Posts from — February 2011
Dancing with Dragons
Putting out a magazine is like dancing with dragons and letting go genies…. You struggle to pull things together without knowing what kind of animal you’ll deliver until the things – the issues — are out of the bottle. We’re doing our best to see that what you take the time to look at and read in Ragazine will add something measurably more memorable to your day than the daily dose of dumbed down pablum delivered by mainstream media to a mind-numbed populous. Let us know if it’s not and we’ll kick ourselves in the shins, scream “Sakai,” and pay homage to the gods of wind feces (snow), until we get it right.
For those of you ready to dive in now, there’s plenty to break your fall:
The Ragazine cover this month is contributed by New York photographer Gabrielle Revere, whose work reveals the youth and beauty of a new generation. An interview with Revere shows she’s well aware not everyone in the world is so lucky. Our associated galleries include shots from her documentary series, “I only have eyes for you,” which captures the ice-cold irony of the beauty of children living in the midst of oft-neglected poverty.
Photographer Josephine Close explores the world of the psyche in the shadows, a journey into what lies within and beyond the visual field one sees through the camera’s eye, what evolves in the darkroom (or on the computer), and comes to life in the print. Close, in her own words, undertakes the pursuit in “… seeking to illuminate the magic in my life.”
On other fronts: A surreal love story from Stephen O’Connor/Fiction; Michael Parish’s Vignettes/Creative Nonfiction,, which CNF editor Leslie Heywood describes as a “series of vignettes on our strange contemporary relationship with the natural world. There’s the poetry of John F. Buckley, Anne Babson and John Richard Smith; Jeff Katz’s unusually broad Top Ten music picks of 2010; Mark Levy’s eye on life as theCasual Observer, and his pro bono legal advice column for creative types in Feeding the Starving Artist.
From deep in the heart of Mexico, San Miguel Allende to be exact, politics editor Jim Palombo and guest contributor Horace Whittlesey comment on the effects of modern day prohibition and the unfulfilled promise of California’s recently defeated Proposition 19.
There’s more, of course, including illustrations, book reviews, a couple of events that caught our eyes, and more. … Such As —
Water, from Cecelia Chapman’s Video series
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 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 email@example.com, as attachments, with a still from the video.
So, while we close out 2010 dancing with dragons, and let the genie out of the bottle with VOLUME 7 Number 1, we wish you a healthy and progressive new year.
As always, thanks for reading.
— Mike Foldes
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The Art of Being Modern
- Hello, again. Thanks for coming back. We know it’s not easy to take a few minutes out of a busy day for an “arts’ breather,’ but we’re glad you did.
- The beauty of the web is also the spider at its center, that being people’s ability to spin whatever yarn they like and put it out in cyberspace. Everybody gets a shot. It used to be there were so few people with sites that it was a small community, many of whom knew one another, often righteously so. That community has grown so that now we’re not just a city, not just a nation, and each site has become one in a million. Or more likely, one in a few hundred million. The web, like the universe, is expanding exponentially, and it’s our challenge to keep up.
- The New York Times newspaper is a great example of meeting that challenge. The gray lady may not be at her best these days, circulation and advertising revenue-wise, but she hasn’t lost her touch with news, features, reviews, opinion and leading edge journalism. Say what you want, but take a Sunday morning and afternoon off to read the Times cover to cover (if you can) and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t just take it for granted, because of the paper’s reputation, or because it’s been quoted from or talked about in news and movies since you were two. Read it once cover to cover and deny you’re less of a person than you were hours before when you picked it up — all two or three kilograms! (Sorry, tree people.)
- I used to work for a newspaper conglomerate that published News Lite. The managers of the empire knew that busy people didn’t have time, and many didn’t have the interest — to read anything “in depth”. And in order to deliver bite-sized morsels of information people could digest, they peeled the onion until there was little left to eat. Reading theTimes on Sunday is like going to a farmer’s market in September. Two-page spreads on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who too few Americans really know about, and fewer understand. Interviews with Centenarians who too often are passed over in favor of attention to youth culture. Articles on youth and growing up in America, the cost of education, and the more exorbitant costs of not having it. Political coverage by international correspondents who live and work close to the ground they cover. And, of course, so much more.
No paper, of course, is perfect, and I’m in no position to tear wings from the dragon. But so much of what we see and hear on the web these days is a mirror of what the least-common-denominator print publishing offerings give us, that it’s a blessing the Times is still with us — and a sad fact of life that so many other great papers have died, not all of them with their boots on.
- This issue of Ragazine has a lot to offer, too. We’re not just a Sunday read; we’re here two months at a time, and it’s OK to come back — again and again, we hope — until you’ve read us “cover to cover”. Poetry, art, interviews, photography, fiction, creative non-fiction, music, reviews, travel and more, from around the world.
November-December 2010 brings you the photographic series by Aline Smithson, taken of her mother in a variety of poses, including the one at the top of this page; poems by Hannah Greenberg; Farsi poetry by ex-pat Iranian poet Ali Abdolrezaei in the original and in translation by Abol Froushan; an interview with Belgian-American artist Amy Swartelé; fiction by Paul Lisicky and Sarah Sarai; music columns byJeff Katz; a take on illegal immigration by politics editor Jim Palombo and guest writer Robert Murray Davis; a story of reconciliation with the harsh reality of a child’s death in creative non-fiction by James Benton; the Casual Observer followed byScott Hardin’s pane; our legal advice column for creative types, Feeding the Starving Artist; and, from Colorado, Art & About, where Jonathan Evans explores a bit of the blues.
There’s more, of course, but you’ll have to find it. And again, thanks for reading!
Taking the best shot yet
Welcome to another killer issue of ragazine.cc.
Photographer Albert Watson, in an interview at his NYC studio, discusses aspects of his craft, the evolution of his career, the equipment he uses to produce his prints, and more. Referred to byPhoto District News as “one of the most influential photographers of all time,” Watson generously allowed ragazine.cc to reprint an extensive portfolio of images, many of which you’ll no doubt recognize from the covers and pages of Vogue, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Bazaar. Showing no sign of slowing down, Watson has two book collections coming out this fall from PQ Blackwell publishing company, a solo show in Chelsea opening in October, and more than one project in the works.
Sara Ellison Lewis tells what it’s like for her to be a photo stylist in New York. Brookly-based sculptor Miya Ando explains what it means to her “to do good” in the world, a task that merely begins with making art. The cast and crew at Spool MFG, a gallery-performance space in Johnson City, New York, share part of their group’s latest production,Ampersand, a collage-like assemblage of history, poetry and art.
In Music, Jeff Katz reviews the latest musical offering from Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and looks back on 30 years of Paul Simon’s “One Trick Pony“. Jonathan Evans remembers Bob Marley a full 19 years after the reggae legend’s death. And, in Politics, San Miguel Allende, Mexico-based writer Lou Christine recounts his impressions of a 2007 trip to Havana that ring true even today.
On the literary front, there’s the Poetry of Emily Vogel, Tony Gruenewald, J.P. Smelcer and Rob Mustard; the Creative Non Fiction (CNF) of Marissa Fielstein, Fiction from Mira Martin Parker and Jessie Carty; a book review of Ted Greenwald’s 2008 volume “3″ by Kayleigh Wanzer, and the wry commentary of our Casual Observer Mark Levy. Levy also weighs in this month withShaun Vavra, offering legal advice in “Feeding the Starving Artist” — “Wait, Wasn’t That My Substantially Similar Idea?”
Rounding things out is the new strip from editorial cartoonist Jeff Hardin, whose first appearance in ragazine.cc anchors the Casual Observer.
If all that’s not funky enough for you, we’ll just have to keep trying.
February 25, 2011 Comments Off on Covers: Sept ’10 thru Feb ’11
Ann L. Clark lives on the border between New York state and Canada. Her hobbies include hypothermia and making fun of Mounties. She has taught full-time in the SUNY community college system for over 20 years and is a non-matriculated graduate student at Binghamton University, where she has had the good fortune to study under Maria Gillan. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry, and has published in Adirondack Life, Chicago Magazine and elsewhere.
February 19, 2011 2 Comments
Phyxiated, acrylic on canvas : 12″ x 14″
Babies in Bottles
How an artist goes from painting babies in bottles to a phantasmagoric series based on characters and scenes from “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There” (phantasmagoric in itself), is just one of the questions that came to mind looking over Amy Kollar Anderson’s work. Anderson’s ‘bottle paintings’ expose a frightfully cold tableau of images recorded by a meandering, surrealistic mind. Alas, whereas babies in bottles (my manacle, not her moniker) once were the province of medical schools, where they were meant to teach, and carnival side shows, where they were meant to shock, Anderson’s paintings do both. While the “Alice” series keeps to the caverns of her imagination, they are more grounded in images that we, as impartial observers (as if there were such things), are not as afraid to imagine. We may have been there, may have done that, but never quite did it this way.
Five of the “Alice” works shown here will be on display at the Hive Gallery and Studios in Los Angeles beginning in March. See how it’s done in “Phyxiated”.
Phyxiated – Time Lapse Painting
by Amy Kollar Anderson
A time-lapse video of approximately 55 hours total, with 1 frame per minute of Amy painting Phyxiated. Acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 14″. Score: “The Butcher,” performed by Ape the Ghost. See them on Facebook.
Anderson on Anderson:
With my paintings, I create narratives about obsession and containment to explore the differences between being in-and-out of control. Containment is revealed through locations with physical barriers, but it can also be addressed through the emotional or psychological condition of the individuals. Obsession can be seen in the multitude of details, or in the characters that are fixated with an object or idea. I attempt to find a balance between contrasting concepts, such as control vs. chaos, attraction vs. repulsion, etc.
I find these worlds through an oblique path, beginning with an idea and then wandering my way into the finished piece through multiple layers of color and patterns. Each layer adds to the complexity of the puzzle, and in turn reveals another part of the puzzle differently, affecting the final piece. This kind of revelation and exploration takes time, often with changes in composition and color, but the process uncovers a more complex and satisfying narrative than first glimpsed in that original idea.
I enjoy the process of creating a completely new environment in each painting, complete with new rules about interactions and colors. The aesthetic involves a contrast of overlapping vintage and modern design elements and untraditional paint choices, such as metallic, fluorescent and interference colors. This subtle psychedelic presentation misdirects the viewer from immediately focusing on the issues presented, therefore adding to the harmony and tension in the narrative.
Amy Kollar Anderson / New Work
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Amy Kollar Anderson
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.
About the Artist:
Amy Kollar Anderson lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her husband and their cats. She received her B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her Master of Humanity with a focus in Fine Arts, from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. For more information about Anderson, visit her web site: http://www.kollaranderson.com.
