Friday, November 20, 2009

Robert Polito from Artforum, 2002--Painter of pictures: The Farber equation is never simple--

"Ideas impossible to understand because they come through a fog of stupidity." It's scary for a writer to come across a sentence that so plainly says what it means, in which the prose is so exquisitely balanced, and you take pleasure in the way the words are put together, and you worry that you've written things about which something like that could be said over and over and over again.

Walter Benjamin once said that an author who teaches a writer nothing teaches nobody anything. One thing that I think happens for many writers reading Farber is that they feel themselves on trial. They feel this same scrutiny that's brought to bear on actors, on directors, on painters, on musicians, on comic-strip artists. Maybe they feel lucky that Manny Farber has never read them and therefore doesn't have an opinion on them...

(n.b. the U-J3RK5 tracks here much better than on the better-known EP...)

Vancouver Complication is a potent document, rife with frenetic, explosive punk, yet with a smattering of quirky new wave and edgier post-punk for good measure. Local kingpins DOA of course anchor the disc with the muscular 'Kill, Kill, This is Pop' and the caustic punk of 'I Hate You'. The all-girrrl fury of the Dishrags marks their vinyl debut here with the studied anglo-punk of 'I Don't Love You.' The K-Tels, soon to be the Young Canadians, weigh in with their crabby pop-punk, while Exxotone straddle Devo and Gang of Four with the jumpy, oddball "Big Shot'. Not to be outdone, U-J3RK5 contribute the most fascinating track here. A prime shard of spastic weirdness, 'U-J3RK5 Work for the Police' is a stunningly intense 1:03 of jerky, chafing post-punk, all the more fascinating for having been recorded in March of 1979 as well as for counting among its members future photographer-extraordinaire Jeff Wall. Alas, few bands here ever achieved much in the way of fame, even by the paltry indie standards of the day - Pointed Sticks and of course DOA the obvious exceptions. Still, this is a gutsy sampler, a lucid snapshot of an adolescent, though swiftly maturing underground scene...

photo of the Dishrags (who I saw open for the Clash's first North American gig, with Bo Diddley!) by
Don Denton

via Isola di Rifiuti
Wandering with Robert Walser

Since it rained so heavily and we came to look like drowned cats I suggested that we take the tram to the edge of St. Gallen. Robert thought that we should push on. Oh, why not! Finally we arrive, dripping, in the third class buffet and creep into the corner so that no one could see the pond growing around us. They had hasenpfeffer. Robert smiled benignly. At dessert I mentioned that the Quakers got the Nobel peace prize. He asked "Did you know that their leader, the itinerant preacher William Penn, founded Pennsylvania three hundred years ago and dreamed of a league of nations? Zschokke told his story in a cute novella. Back in Zschokke's day, they still understood how to write gracious novels. Today novelists terrorize readers with their dense tediousness. It's not a good sign for these times that literature acts in such an aggressive way. It used to be modest and good-natured. Today it attracts the rulers. Das Volk are said to be its subject. That is not a healthy development."

Toward evening he wanted to walk back to Herisau. Then he realized that, as a waterfall he could arouse unpleasant reactions at the sanitarium, so we took the train. When we arrived in the coach I discovered the reason for his bad mood: from now on I should only visit on Sundays. On workdays he has a job like all the other patients. I said: "The Director told me explicitly: whenever, and as often as we like." Robert, serious and firm: "The Director! je m'en fiche! [I don't care!]. I can't report exclusively to the director, I also have to consider the other patients. Can't you understand that being a privileged one is an unpleasant role?"

Hal Ashby's terrific 1970 debut The Landlord on TCM tonight...

via PC two night trees from
William Gedney Photographs and Writings
From the mid 1950s through the early 1980s, William Gedney (1932-1989) photographed throughout the United States, in India, and in Europe. From street scenes outside his Brooklyn apartment to the daily chores of unemployed coal miners, from the indolent lifestyle of hippies in Haight-Ashbury to the sacred rituals of Hindu worshippers, Gedney recorded the lives of others with remarkable clarity and poignancy. These photographs, along with his notebooks and writings, illuminate the vision of an intensely private man who, as a writer and photographer, revealed the lives of others with striking sensitivity. Included here are selections from Gedney's finished prints, work prints, contact sheets, notes, notebooks, handmade photographic books, book dummies, and correspondence...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

thoughtful article on Jim Jarmusch--

"Acting is like piano playing. The dialogue is just the left hand; the melody is in the eyes."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009