Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections in an Unploughed Street

A lame duck plutocrat Mayor who is detached from governing? Labor organizations covertly fighting budget cuts and staffing reductions by a political culture that overlooks the economic failures of Wall Street speculators and bubble manufacturers and blames the civil service class for pension, health and economic benefits that were hammered out over many decades through collective bargaining. An extreme storm brought on by climate change in conjunction with the Christmas holiday.

Besides the unploughed streets, so many sidewalks unshoveled. Is everyone giving up? Tired? In surrender to the complexity, despair, and pessimism of the 21st century recession and decline of empire?

Or just the snowstorm that fell through the cracks?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ploughman Cometh

The ploughman finally arrived on our street at about 9:30 pm...and so one phase of the Blizzard of Late 2010 came to a conclusion....

CODA: Snowmageddon, continued

Incredibly, it appears the uptown Q isn't running on the normal Q/B line, it is running on the D line between Coney Island-Stillwell and DeKalb Avenue, meaning our section of Brooklyn is still without subway service (except for hiking a mile over to the Flatbush Junction) and still unplowed, preventing any automobile access. Downtown q may be intermittently available.

Snowmageddon, continued

Following oral surgery last week, I needed a follow up visit with my oral surgeon. Of course, the Q wasn't running, and the #3 train, which I walked to and took to my office in Brooklyn Heights yesterday, terminates at the Flatbush Junction. 

My Better Half who kindly offered to come along for the walk and I set out for our hike from near Glenwood Road to Voorhees near Avenue Z. Only express buses headed for Manhattan ran on Ocean Avenue.  There were no local buses. Sidewalks near many apartment buildings were clear, but many stretches remained covered in snow.  It was quite a hike.The dental thing worked out OK, and I had a chat with a bilingual Haitian Creole Special Ed teacher and a retired assistant principal from Staten Island.

It appears there are still issues with the Q train, which was running earlier, but is either experiencing delays or down again.

After getting home, shoveling the cars with my son, (with no plans to go anywhere in the near future), settling issues for  my oldest daughter before she takes the Chinatown bus up to Boston for a few days, I dried off and settled down to watch the excellent Never Cry Wolf, directed by Carroll Ballard and starring Charles Martin Smith, as a biologist living alone in the Canadian arctic wilderness regions, studying wolves. A great thoughtful film about nature, humans, and unexpected adventures, whether involving force majeure like blizzards, bumbling political-plutocrats with whisk brooms and snow shovels, or arctic hikes along Ocean Avenue. Curious Twenty first century experiences and dreams, in a modern metropolis, brought to heel by Gaia.

Never Cry Wolf here

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snowpocalypse Now

After hearing the Mejor announce how all city offices were open even though many people decided to stay home, I once again had to come to grips with the fact that Mayor Mike is an extremely wealthy patrician with seemingly well-meaning intentions, generally with a control of the media that is quite remarkable, but who, once in awhile, displays ignominious traits that belie his apolitical, compassionate stance. As Jedediah Leland says to Charlie Kane:

Leland (as he speaks, only Kane's pants leg can be seen at the left of the frame): You talk about the people as though you owned them, as though they belong to you. Goodness. As long as I can remember, you've talked about giving the people their rights, as if you can make them a present of Liberty, as a reward for services rendered...Remember the working man?

Kane: I'll get drunk too, Jedediah, if it'll do any good.

Leland: Aw, it won't do any good. Besides, you never get drunk. You used to write an awful lot about the workingman...He's turning into something called organized labor. You're not going to like that one little bit when you find out it means that your workingman expects something is his right, not as your gift! Charlie, when your precious underprivileged really get together, oh boy! That's going to add up to something bigger than your privileges! Then I don't know what you'll do! Sail away to a desert island probably and lord it over the monkeys! [imagery of Xanadu and its private zoo]

