Monday, May 31, 2010

Stan "The Man" Musial

"No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest to being perfect in the game today....He plays as hard when his club is away out in front of a game as he does when they're just a run or two behind."
-Ty Cobb writes about Musial in a 1952 Life magazine article

Stan Musial was born Stanisław Franciszek Musiał on November 21, 1920 in Donora, Pennsylvania. He was the fifth of six children born to Lukasz and Mary Musial.

Stan began playing baseball at the age of 15 when he joined the Donora Zincs, semi-professional baseball club which was managed by ex-minor leaguer Joe Barbao, who was a neighbor of the Musial's. Musial began his career as a pitcher and in his first game he tossed six innings, striking out thirteen batters. In 1937 the St. Louis Cardinals, who had been scouting Musial as a pitcher, offered him a professional contract. In 1938 Stan joined the Cardinal's class D team in Williamson, Virginia.

Musial finished the 1938 season with a 6-6 record and a .258 batting average for the Williamson team. Between the 1938 and 1939 seasons Musial returned to Donora and completed his high school education, then joined Williamson in the spring where he went on to post a 9-2 record, 4.30 ERA, and a .352 batting average for the 1939 season.

Musial spent the 1940 season with the Cardinals' Class D team in Daytona Beach, Florida. During this season, Musial began playing the outfield between pitching starts. On May 25, 1940, Musial married fellow Donora resident Lillian "Lil" Labash in Daytona Beach. Stan and Lil would welcome their first child in August 1940. Late in the 1940 season, Musial suffered a shoulder injury while playing in the outfield, that would essentially end his pitching career. In 113 games that season, Musial hit .311, and compiled an 18-5 pitching record, including 176 strikeouts and 145 walks.

Musial was assigned to the Class AA Columbus, Ohio team to begin 1941, but was soon reassigned to Class C Springfield, Missouri as a full time outfielder, when the extent of Musial's shoulder injury from the season prior, revealed he would no longer be an effective pitcher. During 87 games with Springfield, Musial hit a league-leading .379, before being promoted to the International League team in Rochester, New York. Stan continued to hit well, including 11 hits in a three-game stretch. Musial was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals for the last two weeks of the 1941 season.

Musial began 1942 as the starting left fielder, and finished the season with a .315 batting average and 72 RBIs in 140 games, Musial received national publicity in September when St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor J. Roy Stockton named Musial as his choice for Rookie of the Year in a Saturday Evening Post article. The Cardinals went on to play the New York Yankees in the 1942 World Series. And though Musial's numbers weren't impressive, he did have a few key hits that helped the Cardinals win the series four games to one.

Musial was selected to his first All-Star Game in 1943 and finished the regular season leading the National League in hits (220), doubles (48), triples (20), total bases (347), on-base percentage (.425), and slugging percentage (.562). This performance earned him his first National League Most Valuable Player award. The Cardinal's went on to play the Yankees in the World Series, but 1943 would be the Yankees year.

The realities of World War II began to encroach on Musial's baseball career in 1944, he ultimately remained with the Cardinals for the entire season as The Cardinals claimed the National League pennant for the third consecutive season. The Cardinals went on to face the St. Louis Browns in the 1944 World Series, defeating them in six games, with Musial posting a .304 batting average for the Series.

Stan Musial entered the United States Navy on January 23, 1945, and was initially assigned to non-combat duty at the Naval Training Station in Bainbridge, Maryland. On ship repair duty at Pearl Harbor later in the year, Musial was able to play baseball every afternoon in the naval base's eight-team league. After being granted emergency leave to see his ailing father in January 1946, Musial spent a brief time assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard before being honorably discharged from the Navy in March

Musial rejoined the Cardinals for the 1946 season. It was during this season that Musial acquired his nickname of the "The Man." During the June 23 game against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Bob Broeg heard Dodger fans chanting whenever Musial came to bat, Broeg asked Cardinals traveling secretary Leo Ward what the Dodger fans had been chanting. Ward said that, "Every time Stan came up they chanted, 'Here comes the man!'" "'That man,' you mean," Broeg said. "No, the man," replied Ward.

1948 was the pinnacle of Stan Musial's career. During the season he collected his 1,000th career hit, and would go on to lead the league in all most every major hitting category. At seasons end, Musial was one home run shy of sharing the league lead. It's also important to point out that Musial had two home runs taken away during the course of the season. One during a rained out game and the second was wrongly ruled a two-base hit by umpire Frank Dascoli.

Stan Musial would spend the rest of his baseball career collecting every award and reaching ever milestone imaginable, including collecting his 3,000th hit on May 13th 1958. Musial finally retired at the end of the 1963 season. He would go on to have his number 6 retired by the Cardinals, a statue erected outside of Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and be elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

love calls

There are too many words


from floor to ceiling


with one another


phrases of awkward bitterness.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Screwing The Polar Bear For Free

This is the latest video off the album The March of The Tongue Brigade by Casey Mensing with JUBANO!


Friday, May 28, 2010

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

                      -Dr. Johnson.