February 19, 2011 1 Comment
The Sounds of the Sun Pavilion, Concept by Michael Jantzen
Building Art into Architecture
The products of architecture often are limited by what materials are available to the architect. Pushing those limits is what makes architecture art, and the architect an artist. For centuries, man has combined mind and materials to achieve artistry of the highest kind in seeking to arrive at various ends: tombs, as in the Great Pyramids of Giza; palaces, as in the Taj Mahal; places of worship, as in the temples of Angkor Wat and the Vatican. But those things have all been done. We are at a stage now where the evolution and development of materials and methods allow contemporary architects the freedom and flexibility to meet today’s social, environmental, geological and geographical challenges in ways never seen before. Michael Jantzen is one of those people whose imagination seeks not only to meet the architectural challenges of today, but also the human needs of tomorrow.
Michael Jantzen/The Sounds of the Sun Pavilion
Michael Jantzen/The Sounds of the Sun Pavilion
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The Sounds of the Sun Pavilion is a conceptual proposal for a large structure made of many small, pre-fabricated, square, curved, steel tube components. These components are joined together to form thirteen large interwoven curved elements. One side of each of the large curved square elements is covered with flexible solar cells. The ends of each of the curved elements are formed into large funnel shapes. The solar cells generate electrical power and monitor the random distribution of light as it strikes different surfaces of the pavilion. The excess electricity generated by the solar cells is used to help power the community in which the pavilion is placed.
Some of the electrical energy produced by the solar cells is used to generate electronic sounds based on the random movement of light over the surface of the structure. These random electronic sounds are heard by visitors through speakers, which are mounted inside of the funnel shaped ends of the large interwoven curved elements. These funnel shaped sections are also fitted with electric lights that are illuminated at night, and are also powerd by the solar cells. At night or when the light levels are too low or unvaried, the sounds emitted from the structure are low and constant. When the light levels increase and begin to be monitored by the solar cells, the sounds vary widely in their pattern and volume and are never exactly the same from day to day.
The design of the shape of the pavilion comes from a desire to create a structure with a great deal of complex surface area, relative to the ever changing position of the sun, as it’s light moves over the pavilion through the dayu The curved elements refer to exaggerated versions of the arcs of the sun, as it moves across the sky.
Michael Jantzen/Super Symmetry
Michael Jantzen/Super Symmetry
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More of his work can be seen on his web site: http://www.michaeljantzen.com
February 19, 2011 1 Comment
On another swollen summer night,
stricken by the shadows of agents
strumming sullen adagio banjos
on the street outside our avocado
split-level ranch, she sets traps
for the maturing apocalypse. I must
study Mandarin and speed chess
down at the local community center,
tonal syllables and ivory gambits.
His job is to roll out a nylon mat
five times per day and comb the dog
for bugs and fingerprints. Our sister
learns to dazzle with sinuous displays
of flaming nunchaku and cymbals.
All of us have to hunt for and gather
nutritious wild plants from vacant
residential lots in the neighborhood.
We ask her why again, leery of specters.
She opens the back of the record player,
spinning the turntable at 78 rpm
with a bloody-cuticled index finger.
Out pops four dull sapphire capsules,
one for each secret molar compartment.
About the Poet:
Born in Flint, MI, raised in the Detroit area, and ripening in California since the fall of 1992, John F. Buckley lives and works in Orange County with his wife, teaching at local colleges and chasing the poetic dragon. His work has been published in a few places, one of which nominated him for a Pushcart Prize.
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.
IDA MUSEMIC, Photographer
Ida Musemic’s eye sees what’s common, while her mind and emotions realize what makes the common special. Her photographic gift is in capturing sequences of events that echo the staccato of time passing: a clip here, an instant there, the space between a blank the viewer fills in as ‘obvious’. Musemic’s work is on display at the 12×12 International Art Show through January 9, 2011, Jeanne D’Arc Studio · 253 West 24th Street · New York. For gallery hours, schedule a viewing with the curator, Stella Lilling · 212.924.3605.
More of Musemic’s work appears on her website: http://www.idamusemic.com.
For thePHOTOGRAPHYspot submissions, please see guidelines at ragazine.cc/submissions/
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on John F. Buckley: Poetry
Micah Tower has his MFA from Hunter College. He teaches at Trinity Western University, has written film and music reviews for Slant and Patrol, and his poetry has appeared in publications such as Paterson Literary Review, Gulf Stream and, previously, in Ragazine. He enjoys making his own yogurt and blogging on http://www.thethepoetry.com.
Chuck Haupt is photo editor of Ragazine. You can visit his blog at www.chuckhaupt.com/blog.
For thePHOTOGRAPHYspot submissions, please see guidelines at ragazine.cc/submissions/
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Micah Towery/Poetry
Untitled #17, 2010. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 4″ x 5 3/4″
In December, I went to the New York City Small Presses Night. I didn’t know about ACA Art Galleries, where it was being held, or about the gallery’s storied history as a bohemian bastion for artists, writers and poets from its founding in 1932, right up to this day. Of course, the literati and art crowd aren’t bohemian, anymore. And the fight against artistic expression today isn’t nearly as apocryphal as it appeared to be in the early ‘50s when many ACA affiliates were under Hoover’s gun for their left-leaning swagger. Sufficient to say, and thanks to Dorian Bergen, I learned more about the gallery that night than about any of the alternative presses and publishing houses I’d set out to discover.
What got the conversation started was a question about the work of Deloss McGraw, one of the many artists in ACA’s stable. (Is that unkind, comparing an artist to a horse? After all, who pulls the cart?) I’d met McGraw at W. D. Snodgrass’ poetry reading at the Downtown Writer’s Center, a program of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse, shortly before Snodgrass passed away in January 2009. McGraw has illustrated hundreds of Snodgrass’ poems, and there were dozens on the walls at the Y to commemorate their longstanding creative relationship. There were dozens more — and larger — at ACA.
The conversation with Bergen progressed (as it should have, this being a progressive affair, and all), to the work of John Barnes Dobbs, whose exhibit, “Equilibrium/Disequilibrium”, dominated more than half the gallery’s exhibit space. Dobbs (b. 1931), a long-time associate of the gallery, had requested the gallery hold a retrospective of his work, and they kindly obliged, offering up one room, which soon expanded well beyond. In the end, that wasn’t a bad thing. At first look, the drawings and paintings seemed unfinished, almost like studies for works to come. But in moving from one image to another evolved a humorous fascination with the human condition in form and function. Reason enough to side with history and bring his work to Ragazine readers.
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.
From the catalog:
John Dobbs is an accomplished draftsmen and painter who has exhibited widely for over fifty years since his first show in New York in 1959. His work depicts a wide range of subjects from contemporary politics, urban landscape and portraits to interior scenes. Inspired by observations and experiences from his own life, he draws on his memories and impressions as a source for his work.
Dobbs on Dobbs:
I spent my first seven years in a small house built for Erie Lackawana Railroad workers, the same company that had hired my grandfather as a railway express clerk many years before. The house was right across the street from the railroad embankment; a fascinating, forbidden playground, impossible to resist. The shining rails gave me my first example of one-point perspective as they raced toward the next town down the line. My father was a leftist, a skeptic, and a closet poet. My mother was a pianist. Art, music, and literature were as integral to my boyhood as baseball and running wild. Politics was mother’s milk.
I’ve always been, in part, a painter of protest. I was in the army during the Korean War, in Algeria during their War of Independence, in Paris when terrorist bombs were a nightly soundtrack, and I was back in the states during the passions of Vietnam. In short, war has been one of my themes. Anger has always been a dependable fuel for my work. I was disappointed in humanity, which, I suppose, is a grand way of saying I was disappointed in myself. I expect a lot from both.
Some years ago a Mexican priest and a rabbi approached me independently of each other at one of my openings and said, “Your work is beautiful, and disturbing.” To me, that’s the ultimate compliment. When I hear that I feel I’ve hit the mark. I’ve never made a painting with the sole idea of selling it. And I’m not afraid to say that I’ve made paintings that could be hard to live with. I’ve strived to give representations and metaphors of social life which is, inevitably, an aspect of political life as well.
Art to me has always been a way to make sense of violence, war, and the overwhelming dynamics of human life; street life, metaphorical life, a soldier’s life, the closing skyline and the open road. I’ve loved working with themes: highways, motel rooms, automobiles, or people in windows who always seem to me like a secret being half-revealed. This is probably my last show, and the theme is balance and imbalance, equilibrium and disequilibrium; moving between the one and the other, trying not to fall.
For information, and to see more of Dobbs’ work, visit:
ACA Galleries, 529 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-2800
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Art: John Dobbs
Leaf of a Cannabis plant
This edition is a follow-up to the last one which pertained to the illicit drug trade. What is presented is an article done by Professor Randall Shelden, “After all, it is a war.” As with his writing in general, I am confident that you’ll find his presentation informational and thought provoking. I say this in part because it’s a true statement, particularly in relationship to the volume of work he has produced over the years on a variety of criminal justice related concerns. I also say this because Randy is an old friend and colleague, as well as someone who, over the course of his long teaching career, has maintained a particular integrity with his classroom efforts — something not so easily found in academia, especially given the continuing corporatizing of our post-secondary processes. (This is another issue that may well be addressed in future articles.)
I would like to also mention a few other points concerning Professor Shelden. It was with his help some thirty five years ago that I was able to pull together an education program, while incarcerated in the Nevada State Prison system, from which I could develop a legitimate and worthwhile career. Coincidentally, he also contributed to my last book, which basically tells the story of this journey. So in some ways, the presentation of his article allows me to pay a small tribute to a great guy, someone who truly extended a hand when a hand was needed. At the same time of course, the article allows our readers the chance to consider significant pieces that relate to our American puzzle. So thanks on both counts, Randy.
Again, I trust you will enjoy the read. And, as always, please feel free to offer your own comments and thoughts accordingly. (By the way, you can read more of Randall Shelden at www.sheldensays.com).
— Jim Palombo, Politics Editor
After All, it is a War, isn’t it?
By Randall Shelden
In 2006, a report was published by the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that has been unrelenting in its criticism of the drug war, largely because it represents one of the ultimate examples of the overreach of the government into the lives of citizens. The report is called Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America by policy analyst Radley Balko.
I came across this study as I was reading yet another exposè of the racist nature of the criminal justice system in general and the drug war in particular. This one is called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. In a chapter called “The Lockdown,” Alexander, citing Balko’s study among others, discusses the militarization of the police, a term that criminologist Peter Kraska has frequently used. In many ways crime control has taken on many of the characteristics of the military, or what Kraska has called the “militarization of criminal justice.” Writing in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Kraska makes the point that there is an underlying ideology of militarism that clearly has been borrowed in the “war on drugs”, which he defines as “a set of beliefs and values that stress the use of force and domination as appropriate means to solve problems and gain political power, while glorifying the means to accomplish this – military power, hardware, and technology.”
