January 2003 Archives
So I finally have my academic schedule more or less nailed down:
Basic Drawing, with Jesse Bransford. I told myself that I was going to devote at least part of this year to some kind of art practice, and after the heavy dose of theory I got last semester (for which Anya teased me mercilessly), I wanted to concentrate on something that uses my hands directly--and something I'd never have a chance to experiment with professionally. Bransford seems nervous to the point of being distraught sometimes, but I like his structure for the class: drawing drawing drawing drawing drawing, but also thinking about what one wants to draw, and why, and how.
Making Art in the Age of Digital Technology, with Coco Fusco. I wasn't sure if I wanted to take a second class with Coco--I adore her teaching style & thought Critical Issues I had the best-thought-out-syllabus I've ever encountered, but I'd also sort of had the Coco Experience already. But after the first class, I realized: I really am going to learn a lot from this. She's interested in ways that artists use new technology that aren't necessarily immediately evident from the end-product (the dreaded screen/keyboard interface etc.), and half the class is going to be visits to artists' studios. Cool.
Sound/Image, with Bradford Garton et al. As mentioned before, this is one hell of a great-looking batch of people, although the organization of the class itself is still a little inchoate. But I'll learn how to use all sorts of nifty gear, and I'm really looking forward to doing a final project, especially if I get to collaborate with a couple of my favorite people in there.
Aesthetics & Politics, with Janet Woolf. I was hesitant at first: more theory? what do I need more theory for? But it looks like a very light workload (esp. since I'm just auditing it), and it's mostly stuff I really ought to read anyway. I felt a little weird speaking up multiple times in yesterday's class--there are actual School of the Arts students in there who are taking it for credit--but we were mostly talking about Kant's aesthetics, and given the amount of time I put in on that stuff last semester I was fairly well qualified to talk (at one point Woolf asked me to clarify Kant's idea of the subjective universal for her--! that was strange...).
Artistic Practice and Digital Media, with Heather Schatz and Eric Chan. This is the one I wasn't mentioning before, because I was wait-listed to get in. I got in--whew. Essentially, this is a hands-on course for people with relatively little experience with fancy graphics/video programs--yesterday was spent very patiently walking us through Photoshop 7. I sort of know what I'm doing much too well, and sort of not at all. Again, I'm just starting to learn the alphabet.
Oddly, yesterday in both of the last two classes I ended up quoting parts of the Red Crayola w/ Art & Language's "A Portrait of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock, part 1," for entirely different reasons.
Incidentally, New Yorkers who are reading this any time before tomorrow afternoon: GO GO GO to the Paula Cooper Gallery at 521 W. 21st St., 2nd floor, and SEE SEE SEE Christian Marclay's "Video Quartet." It closes tomorrow at 6 PM, and is the most fun piece of artwork I've seen in forever.
Well, that was popular... thanks to all for the challenge. (And those who haven't taken me up on it yet are still welcome to throw your hat into the ring, but it may take a bit longer. When I found myself sitting in my Music of Oceania class today watching 'Are'Are people explaining how to make bamboo transverse flutes but attempting in my head to find appropriately dirty rhymes, I figured maybe I should come up with another post here.) As Liz G. pointed out, "now you know what skill you'll be able to offer in exchange for cans of food after the nuclear holocaust."
If I haven't been too informative lately, that's because I'm still trying to get more informed, esp. about what classes I'm taking. And listening to tons of New Order/Joy Division/Warsaw in preparation for the Great Making of the 3-CD-R Retrospective (I know I'm blowing this out of proportion, but the obsession convinced me to get Joy Div's Les Bains Douches, so that can't be bad.) Also watching lots of movies--eXistenZ last night in Coco's class, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie at home the other night. And, presently, listening to Sasha "wild man" Frere-Jones's 18-CD-R retrospective of his favorite music of last year.
Okay, who here wants a dirty limerick written about them?
I picked up Lisa's clarinet from the repair shop today (it hadn't really been played since she was in high school, I think, and needed a tune-up), and a couple of days ago my stylophone arrived. Between those and the ukulele, our apartment has been emitting a lot of odd high-pitched noises lately, but we're having fun.