The above quote marks the beginning of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing first appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in November of 1971. Originally, it was published in two parts with the byline of, by “Raoul Duke”, Thompson's alias, and was then published in book form by Random House in 1972.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a modern masterpiece, and a fantastic testament to an era that has become a part of our mythic consciousness. Thompson was coming off two big successes with Hell's Angels, a book about his year spent with the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Gang and his piece done with Ralph Steadman on the Kentucky Derby entitled “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”.

The book is about two seekers of the 60's going to Vegas for one last freak out. Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr. Gonzo, armed with copious amounts or narcotics head to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400 off road motorcycle race. The pair instead get loaded on hallucinogens and go in search of the American dream, believing that it is to be found somewhere in the city of Las Vegas. Interestingly enough the main nerve that runs through the human body is known as the Vegas nerve.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins with Duke and Gonzo's journey to Vegas from Los Angeles for the beginning of the Mint 400. The book opens with one of the most famous lines of any book of the later half of the twentieth century. “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”1 From that moment forward the reader spends the first half of the book following Duke and Gonzo on their insane trajectory. From hitchhikers to people turning into reptiles to the evils of ether, ending in an attempt to escape a completely destroyed hotel room without paying the bill. All the while philosophizing on the end of a “Main Era” and the sense of doom that permeates everything in its aftermath.

The second half of the book starts up after Raoul Duke tries to flee Las Vegas and ends up having a run in with a perverse California Highway Patrolman. Duke elects to return to Vegas and join his attorney Dr. Gonzo at the National District Attorneys' Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Thompson uses Duke and Gonzo's attendance at the conference to poke fun at American law enforcements backward and outdated approach to handling the drug epidemic.

The story then turns into a harrowing descent into drug madness when Duke dabbles with andrenochrome. The rest of the book is told like a serious of wild and vicious hallucinations of crazed criminal behavior that Duke tries to explain to himself and the reader. In the end, Duke is yet again on the run, this time nervously sweating in the Las Vegas airport waiting for his flight. Just as the book began with an often quoted line, the book ends with the famous, “I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger . . . a Man on the Move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.”2

1Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (New York 1971) pp 3
2Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (New York 1971) pp 204

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm sitting between a tax consultant and the window. Moving pictures and I glide, jet propelled, tens of
thousands of feet above the ground. Moments and dreams resonating together. Enraptured by the pockets of light, wondering what's going on in the towns and cities below. I find myself longing to be embraced by lovers and friends, curious to know if they are thinking about me as I think about them.

Pampy's Live Oaks Bar, Louis Armstrong Airport, the city of New Orleans, somewhere outside of these windows.

What was supposed to be a one hour lay over, quickly turned into three. I've suffered through
longer, far more excruciating layovers. I once spent six and a half hours at the Jacksonville airport waiting for a flight to Toronto to open up. I was flying standby and luck wasn't with me. This time there was a late start and a technical problem. I feel better waiting the extra time, knowing that the problem is being taken care of, plus there's always cold beer to help pass the time.

Two overweight men with pasty limbs and sun burned faces, a cowboy with a handle bar mustache, and a middle aged woman with a perm and bad dye job are sitting on stools along one of the side wall. They're dropping quarters into a slot and pushing the magic button hoping for the three hundred dollar pay-off.

A guy with a Johnny Unitas crew cut, wearing khaki's and a University of Alabama polo, sits down at the bar next to me and orders a Jack and Coke. After his drink arrives he gets on his cell phone and starts talking athletic prowess and per diems. I turn my attention to the TV on the wall to my right. The world news is on. A man riding a tricycle car jacked a couple then crashed the car into a telephone pole three blocks later. When apprehended, he told the cops he did it because he was trying to stop his sister from marrying the man who raped their mother.

One of the sun burned men curses the machine that keeps taking his money. The lady with the perm just won fifty bucks. I turn my attention back to the TV. I'm six beers in and my attention span is shot. The man on the screen doesn't interest me, neither does the story he's telling. The motion of the news ticker catches my eye. A couple rob a bank dressed as Teddy Bears . . . You'll be lonesome when I'm gone . . . Fed Gov't gives state of DE to the homeless, residents forced to leave . . . 40,000 people died last year in fiery auto crashes . . . What your stool can tell you . . . New study released . . . Genetically enhanced 200 lbs guinea pig discovered on Indiana farm . . . Man who shot 7 in FL church had brain tumor and syphilis.

Mr. Crimson Tide finishes his drink and leaves the bartender a seventy-five cent tip. The look on her face was priceless. When she caught me smiling at her in understanding, she laughed and refilled my glass.

“Keep this service up and there's going to be a whole dollar in your future,” I said with a smirk when she put a full glass of beer in front of me.

“How generous of you,” she responded, moving down the bar to help a couple that just sat down.

