Tuesday, April 25, 2006

drums, sting, etc.

When friends of mine who I know are good musicians affirm my love of Sting, it makes me really happy. Because the truth is, Sting is damn good, and people who hate on him just because he used to be in a band they like just aren't educated (or are dumb or have bad taste). The Police and Sting are not mutually exclusive. I repeat: The Police and Sting are not mutually exclusive.

I suppose I do see the point that Sting used to be somewhat of hard rocker and moved on to a significantly softer sound, leading some people to see him as pussified. But this would be similar to hating Bjork because she moved on from the Sugarcubes, which of course would be ridiculous, because it would fail to take into account the music she has created as a solo artist. I urge you, people, to listen to the music Sting has created as a solo artist, and I don't mean Fields of Gold (I mean Fields of Gold least of all).

A couple of weeks ago my friend Nadir, who is a fantastic drummer, was in New York and we hung out and listened to Ten Summoners' Tales like we did a long, long time ago and I got to watch Nadir use pencils to drum along with the album, with my mouth open the whole time like a big dork, 'cause both Nadir and the album are so good. If you don't own the album, you should because it's a masterpiece from beginning to end. Totally cohesive, tight lyrics and of course melodies, RIDICULOUS drums. So intricate. Yet subtle and not at all in your face. Here's the thing: it takes a grown up person who can let go of some pathetic concept of youthful hard rock to appreciate the drums on an album like Ten Summoners' Tales. In fact, many musicians are not capable of letting go of that concept, which is why they stagnate and become these fake, unartistic worshippers of youth who are just...pathetic. Evolution is key as an artist, and as a listener.

So today Nadir was back in New York and I watched him play with his new band, Justin King. They were aight. A little John Mayer-ish for my taste, but I just get so much joy out of watching good drums live. Nadir made a couple of the songs. They're lucky to have him in the band. Which is pretty much unrelated to the Sting topic, except that both involve really good drums.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

wa bra?

what language is this in? for the love of god!


i'm so confused, someone help me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

paul klee @ neue galerie

i've always been an admirer of swiss artist paul klee and he's got a show at the neue galerie (this picture, Twittering Machine, is of one of his best known and one of my favorites, but wasn't at the show because MoMA owns it). i'd never been to this gallery before and though i'm still surprised when asked to pay a $10 student fare to enter a "gallery," i had already made the trek uptown, so i shelled out the dough.

probably the most interesting thing to me about seeing so much of klee's work up close and personal was the treatment of the surface, which isn't that interesting (meaning that it isn't that interesting of an observation, not that his treatment isn't interesting). i mean, it does help in communing with the artist on a more personal level, and seeing his truly incredible three-dimensional control of paint made me admire him more, and it caused his works to take on an ancient quality that is super in line with the child-like, primordial feeling in most of his art. BUT i must admit that i was more taken with other things in the gallery.

first, egon schiele. i've always loved him (it's difficult not to, i think), but since a show of his that i recently saw at Galerie St. Etienne (note: it's free) i'm taken by him in a completely new and...well, rapturous way. he developed a style and a command and use of color that were so perfectly suited to his own distinctive purpose. (i think the connection with him has to do with the fact that he is a figurative artist and so is able to convey human emotion more clearly, but i'm not completely sure (there are abstract artists who i like more than figurative ones, of course, and i like other figurative artists less and more than schiele)). but i think the main thing is his use of line:

it made me think of jackson pollock, and the tired old interpretation that pollock's painting style is the supreme recording of the physical creation of the line, and that therefore his paintings allow us to connect with the artist because of the hyper bodily movements recorded in his splashings of paint. but just because pollock moved around like a mad man over his canvas doesn't mean that those types of lines are the best ones through which to communicate with a viewer. it's so blatantly obvious, to me at least, that the slow, purposeful tracing of a pencil on a piece of paper, which created the types of lines in schiele's work, are a far more powerful way of recording an individual's movements and communicating the personal quality of that act, and the more i think about pollock the more i think that the absolute only reason to admire him is because he did something that was radical for the time, but not at all because of the form of the act.