We went to see Charming Hostess at Tonic last night--they did some of the Walter Benjamin material, a few folk songs of various provenance, and some new settings of an Eastern European poet whose name I didn't quite catch. Charming Hostess are like the way-too-enthusiastic a cappella group from college who thought they were all cool and multiculti and intellectual and girl-positive and stuff, except that they actually are all of the things they want to be--some of the new material, with Carla from Tin Hat Trio playing violin, kind of seems like a formal breakthrough, and not just for CH.
It's not entirely final, but it looks like I may well be taking an intro drawing class after all, with Jesse Bransford. (Cross fingers.) Our first assignment was to "make marks" on ten pages of our sketchbook this weekend. I'd forgotten: Art Is Hard. I figured I'd do five pages today, five tomorrow. I've managed 3 1/2 so far today, & will probably attempt a few more after I post this, but whew. While I was out in the city today, I saw a few things I wanted to try to draw, and then realized I had no idea how to even start drawing them. At home, I tried to make drawings based on a few Jandek album covers: Ready For the House was easy enough, and so was Your Turn to Fall, but Chair Beside a Window gave me real problems. It's going to be an uphill semester, I think.
Also, I think I need to find out more about bamboo bands.
Day three of the new semester, and my previously sprawling course options have now contracted to one definite, a couple of crossing-my-fingers, a couple of backup possibilities, and a whole lot of I-don't-think-sos. Which is why I haven't been posting my course-shopping adventures in detail here: trying not to hex anything.
Instead, I'll just say what I've been doing the rest of the time: attempting to get all my singles alphabetized (the first time they'll have been in total order since, er, 1993 or so) and purging duplicates and unwanted ones; getting lots of sleep (my body's still not totally up to speed after last weekend's twitchfest); listening to boxed sets. In brief:
New Order, Retro: I have no idea how they managed to screw this one up, but they did. New Order are one of my absolute favorite bands ever, they've been playing together in one form or another for more than 25 years, and they have no shortage of interesting material. Somehow, though, this box ended up with 65 tracks (counting the bonus disc) and just over 40 songs--way way WAY too many appear two or three times in various versions. It's hard to hate, since it's hard to hate anything with "Bizarre Love Triangle" on it, but what I kept thinking as I listened was: I could do SO MUCH BETTER than this. I could compile a single-disc best-of-post-Substance that would flow better than any of these discs (or International or the official best-of). Or I could curate a totally slamming comprehensive three-disc-or-so retrospective of their whole Warsaw-Joy Division-New Order-Electronic-The Other Two-etc. career that would be a good introduction for newbies and have enough oddities to please hardcore fans. And given any kind of incentive, I probably will, just on my own. Hint.
Chairmen of the Board, Finder's Keepers: The Invictus Anthology: Not a bad deal, at $18-less-25% through Tower's sale for three discs. They were the fake Four Tops assembled by Holland/Dozier/Holland when they started Invictus, with some top-flight soul voices (e.g. General Johnson), they had a promisingly odd repertoire, and their last album, Skin I'm In, is psych-prog-funk of the kind I normally go for. But H/D/H had a formula, especially in this period, and I like what they did with Honey Cone at the same time much better in general.
Next up: five discs' worth of Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. Which I may have to take kind of slowly: they're really meant to be heard three minutes at a time.
First day of the new semester. Four misses, two hits, I think.
Started it off with a visit to the section of Basic Drawing that I'd actually signed up for some weeks ago, before there'd been any public indication of who was teaching which section of it. I'm a little torn about taking a drawing class right now. What it's got going for it is that I would love to understand more how to draw, especially in conjunction with all the image/narrative stuff and visual-theory stuff I was studying last semester; what it's got against it is that I actually took a drawing class four or five years ago--I didn't get a lot out of it--and the drawing teacher who's supposed to be great, Archie Rand, is still on sabbatical. Also, this section conflicts with some classes I knew I wanted to take. Figured I'd go to the first meeting anyway, and was unthrilled.
I made the mistake of checking out two comp lit seminars at Barnard. I should have remembered: Barnard, as in undergraduate--very much undergraduate. Also as in a pronounced gender/age imbalance, i.e. a little voice in my head was going "15 Cokes and one ginger ale, 15 cole slaws and one baked potato..." I slipped out of both relatively quickly. Back at Columbia, the "Image/Time" seminar in the Art History department turned out to be entirely focused on Gilles Deleuze's ideas about cinema-not-film, and had a snore of a syllabus. But: the HITS!