I take a long drink and can feel myself slipping into a drunken state. I light a cigarette and look back at the TV which is playing a mosquito repellent commercial. An older woman, late seventies, sits down next to me and began speaking slow gumbo in my ear. The skin around her eyes is creased with hundreds of tiny lines and most of her hair has fallen out. She is trying to conceal it with a high bouffant comb over. I can't tell if she is speaking nonsense to me or if I am just that drunk. I smile and try to follow along. The only thing I understand is when she motions for a cigarette. I slide the pack and lighter over to her. She didn't speak to me again until she had finished half the cigarette and a gin and tonic. The old gal began to speak slower and more deliberate to me as I finish off my beer and nod to the bartender for another.

She tells me her name is Marianne and she is on her way to Houston for her sister's funeral. I express my condolences, perhaps too sympathetically, because she provides me with the highlights of all her life's tragedies. Each one rolling off her tongue slowly. Two of her sons dead, husband dead, sister dead. She and her baby boy, now 41, are all that's left. Before she finishes her second drink, her son comes and collects her. “They're going to be boarding our flight soon, ma.” He says to her.

Folks come in, shake off the smell of recirculated air. I keep to myself, swallow down more beer and watch a frumpy woman, sitting at a table to my right, wiggle her French manicured toes. She looks like she's been down a rough road but the diamond on her right hand says it must not have been all bad. I notice that I'm not the only one watching her. There's a man at a table near her who bares a strange resemblance to Stephen King. A far less successful brother perhaps. He pretends to be reading the book on his lap, keeps the front cover low, unseen, maybe it's one of Stephen's. The woman with the wiggling toes looks over at him and he mouths something lewd. She turns away unimpressed. I turn my attention away from them and listen to the prerecorded airport messages and calls for boarding flights.

I don't know how long the bartender has been standing in front of me but the look on her face tells me it has been awhile. Her name tag reads Penelope. She offers me a cigarette and probably because of the uneasy look on my face, asks if I'm ready to pay my tab. I hand her some money, take a few drags off the cigarette before mashing it out, and head toward my gate.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From Arthur Rimbaud

“Women and men once believed in prophets. Now they believe in politicians.”

                       -Arthur Rimbaud.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Satchel Paige

"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

-Satchel Paige.

Leroy "Satchel" Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama to John and Lula Page, possibly on July 7, 1906. The date of his birth is subject to speculation due to a lack of a birth certificate and Paige's own reluctance to directly answer any questions on the subject. His mother would change the spelling of the families last name from Page to Paige after John Page deserted the family when Satchel was young.

There are two stories as to how the young Leroy Paige earned the nickname "Satchel". His childhood friend Wilbur Hines says he gave the nickname to Paige when the two would go down to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad station and carry people's bags for money. Hines stated that Paige got caught trying to steal one of the bags and that's why he gave him the nickname Satchel. Paige's version is very different. He claims that he earned the nickname because he could carry more bags and made more tips than anyone else.

Satchel learned to pitch while at the Industrial School for Negro Children by Edward Byrd, who helped him refine his raw talent by teaching him the mechanics of pitching. After his release, he joined the semi pro Mobile Tigers in 1923.

In 1926 Paige was signed to a $50 a week contract by the Chattanooga Black Lookouts. Though he played sparingly in 1926, he was given $200 a month and a Ford model A by the Black Lookouts in 1927. A few games into the season he left the Lookouts, and signed with the Birmingham Black Barons for $276 a month.

For almost twenty years, Satchel was the most dominate pitcher in the Negro Leagues. In 1933 alone, he threw, 64 consecutive scoreless innings, had twenty-one straight wins, and finished the season with a 31-4 record. Yet, despite all his success, his ultimate goal was to pitch in the Majors.
From 1926 -1947 Satchel Paige would pitch for fourteen different teams in the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. His life in baseball one lead Paige to quip, "I ain't ever had a job, I just always played baseball."
"The only change is that baseball has turned Paige from a second class citizen to a second class immortal." Major League Baseball had been segregated during the entire modern era and that wouldn't change until 1947 when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier. Though Satchel Paige was deeply hurt that he wasn't selected to be the first African American to play in the majors, he took it in stride. Then in 1948 he would get his chance to play in the big show, against players he'd been barnstorming and playing in charity games with for over a decade.

In 1948 Satchel Paige would become the oldest rookie in Major League baseball history when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 41. In his first year, he helped Cleveland win the pennant. In 1952 and 1953 he would represent the St. Louis Browns at the All Star game. Satchel would go on to pitch in the big leagues until 1965. In his last game he tossed three shutout innings for the Kansas City Athletics. He finished his time in the Majors with a 28-31 record and a 3.29 ERA. Satchel would be elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1971. He died on June 8, 1982.

Paige was one of the most talented and interesting players in the history of baseball. He once famously said, "Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

lazy river confession

And there is nothing like these blues

These misunderstandings

Moments in time in which
I lost self.


And what I had left
floated down river


all the colors
of all the waters
that I've merged with.

This is also
one of those blues with

Like what used to be blown
out of
Louis' horn.

When wind gives way
to stillness,

death gives way
to life.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Night of The Silver Tongued Machiavellians

A video from The March of The Tongue Brigade by Casey Mensing with JUBANO!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brides of Dracula

Brides of Dracula was released in 1960 and stars Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, Martita Hunt as Baroness Meinster, David Peel as Baron Meinster, Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne Danielle, and was directed by Terence Fisher.