This also involves a “blurring of external and internal security functions leading to a more subtle targeting of civilian populations,” plus an ideology that places emphasis on the efficient solving of problems that require the use of state force, the latest and most sophisticated technology, various forms of intelligence gathering, the use of “special operations” (e.g., SWAT) in both the police and within the prison system, the use of military discourse and metaphors (e.g., “collateral damage,” “under siege”) and last, but not least, collaboration with “ the highest level of the governmental and corporate worlds, between the defense industry and the crime control industry.”
This process can be traced to the early years of the Reagan administration when they were trying to get the law enforcement establishment to go along with their desire to crack down on drug offenders. Law enforcement was at first reluctant, since it would take time and resources away from their pursuit of more serious violent and property offenses.
What the Reagan administration did was to, in effect, bribe law enforcement with money via large grants. In 1981, Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which began to funnel military equipment to police departments. Congress passed a series of laws that provided exceptions to the famous “Posse Comitatus Act,” passed in 1879, that prohibited using the military for civilian policing. Balko writes that these “exceptions allowed nearly unlimited sharing of drug interdiction intelligence, training, tactics, technology, and weaponry between the Pentagon and federal, state, and local police departments.”
As a result between 1995 and 1997 alone, the Pentagon gave to law enforcement agencies all over the country the following: 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers, and 112 armored personnel carriers! If that was not enough, Balko reports that “between January 1997 and October 1999, the agency handled 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment from over 11,000 domestic police agencies in all 50 states. By December 2005, the number was up to 17,000. The purchase value of the equipment comes to more than $727 million.” Among the items included were “253 aircraft (including six- and seven passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles.” After all, a “war” had been declared.
The rest is, as they say, history, and that history included the arrests of millions on drug charges, plus the deaths and injuries of hundreds of innocent civilians. Not surprisingly the bulk of this “war” has been waged on poor communities of color.
Balko testified before a House Subcommittee on Crime in July 2007, and during that testimony he related several instance of police drug raids that resulted in the death of innocent people. Most such raids are based upon tips from informants and quite often the information provided turned out to be false. On many occasions the police went to the wrong house. One example, among many provided by Balko, was a drug raid in Atlanta “that killed 92-year old Kathryn Johnston. Ms. Johnston mistook the raiding police officers for criminal intruders. When she met them with a gun, they opened fire and killed her. The police were acting on an uncorroborated tip from a convicted felon.” He also cited a case in Durango, Colorado, where the police “raided the home of 77-year-old Virginia Herrick. Ms. Herrick, who takes oxygen, was forced to the ground and handcuffed at gunpoint while officers ravaged through her home.” It was the wrong address. He cited similar raids in cities and towns all over the country. He testified that “800 times per week in this country, a SWAT team breaks open an American’s door, and invades his home. Few turn up any weapons at all, much less high-power weapons. Less than half end with felony charges for the suspects. And only a small percentage end up doing significant time in prison.”
Quoting Kraska, Balko notes that “the total number of SWAT deployments across the country increased from a few hundred per year in the 1970s to a few thousand per year by the early 1980s to around 50,000 per year by the mid-2000s.” Today, virtually every city has a SWAT team, and most have more than one. Many small towns have SWAT teams, such as Eufaula, Alabama (population 13,463). SWAT teams were set up primarily to defuse an already violent situation, such as hostage taking. Today they are mostly used to “break into homes to look for illicit drugs, creating violence and confrontation where there was none before.”
As already noted, among other issues include the fact that literally hundreds of innocent people have been killed during SWAT drug raids. One case, reported by Balko on Reason.com concerns the death of a 7-year-old black girl named Aiyana Stanley-Jones this past May in Detroit. The police were looking for a murder suspect who was in the apartment above where the little girl lived. He surrendered without a fight. The police had an opportunity to arrest the suspect earlier in the day but instead waited until the middle of the night. Despite the existence of various children’s toys around the outside of the house and being told by a neighbor that there were children living there, they raided the downstairs apartment first in order to secure it. Apparently the girl’s grandmother, when confronted by the police, tried to defend herself and the little girl. One police officer accidentally fired his weapon (whether this is true is subject to debate) and a bullet struck the little girl, killing her instantly.
In Overkill Balko goes into great detail about the abuse of citizens with this military-style repression. He mentions the city of Fresno, California, where for many years the SWAT team was used for routine, full-time patrolling in high crime areas. The Violent Crime Suppression Unit, as it was called, was given carte blanche to enter residences and apprehend and search occupants in high-crime, mostly minority neighborhoods. The unit routinely stopped pedestrians without probable cause, searched them, interrogated them, and entered their personal information into a computer. “It’s a war,” one SWAT officer told a reporter from the Nation. Said another, “If you’re 21, male, living in one of these neighborhoods, and you’re not in our computer, then there’s something definitely wrong.” The VCSU was disbanded in 2001 after a series of lawsuits alleging police brutality and wrongful shootings, though officials claim the unit was dissolved because it had “fulfilled its goals” (p. 11).
The Fresno SWAT officer quoted here could have easily added that he was talking about a black male over 21 and that “these neighborhoods” were mostly segregated black communities. After all, the statistics about race and drug arrests make clear that the rate for black males has consistently been far greater than for white males, as documented by Human Rights Watch, among so many other studies. Balko quotes a judge in Boston who stated that the drug war in his city was “a proclamation of martial law . . . for a narrow class of people — young blacks” (p. 17). Peter Kraska was told by a SWAT commander “When the soldiers ride in, you should see those blacks scatter” (Balko, p. 18).
One of the most recent stories of botched drug raids (one of the latest among thousands over the years) is described by WSB News in Atlanta as follows: An elderly Polk County woman is hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a heart attack when drug agents swarm the wrong house. Machelle Holl tells WSB her 76-year-old mother, Helen Pruett, who lives alone, was at home when nearly a dozen local and federal agents swarmed her house, thinking they were about to arrest suspected drug dealers.
Another story in Atlanta involves the killing of a 92-year-old black woman who was the victim of a police raid at the wrong address. “When it was clear that the officers had the wrong house because no drugs were found, though, police still decided to plant marijuana on the 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who was shot to death in the raid.” A wrongful death suit resulted in a settlement for $4.9 million to her family.
The web site stopthedrugwar.org has a long list of similar botched SWAT raids around the country in recent years. One case is typical: In Buffalo, New York, September 2008, “Terrell Pennyamon, who suffers from epilepsy, was struck in the head by the end of a shotgun when police broke down the door to his family’s residence. Looking for heroin, the cops raided the Pennyamon’s apartment by mistake, terrifying their six young children and his wife. When police later raided the ‘correct’ house, no drugs were found.”
And so it goes in our unrelenting “war” on drugs. When there is a war, there is “collateral damage.” Meanwhile, millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs continue to be smuggled into the country every year and millions of citizens continue to use these drugs, while hundreds die needlessly and thousands are sentenced to prison every year. Since blacks are arrested in numbers far greater than their percentage in the general population (despite the fact that they are about as likely to use drugs as whites) and since a person’s civil rights are taken away from them after an arrest for drugs and they cannot live in public housing, nor vote, among other things, is it any wonder that Michelle Alexander calls her book “The New Jim Crow”?
All photos in the public domain from Wikimedia Commons
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Politics/The Drug War: Worth the price?
Credulity, from the series, “Losing Reality; Reality of Loss”
The web is filled with a wealth of photographic material, some charming, some ‘anyone could do’, some that takes you by the shoulders and shakes you awake, some that puts you to sleep. Ellen Jantzen’s photographs call you back, like the memory of an event you can’t shake — images that cling, bringing to mind past events, and casting light on an unknown and mysterious future. Some reviewers speak of her work as an artistic exploration of quantum mechanics; one-hundred years ago her work would have been proof enough that spirits exist. Whatever your experience of Jantzen’s parallel universe, we trust you’ll take it with you.
Jantzen on Jantzen:
“Losing Reality; Reality of Loss – 2011”
I have always been interested in alternate states of reality, but looking over my last few series, those initiated and completed since moving to the Midwest from California, I see that I am also dealing with “loss” in some form; loss of friends, home, youth, and the ultimate loss, loss of life. Death transforms us; reality shifts, but to what?
I am intrigued with how a person adapts to losses in their lives — how they are absorbed by events and changed. How does one experience loss? Catastrophic losses usually have a face; think war photos, photos from the World Trade Center, crashes of various sorts; but I am interested in personal loss. What does loss look like?
I set about to address these issues through a photographic photosynthesis in this body of work — choosing photography as the medium to help me reveal, and at the same time enshroud, truths.
In this work, I have placed my husband (Michael) in various environments where a loss of some sort has recently occurred. One of these locations is the interior of a house designed by Michael and built by both of us for his mother about 30 years ago. The structure has gone through a radical evolution from its contemporary inception to being filled with antiques. Recently this home was sold, as mother was moved to an assisted living home. Clearing 30 years of accumulation to reveal the naked interior was transformative. To ultimately see a new family inhabiting the space has left Michael with contradictory feelings of loss and resurrection.
Ellen Jantzen/Losing Reality; Reality of Loss – 2011
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.
Back to Nature, Missouri-1
Back to Nature – 2010/2011
At first, I began this series by placing my husband (Michael) in various landscapes and in various poses to both highlight and obscure his presence. More recently I have been photographing headstones in cemeteries and using these as stand ins for the human form. Since headstones represent a person who has passed, my obscuring and blending with the natural environment supports my intrigue with the vagaries of reality.
Reality of Place – 2010
Having recently moved to the Midwest after living in Southern California for 20 years, I was, at first, unimpressed with my new surroundings. But this move has changed me and impacted my work by forcing me to deal with the reality of a given place. It has helped me pay attention to and appreciate the details of diverse environments.
I have always been intrigued with various aspects of reality, and chose photography as the medium to help me reveal/obscure truths. Traditionally, photography was viewed as an honest replication of the real world. But, as we all know, even from its inception, photographers used their medium to alter, accentuate and eliminate aspects of the “authentic”. As I deal with these issues, I’ve come to realize it is all about the landscape, the environment…. fitting-in, disappearing, blending-in, and perhaps, ultimately embracing.
In this work, I have placed my husband (Michael) in various landscapes and in various poses to both highlight and obscure his presence while celebrating the reality of place.
Ellen Jantzen/Reality of Place – 2010
View larger photos from the gallery please enter the FS button.
About the photographer:
Ellen Jantzen was born in St. Louis, Missouri. She has degrees in graphic arts and fashion design from The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, has worked in the corporate world as a designer, and taught product design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She and her husband Michael recently moved back to the Midwest from the Los Angeles area. For the past three years she has concentrated on the craft of digital photography, the results of which are represented here.