Hit #1 is the new "Sound/Image" class: 11 students, grad and under-, who more or less bonded on the spot (they include a guy named Jake who it turns out had been corresponding with me for a while, the remarkable violinist Maja Cerar, and my new pal Ann), 5 faculty members, and overwhelming amounts of weapons-grade digital music tech at our disposal. I'm so there, even though the kind of equipment I'd ask for on my own to do a "sound and image" project would probably be something like "two sticks, please: one of them a little charred at the end so it can make a mark on things, and the other one hollow so it makes a sound when I tap it with the first one."
Hit #2 is Steven Feld's "Music of Oceania," which I figured out would be a 60-student crowd I could slip into unnoticed half an hour late; nope, I was student #9, two of the others had been in Hit #1 also, and Feld was so enthusiastic about the topic that I have to come back and hear more.
As of roughly today, I've been living in New York City a third of my life.
So much for that bright idea. I was all set for this weekend to be some kind of exciting romantic getaway for the two of us. Yesterday morning, I had a couple of weird cramps and abruptly found myself in a horrendous mood in which I was convinced that 1992 was the year where I'd been sort of the person I wanted to be for about six weeks and then started making terrible decisions that had led me into a life cul-de-sac, realized that I'd really better lie down, began to ache all over... and then realized that I probably have whatever nasty bug Lisa had a couple of days ago.
I've spent most of yesterday and today in bed, in three-day-old-kitten mode. Lisa took two days to get over whatever it was, and I'm seriously hoping I can do the same. I'm feeling a bit better today than yesterday, but my attention span is stilll just about enough to handle an issue of Batman Adventures.
Lisa, angel that she is, just brought me Grenadine's Goya to listen to. 1992 really was a great year for that stuff, you know?
Don't think I mentioned what I did with a chunk of yesterday: went to the BISAC meeting in the Scholastic building. BISAC is the body that determines the category system that the book-publishing industry uses to sort everything it publishes; it's used by buyers to some extent, by stores (for shelving) to some extent, and by online retailers to a much greater extent. I was with a group of people from the comics community who were advocating a separate category with subcategories for comics/graphic novels (so they don't all get filed under "humor," and so, as Rich Johnston from DC put it, Powerpuff Girls doesn't get filed next to Preacher). We seem to have convinced them that that was a good idea. Art Spiegelman was there (and not smoking, which surprised everyone familiar with him); he told the story of how a bookstore he frequents had had Maus on its front table for ten years. When he finally went up to the proprietors to introduce himself and thank them for the publicity, they said "thank you, but it's nothing personal--we just couldn't figure out where to shelve it!"
Spent today on a field trip with NAJP to the Barnes Foundation HQ in Philadelphia. Dr. Barnes was a pharmaceutical millionaire in the early part of the century, and an art fancier and heavy-duty æsthete with an æ. He bought up pretty much everything he could get his hands on by almost every important European artist of his era (our tour guide couldn't think of any significant exceptions besides Kandinsky; I'd have added Duchamp to that, but it's not like Philly is short on Duchamp), and arranged the paintings (and some drawings and other things and folk artifacts) all over the walls of his museum--covering the walls as fully as he could get away with. There are a few really extraordinary pieces in the collection (like Matisse's "Joy of Life," which predates Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" and goes at least as far out, and a kick-ass blue Picasso from 1903 of a seated man), lots of interesting minor-to-not-so-minor Degas, Van Gogh, etc., and MASSIVE amounts of Renoir, some of it shockingly awful (a whole lot of nudes with gobs of Vaseline on the lens, effectively--Renoir seems to have had a real weakness for those). Worth seeing if you get the chance--the museum is only allowed to admit 1200 people a week, so you have to reserve at least a month in advance.