Marianne Danielle (Monlaur) is on her way from Paris to the Academy at Bachstadt. Her coach makes an unexpected stop before reaching the Academy, and then leaves while she is getting something to eat at the local inn. Marianne is informed that the inn has no rooms and she is out of luck, that is, until the
Baroness von Meinster (Hunt) offers lodging for the night at her castle.

As Marianne prepares for dinner, she looks out the window and sees a young man on the balcony below. When she asks the baroness who the young man is, the baroness tells her that it is her son, the Baron von Meinster (Peel). Later, as Marianne gets ready for bed, she again looks out the window and sees the young man. She runs down to his room and learns that he is chained up. Marianne then searches through the baroness's desk in search of the key. When she finds it, she frees the baron.

The next morning, Marianne is found lying in the forest by Dr van Helsing (Cushing) who agrees to walk her to the school. On the way, they make a stop at the inn where a young girl is lying on her death bed with two wounds on her neck. Van Helsing recognizes the bites and realizes that Marianne's life is also in danger.

That night, the dead girl rises from her grave, but before van Helsing can kill her, she changes into a bat and escapes. Van Helsing then heads to the castle, hoping to find the baron, but instead he runs into the baroness, who's now a vampire, so van Helsing drives a stake through her heart.

The baron and his two brides, Marianne and Gina, take refuge in an old windmill, so van Helsing comes after them. A fight follows in which van Helsing is bitten by the baron. To prevent himself from becoming a vampire, van Helsing cauterizes the marks on his neck with a branding iron. Then van Helsing splashes the Baron with holy water, and the baron kicks over a grate of burning coals, causing the mill to catch on fire. As the baron tries to flee, van Helsing leaps on the windmill and moves it so the shadow of a cross appears on the ground, trapping the Baron and destroying him.

Brides of Dracula is a very stylish film with beautiful sets and striking cinematography which makes up for a weak plot and less than stellar acting. Though Fisher's directing is good, the film lags at times and is needlessly gory. The biggest fault of the film is that it doesn't attempt to push the boundaries of the vampire/Dracula genre. It uses a lot of the same techniques of earlier films, but fails to have the seductive or creepy qualities of its Universal predecessor, Dracula, starring Bela Legosi, and directed by Tod Browning. Over all it's a better than average film, but not one that I would highly recommend.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Return To Me

We were lying in bed, facing, eye to eye. She told me that sometimes she felt I didn't love her, that I hid too many thoughts, kept too many secrets. She wanted it all, the love and connection, that terrible vulnerability that we all fear. I ran my eyes back and forth the length of her neck, the slope, up rising, her shoulder. She is that beautiful song that never leaves your head, just recedes, returning every now and again.

I met her eyes, took a moment to see if she'd turned into smoke. She was still there, fully formed and realized. I wanted to kiss her. I knew she'd only think I was trying to avoid what she really wanted. She wouldn't be totally wrong, I've always been more comfortable expressing myself to the women in my life through physical contact than with words. Easier to explain away an action, a sudden unwanted advance, as meaningless, but an I Love You, unrequited, falls hard, and is never forgotten.

She wanted sounds and syllables, strung together in those romantic loving ways, that could be accompanied by anything Miles Davis blue. Was she really the lover I wanted forever and ever until something catastrophic comes along to undo? Or was she just looking for fodder, looking to create some chaos, looking to regain control of her emotions and mine by picking the fight that would lead to the slamming of a door, that would lead to the silence, until she needed all to be forgiven.

Quiet, on bare feet, she'll enter through the front door, stepping softly so as to not disturb, then enter my bed, hopefully forgiven, but not forgotten. She always knew to ask around whenever she came into town, if I had found someone to take her place. If temporarily I had, then never a word out of her. But if I was known to be spending my nights alone, I always knew to expect a late night or early morning visit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding

John Wesley Harding was Bob Dylan's eighth studio album and was released in December of 1967. The album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee between October 17, 1967 and November 29, 1967. The album marked Dylan's return to folk based acoustic music after releasing the mostly electric albums, Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965), and Blonde on Blonde (1966). On the album Dylan was backed by Ken Buttrey on drums, Charlie McCoy on bass, and Peter Drake on peddle steel. In 2003, the album was ranked 301 on Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums of all time.

The songs that make up John Wesley Harding are both musically and lyrically pared down compared to those on Blonde on Blonde. Every song on the album is littered with biblical references, which is not new for Dylan. Bert Cartwright, author of The Bible in the Lyrics of Bob Dylan, cited more than sixty references in the mere twelve tracks that make up the album. Dylan's approach to song writing also change with this album, continuing to show his lyrical and stylistic evolution. Allen Ginsberg once stated, “he was writing shorter lines, with every line meaning something. He wasn't just making up a line to go with a rhyme anymore; each line had to advance the story, bring the song forward. And from that time came...some of his strong laconic ballads like 'The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.' There was no wasted language, no wasted breath. All the imagery was to be functional rather than ornamental.”