The Q train still isn't running, so I walked a mile or so to the Flatbush Junction. Streets are littered with abandoned cars and buses. Rappelling snow banks to get to the train. People, incredibly, still trying to use their autos, even though the end of most Brooklyn streets terminate in a snowdrift or an abandoned vehicle.
Getting on the 3 train at around 7 AM , it was like the last train leaving Saigon, people squeezing in, arguing:
Woman #1 - "Move your fat ass so  I can get on the train!"
Woman#2- "You ain't no size 8 neither!" followed by a mutual exchange of barnyard epithets and vituperation.
Things finally settled down around Franklin Ave. as folks got off to switch for the Lex. I got off at Borough Hall -Brooklyn stop, grabbed a yogurt and a coffee and fell on my butt near the corner of Court and Livingston, near where Barney's (Beauty Aids/Pharmacy/Cigar Vault) stood for many years.
I made it in and am trying to accomplish a few things, amidst new people appearing and comparing Snowpacalypse notes. Although I am glad that My Better Half and the kids are saved from the travel chaos by the holiday break, it promises to curtail our activities for the rest of the week. As it is, My Better Half (AKA +0.5) and two of my daughters just lit out for the Junction to accompany our other daughter back home, who is training back to Flatbush on the less familiar IRT line, having been stranded in the Slope for two nights.
May the end of 2010 bring a Happier 2011 for all.  Ciao.
--Brooklyn Beat

Monday, December 20, 2010

CODA: Don Van Vliet 1941-2010

Belatedly, Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn acknowledges the sad passing of Captain Beefheart, poet, painter, musician, bluesman, of complications from multiple sclerosis, at the age of 69, on Friday, December 17. Several years ago I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit of Don Van Vliet's work at the Michael Werner gallery.

The facts, or those most often stated, are that he was born on Jan. 15, 1941, in Glendale, Calif., as Don Vliet. (He added the “Van” in 1965.) His father, Glen, drove a bakery truck.
Don demonstrated artistic talent before the age of 10, especially in sculpture, and at 13 was offered a scholarship to study sculpture in Europe, but his parents forbade him. Concurrently, they moved to the Mojave Desert town of Lancaster, where one of Don’s high school friends was Frank Zappa.
His adopted vocal style came partly from Howlin’ Wolf: a deep, rough-riding moan turned up into swooped falsettos at the end of lines, pinched and bellowing and sounding as if it caused pain.
“When it comes to capturing the feeling of archaic, Delta-style blues,” Robert Palmer of The New York Times wrote in 1982, “he is the only white performer who really gets it right.”
He enrolled at Antelope Valley Junior College to study art in 1959 but dropped out after one semester. By the early 1960s he had started spending time in Cucamonga, Calif., in Zappa’s studio. The two men worked on what was perhaps the first rock opera (still unperformed and unpublished), “I Was a Teenage Maltshop,” and built sets and wrote some of the script for a film to be titled “Captain Beefheart vs. the Grunt People.”
The origins of Mr. Van Vliet’s stage name are unclear, but he told interviewers later in life that he used it because he had “a beef in my heart against this society.”
By 1965 a quintet called Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (the “his” was later changed to “the”) was born. By the end of the year the band was playing at teenage fairs and car-club dances around Lancaster and signed by A&M Records to record two singles.
The guitarist Ry Cooder, then a young blues fanatic whose skill was much admired by Mr. Van Vliet, served as pro forma musical director for the next record, “Safe as Milk” (1967), which showed the band working on something different: a rhythmically jerky style, with stuttering melodies. The next album, “Strictly Personal” (1968), went even further in the direction of rhythmic originality.
But it was “Trout Mask Replica” that earned Mr. Van Vliet his biggest mark. And it was the making of that album that provided some of the most durable myths about Mr. Van Vliet as an imperious, uncompromising artist.
The musicians lived together in a house in Woodland Hills, in the San Fernando Valley; what money there was for food and rent was supplied by Mr. Van Vliet’s mother, Sue, and the parents of Bill Harkleroad, the band’s guitarist (whom Mr. Van Vliet renamed Zoot Horn Rollo). One persistent myth has it that Mr. Van Vliet, who had no formal ability at any instrument, sat at the piano, turned on tapes and spontaneously composed most of the record in a single marathon eight-and-a-half-hour session.
What really happened, according to later accounts, was that his drummer, John French (whose stage name was Drumbo), transcribed and arranged music as Mr. Van Vliet whistled, sang or played it on the piano, and the band learned the wobbly, intricately arranged songs through Mr. French’s transcriptions.