Dinner tonight with my old friend R., who's now a consultant, and her consultant friend W. "I've totally sold out," R. says with pride that she likes to pretend is shame (the grin gives it away). She has now worked for so many tobacco companies that nondisclosure agreements prevent her from looking at the "really interesting" intranets of others--and she is unhappy about this. It took a great deal of effort not to suggest that al-Qaeda's intranet setup is supposed to be especially cool, and maybe she could try for that gig too. I also avoided bringing up Plato's idea of "moral incontinence"--when you know perfectly well what the right thing to do is and nothing's stopping you from doing it, but you don't do it anyway. Then W. started going off on how unfair she thinks it is that here in America one is supposed to tip people--cab drivers, waiters, hairdressers, it just doesn't stop, why, you can pay $100 to have your hair done and then you're supposed to pay the hairdresser an extra tip, isn't the service exactly what you've already paid for?, I mean, where I'm coming from-- "Where you're coming from is boarding school," I snapped before I could hold myself back.
I managed to sort of salvage that into something more restrained about the blue-collar-on-down cash economy, and how the point of tipping is partly that one can pay people without also making them pay tax or having to pay it oneself, and would you rather pay list price of $100 plus a $15 tip for a haircut or list price of $120 service compris, etc., and then tried to derail it into a more abstract discussion of how e.g. Marcel Proust was legendary for tipping at least 100% at all times, but by then I think the damage had been done. Which is a pity: as far as I'm concerned, the primary goal of an argument is to convince the person one's arguing with that not only does he or she agree with you but that he or she always has. I would especially have liked to have done that in this case.
I've spent the last two days trying to figure out what classes I want to take next semester. At the moment, it looks like I'll be attending the intro classes of Madness & Sexuality, Sexuality & Language, Language & Music, Music & Images, Images & Time, and Peanut Butter & Jelly. Seriously, the "a + b" formula seems to be out of control on my signup sheet, and they do all seem to connect up. Sadly, five of the classes I want most are at exactly the same time on Tuesday morning.
She of the Curly Hair has been under the weather the last couple of days, but now seems to be feeling better (I made a miso-squash-kombu soup tonight that appears to have had a tonic effect on her. We're trying to think of something interesting we can do as a Saturday-Monday getaway this weekend before we have to plunge back into academia. Since everyone's been very helpful with movie suggestions, your suggestions for this are welcome too...
And I wish I'd written it down--I remember waking up and casting about for a pen so I could write it on my arm, and then remembering that I was still wearing the sound-recording watch that Lisa gave me a while back, but that I have to talk very loudly into it to get it to record, and I didn't want to wake her up, since she'd come home at 7 or so with some kind of bug and gone straight to sleep. All I remember was that it was based around a song: four chords that didn't quite go together, in pretty much the same way that the chords in 3Ds songs always seem a little off. There were four words that repeated in sequence too, one of which was "monkey." In the dream, I'd been describing it to Lisa as I played a nonexistent Vainio Väisänen Vega 12", and she left the room right before the end of the record--and after the song proper ended, just as it hit the runout groove, Alan Vega sang that four-word phrase, unexpectedly. In the dream, I took this as some kind of important portent.
I lied, actually, but only because I didn't know better. This. This is the best ukulele site ever.
The ukulele has arrived, and it's a beauty. My dog will have fleas for a good long while, I hope. Plus, I've discovered the best ukulele instruction site ever.
Also newly arrived: a care package from Mike Alway of Él Records, including The Cool Mikado, the soundtrack to a swingin' Brit adaptation of the genuine Gilbert & Sullivan item that's alleged to be one of the worst films of all time. I was hoping for a little more twistedness, but the John Barry Seven's "Tit Willow Twist" is exactly what I wanted out of it. This right after Jennie & Mark gave us a mix CD including the Oranj Symphonette's "Baby Elephant Gun," which gives the same treatment to you-can-guess-what.
I am now working on a small project involving the color yellow. If you happen to particularly like working with yellow, do let me know.