The album opens with John Wesley Harding, which was written about nineteenth century Texas outlaw and gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, though a few critics have pointed out the significance of the initials JHW as Yahweh. This is significant because it's not clear what the song has to do with the life of John Wesley Hardin, the man himself, which opens up the meaning or at least the songs influence to debate.

The second track on the album is As I Went Out One Morning. The track begins with its narrator taking a stroll near the property of America's first outlaw journalist, Tom Paine. The narrator's focus is on a fair damsel who is attempting to flee the clutches of Tom Paine and almost nothing to do with Tom Paine, the man or myth.

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine is a song of martyrdom and mob psychology. The narrator has a vision of a suffering St. Augustine of Hippo that has been put to death by a mob. This symbolic vision of St. Augustine becomes one of sympathetic martyrdom in the sense that Dylan himself could relate to the feeling of being persecuted by some, smothered by the devotion of others, destroyed by those that hopelessly misunderstand. The song also pays homage to Dylan's old folk roots by referencing the labor union song, I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night and Woody Guthrie's Ludlow Massacre.

All Along The Watchtower, which would be transformed into a rock classic by Jimi Hendrix when he recorded it for his album Electric Ladyland in 1968. Watchtower contains the albums most biblical references. The song was inspired by passages in the Book of Isiah dealing with the fall of Babylon. It also contains references to Christ as a symbolic 'thief in the night', as mentioned in the book of Revelation.

The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest is the most dense and possibly misinterpreted song on the album. The song is constructed as a morality play about Frankie Lee and his friend Judas Priest. The song can be seen as a study in temptation. Frankie Lee, a gambler, is down on his luck and asks for a lone from Judas Priest. Judas lays out a role of tens offering them to Frankie, who immediately feels self-conscious while under the gaze of Judas Priest. Frankie Lee's unease becomes apparent to Judas Priest who decides to leave Frankie alone, informing him that after he makes his decision he'll be able to find him in 'eternity, though you might call it paradise'. The song ends with Judas once again leading Frankie Lee into temptation. When Frankie Lee seeks out Judas Priest, he finds him outside of house with '4 and 20 windows and a woman's face in every one'. Overcome by lust Frankie Lee enters the house and its occupants for '16 nights and days/upon the seventeenth he bursts/ into the arms Judas Priest which is where he dies of thirst.' Frankie Lee has succumbed to temptation and paid the ultimate price. The song concludes with the often quoted line, “don't go mistaking Paradise for that home across the road.”

The next three tracks Dylan takes on the voice of various societal outsiders. The drifter, hobo, and immigrant, can all be seen as disconnected figures in modern society. These personas harken to the figures from the blues and folk songs of Dylan's roots, but also represent Dylan himself.

Wicked Messenger is a biblical stomp about a prophet with an amphetamine brain who has come to bring a message of doom to the people and is immediately rejected in the line, “If ye can't bring good news, then don't bring any.”

The album closes with a pair of transitional country influenced love songs. Down Along The Cove and I'll Be Your Baby Tonight are transitional in the sense that they are a solid indication of what was to come in the guise of Nashville Skyline in 1969. Both tunes are unpretentious feel good love songs written about the light at the edge of woods, found just before dawn, after a dark night of the soul. Temptation conquered, vision of salvation.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

From Orson Welles

“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”

                          -Orson Welles

Monday, May 17, 2010

Les Carabiniers

Les Carabiniers is Jean-Luc Godard's bizarre black humor anti-war allegory. It is the tale of two brothers, Ulysses (Marino Mase) and Michaelangelo (Albert Juross), who leave their wives Venus (Genevieve Galea) and Cleopatra (Catherine Ribeiro), when they are invited to by two carabiniers to become rifleman and travel the world fighting a war in service of their unseen "King", with the promise of being able to torture, kill, and plunder, the innocent victims.

Godard's Les Carabiniers was released on May 31, 1963, to surprisingly terrible reviews, given that at the time, Godard had been anointed a genius by the intellectual film circles and could virtually do no wrong. "In Les Carabiniers, Godard stands above the stupidity of the world; the films point of view is flattering to the intellectuals and contemptuous of everyone else."1 Since the film was essentially made for them, this is also what made the intellectual critics of the time dismal of the film surprising. In its first run, the film would attract a scant two thousand viewers. The rejection of the film by both audience and critics would deeply wound Godard and force him to consider his own failings as a director and storyteller.

The film itself is a crude and intentional assault on the viewers' senses told through self-contained scenes separated by Ulysses and Michaelangelo's postcards homes to their wives, who had pushed them to join the war effort for the riches that might be obtained. The essentially unprofessional actors give intentionally unprofessional performances, and the soundtrack, with its variety of volume levels and use of sounds of war and disconcerting church and circus music are pure acts of aggression. Les Carabiniers is also once again a collection of Jean-Luc Godard's favorite stylistic tricks and storytelling techniques. One of the most interesting of these visual tricks comes after the two recruits ask about how they will know when the war is over. They are told there will be fireworks and as only Godard would do, the screen is filled with a negative of fireworks going off. Only Godard could pull off filling a screen with black fireworks on a white screen. In this very same scene, Godard uses a Rossellinian element of making a statement in regards to the isolation of "country folk" from the "real" world.