“Trout Mask” offers solo vocal turns that sound like sea shanties; intricately ordered pieces with two guitars playing dissonant lines; and conversations with Zappa, the record’s producer. But its most recognizable feature is its staccato, perpetually disorienting melodic lines.
Band members’ accounts have described Mr. Van Vliet as tyrannical. (Both Mr. French and Mr. Harkleroad have written memoirs with dark details about this period.)
Mr. Van Vliet’s eccentricity and his skepticism about the music industry had much to do with why his music remained mostly a cult obsession. His band was offered a slot at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in 1967, but Mr. Cooder had quit a week before, and Mr. Van Vliet was too spooked to perform. In the following years, when the band was at its creative peak, it played relatively few concerts.
The Magic Band’s first records after “Trout Mask Replica,” starting with “Lick My Decals Off, Baby,” had a more mature sound, but by “Clear Spot,” in 1973, the band had turned toward blues-rock. It later made a few ill-conceived concessions to commercialism, and in 1974 the band quit en masse after the critically panned “Unconditionally Guaranteed.”
After a long falling-out, Mr. Van Vliet reunited with his old friend Zappa to tour and make the album “Bongo Fury” in 1975, then assembled a new band to record “Bat Chain Puller,” which was never released because of contractual tie-ups. Parts of it were rerecorded in 1978 for an album released by Warner Brothers, “Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller).”
When his business affairs cleared in the early 1980s, Mr. Van Vliet made two albums for Virgin, “Doc at the Radar Station” and “Ice Cream for Crow,” with a crew of musicians who had idolized him while growing up. The albums were enthusiastically received.
But “Ice Cream for Crow” was his last record; in 1982 he quit music to focus on his painting and moved to Trinidad, near the Oregon border, with his wife, Jan, who is his only survivor.
In the exhibition catalog to a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the museum director, John Lane, wrote of Mr. Van Vliet’s work, “His paintings — most frequently indeterminate landscapes populated by forms of abstracted animals — are intended to effect psychological, spiritual and magical force.”
Some of the images were a continuation of his songwriting concerns, especially those involving animals. A lot of his work dwells on the beauty of animals, on animals acting like humans and even on humans turning into animals. In “Wild Life,” he sang, “I’m gonna go up on the mountain and look for bears,” and in “Grow Fins,” an extraordinary blues from the album “The Spotlight Kid” (1972), he threatened a girlfriend that if she didn’t love him better he would turn into a sea creature.
Mr. Van Vliet had rarely been seen since the early 1990s and seldom at his gallery openings.
“I don’t like getting out when I could be painting,” he told The Associated Press in 1991. “And when I’m painting, I don’t want anybody else around.”

The Dude and Cook' on SNL

Jeff Bridges hosts Saturday Night Live:

A priceless duet with Cookie Monster:

Link here:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anarchy in Bel Paese: Students Riot in Rome over Berlusconi and Education Cuts

Firefighters try to estinguish the flames from a burning police van and car next to the church of Santa Maria in Montesanto in Piazza del Popolo Square during clashes between police and protesters in Rome.

More NY POST coverage and photos here

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Wikileaks

NY POST: A figure of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is placed in a Neapolitan Christmas creche by Gennaro Di Virgilio depicting the Nativity of Jesus in Naples. In recent decades, artists and craftsmen who make Neapolitan creches have used them to portray the signs of the times. Assange, who is depicted holding his trusty laptop, was created by Di Virgilio, who each year chooses at least one contemporary character to sculpt and place near the scenes of the traditional story of Jesus' birth in a manger.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Warhol Museum Threatens to Pull Funding from Smithsonian Over Censorship Issue

The Andy Warhol Museum Foundation has threatened to pull funding from the Smithsonian over the censorship of the film "Fire in the Belly" by David Wojnarowicz which was removed from the US National Portrait Gallery exhibit entitled "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" following protests by the Catholic League.

The letter from the Andy Warhol Foundation appears below:

Warhol Foundation Demands Reinstatement of Censored Art Work or Will Cease Funding all Smithsonian Institution Exhibitions
December 13, 2010

For Immediate Release

Contact Joel Wachs, President, 212.387.7555

The following letter was sent today by The Andy Warhol Foundation to Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution:

December 13, 2010

Mr. Wayne Clough
Smithsonian Institution
SIB Office of the Secretary
MRC 016
PO Box 37012
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012

Dear Mr. Clough,

The Warhol Foundation is proud to have been a lead supporter of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, but we strongly condemn the decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly from the exhibition. Such blatant censorship is unconscionable. It is inimical to everything the Smithsonian Institution should stand for, and everything the Andy Warhol Foundation does stand for.

Although we have enjoyed our growing relationship during the past three years, and have given more than $375,000 to fund several exhibitions at various Smithsonian institutions, we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear.

