Saturday, June 28, 2008


We caught the opening preview of Dali, Painting and Film at the Museum of Modern Art yesterday. Another must see show at the Modern. Dali, Bunuel, all of the Surrealists were essentially a hypermodern thrust into the future that reflected the early 20th century vision of a modernist, secular, humorous, dream-based art culture.

The exhibit presents a breathtaking retrospective of Dali's art and career with its most unique take on his work its structuring around his groundbreaking collaborations with numerous legendary filmmakers,some logical, some mind-blowing: Luis Bunuel, his fellow Surrealist; Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. There is even evidence of pre-production plans to make a film with the Marx Brothers, which would have starred Harpo Marx, who Dali viewed as the most surrealist of Minnie's always surreal and anarchic boys...

Linking classic paintings like the portrait of Luis Bunuel by Dali (my personal favorite), "Persistence of Vision," the spectacularly titled "Dream Prompted by a Bee Buzzing Around A Pomegrantate in the Moment Before Awakening", and other classics, with some of his essential film collaborations, this is a show not to be missed by cineastes, artists and anyone looking for some masterful inspiration and creative input. The opportunity to see some of these films again, as part of the exhibition and not separate screenings, is alone, worth the price of admission. "Un Chien Andalou" which outraged critics with its surreal suggestions of violence, erotic content and anti-Church imagery, also appears, in the estimation of some critics, to have helped set the structure of film and montage that constitutes the language and grammar of the cinema through the present day. "L'Age Dor", another collaboration with Bunuel, continued to outrage and create new images ripped from dreams. He continued his work with Walt Disney and later created Gregory Peck's dreamscapes that he decribes to his shrink, Ingrid Bergman,in Hitchcock's "Spellbound."

Although in his later years, Dali, like many Modernists and Futurists, including Ezra Pound, tended to gravitate toward political figures who offered modernization and more secular social orders in response to the power of the Church in western Europe, such as Franco (ugh)and even (yech) Hitler, Salvador Dali still continues to explore creative expression through any means avaialble. Like Andy Warhol, another creative collaborator, he used film, commerce, store windows, advertising -- anything could serve as a window that would allow him to share with the world his art and his powerful, cubist and surrealist vision. A great show, in previews through June 28. Opens June 29 through September 21. Musuem of Modern Art, 53rd street, between 5th and 6th avenues, NYC.

Also, another very notable exhibit, Olafur Eliasson's Take Your Time. Besides his fantastic and highly publicized waterfall project, the Scandinavian artist has a number of works here, all exploring light, vision and environment. The lobby of the Special Exhibitions gallaery on the 3rd floor is recast as a monochromatic world here, where the high-pressure sodium lights drain all color from skin and clothing. Like you are in a sci-fi world. Also, you may want to note that the seeming "line to nowhere" at entrance to the Eliasson exhibit, which leads to a spectacular mirrored alcove, is well worth the wait. Additional work also at PS 1. At MOMA through June 30. The sculpture garden remains a cool place to hang with a glass of wine or a gelato.

We also went across the street to visit "Dargerism" and "Asa Ames" at the Museum of AMerican Folk Art. I love this museum, too, but Henry Darger still strikes me as Art Brut/Outsider Art that I can live without. Any art that reeks of exploitation of kids, even if by a talented, visionary, naif, doesn't do it for me. Never has, never will. The wood sculpture by Asa Ames is a relatively thin exhibit but worth catching, as is the always excellent permanent collection.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Power to Change: The Black and White Years

As I said on my previous post on this band, based on the large venue performance in Albany and the cd, I thought these guys were about to achieve escape velocity, and at their brief set at Piano's on Thursday, it was clearer than ever, you can feel it and sense it, the BLACK AND WHITE YEARS have something very special and have what it takes to break through. The fact that they can totally impress a boomer like me and my 17 year old son indicates The Black and White Years are really on to something.

Fantastic, original, funny, theatrical, tight, richly textured tunes and performance. Scott Butler - vocals, guitars, keys, words,Landon Thompson - guitars, keys, vocals , John Aldridge - bass, brass, Billy Potts - drums, cd produced by Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads, Modern Lovers).

It was a great rocking, fun, set. They are going back in the studio shortly to record some additional songs, some of which they played at Piano's, and which will appear on an EP in the fall. Their current CD, the eponymous "The Black and White Years" with its amazing ready-for-lift-off tune, "Power to Change" (so appropos in the scheme of things, I am surprised it isn't positioned for use by a presidential candidate, although the lyrics would seem to cut closer to the needs of Al Gore), on Brando Records, currently in limited and iTune release, will go wide later this summer.

These guys currently reside Deep in the Heart of Austin, Tejas, although I believe they also hale in part from New York State and Tennessee (their tune A Dense History seems to address their current home with the affection of Hamlet holding Yorick' s skull or if you were holding and addressing a beloved pet rattlesnake). There is clearly an affinity here. With any luck they will be back to NYC to perform (and who knows, even Brooklyn, where one of the guys briefly resided during a past visit) for more live shows.