It's in this crudeness of the film and the distance from the audience and critics where the genius of this film might lie. Despite its failings, to reach an audience and be accepted by critics, Les Carbaniniers shows Godard's bravery to depict an honest portrayal of war. The film lacks the heroicism, beauty, and happy endings of a typical Hollywood war film that public traditionally devours. It is a film full of cowards doing disgusting things and people couldn't help but find this revolting.

Though Godard's least popular film of his 1960's oeuvre, Les Carabiniers is worth taking the time to watch and seriously consider in juxtaposition to traditional Hollywood war films.

1. Richard Brody, Everything Is Cinema, 2008 pg. 152

Sunday, May 16, 2010

when all you can do

Outside of this room
beyond these opaque windows
there are things that
might astonish her.

Her green eyes sink
to a depth
of blue-gray.

She waits for him to arrive
and put her together

so she can,
yet again,
pull herself apart.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Adventures In The False Mirror

A video from the album The March of The Tongue Brigade by Casey Mensing with JUBANO!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Demise of Rock

How can a state of mind die? And if it can, who's to blame?

The attitude of Rock and Roll is truly a fundamental part of American cultural that its death is nearly impossible. We live it, breath it, use it as a soundtrack or our lives. The essence and attitude of rock has even eclipsed its own genre, spreading to all styles, genres and sub-genres of music. When music writers and bloggers waste column space with the tired old debate of whether or not rock is dead, what they're really mourning isn't the death of a style of music or an attitude, but the end of their own youth and their ability to relate to what is currently happening. Yeah, I'm looking at you Rolling Stone, you've become everything you always swore you wouldn't, just like your parents

How many times have we heard someone say, "back in the day the music really meant something. It was so much better than the stuff out now." Honestly, it wasn't. It just happened to be what you identified with at a certain magical time in your life. Just as the kids today are into whatever is currently the latest trend in rock. This is a phenomenon that will continue on and on as long as there are people creating new versions of popular culture for the masses to embrace and make their own.

Gentle reader, if you are unwilling to embrace the fact that you've gotten old and you can't relate to the latest trends, here is something for you to mull over. One could say that the rock and roll you love, still listen to, and that brings back many wonderful memories, is just the rotting corpse of an ideal that died long ago and keeps coming back hungry for your money.

One could make the that rock and roll died the moment Elvis Presley recorded his first song, taking an established genre of music and whitewashing for a middle class consumer with money to spend. It could also be argued that when a few flinty eyed business men in the mid 1960's realized that they could make millions off rock and roll, the spirit itself died, and when Led Zeppelin formed it was the final nail in the coffin, because after them the business of rock and roll became a gross and gluttonous tribute to excess.

Despite all of this, the spirit of rock, its true meaning, the humble foundation from which it was built, is still alive and well and pissing people off. As long as there are kids with dreams, guitars, and the desire to be rock and roll stars, it will live on forever

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Virginia Woolf

"Literature is strewn  with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Walk

I went for walk earlier tonight. The sun was retreating in the west, the spilled ink of night was spreading from the east, the sky between was a lived in blue gray. Walking in silence, my eyes move liked a conductors hand around the world before me. The quaint houses with open windows I would peek into as I passed, the lush landscapes that give way to concrete apartment buildings with piles of garbage and discarded furniture out front. Each street in Honolulu is so many different things.

I walked straight up into the hills of upper Makiki. The quaintness returned, the sky grew darker, and I found myself on a street with no one in front of me, no one behind. I closed my eyes and stood still, letting the evening breeze move across my face in the most perfect way. The way that it only does on Oahu. I let my mind go, and listened to the wind blow through the leaves of a banyan tree. The sound each leaf makes, works in perfect harmony with the others to create atmosphere for any scenario.

Tonight as the smells of dinners cooking in peoples kitchen mixed with the sound of the leaves, I remembered taking walks around the town of Carlyle, IL as a kid with my grandpa. He and I would walk almost every evening when I stayed with him and my grandmother. I was seven or eight at the time, and each night after supper we'd stroll. I don't remember if we talked about anything, mostly we rambled on in our own imaginations. The walks always lead to the same place. A small ice cream stand, where he'd buy us each a cone. Vanilla for him, mint chocolate chip for me. And on those late spring and summer nights, we'd sit quietly on the patio and listen to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games while the crickets chirped and the cares of the world went by unnoticed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Confessions of An Opium Eater

Confessions of An Opium Eater (1962) was produced and directed by Albert Zugsmith, who would later produce such films as Touch of Evil and Written On The Wind. The film stars the great Vincent Price as Gilbert De Quincey, a nineteenth century explore who finds himself in turn of the century San Francisco during the Tong Wars. The film takes its title from Thomas De Quincey's book of the same name, but that is about the only similarity between the two works, as the script by Robert Hill is a cross between a pulp novel and an exploitation film, laden with philosophical dialog.