Last week the Foundation published a statement on its website, condemning the National Portrait Gallery’s removal of the work and on Friday our Board of Directors met to discuss the long-term implications of the Museum’s behavior on the Foundation’s relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. After careful consideration, the Board voted unanimously to demand that you restore the censored work immediately, or the Warhol Foundation will cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions.

I regret that you have put us in this position, but there is no other course we can take. For the arts to flourish the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.

Sincerely yours,

Joel Wachs
cc: Ms. Patricia Stonesifer, Smithsonian Chairwoman of the Board
Directors of Smithsonian Institution museums
Board Chairs of Smithsonian Institution museums

Additional Details from the NY Observer here

Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn's recent visit to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh details here

Monday, December 13, 2010

ERASERHEAD on Sundance Channel

Sundance Channel running will be running David Lynch's Eraserhead in the coming weeks. (Several newspapers and the Sundance website show it as screening tonight at 7 PM; however, Cablevision does not have a listing for this evening.)

In my opinion, one of the major avant garde films of the 70s, more as a disturbing and gross film, like Bunuel's sliced eyeball, which, though not in and of itself violent, one that shocks and ties in with a lot of the blood and guts horror and zombification that became so popular through the present day.

One of the seminal films of 1970s, David Lynch's cult debut feature is a surreal and unforgettable nightmare about the emotional perils of parenthood. In a desolate industrial landscape, Henry Spenser (Jack Nance) learns he has fathered a premature creature and later fantasizes about a lady performing on a stage in an old radiator. The unique creation of a singular artist-visionary. Selected for the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. "An ingenious assemblage of damp, dust, rock, wood, hair, flesh, metal, ooze" -- Village Voice.

Sundance here

CODA: Remembering David Wojnarowicz

Back in the late 70s, post college, when the economy was in the tank in many ways, as it is now, I worked for the Bookmasters chain. I started as a clerk and eventually became the Evening Manager of the lower Penn Station Store. "Bookies," as we called it, wasn't huge, with the breadth of say, Barnes and Noble or Borders, or the scope of many independent bookstores, such as BookCourt in the Heights or Park Slope's Community Bookstore. But it was a fairly large chain, that did a good amount of business in its locations in midtown (upper and lower stores at Penn Station), Lincoln Center (which served as the location for Brian DePalma's "Greetings" featuring a very young Robert DeNiro) and Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

Anyway, it was at Bookmasters that I met David Wojnarowicz, a fellow employee in those retail wars. David was tall, imposing, deep voiced (more basso profundo than baritone, as I remember him), and funny (in equal measures witty and sarcastic, but friendly in his humor). We were more co-workers and casual acquaintances than close friends. Most people at the store had artistic agendas that the retail work supported, I knew Daivd first as an aspiring writer. My interest was in journalism. I remember a bunch of us from the store, and David's crowd, out and about one night, going to a party at someone's place (maybe it was David's, I don't remember) on Court Street near State Street.  I remember the partygoers from the store meeting on the West 4th Station after work to take the train back to Brooklyn when someone told us that John Belushi had died from an overdose. After Bookmasters closed, David's talent and celebrity/notoriety expanded by leaps and bounds, as he  moved further into the visual arts. We were in touch periodically through the 1980s, often by correspondence (I have some wonderful, illustrated letters that David sent to me from his time in Paris). I remember, when he was in France, he sent me a few francs and asked me to send him some periodicals that he couldn't obtain there. I remember having brunch at the Cornelia Street Cafe with him and a woman I was dating at the time (who later, after we broke up, may or may not have hit on David -- good luck with that).
I also remember, during the Reagan era, I attended an anti-nukes rally in Manhattan that I was reporting on for NOW-NY and some other publications, and bumping into David and being introduced to Peter Hujar near Union Square. Another time, in NYC, David called and suggested I keep an eye on the "Soho Weekly News" which published a large spread of David's "Arthur Rimbaud/David Wojnarowicz" photos. I also remember seeing him perform in the band "Three Teens Kill Four," and in a performance piece with Brian Butterick, "Leaning with that Grey Beast of Desire."  We lost touch along the way as I moved into journalism, public affairs, marketing, and eventually the public sector, anything that would give me the opportunity to write, express a little creativity on the job, earn a buck and still have the time to explore a little freedom to write and create for myself. By then, David had clearly moved into the stratosphere of the LES art world.