See more of Jantzen’s work: http://www.ellenjantzen.com
Jantzen is now represented by the Susan Spiritus Gallery and has added to the “Loosing Reality; Reality of Loss” series.
February 19, 2011 3 Comments
I’m doing my best to be nice this evening because I forgot that Tuesday I was supposed to watch Becky so my wife could go shopping for a dress for her second sister’s wedding, so I worked late, as the official story goes (unofficial story: I was online for an hour and fifteen minutes looking at GPS systems), which meant my wife either had to take Becky with her, into dressing rooms and all that, or cancel her plans, which is what she ended up doing, and man, she spat some serious fire when I came in sighing from my rough 9 to 5, now 7:30, until I promised I’d make it up to her by finding a sitter for Becky (not good enough) and taking part of Thursday off so we could go dress shopping for beluga’s wedding.
Sorry. I’m trying. I’m trying. But Lana’s trying to make me suffer. And, at this point, I’m bent on making her suffer by not suffering. This is mall number three, store someone help me. She steps out of the dressing room in a — how to put it nicely— in a dress that —
You look like a freaking cactus, I say.
Yeah, and what do you want me to wear? A quilt? You haven’t done one thing to support me all day.
I took half a day off.
But it’s like you’re not even here.
I gave you my opinion on the dress. What do you want?
Saying your wife, your wife, looks like a cactus is not an opinion, Randall.
The dress looks like a cactus, I say. You expect me to dance with you in that? Bad enough I have to dance with your whale sister.
The dress is strapless, floor length, with vertical ridges down the front from which pieces of plastic jut out like spikes. And it’s cinched tight in the middle so the top part of the dress looks puffy and the bottom part, well, poofy.
You said I look like a cactus.
The dress. You look like —
Lana rustles forward, picking up the skirt and wagging her shoulders. I look like what?
Like a fool. Then I add, In that dress. Then I add, Friggin’ cactus dress.
As Lana’s advancing to puncture me, the door of the adjacent booth opens and out spins a woman wearing a— wearing a dress that’s too small for her, that stretches uncomfortably over post pregnancy belly fat and that remains open at the back, showing the line of her bra strap, although she is trying to hold the dress closed.
When Lana sees my eyes focus behind her, she whooshes around, expecting perhaps a leggy Scandinavian type, and not this chunky, lonely thing. The woman has no one to help her with the zipper. How does she look? No one to tell her.
About the author:
Ian Williams is the author of Not Anyone’s Anything (stories, Freehand, 2011) and You Know Who You Are (poems, Wolsak and Wynn, 2010). He completed his Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto and is currently an English professor at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. He divides his time between Ontario and Massachusetts.
February 19, 2011 1 Comment
The Songs of Maldoror translated by R J Dent
An extract from The Songs of Maldoror
by Le Comte de Lautréamont
Translated by R J Dent and illustrated by Salvador Dalí
The corsair with the golden hair has received Mervyn’s reply. Across that
singular page he follows the trace of the intellectual unease of its writer
abandoned to the weak powers of his own suggestion. He would have done
better to consult his parents, before responding to the offer of an unknown
friendship. No benefit will result from his being involved as the main actor in
this equivocal intrigue. But after all, that’s how he wanted it. At the specified
hour, Mervyn, from the door of his house, goes straight ahead, following the
Boulevard Sebastopol to the Saint-Michel fountain. He takes the Quai des
Grands-Augustins and crosses the Quai Conti; as he walks along the Quai
Malaquais, he sees, walking parallel to him and moving in the same direction
along the Quai du Louvre, an individual carrying a sack under his arm who
appears to be scrutinising him closely. The morning mists have lifted. The two
passers-by simultaneously arrive on the Pont du Carrousel from opposite
sides. Although they have never seen each other, they recognise each other!
Truly it was touching to see these two beings, separated by age, bring their
souls close through an immensity of feelings. At least that would have been
the view of those who paused in front of the spectacle, which many – even
the mathematically-minded – would have found moving. Mervyn, his face
covered in tears, was thinking to meet, at the entrance of a life, so to speak,
a precious support in future adversities. Be assured that Maldoror said
nothing. This is what he did: he unfolded the sack he was carrying, opened
its mouth wide, and seizing the youth by his head, pushed his whole body in
the rough sacking envelope. With his handkerchief, he tied up the end that
had served as way of introduction. As Mervyn was uttering loud and piercing
cries, he picked up the sack like a bag of linen and smashed it repeatedly
against the parapet of the bridge. Then the victim, aware that his bones were
breaking, became silent. A unique scene no novelist will ever find again! A
butcher was passing, sitting on the meat in his cart. An individual runs up to
him, urging him to stop, and says: “There’s a dog in this sack; it has rabies:
Put it down as quickly as you can.” The butcher is happy to oblige. As the
individual walks away, he sees a young girl in rags holding out her hand.
What heights of audacity and impiety can he reach? He gives her alms! Tell
me if you want me to escort you through the door of a distant
slaughterhouse, a few hours later. The butcher has returned and as he
throws his burden onto the ground, he has said to his friends: “Let’s hurry up
and kill this rabid dog.” There are four of them, and each picks up the
hammer he normally uses. And yet they are hesitant because the sack is
moving violently. “What’s this emotion that grips me?” one of them shouted,
slowly lowering his arm. “This dog is whimpering with pain like a child,” said
another, “you’d think it knows the fate that awaits it.” “They usually do,” said
the third, “even when they are not sick, as in this case; their master only has
to stay away from home for a few days and they start howling in a way that’s
horrible to hear.” “Stop!… stop!…” the fourth shouted, before all their arms
were raised in unison to resolutely strike the sack. “Stop, I tell you, there’s a
fact here that has escaped us. Who told you that this cloth sack contains a
dog? I want to make sure.” Then, despite the taunts of his companions, he
untied the bundle, and pulled out one after the other the limbs of Mervyn! He
was almost suffocated by the discomfort of this position. He fainted when he
saw the light again. After a few moments he gave undoubted signs of life. His
rescuer said: “In future, learn to use caution in all of your dealings. You
almost found out for yourself that it is pointless practising non-observance of
this law.” The butchers fled. Mervyn, heavy-hearted and full of grim
forebodings, returns home and locks himself in his room. Do I need to dwell
on this stanza? Ah, who would not deplore the events consummated above!
Let us wait until the end for an even harsher judgement. The dénouement is
going to be precipitated, and in these kinds of stories, where a passion of
whatever kind is given, and fears no obstacle as it makes its way, there is no
reason for diluting in a godet the shellac of four hundred banal pages. What
can be said in half a dozen stanzas must be said, and then, silence.
To construct mechanically the brain of a somniferous tale, it is not enough to
dissect nonsense and powerfully brutalize the reader’s intelligence with
renewed doses, so as to paralyse his faculties for the rest of his life, by the
infallible law of fatigue; one must, besides, with the use of a good
mesmerizing fluid, ingeniously make him somnambulistically unable to move,
forcing him to close his eyes against his nature by the fixity of your own
stare. I mean – and I to say this not to make myself better understand, but
only to develop my thoughts that simultaneously interest and irritate you by
their most penetrating harmony – that I do not think it is necessary, to
achieve the proposed goal, to invent a poetry entirely outside the usual laws
of nature, the pernicious breath of which seems to unsettle even absolute
truths, but to bring about a similar result (consistent, moreover, with the rules
of aesthetics, if one thinks about it) is not as easy as one imagines: that is
what I wanted to say. That is why I will make every effort to do so! If death
arrests the fantastic thinness of my two long arms on my shoulders, used in
the lugubrious crushing of my literary gypsum, I at least want the reader, in
mourning, to be able to say: “One must give him his due. He has cretinised
me considerably. What would he not have done if he’d lived longer? He was
the best professor of hypnotism that I ever knew!” These few touching words
will be carved on the marble of my tombstone, and my ancestors’ spirits will
be content! – I continue! Once there was a fish’s tail which moved about at
the bottom of a hole, next to a down-at-heel boot. It would not be natural to
wonder: “Where is the fish? I only see the tail moving.” Precisely – for one
would implicitly acknowledge not having seen the fish, because in truth it was
not really there. The rain had left a few drops of water in the bottom of this
funnel dug in the sand. As for the down-at-heel boot, some have since
thought it was left there after being voluntary abandoned. The great crab, by
divine power, was reborn from its resolved atoms. He pulled the fish’s tail
from the well and he promised to re-unite it with its lost body, if it announced
to the Creator his representative’s powerlessness to dominate the raging
waves of the Maldororean Sea. He lent it two albatross wings, and the fish’s
tail took off. But it flew up to the renegade’s residence, to tell him what was
happening and to betray the great crab. But the latter guessed the spy’s plan,
and before the third day had reached its end, it pierced the fish’s tail with a
poisoned arrow. The spy’s gullet uttered a feeble sigh and gave up its last
breath before hitting the ground. Then an ancient beam, on the highest point
of a castle, drew itself to its full height, then sprang back on itself and cried
loudly for vengeance. But the Almighty, changed into a rhinoceros, told him
that this death was deserved. The beam calmed down and went back to its
place at the heart of the manor and resumed its horizontal position, and
recalled the startled spiders so that they could continue, as in the past, to
spin their webs in its corners. The man with lips of sulphur learned of his
ally’s weakness, which is why he commanded the crowned madman to burn
the beam and reduce it to ashes. Aghone executed this harsh order. “Since,
according to you, the time is ripe,” he exclaimed, “I have gone and recovered
the ring that I had buried under the stone, and I’ve attached it to the end of
the rope. Here is the bundle.” And he presented a thick coiled rope, sixty
metres long. His master asked him what the fourteen daggers were doing. He
said they remained faithful and stood ready for any event, if necessary. The
criminal nodded his head in satisfaction. He showed surprise, and even
concern when Aghone said that he had seen a cock split a candelabra in two
with its beak, look closely at each part in turn, and exclaim as it frantically
beat its wings: “It is not as far as one thinks from the Rue de la Paix to the
Place de Panthéon. Soon you will see lamentable proof of this!” The great
crab, mounted on a fiery horse, rode at full speed towards the reef – witness
of the flinging of the stick by a tattooed arm; the reef which had provided
sanctuary on the first day of his descent to earth. A caravan of pilgrims was
on its way to visit this place, thenceforth consecrated by an august death. He
hoped to reach it, to urgently ask for help against the plot that was being
prepared, of which he had knowledge. You will see a few lines further on with
the help of my icy silence that he did not arrive in time to tell them what a
ragman, hidden behind the scaffolding adjoining a house under construction
had recounted to them: namely, on the day the Carrousel bridge was still
covered with the wet dew of the night, he saw with horror the horizon of his
thought confusedly expand in concentric circles at the morning spectacle of
an icosahedric sack rhythmically pounded against the limestone parapet!