Just finished rereading Within the Context of No Context, which includes a paragraph so good I ripped off bits of it yesterday for something else I was writing. Trow is writing about a sealed "Gossip" section in an old issue of Esquire:
"At one moment, the compilers contrived a category of 'Gossips Posing as Journalists,' and they implied that it was not a good thing to be a gossip posing as a journalist; yet revealed through the page like a rash rising through the flesh was the probability that the compilers were themselves gossips posing as journalists. I'm a lady and I'm going to list all the different kinds of whores. There's this whore and that whore. Don't you love whores? There's this whore and that whore and this one who pretends to be a lady. Isn't that funny? Aren't ladies dumb? But I'm a lady. Are you sure I'm a lady? Of course I'm a lady. I'm a lady because I know what a whore does. I know the way a whore walks into the Beverly Hills Hotel. Don't you love the Beverly Hills Hotel? Don't you love the way they know me at the Beverly Hills Hotel? Don't you love the way you feel when you don't know if I like you or not? Don't you love the way you feel when you don't know if you want to be a whore or not? Would you like to be a whore? Would you like to have me arrange for you to be a whore? Am I arranging it now?"
There are advantages to living with boxes and shelves and crates and piles and piles and piles of stuff, and every so often one of them manifests itself. Like last night, when I located a copy of a nine-year-old article from The New Yorker for Lisa in under 20 minutes. I was excessively proud of myself.
Then we spent a couple of hours alphabetizing five boxes' worth of unfiled 7" singles, and the pride turned to a weird, curdled mixture of nostalgia and why-have-I-wasted-my-life-with-this-stuff. I hitched my wagon to a battery-powered archaism, I thought, and rode it as the battery slowly wore down. I mean, I love it all: it's the water I swim in. I thought "man! this one is great!" multiple times every minute. For a few moments, I thought "aaagh! I don't wanna be a record collector any more!," too. But that's not true, either: being a collector, or rather having the collection, is a real and immense joy to me. What I was feeling last night is that I just don't want to have been a collector. I just want to have come home one day and found boxes and boxes of Caramel and Caroliner and Clarence Carter singles sitting neatly filed on my shelves. Does that make any sense?
Stuff to do expands to overfill the time allotted, especially when that stuff includes surfing the Web. But that stuff also includes everything I want to do before classes resume: everyone I want to have lunch or dinner with, everyone I want to write to, all the apartment maintenance that needs doing. And it includes cooking: last night I dipped into the Ayurvedic cookbook that Alexis Soloski gave me for my birthday (thank you, Alexis!) and made tofu gumbo with fennel. Mmm.
Currently re-reading George W.S. Trow's In the Context of No Context, two essays that are more or less about the rapid transformation of American culture via television (Lisa watched Network last night, which goes well with it; I re-watched the first hour with her). I admire Trow's style in the book immensely, even if it sometimes circles his content protectively and refuses to let anyone at it.
The new dbc singles club thing, Oedipus's "Hybrid Phase Yellow," arrived today, & will be going out shortly. I'm very happy about it.
Question for lacunae readers: can you please use the comment feature to recommend a DVD that Lisa & I should rent, & maybe explain briefly why?
Another advantage of being married: having someone around to make sure one sticks to one's New Year's resolutions. I probably wouldn't have made it to the gym tonight on my own, and my body spent the first 45 minutes of the hour going "don't wanna." But I made it through, and read a giant chunk of Superman in the Sixties, a book of reprints that features some of the most desperately messed-up comics ever printed. If you've never experienced "The Red-Headed Beatle of 1000 B.C.," well, you're a less confused person than I am. I was actually inspired to go back and re-read the book after having read Supreme: The Story of the Year, a collection of the first year's worth of Alan Moore's run on Supreme, which was evidently printed from scans of the actual comics--ouch. But it half-pastiches and half-parodies a lot of those great '60s Superman stories really effectively: before I read the Superman book, I'd just have said "parodies."
Spent this afternoon in Crowns on 45's old space (now addicted2fiction's space), doing a little recording project with the fabulous Liz B. for a semi-secret thing I'm working on. I hadn't played with her in something like a year--it was great to actually collaborate with her again.
A year or two ago, one of my header lines for a "noise" entry was "James Jamerson in the Beatles." (At the time, I'd been working on something that I was really good at & really liked the people I was working with, but felt totally out of place anyway--Sam Kieth's line about quitting Sandman because he felt "like Jimi Hendrix in the Beatles" came to mind. Yesterday I got an email from a guy who had found my site from a search on the phrase "James Jamerson in the Beatles"--it was part of his Paul-is-dead theory. (Doesn't work right now if you do the search, because the noise archives are currently sealed off from Google. They'll be unsealed again once I have a chance to do a little HTML, probably later this week.)