As a person, David was interesting, funny, very deep; yet, seemingly, a regular guy. Obviously, he wasn't: As an artist, he was ferocious, a force of nature, daring in his explorations and revelations. Fearless, as an artist and as an activist.

As Holland Cotter reported in the front page article on the censorship/removal of David's film from the exhibition at the National Portraits Gallery:

"In response to questions during his courtroom testimony against the American Family Association, Wojnarowicz explained that he made the piece after returning to New York from a stay in France, where he had been reading Genet. Back in New York, he was struck by the rampant and rising use of hard drugs among people he knew and the self-destruction that resulted. He said that in his own upbringing as a Roman Catholic he’d been taught that Jesus took on the sufferings of all people in the world.

“I wanted to make a symbol that would show that he would take on the suffering of the vast amounts of addiction that I saw on the streets,” Wojnarowicz testified. “And I did this because I saw very little treatment available for people who had this illness.”

I don’t believe Wojnarowicz was being disingenuous. He was speaking under oath and, in any case, he was nothing if not passionate about his belief in the moral purpose of art, as passionate as his religious accusers have been in questioning his morality. It’s an interesting thing about passion, how coming from ostensibly opposite beliefs and directions, it can sometimes end up meeting in the same place." Full article here 

As an artist and a man, as with so many other young people from that era and after, gone too soon.

--Brooklyn Beat

Saturday, December 11, 2010

David Wojnarowicz: Artist, Activist, American Visionary

Wojnarowicz was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, and later lived with his mother in New York City, where he attended the High School of Performing Arts for a brief period. From 1970 until 1973, after dropping out of school, he for a time lived on the streets of New York City prostituting himself and also worked as a farmer on the Canadian border.
Upon returning to New York City, he saw a particularly prolific period for his artwork from the late 1970s through the 1980s. During this period, he made super-8 films, such as Heroin, began a photographic series of Arthur Rimbaud, did stencil work, played in a band called 3 Teens Kill 4, and exhibited his work in well-known East Village galleries. Wojnarowicz is also connected to other prolific artists of the time, appearing in or collaborating on works with artists like Nan GoldinPeter HujarLuis FrangellaKiki SmithRichard KernJames Romberger,Ben Neill and Phil Zwickler.
In 1985, he was included in the Whitney Biennial, the so-called Graffiti Show. In the 1990s, he fought and successfully issued an injunction against Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association on the grounds that Wojnarowicz's work had been copied and distorted in violation of the New York Artists' Authorship Rights Act. Wojnarowicz' successful lawsuit represented a notable and affirmative step towards artists rights in the United States.Wojnarowicz died of AIDS-related complications on July 22, 1992 at the age of 37.His personal papers are part of the Downtown Collection held by the Fales Library at New York University.
His works include: Untitled (One Day This Kid...); Untitled (Buffalo); Water; Birth of Language II; Untitled (Shark), Untitled (Peter Hujar); Tuna; Peter Hujar Dreaming/Yukio Mishima: St. Sebastian; Delta Towels; True Myth (Domino Sugar); Something From Sleep II; Untitled (Face in Dirt); and I Feel a Vague Nausea among others.
After his death, photographer and artist Zoe Leonard, who was a friend of Wojnarowicz, exhibited a work inspired by him, entitled "Strange Fruit (for David)".
In November 2010, the video, A Fire in the Belly, which was included in the exhibit "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" at the National Portrait Gallery (United States) was removed by SMithsonian Director Wayne Clough, after complaints from the Catholic League (U.S.) and Rep. John Boehner.

Details here

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday on My Mind: Masoko Tanga

Yes, while there is concern, fear, despair, complex economic dislocations, political concerns and conflict, etc., in the air, nevertheless, to the working stiffs of New York City, for example, the working women and men who ride the northbound Q/B train in Brooklyn at 7 AM, the nurses, lawyers, clarks, 'crats of all stripes, messengers, skilled produce workers, editors, sheetrockers, web designers, college students, and other workers and dreamers, today is a Friday, during the year-end holiday season, and as such, there is still room for hope and a little joy.  There is a simple happiness, letting go at the end of the week, holding onto the pole at the end of the subway car, looking at morning light, and the sleepy faces, knowing that it's Friday and there is a bit of weekend ahead. Maybe after paying a few bills, there will be room for a nice glass of wine shared with a loved one, or a single malt nursed over a good book, with some music in the background. Fortification against the early winter, as we hold onto our dreams and push back the darkness for another day.

On another hopeful Friday, DITHOB salutes you all with a bit of world jazz/rock from the singin' Police -- Masako Tanga.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Anarchy in the U.K.

Tuition hike protestors attack car containing British royals, set fire to giant Christmas tree in TrafalgarSquare here

Vandals hack down 2,000-year-old Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury here

"Vandals have destroyed one of the most celebrated Christian pilgrimage sites in Britain and chopped down a tree said to have sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea 2,000 years ago.

The Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, Somerset, is visited by thousands every year to pay homage and leave tokens of worship. Those visiting today were moved to tears on finding the tree cut to a stump.

The sacred tree is unique in that it blossoms twice a year - at Christmas and Easter - and sprigs taken from the thorn are sent to The Queen each year for the festive table."



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Winston Lennon - October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

30 years after the passing of a legend. I still remember that December night. I was in my early 20s, in my first apartment on Prospect Park West and 8th street in Park Slope. Freelancer for a research publisher, copywriter, and film reviewer for a few trade magazines, I was busy hacking away on my portable manual Olivetti typewriter, with a little 8" black and white broadcast TV on in the background, when the news flash interrupted the regular programming. It was a shocking, sickening feeling, that a cultural figure of John Lennon's prominence and magnitude could be killed in New York City, right outside his home. But, coming on the heels of the election of Ronald Reagan just a month before, and the clear ascendancy of many elements of the right in the US that this represented, there was an eerie sense that this was the ultimate formalization of the retrenchment, as the great wave of the 60s, as Hunter S. Thompson had written, had reached its furthest shore only to roll back over the age of Aquarius and all the possibilities that it represented. And the realization that this was, overtly, covertly or metaphorically, an assassination, resulting not only  in the death of this extraordinarily talented world figure, but it also represented the final nails in the coffin of an aspect of an American dream for many young people here and around the world.

--Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Coda: Details on Rolling Stone's "Last Interview with John Lennon" by Jonathan Cott here

Monday, December 6, 2010

GIMME SHELTER by the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin Released in NYC in 1970

40 years ago today the landmark film, Gimme Shelter, directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin was released in NYC, recording, of course, the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour that culminated in the Altamont Speedway free concert in San Francisco, CA, on Satursdday, December 6, 1969. Violence etween the Hells Angels, audience members, and even the performers. By the time The Stones hit the stage, it was evening, and the crowd was especially restless. The Stones opened with "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and are also shown performing "Sympathy for the Devil", as the tension continues to build. It is during the next song, "Under My Thumb", that a member of the audience, 18 year old Meredith Hunter, pulls out a revolver in the course of a melee near the stage, and is stabbed to death by Alan Passaro, a Hells Angels member.

This remains a remarkable film, associated with the Direct Cinema movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Maysles Brothers, who directed it, are strong figures of the era, having also directed  "Grey Gardens," "Salesman" and "The Beatles: First US Visit."  Filmmaker Charlotte Zwerin was an essential collaborator with the Mayles in the making of the film. The "Direct Cinema" movement revolves around the philosophy of being a "reactive" filmmaker. Rather than investigating a subject matter through such documentary techniques as interviews, reconstruction and voiceover, direct cinema simply records events as they unfold naturally and spontaneously, although edited to provide a broad, wide ranging and comprehensive story.

More on the film's background here

Gimme Shelter trailer here"

Film essays by the filmmakers, participants and others from the excellent Criterion Collection here

When I was a high school student, back in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, we rented and screened a 16 mm copy of the film. Then, as now, a visionary, troubling work about the flip side of "the Age of Aquarius."

Snow Flurries in Brooklyn@ Around 7:25 AM

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Well, not exactly "Jingle Bells," but this is an interesting winter song, spiritual but devoid of all holiday cheer.
Snow in San Anselmo by Van Morrison from "Hard Nose the Highway" 


Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday on My Mind: Lua Soberana ("Sovereign Moon")

The wonderful "Lua Soberana" from Sergio Mendes album Brasilero. I think originally composed by Brazilian composer Ivan Lins.

Thursday, December 2, 2010



WASHINGTON -- NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The
microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to
seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."

This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth.

The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.
Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that
carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.

Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to
phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

"We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology research
fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team's lead scientist. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet?"

The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated
that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells.

