Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sno daze

My trainer just called to say that the gym is closed due to weather conditions. Bummer! I was looking forward to my workout. I suppose the reason has something to do with safety, but it would be even safer if we all just stayed home all the time. Here’s what our president (whom Scott, who can be depended upon to brighten a winter day, calls Snowbama, or the Obamnable Snowman), has to say about snow days:

I’m from Chicago too, where there was only one snow day the entire time I was in school—and never having heard of such a thing, my high school car pool and I went anyway. I’m with the Icelanders, whose leading purveyor of technical sportswear has employed the slogan, “There’s no bad weather, only the wrong gear.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Full disclosure

I thought you'd want to know that I'm one of (so far) 53,219 registered Facebook fans of Aretha Franklin's Inauguration Day hat. Reprise here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Snow sculpture, Kinderhook, NY

Last night, driving home from dinner, was I especially tired? It seemed like a mirage, these life-size, fanciful animals made of snow lined up on the lawn of a big Victorian house on the main street of this picturesque town. I got out and saw that, at 10:15 p.m., their creator, who told me he's been spending 2-3 hours a day on them, was hard at work repairing his menagerie; the day's warm weather had left them a little worse for wear. On Inauguration Day he had them decorated with flags and holding Obama/Biden signs. More pictures and info here and here. And about Kinderhook here, along with the story that the expression "O.K." may have been derived from "Old Kinderhook."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Philip Glass

In an attempt to avoid worrying about frozen pipes, I went to two Philip Glass events at Mass MoCA this week and it did the trick. Well the second night did, anyway. The first featured a film by Scott Hicks, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts which, at nearly two hours of sheer tedium, offered more than enough time not only to worry, but do my eye exercises. I left thinking that Philip Glass has to be one of the most boring people on earth, one of those artists—it does happen—whose personality gets so soaked up by their work that there’s nothing left over. I’d seen a number of Glass performances, including a choral piece at MoMA in 1976, not long after I moved to New York, which left me with the feeling that anything was possible in art. There was the positively exultant 1984 revival of Einstein on the Beach, and then a magical New Year’s Eve when I appeared with Butch Morris’s “Chorus of Poets” at the Public Theater, on the same bill as Glass, and found myself at midnight leaning on the grand piano listening to him play. He also once came to my loft for a photo shoot I’d arranged but we hardly interacted as he was distracted, pacing, on the phone almost the whole time. I remembered thinking that he was much too Type A for a Buddhist, while his friend, Allen Ginsberg, who came with him, was just the opposite, completely chill.

[Actually, where Glass seemed to take no notice of his surroundings, Ginsberg’s interest was unnerving as he went around my kitchen and living area examining absolutely everything—I was glad I cleaned up before he came—picking up each object, turning it over, asking “What’s this? Where’d you get it? What do you do with it?” And, after a while, “Are these your paintings?”
When I told him I was a Nuyorican poet (meaning I performed regularly at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe) Ginsberg said, sweetly, “Me too.”]

In the film about Glass, amidst a few snippets of music, we see shots of the composer making pizza, playing with his small children, practicing T’ai Chi with his teacher (who was a fellow student in the classes I took for many years with Master Ham King Koo) while various friends, family members, and colleagues weigh in with remembrances. Having just returned from my first experience with film editing, I’m hyper aware of what’s essential and what isn’t—such as the shot of his houseguest taking out the garbage, or the part where his wife reveals her Internet password, a bit that’s kinda cute but tells us nothing.

The second evening featured Glass in person, in an interview with a film critic who’d chosen a number of cuts from films for which Glass had written the score, asking him to comment on each one. And guess what? Glass was totally interesting, probably because he was talking about making music, which Hicks, when he brings it up at all, treats it as a product rather than a process (never touching on the things I wanted to know, such as, what was the first piece Glass composed? Did his early study of mathematics have an effect on the kind of music he makes? When he works, does he noodle around on the piano or does he hear it in his head first? What does he learn from hearing his work performed by others? What did he get from his classical studies, from the work of John Cage, Ravi Shankar?). But here, listening to Glass discuss his concepts for each film we got an idea of how his mind works, his fascination with the art of filmmaking, how he wants the score to be an integral part of the process rather than something tacked on in post-production. For Godfrey Reggio’s Powaqqatsi (1988), Glass went with the director to Brazil to document fortune seekers mining for gold, the cinematographers listened to his music as they shot the footage, and the childlike nature of the of the very young gold-diggers Glass met inspired him to later add a children’s choir to the score…all of which is so much more interesting than pizza (my impression of him as a phonoholic stands, however, because at one point onstage he did actually check his cell and may even have been texting).

To round out the evening Glass played several pieces—his encore was from the early (1970) Music with Changing Parts, one of my favorites—and as we drove home, while I hadn’t completely forgotten about my frozen pipes, I didn't care so much.

For a documentary that successfully delves into the heart and soul of a musician, do your best to catch Steven Sebring’s Patti Smith: Dream of Life (schedule)--also available on NetFlix:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back from Obamaland

I really will finish my post about how bored I am with art, but right now I'm too bored to even think about it. What I am excited about is that there are only 9 days left of the Bush regime--hooray! It was fun to be in the capitol pre-inauguration, and these storefronts on M Street in Georgetown reflect the enthusiasm with which all of Washington is greeting our new president:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Shopping in D.C....

...where "Whole" Foods just happens to be out of lentils (all lentils, red, green and brown) and where, when I was trying on super high-tech athletic shoes, one of the salesman's selling points was that he'd sold the very same shoes not to some major sports figure, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

I'm here with Erica and Terry, who's come over from England, to work on the editing of our film about Olafur and Einar's collaboration, and there's a part where Olafur talks about the lack of experimentation in our culture and Einar says that the human race needs dynamics, that anything that isn't dynamic is going turn into an institution and kill itself.

Now those are pretty general statements, but then I walk out onto M Street in Georgetown, which used to be lovely and historic but is now like a linear mall of chain shops--Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic,The Body Shop, Benetton, Steve Madden, a mini H & M, etc.--that could be anywhere. There are no local styles; all across the country people are wearing various configurations of clothing drawn from the same pool, at least until they get older and simply narrow it down to Donna Karan and Eileen Fisher. Experimentation? Hardly. And then I think that the art world is the same, that the exhibitions at nearly every museum of contemporary art in the world are configurations of art drawn from a pool of the same 50-100 artists. It's so BORING! But more on that when I get back.