this was reinforced by something else i thought of at the gallery, which is a collection not only of paintings from turn of the century germany and austria, but also of decorative arts, including jewelry, tableware and furniture (go with me on this). normally, i don't care much for industrial and graphic design; i've seen it as somewhat empty and part of an upper class preoccupation with material items (which, of course, it is, and -- okay -- the visual arts are too to some extent, but at least they have the potential to be something more pure). but graphic/industrial design have a value beyond the material that connects to the value i see in schiele, and klee too, and which pollock doesn't have. and that is the pure creation of a style.

style exists in every medium -- literature, music, fashion, theater, etc. -- and it's one of the great things that a human being can create and which other human beings can perceive and appreciate. (because i've read so much of him recently, i'm thinking of the writing of ian frazier as a very strong example of a superb literary style.) the germans and austrians during the turn of the century -- the work that is exhibited at the neue -- had an exceptionally strong and maybe even cohesive style that extended across many media. being in the gallery, you just feel it. by contrast, i don't feel pollock to be an expression of his time and place at all, and compared with all of the writers, playwrites and visual artists i'm thinking of, he's just got no style. he found something that worked (i've argued elsewhere that his motivations were largely economic, but i'm not gonna go there right now) and he made a ton of paintings in that same model.

i should probably put a little more thought into a definition of style in order to make this point stronger, but i'm too tired right now. also i hate to end on a negative note, so one last thing: i really liked some of the gustav klimt works in the gallery, most especially The Black Feather Hat (this link does not do the colors justice). good god, it's an excellent painting. to me, it felt more mature than the later style that he eventually perfected and became known for. this painting alone made the trip to the gallery worth it.

I Will Have

this was inspired by a teacher of mine. make of it what you will.

I will have
An apartment of my own with my own fine things
Filling it
Like soap dishes from Turkey, and books full of semiotic and gender theory, and stools from India
I will have
The relationships I choose
Whether they are with many men or one woman, and I will make them work so that the old people and young children I know live in mutual recognition of me, and of each other
I will have
Traditions of my own
And if they are not those of my ancestors and if my life is lived according to my own moral guidelines, it will be the life that I have chosen
I will have
A cosmopolitan life
In New York City, surrounded by friends and culture and art and enlightenment
I will die
And they will eat the half-finished organic carrot cake that sat on the counter, waiting for me all last week

Thursday, April 20, 2006

what are some people thinking??!

i won't lie and say i've never wished i had bigger boobs. not only do they help certain articles of clothing like lowcut shirts and strapless dresses look acceptable (speaking of which although objectively i like her clothes, nicole richie shouldn't be permitted to dress the way she does being so meagerly endowed (or anorexic, or whatever she is)), i'm also conditioned to think large breasts are a key component of sexiness. (although, by comparison, please note gwen stefani, my favorite petite breasted celebrity -- and one of my favorites in general. flat, and hot. of course it's possible, of course. just not how nicole does it.)

but to actually do the deed and have someone cut you open and violently fill you with silicone? it's so disgusting, it looks like shit, and how the hell can you ever admit to yourself or anyone else that you voluntarily had a surgery because you were yielding to society's dictates of what is attractive? don't people want to be classy? principled? i swear i don't understand it.

another thing i don't understand:
trying to be a totally shitty pop artist, but thinking you're really good.
i recently had dinner with my soon to be former roommate and a friend of his (i dislike both of them) and this chick is trying to start out her career as a pop star. okay, okay, you wanna make lots of money and be ogled and loved...if untolerable, i can at least understand this. but what i can't understand about this particular would-be pop idol is that she doesn't have even an ounce of self-reflection to see how absolutely, utterly and completely lame she is. and if you think that being a sell-out pop star automatically entails a certain amount of self-delusion, you'd be surprised by how many shitty musicians are aware that their actions are commensurate with destroying art (which, admittedly, may be worse than doing it unknowingly).

