T’giving Roundup, 2006

Had a pretty good and pleasantly uneventful Thanksgiving. We drove to Pennsylvania this year rather than flying (or not flying), mostly so that we could go to my parents’ farm and also drop by State College on the way back to visit Terri’s folks on or around their respective 60th birthdays.

We also managed a visit to the Warhol Museum with Margaret and Niall. I was somewhat underwhelmed, but only because I was so overwhelmed the first time I went there. It seemed smaller, and they didn’t have as much new stuff out as I thought they would. It was somewhat interesting to see some of the personal effects they had on display on the top floor. An entire large glass case of toiletries, some with the Duane Reade price tags still on them, including an impressive collection of hotel soaps and shampoos. There were also wigs. Glasses. The actual outfit you’ve seen him photographed in a million times during the ’60s: striped sailor shirt, black jeans with some paint smudges, Beatle boots, wig, and glasses. The actual tape recorder he carried with him everywhere in the 60′s. When you think of Andy Warhol, you think about reproduction, copies, impersonal machined images. So it makes it extra weird to encounter these actual personal objects of his and sense their aura (in the non-mystical sense of the word). The art itself bears seeing in person, too; as Marco and I have been discussing to death, there is (ironically) a lot of nuance you miss in just seeing the reproductions. (Also ironically, I feel like it’s the 2D stuff that loses the most in reproduction; the 3D stuff like the Brillo boxes actually reproduces pretty well in photos. Actually, I take that back. The thing you don’t see in photos is that they actually don’t look like actual Brillo boxes. They look like wooden boxes painted to look like Brillo boxes, and that is kind of important).

I also liked his hammer and sickle paintings, which were silkscreens of photographs of an actual sickle and hammer bought from a hardware store.

Anyway. Terri will undoubtedly have stuff to add.

I almost invariably have really strange dreams the first or second night when I go back to the farm. Sorry for sharing the creepy and somewhat disturbing dream from this time, but I thoroughly enjoyed how vivid it was, and how real in its fakeness.

And the bonus prize at the end of the trip was dinner with Helmecki in CT last night.

Murnau dream

I had a dream the other night that looked like F. W. Murnau’s Faust; it was silent, with very Germanic costumes and imagery, with a somewhat flickering quality.

It was set in this school where the students were boys, wearing these pointy hats with feathers in them, and the students– somewhat with the approval of the faculty– decided to perform some dark magical ritual to give themselves some kind of supernatural power.

One of the teachers told them how to do it. At midnight, they had to each dig up a body of an elite soldier from the Imperial Army of Central Bohemia,  and cut out the heart. These soldiers had all died in a big battle sometime in the 1600′s, and were buried nearby. In preparation, the teacher was demonstrating the technique on a cadaver. (It was black and white so it wasn’t as gory as it sounds). The next thing I saw was the students later in the night with their bodies, trying to cut out the heart; it was sort of like a biology class doing a dissection. The teacher, played now by Emil Jannings, held up a thing that looked like an olive. The screen said “this is not a heart! It is a gall bladder!”.

The end.

Someday Benefit this Saturday, 11/18

I was blogging a lot about the Someday back in August before it closed, so people keep asking me if I’ve heard any news.

Here’s what I know. There are still plans afoot to re-open the Someday (I guess under the same name?) as a worker-owned co-op. They have a website. They are currently trying to work out an arrangement to share space with Sacco’s Bowl Haven on Day Street.
There is a benefit show this Saturday at 7pm in Harvard Square (?), on Mt. Auburn St behind the Lampoon building. I probably won’t be going because Terri and I are printing our butts off this weekend, but that shouldn’t stop you.

Face it, Borat sucks

I haven’t seen the movie, but given that you can’t open a newspaper or magazine or turn on a television set or radio or computer without seeing stupid Sacha Baron Goddamn Cohen doing his goddamn Borat act, I have seen enough of Borat to not want to see another second of him, and to suspect that the film is like one of those Saturday Night Live acts that stops being funny after the first 10 seconds, but ends up getting made into a movie and that you have to hear every stupid jackass in the country doing an impersonation of for the next year.

Isn’t Borat just a lukewarm microwaved leftover of Andy Kaufman’s “Foreign Guy” schtick, which got old after about half a season of Taxi? Ha ha: those zany foreigners talk funny. Even the confrontational “media hacking” aspect of Borat, and the fact that Cohen’s doing all his media appearances in character are both ripped straight out of the Kaufman playbook.

Actually, that Dig article nails what I think is worst about Borat:

With each declaration that we’re entering “sexy good time,” the sharp satire in the movie gets duller and duller. Soon the racism in the movie isn’t funny because it exposes people’s prejudice, it’s funny because “throwing the Jews down the well” is catchy song and a Jew disposal method that maybe we should start considering more seriously.

It’s another example of the inherent limitations of satire: at the same time you are poking holes in something, you are also validating its existence. As Peter Cook said about his Establishment Club in the 60′s, it’s modeled on “those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War”. And when asked to explain why he stopped doing satire, satirist par exellence Tom Lehrer said, “The audiences like to think that satire is doing something. But, in fact, it is mostly to leave themselves satisfied. Satisfied rather than angry, which is what they should be.”

Rainy Planet

Is it ever going to stop raining? I know it’s peanuts compared to one of those 2-week rain jags that we get in the spring, but it does feel like I haven’t seen the sun in a really long time.

In other Rainy Planet news, I feel like we are never going to print enough to sell at the Bazaar Bizarre, which is just a scant month away. Add that to all the deadlines upcoming with my day job, and I feel like one harried fake.

I think I’m gonna sack the whole board of trustees

I think I’m gonna sack
the whole board of trustees
all those Don Quixotes and their B-17s
and I swear this time
yeah this time
they’ll blow us back to the 70′s
and this time
they’re playin Ride of the Valkyries
with no semblance of grace or ease
and they’re acting on vagaries
with their violent proclivities
and they’re playing ride
Ride of the Valkyries

(“Sovay”, Andrew Bird)

Rock & Roll Animal

If you’ve never been to a big tech conference, you may not be aware that these things often have big-name concerts, either as part of the actual event, or as part of the private side-parties thrown by various big companies. Though I have not been to one of these, I have come close enough to be able to imagine how little I’m missing (at the Computer Shopper party at Comdex ’97, I saw Sinbad do a pretty lame computer-oriented standup routine, but I, sadly, did not rate enough to be invited to the Pointer Sisters later in the evening).

I got a pretty big chuckle out of the reports of Lou Reed’s losing it during his performance at the Web 2.0 conference:

Reed took the stage with bassists Rob Wasserman and Fernando Saunders and within minutes it became apparent that the crowd was not going to let the music stop their conversation. After his first two songs, “What’s Good” and “Gassed and Stoked,” Reed declared: “You got 20 minutes. You wanna talk through it, you can talk through it.”

“I can turn the sound louder and really hurt you,” he added. “Frank, turn it up.”

The sound got louder and people looked uncomfortable.

Part of me thinks it was pretty jerky of him; I mean, he knew what he was getting into, and I suspect he was aware of the essential whoredom of taking money to do a show for people who weren’t necessarily paying to see him.

But it’s about time somebody was honest enough to admit that these things are not really fun for either the attendees or the performer, they’re just about big companies demonstrating their bigness by the bigness of the artists they can afford.