Before he elicits their compassion with the memory of this episode, they will
do well to destroy the seed of hope within themselves... To shake yourself
free of your laziness, put the resources of good will to use, walk beside me
and do not lose sight of that madman, his head crowned with a chamber-pot,
and with a stick in his hand which he uses to drive along in front of him one
that you would have difficulty recognizing, unless I took care to warn you and
recall to your ear that the word is pronounced Mervyn. How he has changed!
With his hands tied behind his back he walks straight ahead as if he were
going to the scaffold, and yet he is guilty of no crime. They have arrived at
the circular enclosure of the Place Vendôme. On the entablature of the
massive column leaning against the square balustrade more than fifty meters
above the ground, a man has uncoiled and thrown a rope which falls to the
ground a few paces from Aghone. With practice, one can do a thing quickly,
but I can say that the latter did not take very long to tie Mervyn’s feet to the |
end of the rope. The rhinoceros had learned of what was going to happen.
Covered with sweat, it appeared breathing heavily at the corner of the Rue
Castiglione. It did not even have the satisfaction of joining the fight. The
individual, who was examining the area from the top of the column, loaded
his revolver, took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. The commodore, who
had been begging in the streets since the day when what he believed to be
his son’s madness had begun, and his mother, who was known as the
daughter of snow because of her extreme pallor, pushed forward and used
their chests to protect the rhinoceros. Useless care. The bullet punched
through its hide like a drill; one would have thought, with all the appearance
of logic, that death would inevitably occur. But we knew that this pachyderm
had been imbued with the substance of the Lord. He withdrew, grieving. If it
were not fully proven that he was often too good to one of his creatures, I
would pity the man on the column! The latter, with a flick of the wrist, pulled
back towards him the rope, which was now weighted as described. Put out of
the perpendicular, its oscillations swing Mervyn, head down. His hands
suddenly snatch up a long garland of immortelles that join the two
consecutive corners of the base, against which he beats his forehead. He
carries into the air with him that which was not a fixed point. After piling at
his feet a large part of the rope in the shape of superposed ellipses, so that
Mervyn remains suspended halfway up the bronze obelisk, the escaped
convict with his right hand moves the youth into an accelerated movement of
uniform rotation, in a plane parallel to the column’s axis, and with his left
hand gathers up the winding coils of rope which lie at his feet. The sling
whistles through space, the body of Mervyn follows it everywhere, always
kept away from the centre by centrifugal force, always keeping a mobile and
equidistant position in an aerial circumference independent of matter. The
civilized savage gradually lets out the rope to the far end, which he holds with
a firm metacarpal bone, which has a strong but inaccurate resemblance to a
steel bar. He starts to run around the balustrade, holding on to the rail with
one hand. This manoeuvre has the effect of changing the original plane of the
rope’s revolution, and increases its already considerable tensile force.
Thereafter it turns majestically on a horizontal plane, after having passed
successively and imperceptibly through several oblique planes. The right
angle formed by the column and the vegetal string has equal sides! The
renegade’s arm and the murderous instrument merge in linear unity, like the
atomistic elements of a ray of light penetrating a dark room. The theorems of
mechanics allow me to speak thus; alas! we know that one force added to
another force generates a resultant consisting of the sum of the two original
forces! Who is to say that the linear rope would not already have broken but
for the strength of the athlete, but for good quality of the hemp? The corsair
with the golden hair at the same time suddenly arrests his own momentum by
opening his hand and letting go of the rope. The recoil of this operation,
totally opposite to the previous ones, causes the balustrade’s joints to creak.
Mervyn, followed by the rope, is like a comet trailing behind it its blazing tail.
The iron ring of the running knot, gleaming in the sunlight, itself helps to
complete the illusion. In the course of his parabola, the condemned youth
cleaves the atmosphere right to the left bank, passes it by virtue of the
driving force which I suppose to be infinite, and his body hits the dome of the
Pantheon, while the rope partly coils around the upper wall of the immense
cupola. On its spherical and convex surface, which resembles an orange only
in shape, one can at any hour of the day see a dried skeleton hanging there.
When the wind moves it, they say that the students of the Latin Quarter,
fearing a similar fate, say a short prayer: these are insignificant rumours
which one is not obliged to believe, and are only fit for frightening little
children. It holds in its clenched hands a sort of large ribbon of old yellow
flowers. The distance must be taken into account, and nobody, despite the
evidence of good eyesight, can categorically state that they really are those
immortelles I have spoken of, and which were snatched from a grandiose
pedestal during a one-sided struggle that took place near the Nouvel Opera.
It is nevertheless true that the hangings draped in the shape of a crescent
moon do not receive any further expression of their definitive symmetry from
a quaternary number: go and see for yourself if you do not believe me.
The French, which follows:
Le corsaire aux cheveux d’or, a recu la reponse de Mervyn. Il suit dans
cette page singuliere la trace des troubles intellectuels de celui qui
l’ecrivit, abandonne aux faibles forces de sa propres suggestion.
Celui-ci aurait beaucoup mieux fait de consulter ses parents, avant de
repondre a l’amitie de l’inconnu. Aucun benefice ne resultera pour lui
de se meler, comme principal acteur, a cette equivoque intrigue. Mais,
enfin, il l’a voulu. A l’heure indiquee, Mervyn, de la porte de sa
maison, est alle droit devant lui, en suivant le boulevard Sebastopol,
jusqu’a la fontaine Saint-Michel. Il prend le quai des Grands-Augustins
et traverse le quai Conti; au moment ou il passe sur le quai Malaquais,
il voit marcher sur le quai du Louvre, parallelement a sa propre
direction, un individu, porteur d’un sac sous le bras, et qui parait
l’examiner avec attention. Les vapeurs du matin se sont dissipees.
Les deux passants debouchent en meme temps de chaque cote du pont du
Carrousel. Quoiqu’ils ne se fussent jamais vus, ils se reconnurent!
Vrai, c’etait touchant de voir ces deux etres, separes par l’age,
rapprocher leurs ames par la grandeur des sentiments. Du moins, c’eut
ete l’opinion de ceux qui se seraient arretes devant ce spectacle, que
plus d’un, meme avec un esprit mathematique, aurait trouve emouvant.
Mervyn, le visage en pleurs, reflechissait qu’il rencontrait, pour ainsi
dire a l’entree de la vie, un soutien precieux dans les futures
adversites. Soyez persuade que l’autre ne disait rien. Voici ce qu’il
fit: il deplia le sac qu’il portait, degagea l’ouverture, et, saisissant
l’adolescent par la tete, il fit passer le corps entier dans l’enveloppe
de toile. Il noua, avec son mouchoir, l’extremite qui servait
d’introduction. Comme Mervyn poussait des cris aigus, il enleva le sac,
ainsi qu’un paquet de linges, et en frappa, a plusieurs reprises, le
parapet du pont. Alors, le patient, s’etant apercu du craquement de ses
os, se tut. Scene unique, qu’aucun romancier ne retrouvera! Un boucher
passait, assis sur la viande de sa charrette. Un individu court a lui,
l’engage a s’arreter, et lui dit: “Voici un chien, enferme dans ce sac;
il a la gale: abattez-le au plus vite.” L’interpelle se montre
complaisant. L’interrupteur, en s’eloignant, apercoit une jeune fille en
haillons qui lui tend la main. Jusqu’ou va donc le comble de l’audace et
de l’impiete? Il lui donne l’aumone! Dites-moi si vous voulez que je
vous introduise, quelques heures plus tard, a la porte d’un abattoir
recule. Le boucher est revenu, et a dit a ses camarades, en jetant a
terre un fardeau: “Depechons-nous de tuer ce chien galeux.” Ils sont
quatre, et chacun saisit le marteau accoutume. Et, cependant, ils
hesitaient, parce que le sac remuait avec force.” Quelle emotion
s’empare de moi?” cria l’un d’eux en abaissant lentement son bras.
“Ce chien pousse, comme un enfant, des gemissements de douleur, dit
un autre; on dirait qu’il comprend le sort qui l’attend.” “C’est leur
habitude, repondit un troisieme; meme quand il ne sont pas malades,
comme c’est le cas ici, il suffit que leur maitre reste quelques jours
absent du logis, pour qu’ils se mettent a faire entendre des hurlements
qui, veritablement, sont penibles a supporter.” “Arretez!… arretez!…
cria le quatrieme, avant que tous les bras se fussent leves en cadence
pour frapper resolument, cette fois, sur le sac. Arretez, vous dis-je;
il y a ici un fait qui nous echappe. Qui vous dit que cette toile
renferme un chien? Je veux m’en assurer.” Alors, malgre les railleries
de ses compagnons, il denoua le paquet et en retira l’un apres l’autre
les membres de Mervyn! Il etait presque etouffe par la gene de cette
position. Il s’evanouit en revoyant la lumiere. Quelques moments apres,
il donna des signes indubitables d’existence. Le sauveur dit: “Apprenez,
une autre fois, a mettre de la prudence jusque dans votre metier. Vous
avez failli remarquer, par vous-memes, qu’il ne sert de rien de
pratiquer l’inobservance de cette loi.” Les bouchers s’enfuirent.
Mervyn, le coeur serre et plein de pressentiments funestes, rentre chez
soi et s’enferme dans sa chambre. Ai-je besoin d’insister sur cette
strophe? Eh! qui n’en deplorera les evenements consommes! Attendons la
fin pour porter un jugement encore plus severe. Le denoument va se
precipiter; et, dans ces sortes de recits, ou une passion, de quelque
genre qu’elle soit, etant donnee, celle-ci ne craint aucun obstacle pour
se frayer un passage, il n’y a pas lieu de delayer dans un godet la
gomme laque de quatre cents pages banales. Ce qui peut etre dit dans une
demi-douzaine de strophes, il faut le dire, et puis se taire.