The key issue the researchers investigated was when the microbe was grown on arsenic did the arsenic actually became incorporated into the organisms' vital biochemical machinery, such as DNA, proteins and
the cell membranes. A variety of sophisticated laboratory techniques were used to determine where the arsenic was incorporated.
The team chose to explore Mono Lake because of its unusual chemistry, especially its high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic. This chemistry is in part a result of Mono Lake's isolation from its sources of fresh water for 50 years.
The results of this study will inform ongoing research in many areas, including the study of Earth's evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation and Earth system research.

These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research.

"The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction," said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake."

The research team included scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource in Menlo Park.

NASA's Astrobiology Program in Washington contributed funding for the research through its Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA's Astrobiology Program supports research into the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life on Earth.

For more information about the finding and a complete list of researchers, visit:



CODA 1: "Aliens" from Right Here?

The time has finally come for NASA's heavily anticipated press conference, which has generated quite the Internet buzz since the space agency released an enticingly ambiguous press briefing previewing the announcement of an "astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life."

However, according to more sober minded, but still panting-with-anticipation, chomping at the bit web observers, the truth may be a bit closer to home:
According to Steven Hoffer at the AOL News Surge Desk:
"Rumors hold that NASA researchers have discovered an arsenic-based bacteria living in California's Lake Mono, a finding that radically expands the number of potential habitats for extraterrestrial life to places previously considered unsuitable..."

The NASA News Conference is scheduled for 2 PM here.

Space is the Place: NASA News Conference 2PM Today on Extraterrestrial Life Stirs Excitement

It might be an overhyped bit of scientific minutiae, but NASA's astrobiology team plans to have an important announcement for today, Thursday, December 2. All NASA will say about the press conference is that it will "discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life."

Brad Sylvester of "Space Matters" via Yahoo News offers his best guess: "My guess, and it is only a guess, is that a new chemical basis for life has been modeled resulting in the discovery of a unique chemical signature that, if found in an extraterrestrial rock (or a terrestrial rock, for that matter), would be a smoking gun for the past presence of this type of life. Perhaps, they have even actually found such evidence, either with a visual examination of martial soils by the rovers, or in meteorite fragments found in the arctic."

Brad Sylvester's article here

Megan Levy of New Zealand's Stuff online reviews and shares rebuttals of some of the rumors here including those stoked by Blogger Jason Kottke's website here

The NASA News Conference is scheduled for 2 PM, Eastern Standard Time. Official NASA site here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brooklyn Knows: Free HIV Testing/Counseling and AIDS Memorial Quilt Display to Mark World AIDS Day at Brooklyn Borough Hall

On Wednesday, December 1, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham will host events at Brooklyn Borough Hall to mark World Aids Day 2010.

The New York City Health Department will conduct a lighting ceremony at the Brooklyn Borough Hall for the 23rd Annual World AIDS Day. The event is for today, Wednesday, December 1,  from 5-6:30pm at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Rotunda (209 Joralemon St near Court Street).

The lighting ceremony will be part of a celebration of the launch of Brooklyn Knows, which is a campaign encouraging folks in Brooklyn to get tested for HIV/AIDS and know their status. This ceremony is part of a full day of activities to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Brooklyn and sub-Saharan Africa. Joining BP Markowitz and Deputy BP Graham will be Malaak Compton-Rock, founder and director of Journey for Change: Empowering Youth Through Global Service; former supermodel, maternal health advocate and founder of Every Mother Counts, Christy Turlington Burns; actress and activist Gabrielle Union; Brooklyn-born Academy Award-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe; teens from Journey for Change; a representative from (RED); and New York City officials.

The Brooklyn Borough Hall will also be one of the 80 landmarks around the world that will be turning (RED) to help spread the message that 2015 is the due date for an AIDS-free generation.

Throughout the day, from 11 AM - 7 PM, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in the Courtroom in partnership with EAC Brooklyn TASC, who will also offer free HIV testing, counseling, prevention measures and literature on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

WORLD AIDS DAY established on December 1, 1988, brings messages of compassion, hope, solidarity and understanding about HIV/AIDS to the world, and gratitude and encouragement to those committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS.  According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), there are currently more than 107,177 people living with HIV/AIDS in NYC.  ODHMH is committed to preventing and controlling the spread of HIV and ensuring that people living with HIV/AIDS have the best possible treatment and care.  For more information, please visit or call 311.

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