as I’m going to do. I’m 27 now. I’ve surfed almost every major spot that I know of in the world worth surfing. Like Bruce’s Beauties in Africa – I’ve surfed that at eight-to-10-feet-plus. I surfed Jeffreys Bay at 10 feet. [In Hawaii] I’ve surfed perfect Sunset, perfect Pipeline, perfect Velzyland, perfect waves on the outer islands at various spots. All I could do is just maintain the level of surfing I have. Maybe get a little bit better than I am now. But I don’t think I would get that much better than I am now.

CR: So there’s nothing more for you to accomplish in surfing?

BS: In a sense I feel that way, but I don’t feel that I’m better than surfing. I know that there are going to be things that will be happening in surfing, maybe the next 25 years that kids may start doing maneuvres that I never even thought of doing.

CR: But for this time period?

BS: For this time period I’m pretty well through.

III. Big money

CR: How did you realize you were going to inherit the money?

BS: I wasn’t in line to inherit any money in the first place. The only reason I inherited money was because of a sequence of events, the way people died in my family. Had my father lived, he very easily and very probably would’ve spent the money that I inherited.

CR: How’s that?

BS: He expected my grandmother – his mother – to die. The money that she was holding would’ve gone to him and his sisters. He would’ve gotten that money, so he was spending his money. He was just waiting for her money. But he died first so the money she would’ve given to him she gave to me.

CR: When did you actually get the money?

BS: When I turned 21, I went to the bank and I picked up my money.

CR: In cash?

BS: That’s right.

CR: How did you get the money out of the bank?

BS: Armored car.

CR: Where’d you take it?

BS: To my secret cave.

CR: What do you use that for?

BS: It’s just a place I have that nobody knows where it is, where I keep certain objects, art treasures, things I don’t want people to see. Plus, it’s where I can go do things that I don’t want people to know that I’m doing. It’s just a secret place that I have here on the earth where I can go and be alone. I’ve got all my things of value hidden there, and everything is arranged very neatly. It’s like, you know, the Batcave or something.

CR: Did your life change when you got the money?

BS: I had a lot of new friends all of a sudden. That’s a joke, son. Anyway … Yeah, things changed. They called me Mr Spreckels at the bank. When I went to the bank to get some money, I didn’t get any shit any more.

CR: Have your personal habits changed?

BS: Not to any great extent. I just started eating better. I started eating steak every night, eating out at restaurants every night, that kind of thing. That’s what changed. I was able to go out and go to the bar and drink as much as I wanted and not worry about who was going to pay for it. I could drink myself comatose and I could go out and buy whatever I wanted.

CR: How did the women react to you after you came into your money?

BS: I had a lot of women approaching me. They’d come over and get it on with me and go places. I had a lot of women just flocking around me, trying to get in there and get their toes beneath my hook, so to speak.

CR: What was your record for women during that period?

BS: I used to fuck a lot. Still do. My record? Let’s see. I nailed 64 chicks in one week. That was pretty interesting.

CR: Interesting. Are you proud of your heritage?

BS: I am proud of it, yes. I think it also has its drawbacks. I think in the long run I’ll be able to win the game that I’m playing. That will be a result of the kind of family and the kind of thing that I come from. It’s kind of a hard thing for people to understand, the type of egos, the type of relationships that I’ve dealt with and put up with through my life. But it’s not up to them to understand it anyway, because they wouldn’t. Even if I sat down and spelled it out to them, they still wouldn’t understand it because they haven’t lived that way and they don’t know what it’s like.

IV. Excess

CR: Have drugs played a part in your surfing career?

BS: Drugs and surfing sort of go hand in hand, in the sense that it’s the kind of lifestyle with which drugs are more or less an occupational hazard, like in the world of rock music.

CR: Were there any drugs that were good to do while surfing?

BS: Yeah, LSD, when it first became popular. I believe it was a factor in rearranging the boards. The boards got smaller. The surfing got more radical. People were having hallucinations and visions and vibrations, spiritual revelations. Or else they were having complete bummers. Surfing just seemed to be the only thing to do when you take a dose of acid. It was a hell of a lot better than sitting around in somebody’s room staring at them, thinking you were reading their mind or having some kind of hallucinogenic tangent. I think that the only drugs that really brought surfing through to another level were the psychedelic type – mushrooms, mescaline, psilocybin. Other drugs are like anesthesia. They make you so numb that they shut your senses down so you can’t feel the currents that are going on around you. They make you numb.