Confessions of An Opium Eater is set in San Francisco in 1902 during the Tong Wars when Oriental women were still being sold as slaves by the drug lord Ling Tang who controls Chinatown and the opium trade. The film opens with a Chinese ship unloading its human cargo that is to be sold at a slave auction. A young woman named Lotus (June Kim) escapes, but is almost caught apprehend in her flight until a white steed manages to knock her pursuing captors off a cliff.

In Chinatown there are two opposing sides to the slave trade. There are those that support it, namely Ling Tang, and those that wish to abolish the practice such as George Wah (Richard Loo), who runs the Chinese Gazette. When Gilbert De Quincey arrives on the scene sporting a fierce moon serpent tattoo on his arm, we learn that he has been hired by Ruby Low (Linda Ho), who is the second in command in Ling Tang's gang, to hunt down and return Lotus. De Quincey finds Lotus hiding out at Wah's place, and upon seeing her decides to switch sides and help free her and the other women that are still being held captive by Tang. Unfortunately, slave traders are in hot pursuit of De Quincey and Lotus as they attempt to escape through the sewer tunnels. Soon the two are apprehended, Lotus is brought back to Tang, while De Quincey is beaten and left for dead.

Now is the point where this film gets truly weird. Gilbert De Quincey survives his beating and stumbles along the streets of Chinatown until he comes upon a warehouse where he finds half starved, suffering women suspended in cages. After he frees them, Gilbert finds himself in an opium den where he decides to indulge himself until he nods out in opiate bliss.

The rest of the film takes on the qualities of a trippy drug hallucination, complete with indulgent and ridiculous dialog. De Quincey is now on a mission to rescue more women and win the heart of Ruby Low, who turns out the be a working with both sides. De Quincey is now aided in his quest by a midget (Yvonne Moray) he freed earlier. The two manage to disrupt a slave auction and in the process free Lotus and make a break for it through the sewers with all the women that have been freed thus far.

Confessions of An Opium Eater is a truly bizarre movie that has everything one could hope for from a B movie. If you can past the terrible Asian stereotypes and at times annoying hallucination sequences, then this movie is definitely worth viewing. Of course, one also has to be in the mood for an obviously “bad” film. This one I feel falls into the category of the truly great terrible films, that should not be passed up on.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

stillness of the wind

I followed her fabrications
her fluttering love songs.

Her desire to be broken,
but never alone.

And there's still an empty jug.

On the porch where we used to sit,
wiling away the afternoons.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys is a clever, dark, and at times perverse comedy directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) that stars Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp, Tobey Maguire as James Leer, Robert Downey Jr. as Terry Crabtree, and Frances McDormand as Sara Gaskell, and is based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon.

Grady Tripp is a down on his luck novelist and writing professor at Carnegie Mellon, who is dealing with his third wife leaving him while attempting to complete a novel that he's spent the last seven years working on. In one whirlwind weekend his agent, Terry Crabtree (Downey Jr) arrives in town from New York to pressure him about the book, his mistress, Sara Gaskell (McDormand) reveals she is pregnant with his child, and he becomes an unwilling mentor to his student James Leer (Maguire), who is an anti-social, maudlin, wonder kin, whose love of Tripp's novel The Arsonist's Daughter brought him to the university to be taught by Tripp.

Tripp, Leer, and Crabtree are joined by Sara Gaskell (McDormand) in what becomes a story of the trials and tribulations of life and the redemptive quality of love. The film is essentially a character piece in which the four main actors and a strong cast of supports, including Rip Torn, Katie Holmes, Jane Adams, and Richard Knox, draw the viewer into their lives and even provide a few life lessons we can take away from the film.

Beside these strong performances, and Hanson's skilled direction, the true highlight of the film is the soundtrack. Since the film is about wonder boys, Hanson turned to the ultimate wonder boy, Bob Dylan, who provided the Oscar winning song, Things Have Changed. The song, originally written for the film is the perfect theme for Grady Tripp, whose own struggles along the road of life mirror those in the song. Hanson would also select three other Dylan songs for the film, those being, Buckets of Rain from the album Blood On The Tracks, Shooting Star from the album Oh Mercy, and Not Dark Yet, from the album Time Out Of Mind. Hanson would also select many great songs from artists such as Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen.

Michael Douglas' performance in Wonder Boys stands as one of the best of his career, and on the whole is one of the better character pieces to be made in this decade. The film also appeals to a wide audience range, as many of us can identify with the feelings of youthful alienation and the crisis of faith when we find ourselves at the crossroads of life.

Friday, May 7, 2010

fragment (the river boat captain)

I take up a spot of tile near the edge
of the carpet, stare out of the window that starts a foot off the
floor. I sit long, feel like a beanstalk giant.

A chain link fence, silver, galvanized
steel wire reflects the dirty orange of the spot light that sits high
above the two cars parked out back.