Classes don't start for another two weeks, but today intersession athletic classes started, so I was back in Columbia's Iyengar yoga class. At 8 AM, which means that I got up at 6. Oof. There were no holdovers from last semester's 9 AM class, and a few people who hadn't really had yoga classes before at all, so we started more or less the same way we did last semester. Which is good, actually: Columbia (the teacher, not the official policy of the university--same name) advised us that we should all take the beginning-level class three or four times, and that we'd notice a real difference each time. I did--I'm still horrifically inflexible, but I understand some of the basic principles of how to do the poses a lot better now.
(I am sort of curious about how yoga & yoga instruction as we know it evolved. There is an actual Mr. Iyengar, about whom I know very little--apparently the student who made him famous was Yehudi Menuhin! Cue "Who's Yehoodi?" in my head.)
Dinner last night was a stir-fry involving asparagus and oven-baked marinated tofu, from the Crescent Dragonwagon book--very tasty, but I'm not going to reproduce it here because it set off the smoke alarm three times, once with good reason (dropping 4 dried peppers into smoking-hot peanut oil & stirring them around over high heat for a minute = cough cough cough cough). C.D. is fond of cooking spray, which I'd never really used until last week. Odd stuff.
*Gorgeous triangular-bodied pineapple-finish electric/acoustic ukulele
*Box of slimline CD-R cases
*Design-y green plastic wallet
*Five instant lottery tickets (two winning: one $2, one $1)
*George W.S. Trow's In the Context of No Context
*Roz Denny and Christine Ingram's The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking
*Miriam Kasin Hospodar's Heaven's Banquet
*CD-R of unreleased material by Greenpot Bluepot in hand-sewn sleeve
*CD-R of Sebadoh at CBGB's 1/17/92 (the show that yielded "Pete" from the first DBC single)
*Presence of many dear friends (and phone calls from more!)
It's been a very happy day.
I turn 33 today. My friend Sharon Mesmer calls it that: "you do your best work, but you get crucified for it."
Stayed up very late last night assembling a mix CD to give to the friends I see today, since I believe firmly in the importance of giving people presents on one's birthday. A lot of that time was spent in a teeth-gnashing sequencing difficulty, which lasted until I realized that my problems stemmed from my neuro-compulsive need to make mix CDs last more than 73 minutes and 50 seconds and less than 74 minutes. Deleted one brief, irritating track, and then a longer, good but not-really-appropriate-here one, ended up just over 72 minutes, hit "burn," and so to bed.
Speaking of which, one of the many other people who's adopted Movable Type for a weblog in the last few days is Samuel (listed to the left in "people")--worth a look.
The "posting the new year's resolutions" thing worked out nicely in 2002 (well, sort of), so here's the list for this year. You may notice that it bears certain similarities to last year's list.
*Start an art movement of some kind.
*Drink lots of water.
*Learn to drink alcohol (in moderation, of course).
*Write in my diary (not the online one)--the point of this is to not lose time, which is what happens when I don't keep notes on it.
*Exercise for a full hour, including at least half an hour at one continuous activity (this resolution is only binding for January; after that, I'll renegotiate).
*Finish reading a book.
*Write or co-write a song.
*Complete some kind of bigger-than-small-scale creative project.
If you've got resolutions of your own, well, this would be a perfect time to try out the comment feature in the new lacunae, wouldn't it?
We tried to go out last night--really we did. We'd heard good things about the Madagascar Institute's parties, and we'd heard that the NYE one would be the last for a while. (This is the "D. & L." we, not the royal we.) So we drove out there about 11:15, and found a fire truck and some police cars parked out front, and a sidewalk filled with desolate hipsters. We drove around briefly in search of something enticing-looking, dodging speeding vehicles with furious drivers trying to get somewhere before the stroke of midnight, gave up, came home and ate marzipan.
The parashah has now reached the Clash, appropriately enough. L.'s listening to London Calling in the other room, and I'm filing CDs and attempting to come up with New Year's resolutions. Just cooked a giant vat of "Dancin' John"--Crescent Dragonwagon's veggie equivalent of Hoppin' John. Pleasant and date-appropriate, if a little bland.