CR: How many psychedelic trips have you taken?

BS: I couldn’t count the times that I’ve taken psychedelics. I can’t remember things like that.

CR: What kind of frequency did you take it with at your height?

BS: Every day.

CR: Every day, all day?

BS: No, I’d take maybe a little sniff. I’d mix psilocybin with mescaline and LSD and smash it up, and then chop it up into a powder and keep it in a bottle. When I’d wake up in the morning I’d take a little snort. Just one snort in the morning and that would be it for the rest of the day.

CR: Have you ever had a big drug habit?

BS: A big one? I’ve had what most people would call expensive drug habits for sure.

CR: You’ve been strung out. How could you walk away?

BS: I’ve always been able to control it. I’ve always been able to get up and walk away from drugs whenever I wanted to.

CR: Why is that?

BS: Because I have a lot of will power. I only take drugs when I want to or feel like it.

V. This is the end

CR: What kind of things do you experiment with?

BS: My looks, mainly. My thinking, my approach to life, people, women, the media, TV, movies, records. I follow any fads, like skateboarding, which has had a re-emergence. If some new toy comes out I try to see if this fad is going to take hold and what the market for it is going to be and if somebody’s able to pull it off. I follow the rock-and-roll music scene quite closely. I am interested in the music business.

CR: How so?

BS: I write lyrics and I’m a vocalist. More than that, I suppose. I was in one band. I can dance, too. I’m capable of doing probably just about every American dance step that has ever been done. With a band my role is vocalist and lyricist, and I’m the one that’s the front man, the performer, because I can dance. That’s what the crowd likes to see. They like to see somebody who is not only going to entertain them with just singing, but with their visual image as well.

CR: What about acting?

BS: I’m interested in that as well.

CR: What kind of people would you work with?

BS: I’d like to work with Andy Warhol, Nicolas Roeg, Stanley Kubrick, Kenneth Anger. I feel that the way I’m directing my image that I would be most comfortable and work best with people of their stature. I feel they could take a personality like me and direct me in a positive way.

CR: You have said you could play the role of Lucifer …

BS: Because I think I can deal with the role in the right type of fashion, from some of the things that I’ve studied. I could get my looks up for the part. I always look like such a devil. Plus, I wouldn’t be afraid to play the role. I wouldn’t be afraid of the so-called repercussions of playing such a role.

CR: Why not?

BS: Because I just don’t have that fear of Satan. He doesn’t scare me.

CR: Have you ever seen him?

BS: Yes, in 1970. It was a personal confrontation between the two of us as to what I might want to do with myself.

CR: Were you doing any drugs at the time?

BS: Peyote, marijuana, hash.

CR: So you could play Lucifer because you know what he looks like?

BS: In the film I wouldn’t necessarily look like that because he can assume any form he wants.

CR: And having dealt with him?

BS: Yeah, that’s why I think I would be one of the people qualified to play that role.

These interviews were conducted at Spreckels’s home in Wailua Beach, Oahu, in winter 1976. Bunker died on 7 January 1977.

(GUARDIAN.CO UK  10.28.07)

read the entire article here

“BUNKER SPRECKELS: SURFING’S DIVINE PRINCE OF DECADENCE” 2007 (Taschen) by Art Brewer and CR Stecyk

“BUNKER 77″ 2008 directed by Takuji Masuda

h1

RUMSPRINGA…

03/01/2011

the rite of passage for Amish teenagers…

by TOM SHACHTMAN

In the gathering dusk of a warm, humid summer Friday evening in northern Indiana, small groups of Amish-born girls between the ages of sixteen and nineteen walk along straight country lanes that border flat fields of high cornstalks and alfalfa, dotted here and there with neat, drab houses set back from the roads. One pair of girls walks westward, another pair eastward toward the destination; a threesome travels due south. Although not yet baptized members of the church, these young ladies all wear traditional “plain” Amish garb: solid-colored, long-sleeved dresses with aprons over them, long stockings and black shoes; white bonnets indicative of their status as unmarried cover their long hair, which is parted in the middle and pinned up in the back. A few carry small satchels. Though they are used to exercise and walking strongly, their demeanor is demure, so that they appear younger than non-Amish girls of the same age. The walkers pass homes where the women and children in the yards, taking in the last of the wash off clotheslines, wear no shoes, as though to better sense the warm air, grass, and dirt between their toes. Along these country lanes, while there are a few homes belonging to the “English,” the non-Amish, most are owned by Old Order Amish families.

From their several directions, the walkers converge on the home of another teenage Amish girl. There they go upstairs to the bedroom shared by the young females of the family, to huddle and giggle in anticipation of what is to happen later that night, after full dark. In a window visible from the lane, they position a lit gas lamp, and they leave open an adjacent side door to the house and stairway. These are signals to male Amish youth out “cruising” that there are young ladies inside who would welcome a visit, and who might agree to go out courting-a part of the rumspringa, or “running-around,” tradition that has been passed down in Amishdom for many generations.

The setting for this evening’s rumspringa activities, near the town of Shipshewana and the border between LaGrange and Elkhart counties in north-central Indiana, is similar to those in the other major areas of Old Order Amish population, Holmes and Wayne counties in Ohio, and Lancaster County in Pennsylvania; and similar rumspringa preparation scenes at young girls’ homes are also enacted regularly in those areas.

Such activities usually go unseen by tourists, despite Shipshewana in Indiana, Berlin in Ohio, and Intercourse in Pennsylvania having become tourist destinations for millions of Americans each year. Shipshe, as the locals call their town, has only a few streets but these are lined with nearly a hundred attractive “specialty” shops that sell merchandise as likely to have been manufactured in China as crafted in Indiana.

East and west of the sales district, the area is rural and mostly Amish. The young ladies gathered in that upstairs bedroom, waiting for young men to come calling, work in Shipshe, Middlebury, Goshen, and other neighboring towns as waitresses, dishwashers, store clerks, seamstresses, bakers, and child-minders. All have been employed since graduating from Amish schools at age fourteen or fifteen, or leaving public schools after the eighth grade, and have been dutifully turning over most of their wages to their families to assist with household expenses. After their full days at work, and before leaving their homes this evening, the young ladies have also performed their chores: feeding the cows they milked earlier in the day, providing fresh bedding for the horses, assisting with housecleaning and laundry, with the preparation, serving, and clearing away of the evening meal, and caring for dozens of younger siblings.

In the upstairs bedroom, the girls play board games and speak of certain “hopelessly uncool” teenagers in their age cohort, girls and boys whom they have known all their lives but who are not going cruising and who seem content to spend their rumspringa years attending Sunday sings after church and volleyball games arranged by parents or church officials.

An hour later, when the girls have had their fill of board games, and when the parents of the house are presumed to be asleep, cars and half-trucks are heard pulling into the dirt lane. The battered, secondhand autos and pickups are parked well off the road, to be less visible to passersby in horse-drawn buggies. Out of the vehicles clamber males from sixteen to their early twenties, most of them Amish-born but at this moment trying hard not to appear Amish, wearing T-shirts and jeans, some with long hair or crew cuts instead of Amish bowl cuts. A few English friends accompany them. The young Amish-raised men have day jobs in carpentry shops, in factories that make recreational vehicles and mobile homes, in construction, or at the animal auction and flea market in town; none are farmers, though most still live at home, some on farms and the rest on “farmettes,” five- to ten-acre homesteads that have a vegetable garden and areas of pasturage for the horses and the occasional family cow.

The young men shine a flashlight on the upstairs room where the lamp is lit, and at that countersignal one girl comes downstairs and greets the guys, who then creep up the stairs. After introductory banter in the crowded room, the girls are invited to go with the boys, and they all troop back out to the cars, the Amish girls still in their traditional garb. A few words pass between the daughter of the house and her parents — who have not, after all, been asleep-but while these include admonitions to be careful, they do not specify that she is to come home at a particular hour. If the parents are worried about this pack of teenagers “going away” on a Friday night — perhaps not to return until Sunday evening — they do not overtly display that emotion.

Once the young ladies hit the cars, and the cars have pulled away from the homestead, appearances and behaviors begin to change. While riding along, each Amish girl performs at least one of many actions that have been forbidden to her throughout her childhood: lights up a cigarette, grabs a beer, switches on the rock and rap music on the car radio or CD player, converses loudly and in a flirtatious manner with members of the opposite sex.

the article continues…

(NPR  6.7.06)

“RUMSPRINGA: To Be or Not To Be Amish” 2006 (North Point Press) by Tom Shachtman

“DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND” 2002 directed by Lucy Walker

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