Check out their downloads, iTunes, or the cd on release. Post-punk, ska, frenetic, with deeply layered Latin, CW, and other surprises, tightly and earnestly played. Deep in the Heart of These Guys, you can tell they are onto something and it is something big.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coda: Summer Music: The Black and White Years

Since this is already proving to be a great summer of music in NYC, I am happy to report that the BLACK AND WHITE YEARS, who really fired up an upstate crowd and got them moving at a big outdoor show in late spring, will now be making an appearance at PIANO'S, 158 Ludlow Street, on the lower east side, on Thursday, June 19, at 8 PM sharp. These guys are so original, amazing, with tight music, great vocals, laden with awesome pop-hooks, that I cannot wait to hear them in a smaller indoor venue.

The Black and White Years, an Austin, Tejas -based band, produced by Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads, Modern Lovers), are bringing their post-punk, ska and high-energy, extremely danceable music to New York. Named "Austin's Best New Local Band 2008" (Austin Chronicle) earlier this year, THE BLACK AND WHITE YEARS-[Scott Butler, vocals, guitar, keys; Landon Thompson, guitar, keys, vocals; John Aldridge, bass and brass; and Billy Potts, drums]; will be performing tunes from their eponymous first album, soon to be nationally released in September on Brando records. The band already has an entire new album worth of songs and is likely to perform 3-4 of them that are not on the current album and include titles such as, "me and the abyss," "the grand arch," "steady as you go," and "life debt."

Word has it the band will likely go in the studio to record these new songs in August for a new EP to be released before the end of the year. The national physical release date for the current album (currently available only on iTunes and a few select stores) is set for September 9th.

This should be a great show of original, high energy music. These guys should be achieving escape velocity shortly. See and hear for yourself.

Black and White Years, Thursday, June 19, 2008 at Piano's is located at 158 Ludlow at Stanton Street, 212-505-3733.

Train: F or V to 2nd Ave/Houston St. Exit at Allen St end of the station and walk two blocks east on Houston to Ludlow, then one block south to Stanton. J, M, Z, F to Delancey/Essex. Exit at Delancey/Essex and walk two blocks north on Essex to Stanton, then one block west to Ludlow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer In the Flatbush Forest

The unique and brilliant plumage of birds is only surpassed by the remarkable diversity of their song. The homes in Flatbush, especially in Fiske Terrace and Midwood Park, are nestled in their own wooded and verdant enclave. In the early morning now, as I get up early to start the coffee, empty the dishwasher, and basically set everyone in our home in motion for the final weeks of school, the tree canopy of Flatbush is filled with the tweats, twitters and percussive caws of birds birds birds. Each year, birds migrate and make their way through Brooklyn, on brief stopovers in the evergreens, elms, maples, oaks, birch, spruces, catalpa, cherry, gingko, apple, fig and other varieties that fill the Flatbush forests. It is a concert, combining bird call and response, jazz and scat singing, blues, anthems, and doo wop, a wild mix of bird songs from the mesozoic to the present day. Each year I look forward to, and savor, the few fleeting months of early summer, when I can hang out on the deck in early morning, sipping a home made macchiato, Guinevere the Corgi at my feet who also seems to listen with a huge grin, listening to the wild and crazy birdsong in the Flatbush forest, before I need to get dressed and ready and deal with civilization and its discontents.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Storm Front & Aftermath: Summer Comes to Flatbush

The oppressive heat of the last few days was finally swept away by a violent storm that brought intense lightning bursts and heavy winds to Flatbush, knocking down tree limbs and even some trees (see photo left) as the storm swept over NYC on Tuesday night. It was a powerful, energetic storm that seemed to bring powerful wind and lightning but not much rain to our immediate area.

Wednesday was a dramatically more comfortable day, warm and very sunny, but without the breathless humidity of the last few days. Summer arrives in NYC.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bob Dylan: The Times They Are Still Achangin'

In an interview in the Times of London, Bob Dylan, 67 years, discusses politics, art and America.

Bob Dylan: "Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval,” he says. “Poverty is demoralising. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up...Barack Obama. He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to.” He offers a parting handshake. “You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future,” he notes as the door closes between us."

The full article appears in the link here:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bob Dylan + Brooklyn = Yeah Baby

Earlier this year, I think it was in an email to another blogger, I was speculating on the hypothesis that wouldn't it be so cool for Bob Dylan to perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music? I mean, he plays Sequim Island, Albany, Dubuque, Lewiston, and all points in between on his Endless Tour, so why not Brooklyn, USA ? Shortly afterward, BAM announced that Paul Simon was appearing as a performer in residence, so I thought, well that's great, pretty close, (and it turned out Paul still gives a great show) I guess we will have to be satisfied with Bob's usual appearances at his usual venues in Manhattan, NJ and on Long Island, when he plays the City. Well surprise, surprise.

I was getting ready to get my kids out of the house to school and myself to work this morning when I heard on the NY1 morning wallpaper that Mr. Dylan was appearing at the Prospect Park Bandshell for Celebrate Brooklyn's 30th anniversary of concerts. Dang, I thought, another great event missed. I even missed out on an attempt to get Dylan tix in Albany last year. On my way in, I thought, darn, what are the odds that there would still be any tickets left ?

Well, never say never. Bright and early, after dropping the kids off, and driving downtown listening to Blind Willie McTell and stuff from Modern Times, with that vague sense of impending disappointment, this intrepid blogger decided to mosey on down to planet Dylan. Sure enough, we made it in just under the wire. And it is an outdoor show, without primo seats, and it may be hot, or rainy, and Boomer uncomfortable, but come August 12, when Bob Dylan and his current hot touring band hit the stage, the show will go on and Mr and Mrs Brooklyn Beat will happily be in attendance...more to come

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo