November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — December 2010

NEW! Video: Cecelia Chapman

Take a dip in Cecelia Chapman’s “Water” Video:

Still from Water

Cecelia Chapman calls herself an artist who makes videos. The still is from “Water”, one of a series of 3 on … what else? … Water. The following video, Water 2, is the 2nd in the series. The rest can be seen on her website.

[jwplayer mediaid=”4732″]

Another new video by Cecelia with music by Jeff Crouch :

Chasing Rainbows[jwplayer mediaid=”4826″]

………………………………………..

For links to current work online:

http://www.ceceliachapman.com

Cecelia’s Blog – work in progress notes, photographs:

http://ccchapman.tumblr.com/

Editor’s Note:

This is the first video we’ve run in Ragazine, but we’ll have more, soon. We are looking for original short videos (approx. 2 minutes) that have not yet been posted elsewhere, but we’ll sometimes take them if they have. They’ll run in a window on Ragazine, without redirects to other sites, but we will include the videographer’s site references with the piece. E-mail to editor@ragazine.cc, as attachments, with a still from the video. Hope you enjoy. And thanks for reading.

December 31, 2010   Comments Off on NEW! Video: Cecelia Chapman

Politics: Prohibition 2011

Chas Ray Krider photo

On the Drug Issue:

Marijuana Prohibition & Beyond

By Jim Palombo, Politics Editor

and Horace Whittlesey

As we continue to receive input from interested readers here’s a piece that came from Horace Whittlesey.  Along with his professional background in business and finance, Mr. Whittlesey has been a long-time advocate of legalizing marijuana. He is also a ten-year resident of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a place quite familiar with illegal drug concerns.

Following his comments, I thought I would add some material of my own. In reading that segment, keep in mind that I am a former drug/heroin dealer – that is, someone who has been “in the business.” And, as a criminal justice professor and social worker over the past quarter century, I’ve also worked at the analyses related to the drug issue for classroom, public discussion and community project purposes.

This letter was received prior to the November 2, 2010, elections, in which California Proposition 19 did not pass.

* * *

Kindly forward this email to everyone you know in California, asking that they vote “Yes” on the  November 2, 2010, ballot and approve Proposition 19 becoming state law in California.  A simple majority of voters is all it takes. It’s time to put a halt to senseless (insane would be the more correct term) marijuana prohibition which never worked with alcohol prohibition from 1920-33, nor has it worked on pot use and consumption in California or the nation. Illegal pot is California’s largest agricultural cash crop valued at over $14 billion dollars per year.

Local, state and federal governments are all controlled by special interests and lobbies who have destroyed much of the American way of life and who do not want to see marijuana legalized as it will put an end to their extraordinary economic gains from being beneficiaries of marijuana prohibition.

These special interests and lobbies include Medical Marijuana; Alcohol; Tobacco; Arms Industry; Justice and Public Security systems where tens of thousands of unnecessary police, judges and lawyers are keep busy year-round, year in and year out, arresting, trying, sentencing and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of minor marijuana users and dealers who are guilty of victimless crimes; Illegal Pot Growers and Narco Gangs and Traffickers. Then there is the Prison Lobby, where a majority of state prisons are managed and run by private contractors, doing nothing to rehabilitate prisoners, doing a job much like the private security contractors’ thugs and butchers in Iraq responsible for so many civilian Iraqi deaths and not being held accountable. States could do away with a third of their prisons and save tens of billions of dollars a year in enforcing senseless laws, arresting, bringing to trial and locking up hundreds of thousands of persons for so-called criminal acts where there is mutual consent, in other words, victimless crimes.

I strongly feel as a dual national holding both U.S. and Mexican citizenships, that those who vote NO on Proposition 19 are NOT friends of Mexico and not interested in helping end the murderous narco wars raging throughout the country over supply routes to American drug consumers.  In the past five days at least 41 persons have died brutally in Mexico: 14,  including a 14-year-old girl at a party last Friday night in Ciudad Juarez on the border across from El Paso, Texas; 13 in a drug rehabilitation clinic on Sunday in Tijuana across the border from San Diego as a result of the government’s confiscating and burning 150 tons of marijuana (the largest haul ever by Mexico’s security forces) destined for California pot users; and 13 today in Tepic, Nayarit, on the Pacific coast at a car wash.  This brings to nearly 30,000 the number of dead in Mexico’s deadly narco wars over the past two-and-one-half years.  Yet the United States doesn’t give one whit over these Mexican deaths, much the same as it does over the near 150,000 civilian dead in Bush’s uncalled for Iraq War & Illegal Occupation.  Mexico has confiscated a mind-boggling supply of automatic assault weapons from drug dealers over the past two years, enough to supply NATO’s and America’s armed forces in Afghanistan, yet the U.S. Government and Homeland Security have done nothing to curtail the illegal export of arms to Mexico’s international drug traffickers.

VOTE YES to Proposition 19 and confirm your LOVE and RESPECT for Mexico and its wonderful people, whose society is being savaged by the century-old senseless and murderous prohibition of MARIJUANA and other drugs by its northern neighbor. Which brings to mind the century-old adage, “Poor Mexico, so far from GOD, and so near the United States.”

Big abrazos from San Miguel de Allende,
Horace Whittlesey

Editor’s Note:

FROM WIKIPEDIA: Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, is a California ballot proposition which will be (was) on the November 2, 2010 California statewide ballot. It legalizes various marijuana-related activities, allows local governments to regulate these activities, permits local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorizes various criminal and civil penalties. It requires a simple majority in order to pass, and would take effect the day after the election.

* * *

Agree or disagree, a well-stated position. In that context, I’m offering this for your consideration. Awhile back in my academic career, I was doing some research on a criminal justice issue that involved the grand jury process. I had been referred to an article that appeared in the Yale Law Journal, and I was thumbing through the edition when my attention was diverted by another article that dealt with the drug issue. In specific, it was an article that relayed what had transpired at a conference focused on the burgeoning narcotics trade in the U.S. It detailed to a significant extent how much money was being made in the illegal trade, the corruption that had occurred in the law and law enforcement arenas, the violence that surrounded the trafficking, and the burden that was now in place, particularly on the correctional processes. Given this, the discussion turned to an acknowledgement that the current law enforcement/criminal justice policies pointed at interdicting and controlling narcotics activity were failing, and that the entire process might be better addressed via moving the concerns into the mental health arena. In this sense, addicts could be better taken care of with clean needles, clean drugs, provided in a clinic- type system where some counseling and or attention to health and nutrition could be passed along. This clinic system approach would not only take the profit out of the business – it would cost the government pennies to provide the drugs – but it would also take the “thrill seeking” sense out of drug use – think of it as standing in line like one does for any other social service. Importantly, most of the criminal activity as well as the corruption would be dramatically affected. What struck me most about the article was that it was dated April 1954.

Now I had been well-versed in this position, in fact I continually presented the logic to others in conjunction with discussions on prostitution and gambling. In short, making these type activities illegal seemed to create more problems than solutions, which of course had been evidenced by the prohibition of alcohol.(Just consider what prohibition did for organized crime.) In this sense legalization was, at its worst, the lesser of evils.  And as the Yale article made clear, the approach presented a logic that had appealed to experts for quite some time. (If one considers the development of methadone clinics, which simply replace one drug for another, one has to wonder why not the real deal, as this would have a more overall effect on the problems at hand. And although some suggest that this might increase the propensity for more drug use, it would be important to consider that in any number of polls, people stay away from drugs not as much for their illegality, but from a choice related to personal preference in terms of health, family and/or occupation.)

I have to say that after all these years, the current drug wars in Mexico (where I am at this moment) as well as in other parts of the world, demonstrate the failure that was evident over a half-century ago. In essence then, it is again timely to suggest that we take a closer look at the realities of the change in policy. Even though problems would still remain (addiction is not any easy “fix”) it would be more humane, more cost-effective, more, well, more everything, if we took this tact. So, at a minimum, this avenue should be on the table for public dialogue/education. (There are differences between legalization and decriminalization which should also be clarified in this dialogue.)

But perhaps the businesses, like the prison and/or criminal justice industrial complexes, and the “payola” going to public officials across the board, will simply bar this type dialogue. The history of illegalization, with its ties to political and economic strategies, certainly speaks to this being the case. (In terms of the former, think of the import of advancing one’s career through the “cause” and our “use” of the drug trade/traders during our war efforts. In terms of the latter, consider that with both heroin and marijuana, legislation developed in the 20th century, there are interesting links to labor issues and the “illegal” immigrant population. And of course there is the aforementioned “complex” profit and corruption, which in addition to tilting policy, has miss-shaped both the informal and formal character and resolve of many our institutions.)

So, it can well be that this legalization alternative will remain “in the closet,” as it pretty much has for over half century. On this thought, there is one more point to consider. Think of the oil-addiction-war formula, (the drug-addiction-war counterpart actually pales by comparison) and the limited entertainment of alternatives in its wake (like fossil fuel potential) and the picture, although muddied and bloodied, is clear. The profit motive, even in light of its disadvantages, has certainly taken its toll on the American experiment. And it seems, at least up to this point, the story may well continue. Yet, as my mother always said, “We have to hope and work for the better. Otherwise, what else are we left with?”

_________________________________

It's inevitable...

Legalize it ....

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Politics: Prohibition 2011

Anne Babson: Poetry

THE AMERICAN JITTERBUG

The step goes like this in six-eight rhythm:  right-toe-
Heel, left-toe-heel, both toes, right heel, and twirl and twirl.
This is the American Jitterbug.  To feel
The swing of it, bend your knees slightly, like a girl

Curtsying, but don’t curtsy all the way.  There is
No royalty in this dance straight out of Harlem ,
Only slick hipsters and the saxophone soul-kissed.
The boys throw girls in the air, gather their harems

By flinging women skyward, catching them ably,
Then tossing them between their thighs American-
Style.  The American Jitterbug – Oh, baby,
Let your backbone slip.  Improvise.  Don’t make a plan

Or box-step your way around Roseland’s big wood floor
Like some European stuck in neutral.  Vroom-vroom
It like the motors we invented.  Just score
Like a Yankee passing third in the Bronx .  Ballroom

Is too pinched for this continent, too tea-and-punch.
Tango sacrifices all for love, not moolah,
So it is not our dance.  Merengue shakes too much,
But we are fearless optimists. The lambada

Is bull.  This is the American Jitterbug.
We dance like there were no steps, and yet we keep time.
Cut the waltz schmaltz.  Cut the etiquette.  Cut a rug.
Tell the truth by spinning.  Your strut croons the end rhyme.

About the Poet:

Anne Babson  is recipient of  the Columbia Journal Prize and the Artisan Journal contest. Her work has appeared in The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal and Ilya’s Honey, Bridges, Barrow Street, Connecticut Review, and elsewhere. She was included in an anthology of the best contemporary American poets, Seeds of Fire: Poetry from the Other US (2008, Smokestack Books).  She sits on the Literary Committee of the National Arts Club.

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Anne Babson: Poetry

Review: Ghost Lights

Kayleigh Wanzer/Reviewer

“We’re Empty, We Will Be Well Again”

Ghost Lights, by Keith Montesano, Dream Horse Press, 2010.

Ghost Lights, Keith Montesano’s full-length poetry debut, is an intriguing and layered collection, a literary ode to crime, pop culture, and small towns. Though varying in theme, each of the poems in Ghost Lights speaks of the unspeakable–obsessive love, fires that destroy, those who die too soon, and everything that continues to haunt.

Ghost Lights opens with “Before the Fire,” telling the tale of a man with “earrings and make-up stolen from his dead wife, pink dress with white pumps clicking on the floor.” Like all the poems in this collection, it is earnest and sincere in its observation, with a keen eye for what lies beneath the human visage. Writes Montesano,

“And if you look now, something’s there —
passing through, stopping to offer the difference
between the space of our world and the next: the sweet, stained
tongues of children, and those wrenched sobs of a man
who could never find his way out.”

And these are the most striking parts of Ghost Lights — when Montesano is able to climb inside the human conscious and explore it with objectivity and fairness. In “All the Sighs of Fire,” he starts with a note, torn from the headlines, “teacher impregnates 12 year-old, sentenced to 16 years,” and manages to create a sympathetic portrait of a man who was locked up while “the palmed grip of a newborn holding on through choking air,” still said he “did not have the strength to stop.” When he asks us,

“I imagine—nothing but the softness
he felt on his face, the unshaven silhouette of a man on hers,
Bill confused and wanting more, if she knew what more
really meant. But are we so scathed to believe
there was nothing real between those two bodies that bare
fall day, acetylene dusk looming above front lawns?”

We are afraid to answer, knowing the truth would defy any realistic set of morals. Whether wearing a dead wife’s clothing or impregnating a twelve year old, Montesano treats his poetic characters with an undeniable tenderness and reflectivity.

Though they vary in form, length, and execution, there is a similar theme of destruction and subsequent rebirth found in most of the poems of Ghost Lights. He plays with juxtaposition. In “Service Plaza, Somerset,” a “trucker getting blown by a rest-stop hooker will land fifty yards down the ravine, hoping he’ll someday hold a woman and make love again,” while “headlights blur into news stories, your life safely out of view, the door’s snap, closing off the world you never knew from the beginning.” In “Love Song for The End of the World,” one of the standouts of Ghost Lights, he speaks of the end of the world with a celebratory sense of relief, “those who expected never to love will be thrilled, and those who were blind like rats at birth /will feel the body and what it’s like to wilt under a roof/where glasses will be raised until nothing’s left but molecules.”

Montesano exhibits an enviable range here, from the narrativity of “Poem Ending with a Hundred Year-Old House on Fire,” to the confessional style of “Going Home,”

“And if you run home now,
past the charred prison, the overgrown churchyard lecherous
with leaves, past pocked roads battered by years, the only
boarded window fronts of the last downtown diner,
you’ll arrive again at the house of your childhood, fighting through
ditch grass, singed fields to broken back windows, edged
like knives.”

It is ambitious but the results are impressive, Montesano showing poetic prowess in the short burst that is “Second Floor Fire” and the epic long form of “Self-Portrait Ending with the Last Flight of the Body.” Whatever the form, the poems are immersive and haunting.

In its entirety, Ghost Lights is an impressive debut, engrossing the reader in its stories of unsolved crimes and missing children, of houses on fire and eulogies for dead drummers.

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Review: Ghost Lights

Stephen O’Connor: Fiction

San Diego Zoo Photo

What Had to Happen Happens

 

1.

More an expression of absolute terror. You know: giant eyes, open-mouth frown, hands in front of the face, running from the room. So, of course, I got scared too. I mean, I had no idea what was going on yet. So I figured it was something like she’d seen a burglar out the window. Or a jumper. Or a plane crashing. But no—just a normal summer morning: Sunshine on the fire escape. Sound of frying bacon. Someone on the phone. Singing. Normal except for my own wife running through the apartment, slamming doors. Then I heard her on the telephone. Hysterical. Mostly I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Then I distinctly heard the word “ape.” Then a little bit later, I heard it again, even louder. “Ape!”

Mostly I was still terrified. But in a way, I wasn’t. I was just lying there on the bed like nothing was happening at all. Like I was just slowly waking up—which was, in fact, what I was doing. I mean Oonagh was off slamming doors, having some sort of total nervous breakdown, and I was just lying there, looking around the room, fiddling with myself. That didn’t actually make sense. But I wasn’t awake enough yet to realize that yet.

Then two things happened: First, I began to really want to get out of bed and see why Oonagh was so upset, and when I couldn’t do that, I began to panic. Like I’d just discovered I was paraplegic. Except, I wasn’t. I was moving my arms and legs. My hands. But for some reason, even though I wanted to, I wasn’t getting up. The second thing was that I looked over at the mirror on the closet door, and what I saw was that there was a gorilla in my bed. Not me. Just a gorilla. A fat, five-hundred pound mountain gorilla, lying on the bed, fiddling with himself. I wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

2.

Guns everywhere, the hallway elbow to elbow with cops. Some of them acting like it was all a big joke. Like: Fucking Jesus! Do you believe this shit! But I could tell they were actually terrified. From the way they couldn’t keep their eyes off me. Their twitchy little movements. One time I sighed and they all went silent. Every eyeball on me, like I was a ticking bomb. There was this one cop. I could tell from the sneery corner of his mouth, his pebbly eyes, the way he kept readjusting his grip on his pistol. He was just waiting for the excuse to shoot me. There was nothing in the world he wanted more than to tell his buddies about the time he shot a five-hundred-pound bull gorilla in some lady’s bedroom. You know: his friends’d be like, Wow, man! Incredible! And he’d be, Yeah, yeah. Pow! I just blew him away.

Here’s the thing: Half I was so freaked out, I couldn’t even think about what was going on. Half I was thinking, Hey, guys, it’s just me in here. Nothing to worry about. Put away your guns. But also I was thinking: Where’s Oonagh? What’s happened to Oonagh? Why isn’t Oonagh here?

I was trying to talk, of course. The whole time. But I couldn’t get a word out. It’s like when you wake up and your arm is so asleep you can’t even move it to shut off the alarm. Only it was my whole face that was like that.  I was straining and straining to get my tongue, my lips, my lungs and my voice box to do the simple things they always did. Nothing happened. Nothing. It was like I was dead.

Except I could do things. I was sitting up. I could move. I was holding my short-legged grey feet in my big hairy hands, picking at one of my toenails. And I could feel the jagged nail through my finger and I could feel the warmth of my finger through my toe.

I was even making noises.

Like, you know: when I made that sigh?

That was as big a shock to me as it was to the cops. At first I was thinking: What was that! Where did that come from? Then I realized I had felt it coming up. I had felt my whole chest heave with it. Then I felt that sigh feeling. That sort of like relief mixed with sadness.

Then a little later it’s this noise in my throat. This sort of halfway between a grunt and a groan. Only so deep the walls vibrated. And that was like weird. I mean, How did I do that?

But then, for a second there, I thought it was all over for me. You know: kazhick-gazhick, the cops all straight-armed, pointing their guns—just like on TV. Thank God I didn’t move. Didn’t do anything but fiddle with my toes.

The strange thing is the grunt sounded a little like I was saying Oonagh. After that I kept saying her name over and over. Only, inside my head, cause nothing was coming out of my lips. Oonagh! Oonagh, baby, where are you? I’m sorry, Oonagh! I’m so sorry! Oonagh! Please! I need you! I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry!

I just felt so, so bad—like everything that was happening was all my fault. But what was I so sorry for? You know? What had I done? In a way that was a completely ridiculous feeling.

3.

I could tell by that sweet, nose-cleaning smell of animal shit. But mixed up with alcohol. Maybe some Mr. Clean. I opened my eyes and there was nothing but white tile in front of me. Then I remembered what happened: The police shoving aside. Then two guys in short pants. The one with the cow prod. The other with that gun. That kind of gun that shoots tranquilizer darts.

Bang! Right into my gut.

But then, in like one second, everything just faded away and I woke up, like in the land of white tile. And there was that stink.

For a long time I couldn’t do anything. Just lay there with my face on the floor, watching this one groove between the tiles go way off into infinity. I was all seasick. And exhausted. And just basically freaked out.

Then there was this really pretty girl crouching next to me. Big eyes, this pageboy haircut; nice and petite. She had shorts on too. And this little white coat. And a stethoscope.

Hey big guy, she said. And she ran the stethoscope up my chest. I could feel the coolness of the metal and the warmness of her little hand. Hey big guy, how’d you get so far from home?

And I just wanted to cry when she said that. I just wanted to cry and cry.

4.

So every day that girl came. Hey big guy, she said. She always said that. And every time she had a banana for me. And I was amazed, you know? Cause my gorilla had no trouble with that banana. He’d peel it just like a human would, and eat it in like two bites. And I got to tell you, I never ate anything as good as those bananas. I don’t know where she got them, but they were so delicious.

And while I was eating that banana, she’d be moving her hand around on my chest, and taking my blood pressure, and shining this light in my eyes.

Okay, she was always saying. Okay. Good. Good. Great. You know: Like she’s a doctor and she doesn’t want me to think anything’s wrong with me.

I don’t mean me. I mean this five-hundred-pound gorilla.

I thought that was kind of sweet.

By that time I was beginning to catch on to what had actually happened to me. And I was hoping that she’d—like adopt me. You know? Do language experiments. Teach me how to talk with pictures and plastic blocks. And I was thinking how excited she’d be when she saw what a fast learner I was.

Annalisa.

She’s got this gold plastic nametag pinned to the pocket of her white coat: Annalisa.

5.

I mean it’s not just that the gorilla house was all boring and everything. Monotonous. Bang your head on the wall cause there’s nothing else to do. The main thing is, there were some mean motherfuckers in there. Seriously! Like prison.

First thing that happened when they cow-prodded me through that sliding door was this gigantic silver backed bull bared his yellow fangs at me. Gave me one of those tiny-eyed snarly stares. And I was scared shitless, man. Absolutely shitless. All I wanted to do was go off into a faraway corner, put my hands over my head and pretend I was back in the veterinary unit with Annalisa.

But my gorilla did the absolute stupidest thing he could do. He just waltzed out to the middle of the—I don’t know what you call it—play area. And he just sat down there—like three and a half feet from that big, mean-as-hell bull.

And I was like, Oh Jesus! What the fuck’s the matter with you! Let’s get out of here!

And my gorilla just sat there. Like I didn’t count for anything. Like I wasn’t even there.

So, nothing happened for a while.

Except the big bull. He had this little guy sitting next to him who was like his henchman. And the little guy was constantly looking over and giving me the yellow fangs, the little-eye stare. And my gorilla, he just sat there with his elbows on his knees. His finger in his mouth. My mouth.

And then, of course, what had to happen happened. That big bull was just like a tidal wave rising up out of a calm sea. He’s all fangs and roars. Little feet slapping across the ground and gigantic arms up in the air.

Wham!

It’s like he knocks my gorilla flat onto his back.

And that fucking hurts, let me tell you! I’m seeing stars. Can’t hardly breathe. And I’m like, Let’s get the fuck out of here!

But my gorilla is so stupid, he just does the same thing back to the big bull. Arms in the air. Little slapping feet.

Wham!

Down we go onto the ground again. Only this time the henchman jumps us and sinks his teeth into our shoulder.

And that hurts just exactly as much as a dog bite. Have you ever had a dog bite? It feels exactly the same.

6.

So finally I figured it out. My gorilla was naturally the alpha male type. You know? Only I was holding him back. It’s like, even though he wouldn’t listen to me, maybe I was still having this little effect. Giving him second thoughts. Confusing him. Just a little. But enough so he couldn’t be himself.

Me, I’m nothing like the alpha male type. But after three days of getting bashed around. All bruises and cuts and no food and I’m fucking starving, I finally think, I gotta stop resisting. I gotta help this guy. You know: superior intelligence and everything.

It took a while for him to listen to me.

Actually, the first thing was I had to start listening to him. So the next time he’s like raising his hands over his head and doing that charging thing, I’m like, Yeah! Let’s get that motherfucker! And after a while it started to work.

It was my idea to go after the little guys first. It didn’t take much, really. Most of them, you just show them a fang, jerk your forearm a little bit, and they’re like, Excuse me, sir! Anything you say, sir! So once my gorilla has gotten a spot right near the gate where the keeper comes in with the food bucket, we start doing things different. Instead of just taking everything for ourself, we start handing out food to the little guys. And of course, a couple days of that, and they’re like loving my gorilla. He can do no wrong.

So the next time. Even though that big bull—he’s got like a hundred pounds on my gorilla. Next time he does that arms in the air thing. The fangs. My gorilla just does it right back to him, and there’s like ten littler gorillas doing it right along with him. So then, you know, the big bull freezes. His little eyes start twitching. Looking around and everything. Sort of doing the math.

My gorilla does the fang thing again. And that big bull just puts down his arms and goes over into the corner by himself. Put his hand over his head.

So it’s like a revolution! Democracy comes to gorilla land!

The thing is, gorillas are so easy to fool. You take a banana, cover it with a whole bunch of straw and they think it’s just gone. Disappeared. They’re like little kids.

7.

You could only see them when they were close enough to the glass that the gorilla room light could shine on their faces. But even then it was hard to see them, cause mainly what you’d see was our reflections. So that’s why I wasn’t sure at first. I’m thinking, Is that really her? Or is it only just I think I’m seeing her again?

Cause there was like this period when I was always thinking I was seeing Oonagh. Every skinny woman with stringy brown hair, I’m thinking, It’s Oonagh! Look! She’s here! At last! Oonagh! Oonagh! But it was never her. Mostly it was just some random teenage girl. Except one time I take a second look and I see Oonagh has like this little mustache and this pointy beard, and really she’s just this hippie guy. And that was like—you know: depressing.

So the first time I see her, I’m like, Nah, man—not possible!

But, of course, I couldn’t help looking. And she’s like moving in and out of the other people, mostly in the shadow. So it was hard for me to see her at first. But I can see that she’s looking for something. Like she’s looking at all the gorillas, trying to spot the right one. Finally she gets right to the middle, and she doesn’t just come near the glass, she puts both of her hands flat up against it, and her forehead too.

And this time there’s no question. She’s lost weight and everything. She’s got these big bags under her eyes. But it’s Oonagh. Definitely Oonagh. And, even though I know it’s her, I can’t let myself believe that it really is. So I’m like. You know. Paralyzed.

So there she is, right in front of me. Twenty feet away. But she’s still looking all around, not looking at me in particular. Which was natural, I guess. I mean: what’s it been? Like a month since she found this gorilla where her husband should be. And maybe she didn’t even look at me then. Just, you know: Holy shit! And ran out of the room. So, of course she doesn’t recognize me.

So I’m thinking, I gotta do something so she knows it’s me.

But even though my gorilla and me were working like a team by then, it was only when we were doing gorilla stuff. When it came to stuff that was just human. I don’t know. Either he didn’t want to do it, or he couldn’t. I can’t tell you now many times I tried to get him to write stuff. You know: HELP, or just HI. And even though he could peel a banana with his eyes closed, or swing from one of those fake trees in there like the world’s greatest Olympic gymnast, I just couldn’t get him to move his hand in the shape of letters. It’s like he had a block against it or something. And talk? Forget about it. Getting those lips to make words was like trying to pick up a dime with two sledgehammers.

But then I’m thinking: Oonagh! He almost said that once, already, so maybe it’s worth a try.

At first all he’s doing is this Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! But after a while I manage to get him to go Ooh! Uh! Ooh! Uh! Only he’s like real quiet and everything. Like he’s embarrassed. Or maybe he doesn’t know what the fuck’s the matter with him. And I can see, not only does Oonagh not hear what he’s saying, she doesn’t even know he’s making any noise. That glass was like three inches thick. So—you know: A noise has got to be pretty loud to get through that.

I keep on trying, but it’s no better.

Then I see that she’s pulled her head away from the glass. And she’s looking all lost and depressed and—you know: crestfallen. And I can tell she’s about to walk away.

So I’m like, Damn you, motherfucker! Shout! Make some fucking noise, asshole! Fucking raise your voice!

And then, I don’t know what happens.

Afterward what I figured was that my gorilla could feel how upset I was inside him, and it made him feel like he was crazy. You know? Like, What’s happening to me! And then that made him go really crazy. Apeshit! I mean. Absolutely fucking seriously!

He’s jumping up and down, running back and forth. And screaming. Like this horrible noise is getting ripped out of his throat. And all the other gorillas are running away from him, and the people outside the windows, too. Then he’s so messed up he loses his balance and falls into this, like pit, that’s between where we sit and the windows. And he’s rolling all around down there. And he’s jumping up and down. Banging the walls. Shouting. And the people are all like, Let me out of here! Gorilla on the loose! Even though, in fact, there’s no way he could even reach the windows from down in that pit.

So finally, you know: It’s like my gorilla comes back to his senses. And we clamber up out of there. And now there are no more people behind the glass. It’s just zookeepers. In their old fashioned Boy Scout hats and their short pants.

8.

Annalisa’s sitting up against one white-tile wall. I’m sitting up against the other. She’s turning this Bic pen over and over in her hands. She’s talking, but she’s looking at her pen more than she’s looking at me.

So you see what I’m saying, big guy? You got to play it cool from now on. All right? No more King Kong. You got me? Cool. Nicey-nicey. There’s people here who want you destroyed. They think you’re a danger. To humans and to the other gorillas. You understand what I’m talking about? Somehow I think you do. I think you understand every word. You better. I hope you do. Cause I talked them out of it this time. But you’re not going to get a second chance.

She looks me in the eye when she says that. She’s sitting with her legs straight out, the backs of her bare knees flat on the tile floor. She’s wearing her zookeeper shorts, fluffy gray socks, work boots. Her feet are small. Even in her work boots they are so tiny. Dinker feet. Maybe half the size of one of my hairy gorilla hands.

9.

For a long time after that I had these dreams. In almost every one, it was—you know: that morning again. And instead of screaming, Oonagh rolls over and gives me this sleepy kiss: affectionate, but also like its only a habit, like she doesn’t even notice it. Then she’s up and staggering out to the kitchen. I hear her clattering around out there. The coffee maker’s burbling. Then I can smell it. After a while I get up, too. She’s sitting at the kitchen table. Her cup next to her. Black. Two sugars. She’s reading the paper. I get my own coffee and sit down next to her. She gives me the sports section.

Or sometimes it’s later and we’re walking in the park. We come to the lake and we walk along the shore for a while. Looking at the ducks. Then we sit down and there are these fluffy white duck feathers scattered in the grass. The wind’s blowing them. But just a little.

Or we’re in a supermarket, on either side of a mountain of grapefruit. She holds one out to me. What do you think? she says.

Or we’re in some giant store buying a new couch. We’re sitting side by side on this rust-colored one that we both like the best. She smoothes her hand over the pillow between us. Then she give it this little pat.

The dreams were always like that. Just the most boring kind of everyday shit. Except I was always happy in them. And I was always sad when I woke up. Really sad, sometimes.

Finally they stopped. Like some part of me just gave up. You know? Deep down inside. Like what was the point?

About the author:

Stephen O’Connor is the author of the short story collections, “Here Comes Another Lesson” and “Rescue”. His nonfiction books include:  “Will My Name Be Shouted Out?”, a memoir, and “Orphan Trains, The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed”, narrative history. His works have appeared in The New Yorker, Threepenny Review, Poetry Magazine, and Green Mountains Review,  Agni, Electric Literature, The New York Times, The Nation, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe and elsewhere.

He teaches in the writing MFA programs of Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence. For eight years he directed and taught in Teachers & Writers Collaborative’s flagship creative writing program at a public school in New York City.

 

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Stephen O’Connor: Fiction

Music: Dizco Daze

Spinning Into Oblivion

or, Music in the Age of Dinosaurs

By Jeff Katz

I’m not a shopper. For me, going to the mall will result in increased irritability, nausea and headaches. It’s like Legionnaire’s Disease.

But I do like buying music:  records, CDs, doesn’t matter. There are few things as wonderful as flipping through stacks of LPs, the touch of the cardboard edge pressing against my fingertips, the blast of recognition at a long forgotten but instantly recognizable photo. Each one is a precious work of art, from the covers to the inner sleeves, to the inserts (the occasional poster or lyric sheet) and, most importantly, the black grooves of pure heaven. CD browsing was never as tangibly fun, whether in the bulky cardboard outer shell of early discs, or in their present incarnation with simple shrink-wrapping.

Regardless of the form, music was an item high on the list of necessary or impulse purchases. Sure, record stores were, and still are, a major destination point for me, but there were so many times I happened to see a great bargain CD that I bought for the drive home. Instant gratification! That wasn’t even true for albums, which needed to be safely delivered to their new home for playing.

Yesterday, I found myself in a few shops as I waited for my car to undergo a 60,000 mile checkup. First stop, Barnes and Noble, where the reissue of Band on the Run was piped throughout the store. Having not yet decided on which of the myriad formats to choose from (the plethora of packages at varying price points is driving me crazy with the wealth of “new” editions of McCartney, Springsteen, Lennon, et. al.). With “Mamunia” ringing in my ears, I figured I’d check out what the new Macca classic looked like.

Strolling through the music and movie section, I felt a wave of confusion sweep over me. Shelves and shelves of DVDs. Where were the CDs? Were they gone? Couldn’t be.

Finally, I hit a single rack with a smattering of new releases at B & N’s usual exorbitant prices. (The Complete Bob Dylan Mono Recordings, which I just bought online for $79 was nicely priced at $129!). It was a smack in the face – music is disappearing right in front of our eyes.  But it is a bookstore, I told myself soothingly,  not a music store, so perhaps it makes sense. Then I headed over to Best Buy.

Last time I was in a Best Buy over Christmas in Illinois, they had a decent, though much smaller music section, than they used to. I could comprehend that. CD sales are shrinking and have been for years. I was pleasantly surprised to see a sampling of vinyl; a good sign, I thought.

Not so anymore. The CD section was shrunken to about the size of the Hello Kitty accessory area. I did get to see the new Darkness on the Edge of Town deluxe set, but little else. This was Best Buy! This was an entertainment epicenter! And the amount of space dedicated to popular music was all but gone. Grief-stricken, I left.

Can it be that we have so devalued music as a commercial entity that there will be no place to purchase a physical piece of it? Will music only be available via computer or on my phone, like credit reports and porn?  Napster committed the eternal crime, creating the very idea that music is a monetarily valueless commodity, there for the taking. Only suckers BUY music, right? It is a major tragedy that CDs are on their way out. Love them or hate them, the little silver discs were the last bulwark against the ephemeral, the final trace item of a once popular purchasable.

There are still vestiges, tiny oases in most bigger cities. They are your local independent record stores and you better run there while you can if you care about the future of recorded music. As the great philosopher, James Douglas Morrison, once said, “When the music’s over, turn out the lights.” If people don’t tune in to the fact that musicians have to make a little dough in order to make a living creating the tunes we love, then all that will be left are darkened shops. The little light from your iPhone won’t help one bit.

(Top: Photo from Geekologie)

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Music: Dizco Daze

Josephine Close: Photographer

©2010 Josephine Close

In the shadows:

Photography of Josephine Close

xxxxxxxxx

Artist Statement:

When Iwas 6 years old, my father gave me my first camera, a hand-me-down, I fell in love and have been taking pictures ever since. Growing up in the woods of New Hampshire has greatly affected my photography, nature being a common theme throughout my work.  After moving to Los Angeles, I developed an obsession with old movies which has greatly influenced my photographs as well, experimenting with old lighting techniques and trying to capture the moodiness and nostalgia of another time and another place.  Always fascinated with what lies in the shadows, what you can’t see, things that are implied, that trigger the imagination, a dream, a memory, another source of inspiration. I am always seeking to illuminate the magic in my life.  -Josie Close

…………………………………………………..

Josephine Close

[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_walk_street_l.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_hands_l.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_snowangel_l.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_city_l.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_apple_l.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_001.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_002.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_003.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_004.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_005.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_006.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_007.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_008.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_009.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_010.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_011.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_012.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_013.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_014.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_015.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_016.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_017.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_018.jpg]10
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_019.jpg]20
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_020.jpg]00
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_jpc_021.jpg]00
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_nowvoyager01_l.jpg]00
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/josephine-close/thumbs/thumbs_shanlights_l.jpg]00

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

…………………………………………………..

JOSEPHINE CLOSE Los Angeles, California

josieclose@gmail.com

www.josephineclose.com

Education

university of maine, orono, maine, liberal arts

lacc, los angeles, ca, photography

otis, venice, ca, illustration

art center, pasadena, ca advanced photography

Exhibitions

2010 lacda, los angeles, snap to grid, group show

2010 sf camerawork, san francisco, roll call exhibit

2010 the journal project, brooklyn, ny

2006 faran gallery, new york, ny, solo exhibit, into the wild

2006 dublin lake club, group show

2006 the boathouse, solo exhibit

…………………………………………………..
© 2010 Josephine Close • All Rights Reserved

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Josephine Close: Photographer

Feeding the Starving Artist

Placing Products in Your Production

by Mark Levy & Michael Bashover

How would you like to earn $15 million on your next photograph or video production merely by moving some burgers around on camera? That’s what the producers of “Men in Black II” did in 2002 when Burger King paid them to have BK products appear on screen. Although Burger King may not be willing to give you $15 million to advertise its products in your photographs or independent movie, you can always seek smaller deals to help subsidize your production.

Product placement is a form of advertisement in which particular brand names or products are incorporated into your work. Advertisers often prefer this method of exposure due to its subtle nature as compared with explicit commercials that may bother—to say the least—potential customers. Product placement has become more commonplace as a means to subsidize increased film or still photograph production costs.

However, as an independent creator, you may not have the luxury of receiving compensation in exchange for your depiction of a particular trademark or brand name. It is not uncommon for a trademarked item (e.g., Coca-Cola, Prada, Corvette) to be displayed in a film or photograph, regardless of whether the exposure was deliberate. If you include an identifiable brand name in your production, you should become familiar with the array of laws and regulations surrounding the matter.

You Can Use Trademarks

The Trade Marks Act of 1985 prohibits the “unauthorized use of trade marks as trade marks.” Consequently, you will usually not violate the Trade Marks Act when you display a trademarked product in your production. For example, your actor may drink a cup of McDonald’s coffee without infringing the McDonald’s registered trademark. As long as the trademark is not represented as a “badge of origin” it will not be a cause of concern for you. In fact, if you can get Tom Cruise to drink from the cup and smile on camera, the McDonald’s corporation may even pay you for placement of that product. For example, in 1982 Steven Spielberg got the Hershey Chocolate Company to spend $1 million merely to have E.T. follow a path of Reese’s Pieces candy. (Sales of Reese’s Pieces candy increased by 65% that year.)

Copyright Law

Although the trademark law was implemented as protection for the manufacturers of specific goods, copyright law serves to protect the rights of owners of artistic works. The Copyright Act defines artistic work as: paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, or photographs.

Branded products that are the subject of copyrights may be used in videos or photographs as long as their appearance is “incidental.” For example, an actor or model may walk past a copyrighted painting without infringing the copyright law, as long as the painting is not the focus of the scene. Whether such an occurrence is considered incidental is determined by the degree with which the copyrighted item is incorporated into your work. However, there are circumstances in which the use of a copyrighted item will not be considered incidental; such occurrences can result in legal action. For example, Tom Cruise and his movie studio are facing a possible lawsuit for the replication of Hitler’s infamous globe in the production of “Valkyrie.” In 2007, the globe’s current owner registered the globe in the Copyright Office, preventing anyone else from producing a copy of that object or a globe derived from the original. Similarly, if you wish to incorporate a well-known image (e.g., painting, photograph, sculpture) into your work, make sure to first determine whether the image or sculpture is under copyright.

It has been established that the incorporation of trademarked and copyrighted items into photographs or video is permissible if they pertain to the most common circumstances of use. However, it is unlawful to make false, disparaging or harmful statements about a branded product. The common law tort of “passing off” protects a manufacturer from a misrepresentation of its product that may damage its reputation, or “good will.”  Good will refers to the benefit of having a good name and a reputation of respectability in association with a brand. For example, your work cannot depict the consumption of a Gatorade drink as a leading cause of blindness, nor could you indicate a correlation between Levi’s jeans and sterility. Refrain from making fallacious statements about a trademarked product in order to avoid a Trade Practices Act claim, which is a legal action pertaining to misleading or deceptive conduct. In order to avoid such legal action, include a disclaimer at the onset of your production that states that it is not associated with any of the products or brands that it features.

The good news is that you can probably use other people’s products in your productions; the better news is that those people may even pay you for the placement.

 

___________________________________________

 

Valerie Brown Photo

 

 

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Feeding the Starving Artist

John Richard Smith/Poetry

Stumbling Around in the Light

I can tell by the way it wobbles
across the lawn, mid-afternoon,
something isn’t right.

Fat Head the cat knows it too
and keeps back, pretending to lick a paw
each time the opossum stumbles.

When it collapses, I step outside
as far as the side porch then stop short,
should it jump up rabid and biting.

Maybe it is just looking for water
or a patch of tall grass
to die in, I tell myself.

But what if the kids next door
frighten it by accident?
There is a shovel nearby in the shed.

But wouldn’t it be best to let it be?
Besides, it might be harder to get rid of
dead than alive.

Maybe it isn’t dying at all,
just sleepwalking,
stumbling around in the light

looking for a place safe and shaded
or at least as far away from daytime atrocities
as possible. Maybe it isn’t any more deadly

or closer to death than I am. Maybe I
have been playing opossum all my life,
pretending, even now, to be alive.

About the poet:

John Smith has published poetry in the New York Quarterly, The Literary Review, The Journal of New Jersey Poets, New Jersey Audubon, and elsewhere. He lives in Frenchtown, N.J.

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on John Richard Smith/Poetry

Music: Katz’s Top 10 for ’10 — sort of

Top 10 for 2010:

A Different Kind of  List

By Jeff Katz

They’re all around you. On TV, in magazines, on the radio and in your daily paper. You love them, you hate them. They are the end of the year lists. Whether you’re a movie, or a book, or a celebrity sex tape, you will be ranked. Does the #8 “Year’s Stupidest Criminal” wish he made it higher up the list? Hard to know.

Top songs and albums are, in my role as music editor, my bag, but I got to thinking. Is it so important what was the best this year? What makes 2010 releases so special? And while I spent my college years running the SUNY-Binghamton record store, Slipped Disc, and getting into heavy duty debates over who heard The Violent Femmes first, a serious jockeying for position on the “in the know” pecking order, I realize now that those to-dos mean squat.

Is the person who bought their first Beatles 45 in Liverpool in 1963 so much better than the one who bought theirs a year later at Korvettes in New York? Did the 1963 person in Liverpool love that record more than the Brooklynite in 1964? Pushing it further, did that same 1964 teenybopper derive any more pleasure than I did when I bought Something New, the last Beatle album I didn’t have, back in 1979? How about the kid who discovers the Beatles right now, in 2010, through last year’s life changing remasters? Joy is joy – doesn’t matter one whit if the first time your hear a song is the year it came out, or decades later.

So here’s my Top Ten list of 2010, a two-fisted list of old and new. What they share is that they all came to my attention these past 12 months.

10 – To Bonnie from Delaney (Delaney & Bonnie, 1970)

Delaney & Bonnie

Delaney & Bonnie

I spent the end of 2009 working on a book proposal on Delaney & Bonnie. The Bramletts were massively influential at the turn of the decade 40 years ago. They propelled Eric Clapton to solo stardom, Delaney taught George Harrison slide guitar and Delaney & Bonnie’s band went AWOL to join Joe Cocker and, under the leadership of the recently resurgent Leon Russell, became the musical punch behind the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour.

So, during my initial research I had a conversation with the Widow Bramlett. Not Bonnie. Delaney’s last wife Susan told me in no uncertain terms that, though I had the right to write about D & B, Delaney’s story was hers and, if so inclined, she would have no hesitation letting her lawyers off their leash. Honest as always, I told my prospective publisher, who was spooked and called off our plans. Not before I bought a ton of Delaney & Bonnie records.

To Bonnie showcases the raucous and ramshackle good time music of the band at its peak. Bonnie belts “The Love of My Man” with the occasional squeak and squeal that is both scary and sexy. Delaney’s voice is uber-soulful; he’s a sadly forgotten giant and that was going to be my point had I moved forward.

Plus, Little Richard plays on “Miss Ann.” What could be better than that?

9 – The Soft Pack (The Soft Pack, 2010)

Soft Pack

Soft Pack

Ever since having The Soft Pack’s first album recommended to me, I’ve loved their sound. Simple, straight ahead grinding guitar, very catchy, as piercing as the bullets that literally shot through their debut LP cover, back when they still had the balls to call themselves The Muslims.

Brilliant stuff, instantly memorable, and even though seeing them live at The Mercury Lounge was a surprising bore, that doesn’t detract from this magnificent album.

8 – Volume Two (She & Him, 2010)

Celebrities have a habit of being awful outside their milieu. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you listened to a Don Johnson record?

Not so for Zooey Deschanel. Great actress, better singer, fabulous songwriter. The first She & Him effort was the top album of ’08, Zooey and M. Ward knocking their version of classic pop sounds out of the musical ballpark. Their follow-up was much anticipated.

At first, Volume Two didn’t grab me like their first effort, but it grew on me quickly. Now I find it equal to the rookie masterpiece. Top tunes: “Ridin’ in My Car” and “Brand New Shoes.”

http://old.ragazine.cc/2010/04/she-and-him-volume-two/

7 – H. P. Lovecraft – (H.P. Lovecraft, 1967)

In the spring, my Aunt from Santa Monica let me know she had a bunch of old records. Frequent readers know that’s my drug and, like the vinyl junkie I am, I told her to ship them all out. Two boxes of treasures followed, the collection of her former step-daughter who was a very very in-the-know teen in late 1960s Los Angeles.

In the pile were lost psychedelic riches, foremost among them H. P. Lovecraft’s debut albums. I’ll admit, though loathe to do so, that this band was new to me. Hadn’t even heard of them, but when I placed the platter on my turntable, I was instantly smitten. Not so much by the band’s paeans to horror author Lovecraft, but by their soaring double lead vocals. HPL employed the same twin-lead interplay made more famous by Jefferson Airplane. By no means were George Edwards and Dave Michaels second class in quality. Just in popularity.

6 – Kings Verses – (Kings Verses, 1966)

I’ve been obsessed with Sundazed Records, a brilliant reissue label located in Coxsackie, NY. Since June I’ve been trying to arrange a visit for a ragazine article.  No luck yet, but I refuse to give up.

While I wait, I buy. There, in the garage sale section of the Sundazed website, I found an album by Kings Verses.  Classic garage rock, from a long lost L.A. band that reached the heights of opening for The Doors, and, with a recording contract nearly in their grasp, found themselves blackballed after testifying against abuses by Los Angeles club owners. They were immediately forgotten. “Lights” is one of my favorite tracks of the year.

5 – Juliet Naked – (Nick Hornby, 2010)

Juliet Naked

OK, it’s a book, but it is about music and Nick Hornby is great. He is so finely attuned to what music lovers think about and care about that his prose borders on the lyrical. Impossible to keep off the list just because it’s written, not played.

Also, in light of my affection for Double Fantasy Stripped Down (http://old.ragazine.cc/2010/11/music/), I run the risk of emulating the antagonist. Read it to know what I mean.

4 – Come and Get It – (Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves, 2010)

Ever since I saw Eli open as a solo act for Nick Lowe, I’ve been a disciple of his old time soul religion. Come and Get It, his first big label release on Capitol, is a danceable hoot, sure to put a huge smile across your now-grooving face. From “Young Girl” to “Explosion,” Eli provides the most fun your ears can legally have.

http://old.ragazine.cc/2010/08/eli-paperboy-reed/

3 – The Original Mono Recordings – (Bob Dylan, 2010)

I shouldn’t have to explain why. Just get it. (OK, this once. The mono version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” on Freewheelin’ emerges from the speakers as warm and live as if young Bobby was singing into your ear).

2 – Doris Troy – (Doris Troy, 1970)

One of the most interesting projects of the year was the remastering of Apple Records classics. Some, like James Taylor’s eponymous debut, or Badfinger’s catalog, are still well known to much of the listening public. But Jackie Lomax? Mary Hopkin? Doris Troy? This is strictly collector territory.

For me, the Troy disc was the most anticipated. With a cast that includes Stephen Stills, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and George Harrison, the gospel/soul sound of Tory will shake you to the core. Take particular notice of the Buffalo Springfield original “Special Care,” which is a tad on the slow side in its band version on Last Time Around. Doris, with Stills’ help, makes it thunder. Harrison’s playing exudes the pure happiness that came with being away from the disintegrating Fab Four; he’s a marvel. Ringo, too, is eminently enjoyable.

Doris Tory would have been my #1 musical work of the year, if not for…

http://katzkomments.blogspot.com/2010/11/doris-troy.html

1 – The T.A.M.I. Show – (Various artists, 2010)

T.A.M.I. Show

T.A.M.I. Show

It’s not often that great expectations are exceeded. For years I longed to see The T.A.M.I. Show, the legendary but elusive 1964 movie featuring a Who’s Who of contemporary pop stars. The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, on and on and on.

Finally, 2010 brought an official DVD release and, oh my Lord, it doesn’t disappoint. The frenetic energy of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles is still seared in my brain. JB, “The Godfather of Soul,” is barely constrained behind the screen. I’ve never seen a filmed performance that rivals it. And those poor Stones had to follow him! After a faltering start, they take over and are wonderful to behold at their bluesy brash best.

The T.A.M.I. Show is the top of the list for this year, hands down.

Happy New Year!

http://old.ragazine.cc/2010/04/music-grai/

December 23, 2010   1 Comment

Gabrielle Revere: Photographer

©Gabrielle Revere
Lindsey Wixson photographed back stage at the Donna Karan Spring 2011 Runway Show.

The Handwriting’s On Her Wall

by Mike Foldes

September 24, 2010

Photographer
Gabrielle Revere

It’s a beautiful warm day in New York when photographer Gabrielle Revere and I meet for lunch at the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District in New York to discuss her career and work. Her photos have appeared in numerous magazines, from Spin to Seventeen, and her celebrity subjects include Justin Beiber, Avril Lavigne, and Carrie Underwood, to name a few.  Along the way to a certain level of success, she combined her time and money with a stipend from the Dove Foundation to create a series titled, “I only have eyes for you.”

The passing traffic – taxis and trucks – make me wary of sidewalk dining; the atmosphere inside is deceptively better, and besides, it’s air conditioned. Deceptive, because the background clatter turns out to be a killer for any but a very high-end, noise-canceling, audio recording device, which I do not have.

Signature image from Gabrielle Revere’s “I Remain, You Desire” exhibit featuring model Lindsey Wixon.

The reception  for Revere’s exhibit at Sotheby’s, “I Remain, You Desire,” hosted by Milk Studios founder Mazdack Rassi, and stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, took place a few nights before, and she was still high on the turnout which included among others Anna Sui and Duncan Hanna. The series features 16-year-old model Lindsey Wixson, who Revere met during New York Fashion Week in 2009, and subsequently helped bring to the fashion modeling forefront.

……………………………………………

I Remain, You Desire / Gabrielle Revere

Gabrielle Revere’s “I Remain, You Desire” exhibit featuring model Lindsey Wixon.

[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-1.jpg]110I Remain You Desire, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-9.jpg]150Between Sleep and Waking, We Are Awake and Dreaming, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-7.jpg]110Coy/Rapture, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-4.jpg]120Red Cardinal, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-8.jpg]80To Love The Things You Can Not Have, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-3.jpg]80Memory and Anticipation, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-10.jpg]90Chrysalis, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-5.jpg]110Bound With Golden Silk Thread, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-6.jpg]110The Whim of Chance, 2010
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-remain-you-desire/thumbs/thumbs_revere-desire-2.jpg]80Apparition, 2010
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

……………………………………………

Revere lives in Brooklyn, which, she says, is living in the city with a bit of country quiet at the same time. It reminds her of San Francisco, or Paris, she says later in our conversation. She does not have a studio, and most often works at Milk.

“For the past six years, their brand has exploded. So, in a way, I’ve grown up with that.  I was one of the first photographers to shoot there, and with that they took me on as one of the family. They have the entire second floor and the entire eighth floor. The way they have it set up is that you don’t really have to do anything but show up and set up in the studio, and your clients show up, and they treat you like royalty. And everything is at your fingertips. It’s fully digital right now. You can rent about any kind of photo equipment you can possibly imagine. They are there for you. Everybody shoots there. I mean like top notch — Vogue, Vanity Fair, TV commercials.

“It’s such a huge organization, yet it’s still very personal. And they’ve branched out into video and film as well. One-stop shopping. They had a video nominated for video awards. They’ve really just come to life.”

“There’s so much celebrity content that goes on at Milk Studios — like the covers for Glamour, covers for Rolling Stone, covers for Spin… They’ll have their video companies come in and shoot videos of “behind the scenes”, and everything goes viral so fast with the internet. The viewer can go on spin.com, look at the cover shoot – look at it as it’s being shot, and it’s all very current and now.

With the advent of digital, a photographer can shoot all day long and not have to worry about the cost of developing film and printing contacts sheets, let alone the time it takes. How much of her own editing does she do?

GR: “Usually what I do either the day of, or the day after, depending on how long the shoot goes for and I might need a little time to digest, I go through all of the images and edit out what I think isn’t acceptable for me to publish. And, you might say depending on what the client needs, I pretty much have to give them every single thing.”

R: You don’t shoot film at all?

GR: Not at all. I would if somebody would let me.

R: What do you mean, “Let me.”?

Fern #1, 2004 Polaroid 20”x24’

GR: The industry has become a digital industry…. I grew up shooting an 8×10, a 4×5. I’ve shot Polaroid 24×24. The Mamiya RZ Pro II was my camera for years. I still have it. I love that camera. I took that camera all around the world, but now there’s a (digital) back for the Mamiya, so now I can shoot the Mamiya digital… Digital has inched itself into the world where I support myself. Two or three years ago I had a job and I said, “I want to shoot film, I want to use my Mamiya.” It’s a different quality, it’s a different camera. It will help me make my work beautiful. And now they make (digital) backs that are compatible with these cameras, so it’s hard for the photographers to sell film. And obviously, when you’re shooting with your clients there, you’re tethered to a computer screen. The clients are so used to seeing images come up immediately it’s pretty impossible to compete with that. For even a day. They don’t even want to wait a day.

R: Some people still shoot film and transfer to digital.

GR: When I first made the digital transition a lot of my archives, the quintessential parts of my work, had to be transferred to digital. I had to scan, color correct…. I did it, but it’s $100 to $200 a scan for drum scans, and then you have to take the time to have someone color correct that negative, and adjust it, to make it look like the print that you have.

R: So technically, when you first started shooting, you probably didn’t have the technical facility that you’ve picked up in the past couple of years?

Sweet and Vicious #7, 1998

GR: Yes, exactly. I’ve been shooting professionally for 12 years. For my work, and the original work, I was obviously buying my film, buying my Polaroids. I’d take it back to the lab, they develop a contact sheet, the contact sheet goes to the client, they do the edit, prints would be made, the client looks at the prints, and it’s out of my hands. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of contact sheets, all in order, but tons of negs. Oh my god — envelopes, even prior to shooting professionally, living off it, I’ve been shooting since 1990, so I have everything.

R: Twenty years ….

GR: Yes, it’s been most of my life. … I started shooting when I was 17. I still have negs from when I was in college. I first went to FIT, and then to the School for the Visual Arts. One of them was more of a commercial school, and the other more fine arts….

R: How’d you like FIT?

GR: It was great. I was young. I was 17 turning 18. It’s a two-year college. It went by very quickly. At the time they didn’t have a bachelor of fine arts degree program. But I think now they do. I graduated when I was 22. So that’s when SFA took over. They’re both great schools, but different. I will say now that both the colleges have a better combination of what students need to get by. When I was there, FIT was strictly commercial, and SFA was strictly fine arts, and you need both.

R: So FIT has changed?

GR: Yes, I think it has. I haven’t been back in years. I just go past it. But I’m grateful for the education, because the education showed me discipline. I think that is a lot of what education is about, discipline. Completing from start to finish. Having deadlines. Having an idea and bringing it to fruition. Being graded on that idea. In the real world, in the business world, in the real world you’re constantly graded. And there’s no room in the real world for error. In school, obviously, not that there’s room for failure … It’s the training wheels of life.

R: When did you go to California?

……………………………………………

Selections from Portfolios / Gabrielle Revere

[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-mon-ex-1.jpg]10Forever Summer #1, 2002
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-mon-ex-3.jpg]10Forever Summer #3, 2002
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-bc-2.jpg]00Beautiful Chaos #8, 2009
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-bc-3.jpg]10Beautiful Chaos #13, 2009
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-bieber.jpg]100Justin Bieber
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-lavigne.jpg]100Avril Lavigne
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-sv_-2.jpg]10Sweet and Vicious #8, 1998
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-untamed-1.jpg]20Love Me, 2004
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-sv_-4.jpg]20Sweet and Vicious #6, 1999
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/selections-from-portfolios-gabrielle-revere/thumbs/thumbs_revere-untamed-3.jpg]10Come Play With Me, 2001
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

……………………………………………

GR: I worked out there after SFVA. I had never traveled out of New York, and I wanted to explore. I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to be away from my family. I wanted to grow up out from under the umbrella of my family. I moved out there with no job and no friends, nothing, just a lot of wishes and hope. Basically, I went out there, went through the phone book. There was a computer place down the street. I typed up a resume… there were days and days of putting resumes in the mail. That was before the days of the internet, and finally I got a call back. I took on a freelance job as, basically, a photo editor’s assistant at Time Inc.

R: A great way to start.

GR: A great way to start, and I had that background. Back in New York, two of the jobs I had at both colleges …

R: Internships?

GR: No, I never interned. I could never intern. I had to pay for my rent. There was no time for interning. I was working two jobs for five years at (photo) stock houses, where I had this kind of background, where a photo editor would call me for a photo request. So I had an idea of what was going on, and I did that for two years. I was shooting my own work outside. Then I moved back to New York and got in touch with everybody I knew.

R: What kinds of things do you shoot on your own time? If you had a weekend off, to hang out and take pictures, what would you shoot?

GR: The thing that’s interesting about the way that I shoot, or the way I progress is that, my intentions were that I’m an artist. Even in school, I’m the girl who dropped the Photoshop™ classes, who dropped the color printing classes. I’m the girl who didn’t think she needed that. Of course, I want to kick myself years later, but that’s beside the point. I always looked at it as I wanted my art to be seen, to show in galleries, and come out with books, to be a spokeswoman for the little girls out there who are struggling.

Photography was always a means of expression for me, expressing my feelings, and in that, in the commercial end of things, I became a working photographer. Meaning, I was paying my way taking pictures. … Because of the commercial work, my name has been able to get out there. It gives me access to people in my everyday life who I would never have access to. I’m constantly shooting my first photo book. It’s never something that’s planned. It’s not like, “OK, this weekend I’m going to go to my parents’ house … and bring my camera and take pictures of XYZ.” It never happens like that. It’s always very organic. Sometimes I feel like taking pictures and sometimes I don’t. You can’t force it. I can’t. I have to be inspired.

……………………………………………

I Only Have Eyes For You / Gabrielle Revere

“I Only Have Eyes for You”, at Milk Gallery in NYC. One hundred percent of the proceeds raised from the exhibition were donated to causes whose mission is to transform and inspire the empowerment and self esteem of children in need.

[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-5.jpg]50I Only Have Eyes for You, Virgem dos Pobres Community; Maceió, Brazil, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-7.jpg]60Nomfundo Shabane, 11 yrs old. Nkobongo, South Africa, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-1.jpg]50Edja da Silva, 17yrs old. Maceió, Brazil, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-2.jpg]130Aline de Oliveira, 12yrs old. Brejal Community; Maceió, Brazil, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-8.jpg]100Weverton dos Santos Soares, 3yrs old. Virgem dos Pobres Community; Maceió, Brazil, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-3.jpg]40I Love You Umnyango Noah Ark: Umhlali, South Africa, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-4.jpg]50Hands Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2005
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-10.jpg]50Boys Serenade, Sithokozise Noah Ark: Umkazi, South Africa, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-6.jpg]50Princess Sithole, Putfomtein Noah Ark; Gauteng, South Africa, 2006
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gabrielle-reverei-only-have-eyes-for-you/thumbs/thumbs_revere-eyes_-9.jpg]30Karabo Khubeka, 5yrs old. Wattville Noah Ark; Gauteng, South Africa, 2006

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

……………………………………………

R:I only have eyes for you?

GR: A personal project.

R: Personally financed?

GR: Credit card, and the Dove stipend. That was fun, but at that point in my commercial career – I was seen as the face of young Hollywood. All the young celebrities and young musicians and magazine covers – it was all fantastic. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything in the world. I’m so grateful for all that time of my life, but I felt like at that time I needed to do something I wanted and no one was going to give me any funding to go overseas and photograph what I wanted (such as “I only have eyes for you”). They wouldn’t think of me to do that. The industry is very compartmentalized, you know, this person shoots beauty, this person shoots celebrities, this person shoots still live. There isn’t a lot of crossover. There are some people in powerful positions that can see the crossover, but for the most part you make your own destiny in this way. So that was me basically giving myself the project; I had the production experience behind me. When I jumped into it, not that it was easy,  not that it happened to me. I made it happen.

R: Would you do it again?

GR: There’s something to be said for your own experiences. It’s like riding a bike. I grew up on that experience. It was the next chapter in my heart. In my mind. You get on it and you just go with it. I grew up with that experience, to be on a boat in Bangladesh, or traveling down the Ganges River.

R: I don’t mean do it again in the same way you did it before. But in terms of your philanthropic projects, what kind of philanthropy project would you embark on if you were to do it today?

GR: I still do philanthropic work. I recently did a Make-A-Wish with Mary Alice Stephenson. I was asked to be part of a big photo exhibition for fundraising for kids with cleft palates… I was one of 20 photographers. Out of the goodness of my heart, I would do it again in a second, go overseas, go back to South Africa, Go to Brazil, go to Outer Mongolia, work with kids who feel they’ve been forgotten. Photography is a means of expression, of connection.

……………………………………………

View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.

……………………………………………

R: Do you have other kinds of projects you work on, hobbies?

GR: I write. I must have a hundred journals up in my closet. I do a handwriting thing, you’ve probably seen it. Handwriting is becoming a important part of my work and photography. I only have eyes for you. I remain you desire. So the handwriting has become another means of expression. But people are buying the handwriting, which has been interesting. Thankfully, they’re buying it, the signatures. I do a lot of shoots for book publishers, and they see the handwriting, “We’d love you to write something out, you should sell your font ….”

R: How many books have you done?

GR: You mean like coffee table books? I haven’t done any yet. It’s on the agenda.

R: When you’re in a studio, how much direction do you give, for a fashion shoot, for example. Is a lot of it yours? Do you work with a fashion editor or director? Do you work as you go along?

GR: I do a little bit of everything. Usually in a commercial job, where you’re hired by a company you have a feel for the work. It’s usually the people who hire you, obviously they know you. Everybody has their job. If I shoot, I direct the models, but it’s not demanding in a directorial way. But if I have a vision of what it is we’re trying to show or showcase, I’ll give direction.

R: Is it the same if you’re doing an album cover or ads?

GR: Yes, with something like an album cover it’s about the artist, it’s about that personality, it’s a little different, it’s about who they are. If it’s a commercial assignment or an advertising assignment, you’re creating an illusion of that idea, so it’s more like acting, the model is acting and I’m directing a movie. And, like a signature artist, I’m drawing things out of that.

R: What do you shoot with?

GR: A 35 mm Canon 5D Mark II. What’s amazing about the camera is you can shoot hi-def video. A lot of videographers are shooting with that camera now.

R: I read an interview with you that you did just after fashion week in which you commented that you were surprised to find so much sexism and ageism in the business. With youth and beauty being so prevalent in the business, why was that a surprise?

GR: That’s not who I am, not how I operate. But you have to remember that how you operate is not how others operate. In this world, there are a lot of personalities, egos, a lot of money on the line. There are powers that be that set the rules before I was alive. And maybe it’s taken me a little longer, I know it’s taken me a little longer, but I can’t question the path that I’m on. Honestly,  I feel good about what’s happening now, rather than when I was 22. Twenty-two is pretty young.

R: Who are your favorite photographers? Do you have any?

GR: Yes, Sally Mann, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman.

R: What do you like about their work

GR: They went with their hearts. They didn’t have an agenda. They were shooting subject matter that they were compelled by, like an unseen force. Obviously Sally Mann for her children, was photographing children. Nan Goldin was photographing her friends. Cindy Sherman was photographing herself in relation to other people. It doesn’t get more intimate for putting your heart on the line than that.

R: And if you were collaborating?

GR: I’d be honored.

R: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

GR: The Sotheby show comes down Monday. … The show will travel. We’re working out the details.

R: Where might it be going ?

GR: I can’t tell you that.

……………………………………………

See Revere’s other portfolios at www.gabriellerevere.com

© 2010 Gabrille Revere • All Rights Reserved


December 23, 2010   1 Comment

Lori A. May: Poetry

Mental Additions

What we would do
with an extra room –

entertain weekend guests
focus on our crafts
make room for your office
exercise magazine quality
organization

close the door
before company arrives
the stacks of get-to-laters
in denial

*

Two Perspectives

we vacuum
tuck away magazines, books, remote controls
fluff pillows
light candles
dust surfaces
add music
hide laundry, toiletries, all signs of the living

they see
cat-scratched couch corners
paint-chipped kitchen ceiling
seventies bathroom tiles
a double chin in a family photograph
streaks lingering from a quick window clean

*

You know you want to look

His:
toothbrush leaned against recycled take-out cup
deodorant barely capped
hairbrush buried alongside mishmash of odds
and ends
disposable razor, still good
for tomorrow

Hers:
toothbrush
toothpaste
floss
fine-tooth comb
detangling gel
sea salt scrub
moisturizer
gloss
misty body spritzer
nail file
polish

About the Poet:

Lori A. May is the author of four books, including stains: early poems. Her work has appeared in The Writer, Rattle, Two Review and Writer’s Digest, among others, as well as anthologies including Van Gogh’s Ear. More information is available online at www.loriamay.com.

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Lori A. May: Poetry

Michael Parish/Observations

Vignettes


Introduction

Michael Parish’s series of vignettes on our strange contemporary relationship to the natural world — and the way our daily consumption habits and practices transform it and ourselves — provide a bit of a Brechtian alienation effect that lets us stand back and see ourselves in action.  The everyday activities of work, eating, and landscaping are shown in a kaleidoscope that the quirky narrative voice guides us through our activities and makes them momentarily strange — and therefore able to think about doing them differently.

— Leslie Heywood, Creative Nonfiction Editor

By Michael Parish

On Picnics

To picnic is to party, in a field, in the woods, under the sun. Bring a blanket, some wine and cheese, and don’t forget the bread that crunches like the sound of leaves when we break it. Picnicking combines two of the simplest pleasures in life, being outside and eating, and though I’d like to partake in both everyday, most days, I have to go to work.

I sit at a desk in a room that has no windows. As I program, my mind runs the same track over and over again like a toy train racing around a Christmas tree. If the time is 11:34, I think 7:34; I add eight hours because in eight hours I am guaranteed not to be at work; I will be at the supermarket or eating dinner or out on my porch reading the book I have been reading.

During lunch, I sit in my car with the windows down; it is impossible to find a place near work to eat at outside. The nearest “natural space” is a playground/park with a backstop and a soccer field where in place of the grass, something else exists. The stuff is like a carpet, like the floor of every miniature golf hole that’s ever been putted on, and sometimes, I squat and move a flat palm across the top of it, trying to figure out what astroturf smells like.

It doesn’t smell like a picnic, I can tell you that.

On Buffets

The all-you-can-eat buffet is a simple solution to a complex problem. It would seem like providing a person with an almost unlimited amount of food choices come mealtime would make things easier when trying to solve the Western dilemma of eating three meals a day and deciding what exactly those meals should be. But this is precisely why buffets do not work: special occasions aside, eating should never be treated merely as an excuse to stuff our faces, and food should not be treated as an abundant, homogeneous commodity that can be purchased for a flat price (say, $9.99 per person). Yet so many of us fork over our ten bucks so that we can eat until we are unable to move. When we eat at buffets, we sacrifice sound food choices for the sake of convenience.

Treating food as an unlimited resource breaks down our connection to its provenance and production. At a buffet, our knowledge of how the food underneath all of the red heat lamps got there is limited to an occasional glimpse of the dolly heaping with trays that is periodically trucked from the kitchen to the food bar. The country of origin, the specific variety of the fruits, vegetables and meats that comprise the ingredients [1], the date the food was harvested and who did the picking, when exactly it arrived in the kitchen of the restaurant, and how many times it was processed before it arrived in our mouths, are all details that are rendered invisible through their anonymous presentation.

To most buffet enthusiasts, none of these details matter. All that is important is 1) being hungry, 2) eating as much food as possible to ensure you get your money’s worth, and 3) being hungry. In America, the one price, all-you-can-eat buffet seems like a setup, a con or trick combining one of our basic needs (the need to eat) along with our thrifty, “consumer values” (the hunger for a bargain). We’re duped into overeating because we can’t resist a bargain.

At an all-you-can-eat buffet, faced with mounds of fried and fast foods, the feeling that pervades the atmosphere is that food can be wasted without consequence, either by sampling small portions of every entree and trashing the leftovers or by eating healthy portions of everything in sight. The first is downright wasteful – throwing away good food simply because it is extra – while the second is a bit more covert. The two main reasons to eat are for energy and pleasure, and the best method usually involves finding the most agreeable way of combining the two. To force yourself to eat so much that you feel like you’ll lose it in the backseat on the car ride home is just excessive. It’s also insulting to your internal organs, to farmers, to plants and animals, to people waking up in other parts of the world who worry not about eating, but about whether they’ll live through another day.

I’m not saying when we get together with friends for a potluck or a holiday that it’s wrong to enjoy ourselves. Such events celebrate life and the joys of eating and, every once in a while, there is something very satisfying about overstuffing yourself. But most of us attend buffets without considering the huge amount of labor that goes into amassing such a bounty of goodies. If we had to grow, harvest and prepare all of the food, would we ever come up with the idea of putting together a buffet ourselves?

Perhaps I have been a bit harsh in my assessment of buffets, but the following anecdote may help illuminate why. When I lived in Albany, my friends and I frequented the lunch buffets at the Indian restaurants downtown when we wanted a break from eating on campus. There were times when we ate so much that I thought I would never eat again. We would leave the restaurant and walk a few steps to the park and beach ourselves on its knolls like whales, our bloated stomachs becoming sunburned in the afternoon sun. As we gradually passed out, people dropped change on us, mistaking us for derelicts because we were muttering obscenities to ourselves and farting loudly in public, drunk from having eaten too much food, rolling around in the grass, pressing our faces into the earth, our brains eventually induced into a coma state because it was the only way to save us, system capacity breached, system failure, system shutdown. And there were weekends where we never learned any lesson, waking up on Sunday morning bright-eyed and recovered, ready and willing to do the same thing to ourselves that afternoon.

If our Rome ever falls, it wouldn’t surprise me if the all-you-can-eat buffet has something to do with it.

On Walks and Walking

Leisure walking, perhaps the simplest and most enjoyable activity known to man, is becoming extinct. Humans have walked since long before they were called Homo sapiens; anthropologists thank evolutionary ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, for foraying into bipedalism. As the earth flew around the sun, we became a race of runners, (pun intended), who chased down prey at a steady pace over the course of many days, tiring it to the point of defeat and exhaustion.

Today, due in large part to our big brains, we no longer have to run after anything. When we do see people running, usually from the air-conditioned cockpits of automobiles, it strikes us odd why anyone would willingly put themselves through that.

But forget running. Most people don’t even seem to walk anymore. We’ve become a culture of sitters.

With a laptop computer and a helpful relative ready to fetch the occasional meal, splash of water, bedpan, etc., it is possible for one to lounge in bed all day and still participate in the 9 to 5 workweek. A respectable standing in social circles can also be maintained from the bedroom command center, and up to the second local and global news is always on tap. Movies, music, shopping, dating. All can be delivered instantly. Why go anywhere if it can all come to us?

The world we now experience is one experienced by proxy. It is an endless stream of images and information, floating past our eyes and unable to be accessed without the aid of a computer. It is a world we cannot touch and the world we seem truly invested in. We are literally detached from it yet call ourselves “connected.”

One wonders, then, how to get closer, how to get inside the machine. Advances in computer generated images could possibly dictate the future of the human relationship with computers. The only question that remains is: how many terabytes will you take up?

What makes walking so appealing is that it is something that can be done now. One has everything they need from the moment they push themselves up from the carpet as a baby. There is no need for special devices; one’s own sense of accomplishment comes from oneself. And just like runners, who run to achieve the euphoric rush known as runner’s high, walkers, too, benefit from endorphins flooding against the blood-brain barrier.

There are some that say walking is boring. To this I say there are a lot of boring people out there, ready to let the world be imagined for them. The world is always outside, waiting to be explored.

So start walking. Any direction will do. Look around, listen. Feel the rhythm of footsteps, watch the thoughts come and go. Focus on every breath, for in every breath lies the secret to discovering the world anew.

On Convenience

In the modern world, convenience is king. Often, the quickest, cheapest and easiest way of getting something done is the most used, sought after and marketable. Humans are inherently short-term thinkers; having evolved from a hunter-gatherer mentality, we only realized the benefit of planning ahead when we started planting our own food some 9,000+ years ago. Prior to that shift, a lifestyle of living on the run had been wired in us for millions.

We engage in convenient behavior because it satisfies our immediate needs. Rather than take some time to cook our own meals, it’s a lot faster to hit the drive-thru at any burger joint, the awnings of which are red and yellow because those colors induce hunger. When convenience is on the line, it starts to seem like the whole world plays on our instincts and desires, inviting us to spend our money and consume.