Pour construire mecaniquement la cervelle d’un conte somnifere, il ne
suffit pas de dissequer des betises et abrutir puissamment a doses
renouvelees l’intelligence du lecteur, de maniere a rendre ses facultes
paralytiques pour le reste de sa vie, par la loi infaillible de la
fatigue; il faut, en outre, avec du bon fluide magnetique, le mettre
ingenieusement dans l’impossibilite somnambulique de se mouvoir, en le
forcant a obscurcir ses yeux contre son naturel par la fixite des
votres. Je veux dire, afin de ne pas me faire mieux comprendre, mais
seulement pour developper ma pensee qui interesse et agace en meme temps
par une harmonie des plus penetrantes, que je ne crois pas qu’il soit
necessaire, pour arriver au but que l’on se propose, d’inventer une
poesie tout a fait en dehors de la marche ordinaire de la nature, et
dont le souffle pernicieux semble bouleverser meme les verites absolues;
mais, amener un pareil resultat (conforme, du reste, aux regles de
l’esthetique, si l’on y reflechit bien), cela n’est pas aussi facile
qu’on le pense: voila ce que je voulais dire. C’est pourquoi je ferai
tous mes efforts pour y parvenir! Si la mort arrete la maigreur
fantastique des deux bras longs de mes epaules, employes a l’ecrasement
lugubre de mon gypse litteraire, je veux au moins que le lecteur en
deuil puisse se dire: “Il faut lui rendre justice. Il m’a beaucoup
cretinise. Que n’aurait-t-il pas fait, s’il eut pu vivre davantage!
c’est le meilleur professeur d’hypnotisme que je connaisse!” On gravera
ces quelques mots touchants sur le marbre de ma tombe, et mes manes
seront satisfaits!–Je continue! Il y avait une queue de poisson qui
remuait au fond d’un trou, a cote d’une botte eculee. Il n’etait pas
naturel de se demander: “Ou est le poisson? Je ne vois que la queue qui
remue.” Car, puisque, precisement, on avouait implicitement ne pas
apercevoir le poisson, c’est qu’en realite il n’y etait pas. La pluie
avait laisse quelques gouttes d’eau au fond de cet entonnoir, creuse
dans le sable. Quant a la botte eculee, quelques-uns ont pense depuis
qu’elle provenait de quelque abandon volontaire. Le crabe tourteau, par
la puissance divine, devait renaitre de ses atomes resolus. Il tira du
puits la queue de poisson et lui promit de la rattacher a son corps
perdu, si elle annoncait au Createur l’impuissance de son mandataire a
dominer les vagues en fureur de mer maldororienne. Il lui preta deux
ailes d’albatros, et la queue de poisson prit son essor. Mais elle
s’envola vers la demeure du renegat, pour lui raconter ce qui se passait
et trahir le crabe tourteau. Celui-ci devina le projet de l’espion, et,
avant que le troisieme jour fut parvenu a sa fin, il perca la queue du
poisson d’une fleche envenimee. Le gosier de l’espion poussa une faible
exclamation, qui rendit le dernier soupir avant de toucher la terre.
Alors, une poutre seculaire, placee sur le comble d’un chateau, se
releva de toute sa hauteur, en bondissant sur elle-meme, et demanda
vengeance a grands cris. Mais le Tout-Puissant, change en rhinoceros,
lui apprit que cette mort etait meritee. La poutre s’apaisa, alla se
placer au fond du manoir, reprit sa position horizontale, et rappela les
araignees effarouchees, afin qu’elles continuassent, comme par le passe,
a tisser leur toile a ses coins. L’homme aux levres de soufre apprit la
faiblesse de son alliee; c’est pourquoi, il commanda au fou couronne de
bruler la poutre et de la reduire en cendres. Aghone executa cet ordre
severe. “Puisque, d’apres vous, le moment est venu, s’ecria-t-il, j’ai
ete reprendre l’anneau que j’avais enterre sous la pierre, et je l’ai
attache a un des bouts du cable. Voici le paquet.” Et il presenta une
corde epaisse, enroulee sur elle-meme, de soixante metres de longueur.
Son maitre lui demanda ce que faisaient les quatorze poignards. Il
repondit qu’ils restaient fideles et se tenaient prets a tout evenement,
si c’etait necessaire. Le forcat inclina sa tete en signe de
satisfaction. Il montra de la surprise, et meme de l’inquietude, quand
Aghone ajouta qu’il avait vu un coq fendre avec son bec un candelabre en
deux, plonger tour a tour le regard dans chacune des parties, et
s’ecrier, en battant ses ailes d’un mouvement frenetique: “Il n’y a pas
si loin qu’on le pense depuis la rue de la Paix jusqu’a la place du
Pantheon. Bientot, on en verra la preuve lamentable!” Le crabe tourteau,
monte sur un cheval fougueux, courait a toute bride vers la direction de
l’ecueil, le temoin du lancement du baton par un bras tatoue, l’asile du
premier jour de sa descente sur la terre. Une caravane de pelerins etait
en marche pour visiter cet endroit, desormais consacre par une mort
auguste. Il esperait l’atteindre, pour lui demander des secours
pressants contre la trame qui se preparait, et dont il avait eu
connaissance. Vous verrez quelques lignes plus loin, a l’aide de mon
silence glacial, qu’il n’arriva pas a temps, pour leur raconter ce que
lui avait rapporte un chiffonnier, cache derriere l’echafaudage voisin
d’une maison en construction, le jour ou le pont du Carrousel, encore
empreint de l’humide rosee de la nuit, apercut avec horreur l’horizon de
sa pensee s’elargir confusement en cercles concentriques, a l’apparition
matinale du rythmyque petrissage d’un sac icosaedre, contre son parapet
calcaire! Avant qu’il stimule leur compassion, par le souvenir de cet
episode, ils feront bien de detruire en eux la semence de l’espoir …
Pour rompre votre paresse, mettez en usage les ressources d’une bonne
volonte, marchez a cote de moi et ne perdez pas de vue ce fou, la tete
surmontee d’un vase de nuit, qui pousse, devant lui, la main armee d’un
baton, celui que vous auriez de la peine a reconnaitre, si je ne prenais
soin de vous avertir, et de rappeler a votre oreille le mot qui se
prononce Mervyn. Comme il est change! Les mains liees derriere le dos,
il marche devant lui, comme s’il allait a l’echafaud, et, cependant, il
n’est coupable d’aucun forfait. Ils sont arrives dans l’enceinte
circulaire de la place Vendome. Sur l’entablement de la colonne massive,
appuye contre la balustrade carree, a plus de cinquante metres de
hauteur du sol, un homme a lance et deroule un cable, qui tombe jusqu’a
terre, a quelques pas d’Aghone. Avec de l’habitude, on fait vite une
chose; mais, je puis dire que celui-ci n’employa pas beaucoup de temps
pour attacher les pieds de Mervyn a l’extremite de la corde. Le
rhinoceros avait appris ce qui allait arriver. Couvert de sueur, il
apparut haletant, au coin de la rue Castiglione. Il n’eut meme pas la
satisfaction d’entreprendre le combat. L’individu, qui examinait les
alentours du haut de la colonne, arma son revolver, visa avec soin et
pressa la detente. Le commodore qui mendiait par les rues depuis le jour
ou avait commence ce qu’il croyait etre la folie de son fils et la mere,
qu’on avait appelee _la fille de neige_, a cause de son extreme paleur,
porterent en avant leur poitrine pour proteger le rhinoceros. Inutile
soin. La balle troua sa peau, comme une vrille; l’on aurait pu croire,
avec une apparence de logique, que la mort devait infailliblement
apparaitre. Mais nous savions que, dans ce pachyderme, s’etait
introduite la substance du Seigneur. Il se retira avec chagrin. S’il
n’etait pas bien prouve qu’il ne fut trop bon pour une de ses creatures,
je plaindrais l’homme de la colonne! Celui-ci, d’un coup sec de poignet,
ramene a soi la corde ainsi lestee. Placee hors de la normale, ses
oscillations balancent Mervyn, dont la tete regarde le bas. Il saisit
vivement, avec ses mains, une longue guirlande d’immortelles, qui reunit
deux angles consecutifs de la base, contre laquelle il cogne son front.
Il emporte avec lui, dans les airs, ce qui n’etait pas un point fixe.
Apres avoir amoncele a ses pieds, sous forme d’ellipses superposees, une
grande partie du cable, de maniere que Mervyn reste suspendu a moitie
hauteur de l’obelisque de bronze, le forcat evade fait prendre, de la
main droite, a l’adolescent, un mouvement accelere de rotation uniforme,
dans un plan parallele de l’axe de la colonne, et ramasse, de la main
gauche, les enroulements serpentins du cordage, qui gisent a ses pieds.
La fronde siffle dans l’espace; le corps de Mervyn la suit partout,
toujours eloigne du centre par la force centrifuge, toujours gardant sa
position mobile et equidistante, dans une circonference aerienne,
independante de la matiere. Le sauvage civilise lache peu a peu, jusqu’a
l’autre bout, qu’il retient avec un metacarpe ferme, ce qui ressemble a
tort a une barre d’acier. Il se met a courir autour de la balustrade, en
se tenant a la rampe par une main. Cette manoeuvre a pour effet de
changer le plan primitif de la revolution du cable, et d’augmenter sa
force de tension, deja si considerable. Dorenavant, il tourne
majestueusement dans un plan horizontal, apres avoir successivement
passe, par une marche insensible, a travers plusieurs plans obliques.
L’angle droit forme par la colonne et le fil vegetal a ses cotes egaux!
Le bras du renegat et l’instrument meurtrier sont confondus dans l’unite
lineaire, comme les elements atomistiques d’un rayon de lumiere
penetrant dans la chambre noire. Les theoremes de la mecanique me
permettent de parler ainsi; helas! on sait qu’une force, ajoutee a une
autre force, engendre une resultante composee des deux forces
primitives! Qui oserait pretendre que le cordage lineaire se serait deja
rompu, sans la vigueur de l’athlete, sans la bonne qualite du chanvre?
Le corsaire au cheveux d’or, brusquement et en meme temps, arrete sa
vitesse acquise, ouvre la main et lache le cable. Le contre-coup de
cette operation, si contraire aux precedentes, fait craquer la
balustrade dans ses joints. Mervyn, suivi de la corde, ressemble a une
comete trainant apres elle sa queue flamboyante. L’anneau de fer du
noeud coulant, miroitant aux rayons du soleil, engage a completer
soi-meme l’illusion. Dans le parcours de sa parabole, le damne a mort
fend l’atmosphere jusqu’a la rive gauche, la depasse en vertu de la
force d’impulsion que je suppose infinie, et son corps va frapper le
dome du Pantheon, tandis que la corde etreint, en partie, de ses replis,
la paroi superieure de l’immense coupole. C’est sur sa superficie
spherique et convexe, qui ne ressemble a une orange que pour la forme,
qu’on voit a toute heure du jour, un squelette desseche, reste suspendu.
Quand le vent le balance, l’on raconte que les etudiants du quartier
Latin, dans la crainte d’un pareil sort, font une courte priere: ce sont
des bruits insignifiants auxquels on n’est point tenu de croire, et
propres seulement a faire peur aux petits enfants. Il tient entre ses
mains crispees, comme un grand ruban de vieilles fleurs jaunes. Il
faut tenir compte de la distance, et nul ne peut affirmer, malgre
l’attestation de sa bonne vue, que ce soient la, reellement, ces
immortelles dont je vous ai parle, et qu’une lutte inegale, engagee pres
du nouvel Opera, vit detacher d’un piedestal grandiose. Il n’en est pas
moins vrai que les draperies en forme de croissant de lune n’y recoivent
plus l’expression de leur symetrie definitive dans le nombre quaternaire:
allez-y voir vous-meme, si vous ne voulez pas me croire.
About the Translator:
R J Dent is a poet, novelist, translator, blogger, essayist, short story writer, researcher and Creative Writing tutor. His latest book is an English translation of Le Comte de Lautréamont’s surrealist classic, The Songs of Maldoror, published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press/Solar Books. Prior to this he published a novel, Myth (2006), a poetry collection, Moonstone Silhouettes (2009), and an English translation of Charles Baudelaire’s decadent classic,The Flowers of Evil (2009). He is currently writing a book about Emily Dickinson and studying for a PhD at Sussex University.
Details of R J Dent’s work can be found at www.rjdent.com
An excerpt from The Songs of Maldoror
by Le Comte de Lautréamont
Translated by R. J. Dent (© R J Dent 2010)
with Illustrations by Salvador Dalí
and a new Foreword by Paul Éluard
Publisher: Solar Books
Format: Paperback, 264 pages, 22 half-tones, 5 1/2 x 8 ½
R J Dent’s translation of Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror is now available from:
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on R. J. Dent/The Songs of Maldoror
don’t rush to conclusions. you’re hungry,
Don’t assume the bird sitting in sand
We’re all misguided at dawn,
not sure we’re still alive;
the flowers that bloomed in the spring, tra la,
dead without a half-life,
are more certain to return than you are.
And even if you’ve only seen
the whale’s arc or the pelican’s dive,
it’s enough to scissor your fingers like Spock
giving the Kabbalists’ blessing.
Really. It’s enough.
About the Poet
Florence Weinberger is the author of four published collections of poetry, The Invisible Telling Its Shape, Breathing Like a Jew, Carnal Fragrance, and Sacred Graffiti (Tebot Bach, 2010). Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Another Chicago Magazine, Antietam Review and Spillway.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a young photographer was perspective. Shoot high, shoot low. How about shooting deep into the clusters of tiny white flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace?
Chuck Haupt is photo editor of Ragazine. You can visit his blog at www.chuckhaupt.com/blog.
For thePHOTOGRAPHYspot submissions, please see guidelines at ragazine.cc/submissions/
February 19, 2011 1 Comment
or How the West Imagines Itself
An essay with cell phone pictures
By Elizabeth Cohen
There are places that hold out imagined versions of themselves; romantic versions, like long-divorced people who still hold onto feelings from a bygone marriage. You can go to these places and have a dual experience – you are in the actual place and yet you are bombarded with images of the way the place imagines itself. The idealized, iconic version that looks down at you from signs, glances at you from murals, peers out windows at you, begs for your money in little touristy shops, really has nothing to do with the place that actually is. It is easy to participate in the fantasy identity; it is usually more engaging, more palatable, far more romantic for sure, than the actual place. Hence you may walk through the grand Coliseum in Rome and ignore the impoverished surrounding neighborhoods, or to go to the Acropolis in Athens and feel like you are closer to God when the roads to get there are crumbling, the air practically unbreathable. Still you want that sensation of the other place, the emblematic one. We are willing to ignore so much to focus in on what we desire to experience in place.
Places can have alter-selves, like alter egos, that want you to believe in them. It almost is like you are being begged to participate in the fantasy version, and ignore the reality.
New York City is certainly one such place, wherever you go, the alleys of Chinatown, overflowing with odd vegetables, eels swimming in buckets; neat little streets in Little Italy that really could be in Italy, or a version of it; Harlem, Washington Heights, the Lower East Side’s diamond row, and you are surrounded by concrete, and people and buildings but see images of the Statue of Liberty, the New York City skyline, Broadway, the Brooklyn Bridge. These are real parts of New York and also the emblems the city wants you to experience. They are embossed on tee shirts, sweatshirts, on signs, murals in restaurants, everywhere. For a time there was a restaurant on West Broadway south of Canal that had a miniature version of Lady Liberty’s head and crown, hovering over the street. She is the patron saint of Manhattan and it sometimes seems she is worn on every possible surface.
Another such place is New Mexico, and the place I want to focus on here is Gallup, New Mexico. It is a small city in the north west corner of the state, not far from the Navajo reservation and maybe the last piece of unswept shrapnel of the wild west. I will surely make enemies with its proud citizens when I say so here, but it is a sad burgh, downtrodden, speckled with trailer camps with circa 1970 trailers, foreclosed houses, little neighborhoods that look like they are trying so hard to hold onto what they’ve got but just can’t do it. It has a strip to end all strips, the former Route 66, that runs through town with all the standards, KFC, McDonalds, and every other possible fast food and chain joint in America.
Despite this, the city clings to this other version, a cinematic version of the west, a cliché of lasso-wielding cowpokes and tee pees (native people of the region NEVER lived in tee pees); with neon roadrunners and every manner of western kitsch.
To drive through the town today is to see these now antique neon signs and murals, sculptures of giant Indian pots and rugs, and everywhere some antiquated visual narrative of a place that certainly isn’t the actual experience of the place today – and maybe never was. It is a surreal fantasy version. If Walt Disney were alive, it is the version he might cobble.
Yet while it is a neon lie, the images present an oddly enchanting and even at times breathtaking vision from an anthropological and a purely aesthetic perspective .
For those who live there, it probably hardly registers, but to drive through fresh, from the high plains of I-40, red cliffs jutting like massive steam engines out of the east, the “old west” and “wild west” iconography seems quaint, even museum worthy. Like the highly referred-to Statue of Liberty in New York City or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, they are perfect examples of the way we tell ourselves a story about where we are in space and time, and even try hard to believe it, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Gallup , a town which straddles a mini range of mountains called the hogbacks, is a town that is most definitely down on its luck, a place where the population swells on the paydays and days the checks come in for dependent families. Those days the bars fill up and night finds the streets filled with stumblers. But there is a spirit of wannabe that holds out; the city is full of citizens who believe it will be, could be, might be, someday, the place it imagines it is.
Driving through fast, with nothing but a cell phone, seems somehow perfect, the technology somehow suiting the experience. Fast, cheap, haphazard, a little tipsy on the experience itself, I snapped my way through Gallup this winter. I tried to find images that captured the version the west wants us to take away. I tried to find the places that quote old western movies, the Hollywood west, the cowboy and Indians west. The generic native west. The roadrunner and coyote west. Where the landscape is so stark it aches in every direction toward the horizon. And you half think an anvil, at any moment, is about to drop upon your head.
Images taken with a BlackBerry Curve 8530 Smartphone
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Dreaming the Old West/Travel
By Way of Explanation
Because I’ve never had Madeleines
with lime-blossom tea,
because my memory is voluntary,
because I am the third person,
because we never stopped
speaking in italics,
because I wanted to make you apologize.
Because I cannot pace myself,
because I am watching your ghost
walk around the kitchen,
because I painted my toenails
blue this morning,
because James said “The trail
of the human serpent is over everything,”
because I buried its skin
underneath the floorboards.
Because lightning was the accidental
origin of life,
because I turn around
when I shouldn’t,
because I am a vowel
caught in the middle,
because you cannot say it,
because of the moment’s prime meridian,
Because you are impossible,
because I had no paper,
because I wrote my biography on a lampshade,
because the idea had windows
disproportionate to its doors,
because we tried to warn each other,
because there are poems everywhere and they are still
About the Poet
Katie Hogan is a senior at Binghamton University, majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and Global Culture. After graduating, she hopes to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry.
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Katie Hogan/Poetry
When Giants Ruled
By Jeff Katz
After missing the initial November airing on PBS, I finally caught up with the new documentary LennonNYC. While little new ground is covered, the film is nicely done, combining intimate studio chatter with the bigger picture of John’s struggles to stay in the U.S. (The only notable diversions from the glossed-over John Lennon PR machine that has existed for the last thirty years post-assassination, are the Yoko Ono moments of pure honesty, showing John as a hurtful prick and a handful to deal with. She is still wounded by his treatment of her, as well as his acolytes’ vilification of her as dragon lady. Those bits alone are worth your time).
John Lennon’s solo career is fascinating in its inconsistency. He produced some incredibly bad work in a very short time (1970-75). The nadir is 1972’s Sometime in New York City, a series of juvenile polemics on the issues of the moment: Angela Davis, Attica, and the Irish “Troubles”. You get the idea. Lennon’s depth, so apparent only two years before in his first solo work, the monumental masterpiece Plastic Ono Band, is gone, vanished into thin air and replaced by contemporary (now-archaic) sloganeering. One “right on, sister” is one too many.
A fleeting frame in the documentary showed the Rolling Stone review of the record, which, in its title, referred to John’s “artistic suicide.” Reading Stephen Holden’s review today, it is a remarkable work of bravery and intelligence, that takes on a God and shows, in harsh clarity, that he has feet of clay. It is a serious piece of work, noting Lennon’s “artistic devolution” and “egotistical laziness.”
Earlier in 1972, Paul McCartney’s own post-Beatles breakup bottom was analyzed in the pages of RS. Continuing his move towards light pop, Macca’s album Wild Life was a slopfest, containing little worthy of praise. John Mendelsohn’s review was a work of scholarly brilliance, taking McCartney at face value, and wondering whether Paul’s aversion to profundity was simply a result of his numerous legal battles with his record company (Apple) and his publishers. Was McCartney not willing to do his best work in order to hurt his potential profit-making ability? Interesting point. (More interesting is the song “Wild Life,” where Paul quite astutely sings: “You’re breathing so hot/ A lot of political nonsense in the air/You’re making it hot/For the people who live in there.” LennonNYC’s investigation of John’s activism and how his fame turned the FBI’s attention more intensely on the anti-war movement and voter registration drives ahead of the 1972 Presidential election shows that Paul wasn’t so vacuous after all).
What is lost to memory is how dominant the Fab Four were in the musical consciousness during the first half of the 1970s. As solo artists they dominated the charts and the minds of music fans. More remarkable is the serious commentary on the work of these legends. The rock press (not just Rolling Stone) was not willing to take them as given; criticism, if worthy, was delivered and delivered severely and methodically. We don’t think of rock music that way anymore, full of meaning and deserving of contemplation.
Today’s fragmented musical scene has its merits. Technology has led to the democratization of music, allowing anyone to record high quality tunes and get them out. The destruction of the evil predatory music business is, on its own, a worthy sign of progress. But we lose something by not dipping into a community well of Top 40 that used to bind us together. That’s a shame. That shattered unity is writ large in our politics and our increasing isolation as we sit before our glowing monitors, in our own virtual world with Facebook friends we never have, and never will, meet.