The beetle that raced in behind me a
few hours ago is strolling the window ledge. Wings, a flurry of
vibrations battering blinds and glass. If I were asleep right now,
I'd be dreaming of out of control helicopters.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bitter Earth Initiates Chaos At A Laundromat

This is a video from the album The March of The Tongue Brigade by Casey Mensing with JUBANO!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Godard: Fraud, Cinema, and The New Wave

“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”

                  - Jean-Luc Godard.

When the French New Wave launched itself upon what had become a complacent world of movies, the very nature of cinema would be changed forever. One of the figures at the forefront of this movement was Jean-Luc Godard, who would become one of the major influences of filmmakers in the later half of the 20th century.

Jean-Luc Godard was born on December 3, 1930 in an elegant Parisian neighborhood but would spend most of his childhood living with his family in Switzerland. Then in 1946, Godard moved to Paris to study engineering at the Lycee Buffon. It was at this time that Godard began to focus less on his studies and devout himself to his love of film. In 1949 he began frequenting the single most important place to see films in postwar Paris, the Cinematheque Francaise.

In June of 1950 in the magazine La Gazette du Cinema, Jean-Luc Godard, would make his debut as a writer with a short article on director Joseph Mankiewicz. Over the next ten years, Jean-Luc Godard would work tiressly on perfecting his theories and philosophies on cinema. The seeds had been planted and revolution was about to spring forth

The world of Hollywood moving making had grown stale and too formulaic. The ways of old Hollywood studio system were about to be burned to the ground, the barbarians were at the gate. What Bob Dylan did to change the art of song writing, Jean-Luc Godard would do for film-making and he made his intentions known with his first feature, Breathless.

Released in 1959, A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), though not the first "New Wave" film is consider by many critics to be the quintessential film of the movement. At the time of the films release Sight and Sound magazine called it 'the group's intellectual manifesto'. . . It's loose style, use of rough jump cuts, and use of a hand held camera as well as its rebellious nature and attitude would make it one of the biggest influences of the American independent cinema that was to come.

Through most of the 1960's Jean-Luc Godard would continue making revolutionary pieces of cinematic art. Most of these monumental works would star his then wife, the beautiful Anna Karina. These films include Le Petit Soldat(The Little Soldiers), which was band in France for its depiction of torture used by both the French and Algerians during the Algerian War. Une Femme est Une Femme (A Woman Is A Woman), which was Godard's tribute to American musicals. Vivre Sa Vie(Her Life to Live), and Bande a Part (Band of Outsiders). Another important Godard film of this period was Le Mepris (Contempt), which starred Bridget Bardot, and is consider by some to be Godard finest all around film.

By the mid-sixties the political climate in France was chaotic and this would influence the direction of Godard's film-making. In films like Pierrot Le Fou, Masculine Feminine, La Chinoise, and Weekend, Godard's personal-political philosophies would be at the forefront. It was also during this period that tensions would grow between he and fellow director Francois Truffaut, critics and audiences began to dismiss Godard and the rest of the 'New Wave', and Godard would he himself break from the very thing he helped create in order to follow his own muse.

Jean-Luc Godard continues to make high quality artistic cinema in spite of the fact he is approaching the age of eighty. In the decades that followed his period of revolution in the late sixties and early seventies, Godard continued on changing the form and style of cinema. From documentaries to experiments with home movie making, Godard had never ceased to confound and provoke audiences and critics. For him, anything short would have been a disappointment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From Fydor Dostoevsky

"If the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Warren Zevon : Genius

“If I leave you, it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile.”

-Warren Zevon

Admittedly, I was late to the party. It wasn't until Warren Zevon was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2002 that I decided to see what the man was all about. On my next CD shopping trip, I picked up a copy of A Quiet Normal Life: The Best of Warren Zevon. When I got home later that day, I put the CD on and was greeted with the familiar humor of Werewolves of London, but what came next shattered my expectations. The next thirteen tracks, beginning with Excitable Boy are a brilliant combination of strong musical composition, sardonic wit, and soul bearing poetry. I would spend the next month buying up and devouring the entire Zevon catalog.

The fact the Warren Zevon has been essentially neglected by the general public and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is mind boggling. Not only for the fact that he is one of the most talented songwriters of the 1970's, but his collaborators and fans are consist of so many legends, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and R.E.M. Though, Showtime's Californication is doing its part in introducing Zevon to new fans by including his songs in several episodes, and littering the shows dialog with references to Warren and his songs.

The appeal of Warren Zevon's songwriting lies in his ability to write with humor and honesty, whether it be a heartbreaking love song like Reconsider Me or biting social statement like The Indifference of Heaven, the comedic Werewolves of London, or the absolutely brilliant Genius, which contains the lines “Albert Einstein was a ladies man / While he was working on his universal plan / He was making out like Charlie Sheen / He was a genius. These songs, plus Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, and Lawyers, Guns, and Money, in my opinion should be enough to get him elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hopefully in the near future the genius of Warren Zevon and his contributions to music will be recognized and his legacy will be given its just due by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More importantly, I hope new generations will discover Zevon and his brilliant songs will continue to be listened to for decades to come.