While some decisions we make on a daily basis, such as ones about what to eat, are convenient on the short-term, many bring unexpected consequences. For instance, during the early 20th century, a pair of scientists discovered a way to synthetically produce nitrogen as a means of creating explosives. The Haber-Bosch process, as it has come to be known, has proved to be a decisive creation; in addition to its wartime uses, the process can also be used to fix large amounts of nitrogen, an important element in plant growth, into the soil. Basically, the same stuff we once used to make gunpowder is the same stuff now used to fertilize crops. As a result, the human population on earth since World War II has skyrocketed.

While the immediate result of using synthetic fertilizers is beneficial, (more plants = more food = more people), these fertilizers actively destroy the environment. Decades of concentrating such a powerful substance over the same area wears soil out. The Midwest, home to some of the best topsoil the world has ever known, is in the middle of one of the biggest wash-aways due to erosion, effectively dumping its fertility into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. Nitrogen fertilizers, while convenient on the short-term, are changing physical aspects of the environment that can never be recreated. The toss up is that right now we are experiencing food booms and an increase in population, but somewhere down the road, someone is going to face the adverse effects.

Of course, this is only one example of convenience. There are many aspects of convenient technology that benefit mankind. Air travel, cars, fast food, microwaves, computers, cell phones, GPS, the Internet: all of these things make modern living a breeze. But each do come with hidden costs that aren’t always considered on the short-term.

The question of whether life gets better with increased convenience is a sticky one. It matters during what time period the word “better” is defined in and whose life is being taken into consideration. If one day, convenient aspects of our lives were suddenly to disappear, I’d like to know I’d be okay living in a world without them.

On Lawns

What the hell is a lawn, anyway? Who came up with this notion of having millions of tiny blades of grass surrounding one’s domicile? What does it do? Surely, it must serve a purpose. Or do lawns just “look nice”?

It turns out that modern lawns originated with our Medieval brethren of the 14th century. Castles were the epicenter of feudal life and for good reason. They were a controlled structure that could keep who you wanted in and who you didn’t want out. Lawns aided in this purpose.

Imagine a castle. In your imagination, what is the castle surrounded by? What does the landscape look like? Most likely, there may be a few streams and some happy little trees, but what you’re probably seeing the most of is a field of green.

That’s right. Castles were home to the largest front, side and back yards known to man. The reason? To keep on the lookout for invaders.

It’s pretty easy to spot an approaching army of thousands of marching men if all they’re marching across is grass. Flash forward to a few thousand years later. Though the scale has changed, the layout has pretty much stayed the same.

The mailman is really our only potential adversary: Jehovah’s witnesses are pushovers. Imagine having a front yard that was completely wooded, that was so dark on a sunny day that when you looked into the trees, you saw nothing but black. Anything could pop out: a cool breeze or the sound of crinkling leaves. While most of today’s visitors are harmless, if anyone appeared on your doorstep out of a darkness like that, they’d probably scare the shit out of you.

Lawns are another one of these outdated practices/activities that humans still participate in despite having any good reason. Sure, some people derive pleasure out of lawn care, but the whole idea of what lawns are has become completely convoluted. Some use a lawn’s health as a status symbol; they hire troves of Hispanics to do all their hard work. The landscaper armies must really be raking it in.

Lawns are one of nature’s last hold outs. It’s as if we’re paying homage to Pan by worshipping a patch of grass. Keeping a lawn trim and proper is the goal to be achieved, as well as very, very green. I find it interesting how right angles don’t exist in nature, but that’s all we humans tend to make, perfect squares or rectangles or rhombuses to showcase our appreciation of grass.

If I’m ever lucky enough to own my own house, I’m going to let the grass grow wild. I want it so tall and thick and nappy that animals and small children get lost in it. Once in a while, I’ll get out the scythe and do some pruning, (to work out my arms, mostly); let the tumble weeds roam the neighborhood as they might. Or maybe I’ll just light my lawn on fire every couple of months, like the blazes of the great Midwestern prairie during electrical storms, tell the neighborhood kids ghost stories around it and roast marshmallows on it with them at night.

On Garbage

Garbage is everything and nothing at all. Everywhere we look, garbage can be found, in our streets, in our homes, in our hearts. Thoughts can be garbage and nearly everything we touch will some day become it, thrown out by ourselves or trashed by somebody else, maybe on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday morning.

In nature, there’s no such thing as garbage. There are cycles of growth and decay and the two are not separated. But in fall, some people maniacally rake leaves, bundle them in black plastic and toss them on the curb. Tossing black plastic on the curb is the international sign for garbage, and like magic, this black plastic disappears.

While perfectly manicured lawns “look nice,” what would be best for lawns would be to let the leaves disintegrate and recycle back into the soil. Recycling exists in nature, but as far as making something disappear completely, that’s simply impossible.

New York City alone produces 24 million pounds of garbage each day and all that garbage needs to go somewhere. Most of it is shipped out on cargo trains and buried in Ohio or Pennsylvania or some other less populated state willing to store it.

In a lot of ways, garbage is like memories we don’t want to keep. Garbage is like a past we can’t forget. Garbage is what you get when you need a new cell phone every month and garbage is what I will get if this essay becomes anymore cynical.

Our sense of worth gets distorted when we view everything as garbage. We can never really value anything. Rather than try and make and buy products that will last, we are content with buying the cheapest pieces of garbage on the market and then throwing them out and replacing them with more cheap garbage after they become what they inevitably were in the first place: garbage. Garbage, garbage, garbage.

Some of the things on the curb are garbage: stuffed animal race car chairs for children, plastic dartboards, furniture once the wood finishing strips peel off to reveal the pressboard underneath, light gray and squarish computer mice from the 1990s, the headphones that you use for free on an airplane, microwave cookbooks and ab rollers, just to name a few. But some things, like old fans and lamps and other household appliances, can easily be recycled back into their constituent parts.

One idea would be to pass a law that requires everything that a company makes, once it’s past its prime and ready to be thrown into the trash, to be returned to the company for a specified amount of cash or for a voucher good toward another item made by the same company. The companies themselves would be responsible for taking apart and reusing what they created and would be required to accept all returns. If products were made and disposed of like that, there’d probably be a lot better products out there and a lot less garbage.

What happens when one item turns into a massive amount of garbage instantaneously, when one technology supersedes another, like the millions of VHS players sitting in hot attics this very moment?

Garbage is something we will always create but never something we will want to keep. The only keeping involved is in keeping it far, far away.


[1] Can you believe that despite the existence of several varieties of chicken, most of us have only eaten one nameless variety? Further, the average piece of processed chicken is probably the product of dozens of different birds and therefore, simply calling it “chicken” is more accurate than specifics (which we probably don’t want to get into in the first place).

About the author:

Mike Parish, a graduate of Binghamton University,  gets his car crashed into in Queens, NY. His first chapbook of short fiction, You Can Finish This Later, is available through On Lives Press.

December 23, 2010   1 Comment

Jose Antonio Rodriguez: Poetry

Avocado

My crotch feels warm before I know to hold it in. The wet blankets will soon be colder than they were last night.  The snores of those who sleep are muffled by heavy fabric. I get out of bed and I don’t mind the jeans and jacket so much anymore, how denim clings to bed sheets, how nylon slides away. I am hungry and the aroma of the avocado makes me almost myopic. This morning, though, the avocado is harder than I remembered it. Spoons are always dull. The cold of the kitchen walls stretches the skin so that I feel like the tips of my fingers are coming undone. The knuckles tighten and I think of my youngish aunt who moves with a walker. Maybe the body dies not all at once but in pieces. The tortilla for the avocado taco blackens over the stove burner but my fingers don’t burn when I touch the part that smolders. I place my hands close to the flame – blue with an orange center – and soon the scent of burnt hair, fine like ice crystals, fills the space before me. I no longer think of the avocado exposed to the air, blackening.  My hands ache something new like my next birthday, but I don’t cry and I wish my father could see me. Later that morning something on TV will mention an overnight freeze, damage to the citrus orchards my father tended to in the night. Within a year he will be out of work, will leave far in search of orchards green instead of ice burnt. I will promise to him that I will no longer wet my bed. I won’t cry. Instead, I will hand him an avocado and tell him to cut it open on a warm day.

José Antonio Rodríguez is a graduate student in the English and Creative Writing program at SUNY- Binghamton and editor of the literary journal Harpur Palate.  He is the recipient of the 2009 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award.  His work has appeared in Paterson Literary Review, Cream City Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Connecticut Review and previously in the Creative Nonfiction section of Ragazine (December 20, 2009).

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Jose Antonio Rodriguez: Poetry

Casual Observer: Trophy Envy


Not the real trophy, but that's another story.

Trophy Envy

By Mark Levy

My archery trophy sits atop the mantel of my fireplace. It’s almost as high as the living room ceiling. It’s the biggest trophy I’ve ever seen, about four feet high. The base is a solid rectangle of marble, four inches by six inches and about half an inch thick. Anchored to the base rise up two majestic Greek columns, also of marble, and some sort of imitation gold insignia spanning the two uprights. Then there’s another tier above the columns with another large marble platform and a column above that. It must be 14 pounds, the weight of an average Thanksgiving turkey.

The statue itself is gold-colored plastic and depicts a slender male archer with perfect form and with his bow extended. There’s a black metal plate attached to the front edge of the base and it says, “Mark Levy, First Prize, International Archery Competition.”

The whole trophy is impressive as heck.

In fact, it often elicits admiring comments from guests who visit my house, which was the whole point in displaying it in my living room in the first place.

I have to admit that I’m more than a little proud of the trophy. It really dominates the room, especially from the point of view of a guest whom I direct to the cushy chair that faces it.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Wow, what a trophy,” they say.

I just smile, modestly.

“Is that yours?”

“Yup,” I admit.

“I didn’t know you were into archery.”

I continue to smile. Sometimes I say something like, “Well, I don’t like to brag.”

“When did you get that?”

“A few years ago,” I say. “I’m a little embarrassed that it’s so big. Barely fits above the fireplace.”

I can keep the conversation going for awhile, but at some point, I usually have had enough basking in their respect. So I confess that, although it’s my trophy –- I mean, I own it — I didn’t really win it. I merely purchased it at a garage sale for fifty cents.

Oh, and the name plate cost an additional two bucks a few years ago. Turns out, trophy suppliers don’t really question authenticity of the name plates they produce. If you want them to engrave something, they will. Truth to tell, I could see that my local trophy maker was pretty impressed with the size of my trophy, too.

Dead silence usually ensues after my confession.

“I’m looking for a fishing trophy to make it a set,” I say. “Do you think that would be too much? Would people actually believe I won… I mean I own… both of them?”

____________________________________

December 23, 2010   Comments Off on Casual Observer: Trophy Envy