As a listener, it’s difficult to find new music with no central depository. As a Sirius radio subscriber I’m hopping all over the push button “dial,” from “alt-nation” to “classic vinyl” to “underground garage.” If I wanted to hear a new Wilco song on the radio, I have no idea where to find it. And the same technology that leads to mass participation in creation also results in a lot of dreck. Thirty years ago, Susan Boyle would have been singing in her shower (shudder!). Sure, YouTube can make a sensation out of a pop talent like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, but it also leads to auto-tuned poor people talking about rape that gets over 65 million hits! That can’t be good for anyone.
It is impossible today to create rock stars as those of old, musicians who were famous for their music, not their celebrity, musicians whose new songs and new albums were eagerly awaited and gobbled up by everyone. Not because no such band, or solo artist, exists today. There’s a wealth of talent out there: Wilco, M. Ward, The Roots, Beck. There’s a long list. U2 is the last of the breed, the last band, as Bruce Springsteen said during his speech inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that we know the names of all the members. The shattering of pop music into multiple shards prevents new bands from achieving fame and legendary status. It’s what keeps The Stones, McCartney, Elton John and their ilk shoveling in top dollar at the box office.
I’m not a Luddite. The past, on the whole, has always been worse than the present, rose glasses aside. But when we all sang the same tunes, and headed toward our local record store with friends to talk about the latest releases, and engage in casual, or passionate, conversations with strangers about the latest Lennon or McCartney album, or any of the other the albums they, and we, held in our crooked arms, it was wonderfully warm. And that’s gone forever.
Sundazed, Not Confused
Let me come clean: I’ve been obsessed with Sundazed Music since last summer. While working on a visit to the warehouse in Coxsackie, NY, and an audience with the great Bob Irwin, the creator of Sundazed and the ears behind the label, I’ve been biding my time listening to their records. So, as they said at the Latin Quarter, ego exspecto proinde ego recenso (I wait, therefore I review).
The Yardbirds’ Little Games and Canned Heat’s eponymous debut are two recent additions to the Sundazed catalog. Before I get into the merits of each title, a word on both, and all of Sundazed’s vinyl treasures. Each album is packaged precisely as originally issued. There are liner notes, if they existed at the time, none if they didn’t. That gives the new versions a very real taste of authenticity. Tribute must be paid to the 180 gram vinyl pressings. The heft of the disc is a tactile wonder, like holding a baby, there to be loved and cherished. Sundazed records are far removed from the flimsy 1970’s-1980’s shoddy vinyl that can be held at the edges and waved to make sounds, similar to playing a saw.
Little Games, the only Yardbirds studio album with Jimmy Page on lead guitar, is impossible to hear without the filter of Led Zeppelin two years off on the horizon. The 1967 repertoire has more than a few hints of the shape of things to come.
“White Summer,” a future Zeppelin concert staple, presages the Bert Jansch-infused British folk that Page would employ so well. The “Over the Hills and Far Away” intro can be traced here. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” will have those familiar with Zep thinking, “Now where have I heard that before.” Page’s guitar-bowing, perhaps the single most embarrassing, pretentious signature image in rock and roll history, makes its debut. It’s better to hear than see. “Glimpses,” the psychedelic centerpiece, also gives a peek at the early sound of Page’s future supergroup. The open, echoey feel of Zeppelin’s early work is present, though the tune on the whole is trippier than anything Page would do during his most famous period yet to come. Each song contains the dying of one band, the birth of another.
There’s some down and dirty blues, the type that, had the Yardbirds kept at it exclusively, would have kept Eric Clapton from quitting the group. “Drinking Muddy Water” is a blistering beauty, the equal to anything Butterfield or Mayall (or, OK, Cream) were putting out that year. “Smile on Me” is of similar merit.
Even the simple pop tunes, like “No Excess Baggage” and the opening title track, contain bursts of Pageian genius, feedback laced eruptions and wild bursts of virtuosity. Keith Relf’s vocals atop Jimmy Page’s playing make for a knockout combination. (I won’t get into my theories of Jeff Beck vs. Jimmy Page, or how The Jeff Beck Group outpaced Led Zeppelin due to the superiority of their lead singer. That’s for a different article.).
While producer Mickie Most’s work is, at times, a bit dense, Sundazed’s mono release brings to a sometimes muddy mix ear-pleasing clarity. Page’s acoustic numbers are crisp, the vibrations shimmering from the speakers.
Little Games is a mixed bag of styles, but important as Jimmy Page’s only full studio album with his pre-Led Zeppelin group. The seeds are sprouting for the plant that will grow and dominate the music scene for decades.
Far from London, emerging from the most unbluesy area of suburban Los Angeles, came Canned Heat, a group of blues writers, record collectors and music scholars, who, like Indiana Jones, knew how to turn dusty academia into a wild adventure through their burning dedication. Their first record is a solid set, resuscitated by our friends at Sundazed.
As good as Heat are, as authentic as their playing was, the delight of the band is in their dual lead vocalists, the gritty, deeply resonant Bob “The Bear” Hite, and the quirky, high-toned Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson. No vocalist produces smiles of pure pleasure as Wilson does. The mono mix rings as clear as a smog free LA day, the band’s passion pushing through and grabbing a late 1960’s record buyer by their swinging medallion, shouting “Hey, man, these are the real blues!’ And you better listen.
Henry “Sunflower” Vestine, fresh from his firing by Frank Zappa due to Henry’s penchant for chemical intake, blazes through the album, wielding his six-string scalpel through precise blues phrasing. His work on “Catfish Blues” is so fiery that it’s a good thing stylus’ are diamond, for fear that any other substance would melt. Wilson, who John Lee Hooker called “the greatest harmonica player ever,” is omnipresent, but most dominating on “Goin’ Down Slow.”
Bob the Bear is featured on nearly every track, so when Wilson’s high hooting gets the spotlight on “Help Me” I can’t help but laugh. Nothing makes me happier than “Blind Owl” crooning in my ear.
Canned Heat, like Little Games, is a forgotten and undervalued record. At their release, both platters charted at nearly the same point. For Page, #80 would be the worst performing album he’d ever have. (Even The Firm’s first effort soared to #17). For Heat, topping out at #76 was good news for a band yet to hit its stride.
There’s a level of tragedy that hangs over both of these records. Keith Relf, dead at 33, electrocuted by an improperly grounded guitar. Bob “The Bear” Hite, dead at 38, collapsing after a heroin overdose. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, dead at 27, a barbiturate overdose, his body found near Hite’s Topanga Canyon home. Henry Vestine, dead at 53, cancer.
What makes Sundazed great is their appreciation for important pieces of music that have been lost over the years, and to those musicians who need to be heard. There’s a legacy far beyond sales, well past this temporal life. It lays in the music, in the grooves, and these lost treasures, sounding so alive, bring it back.
THE BASEMENT TAPES, from KKID in Rolla, Missouri
Be yourself on the radio
With Bootsy Hambone and Nick Thomas
Doug & Telisha at the Otesaga Inn, Cooperstown
Sweethearts of the Rodeo:
Doug and Telisha Williams in Cooperstown
By Jeff Katz
February concerts in Cooperstown are usually jam-packed. It’s cold, there’s nothing else to do, and Cooperstown Concert Series (full disclosure, I’m co-chair of the non-profit CCS) always brings in little known, high quality musical acts. The downside is it’s February in Cooperstown! Severely slick roads and snow kept many away, but the sparse crowd that appeared was warmed as Doug and Telisha Williams melted the ice with sweet ol’ country music and red-hot Americana romps.
From the moment D & T’s album Ghost of the Knoxville Girl hit our desk, we were captivated by their twangy sound. Doug is a pretty mean picker and Telisha, well, Telisha’s voice is the second coming of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn (yes, I know Loretta is alive). It’s a haunting record, one that sticks with you for the long haul. It did well, spending 15 weeks on the Americana Top 40 and making the Top 100 albums of 2009 on the same chart.
The Williams’ cut a striking figure on stage; he, head to toe in black with the best sideburns since Chester Arthur; she in fishnet stockings, brown boots and lace dress. As they played on through the night, the flower print curtains and chandeliers of the Otesaga Hotel ballroom morphed into a honky tonk roadhouse. If you closed your eyes you could see the neon signs blinking “Lone Star Beer,” and feel the sticky floors under your boots.
Up north from their Martinsville, VA, base, D & T sang songs of the struggling working man, some wallowing in the depths of unemployment (“20.2,” titled for the jobless rate in their hometown is the kind of song that John Mellencamp only dreams of writing), others taking to armed robbery and the bottle.
Don’t get the idea that this was a somber affair. Telisha is a hoot, chatting about her penchant for cemeteries and locomotives, combining both interests in the rocking “Graveyard Train.” With Tom Berry’s Hammond B3 as accompaniment, Telisha launched into a “gospel drinking song,” noting that if an audience doesn’t chuckle at the reference, the band changes the set list.
Doug, a recent convert to the electric guitar, worked wonders on the Telecaster. His solo on “I Fall to Pieces.” was soft and beautiful, so delicate that the notes disappeared in the quietest moment. On acoustic, Doug was often a furious strumming machine. And that boy can sing too!
On the road, the Williams’ watch downloaded TV shows and they were thrilled to be at The Otesaga, setting for a classic Ghost Hunters episode. Hoping to rile up a few spirits, they peppered their set with murder ballads and ghost stories. “Loretta’s Ballad,” a sordid tale that starts like an old Dylan folk song, revved up into a manic jam that threatened to explode into chaos. “Ghost of The Knoxville Girl,” D & T’s answer song to the classic Louvin Brothers’ woman-killing tune, got some bones a-rattling up on the spooked fourth floor of the classic old hotel. (Charlie Louvin, who passed recently, was long an inspiration to D & T. They served as the opening act for the cantankerous, chain-smoking Charlie on several occasions).
Here’s a lesson in southern speak, courtesy Telisha Williams. “Can’t” is the contraction of “can” and “not.” “Cain’t” means something else entirely. It means you “could” but you “ain’t.” After watching Doug and Telisha Williams live, I’m convinced there’s nothing they can’t do.
VIDEO: Eric and Mary Ross’s Kurzfassung
Composer Eric Ross, with video artist Mary Ross (USA), present a special concert performance at the Lueneberg Festival of New Music, Germany. Eric Ross performs on piano, guitar and synthesizer and is a master of the Theremin, one of the first electronic instruments. Eric’s compositions include elements of jazz, classic, serial, and avant garde. Mary Ross’s videos, projected in performance, are organized, arranged and edited to his music. In an hour-long performance, both artists presented their most recent work, the Boulevard d’Reconstructie, (Op. 54).
Visit: The Music of Eric Ross
February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Jeff Katz/Music