for your edification, i'm placing a snippet from this singer's forthcoming album below. the song this comes from is called "ladrona," which is the spanish feminine for thief, ladron. [actually, i can't figure out how to place sound in here (unsurprising). here are some lyrics, but you gotta hear this to understand what i'm talking about]

i saw her struttin' my look with my own two eyes
i can't believe her guts although i'm not surprised
down to her via spiga heels and a fake gucci
this girl has no imagination, she's just a copy
i guess that i'm that great, that you would feel the need
to go and imitate, my style in vintage tweed
i guess that i'm like you, that you would feel the urge
to tuck your jeans in boots, my look you love to scourge


la, la, la ladrona
you little crook
la, la, la ladrona
you stole my look

la, la, la ladrona
you little crook
la, la, la ladrona
you stole my look

i mean, she's so uncool it just makes me want to cry.
check our her website and watch some of her videos for more supporting evidence:


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ghost Towns - no, really

My lovely brother was kind enough to point me to this ridiculously amazing website:


I'm a ghost town enthusiast, but riding solo on a motorcycle around Chernobyl (what the proprietor of the website dubs "Land of the Wolves") takes ruin trolling to a whole new level. This ain't a hobby. It's a mission.

Widening Net (or shrinking, depending on how you look at it)

Everybody loves adventure (the cruise enthusiasts just don't know it).

Like anyone with an ounce of curiosity I find hitting up rugged outposts and learning new things totally irresistible. Sadly, though, the price of those adventures is the waning of the undiscovered (see Michael Behar's unbelievable article from Outside magazine, "The Selling of the Last Savage"). It's no secret that the "backwoods" parts of the world are rapidly disappearing -- both in terms of countries and wild wildernessy areas.

Prague is probably the best current example -- once an off the beaten path destination, now one of the most touristed cities in Europe. Cell phone reception is making its way into the wildest areas (soon it'll be underground and in the skies, from what I hear), and feeling like you're lost or even in unfamiliar territory will soon be impossible. As topical evidence, take the surge of interest in the Balkans, the trans-Siberian railway and other less visited outposts. (I actually took a trip through the Balkans in March 2004 but luckily I hit upon it early. This picture is of Sinaia, Romania.)

This widening net/shrinking world is actually having a positive side effect I hadn't considered: it's democratizing the art world in a way that any student of the occidental conception of art history will find significant.

An article in today's NY Times highlights the "hot trend" in Chinese contemporary art. So the search for the new and the different -- and this is my interpretation here -- has led us to a point where the east may be leading the way in the contemporary art scene. (I haven't seen the art that was on sale, but the image in the article looks fabulous.)

This is vastly different from the role that any Asian art plays in American textbooks on art history (and is part of a controversy that, thank the lord, is finally coming to the fore. And yes, I wrote my undergraduate thesis about the same topic.) -- namely, Asian art is mummified and simply stops after a certain medieval date along with the art of other "ancient cultures" (Mesoamerican, Aegean, Assyrian...) after which the Occident takes over. Probably because of this, Asian art has commanded high asking prices only for ancient pieces. We may now be seeing a phenomenon whereby the market dictates what goes down in the books, rather than the other way around, which I personally find exciting. And appropriate.

So when you think about how limited our perspective is as its conceived in the canonical art history texts (yes, the texts themselves are canonical as well as the art they describe), the frontiers of contemporary art do indeed seem boundless, as one person said in the NYT article. I think this is true, and it's one of the only heartening things to have come to mind about contemporary art in a really long time. There's something almost completely staid about art in America right now and looking to other countries is what we have to do. (All those death of art people can calm down. (Sorry for obscure art theory references. And sorry for being so goddamn American-centric, but it's not my fault. I can't believe I've never thought of this before, but I really need to see the art history textbooks of other countries.))

There's a big difference in the potential for renewal in art and the potential for renewal in the undiscovered geographical regions of the world, which is that once the geographical regions are discovered, they can't be undiscovered (or forgotten). Art, on the other hand, can always dredge up older styles that have been overlooked, or at least repackage them. Maybe parts of the world can be repackaged (imagine an exotic Phoenix...), but that'd be quite a PR feat.

And of course the mechanism at work in all of this is just the old fetishizing of the new, the undiscovered. Which, while being totally unhealthy and fucked up, is totally irresistible.