Saturday, April 28, 2012

still-sound 63. Love und Romance

The Slits, photo by Anton Corbijn

Last week I met up with my friend Zel at Akbar in Silverlake.  I hadn't been there for years.  Zel was running late so I had some time to kill at the bar.  I drank a pint and wondered if I looked cool or not.  I didn't know whether to sit at a stool and stare at the bottles of liquor behind the bar or to sit facing the room.  I tried both and settled on the latter, regularly checking my phone to appear as though I was waiting for someone.  I was.  But it's not like Zel was texting every thirty seconds with his ETA.

While waiting I noticed the song playing from the jukebox.  It was a scoopy-sounding bassline that caught my attention and a punk girl singing, not unlike an early Siouxsie Sioux.  I unperched myself from the stool and walked over to the jukebox.  I flipped through until I could match the code glowing in red (indicating what was playing) with an actual name of a song.  It was Love und Romance by The Slits.

I didn't know this song.  I felt like I should have.  It's the type of thing where I could tell most of my friends, "I discovered an amazing song by The Slits" and they would all respond with, "Oh sure!  You don't know that song?"  When I got home I found the song on Spotify and I must have listened to it ten times, maybe more.  I was surprised by how satisfied I was with my musical discovery.  Like a teenager.

Love und Romance begins with a woman saying "Babylon love us...oh Babylon love us."  I had heard this before.  Jack Danger from Meat Beat Manifesto sampled this clip in an album called Satyricon.  I listened to it frequently in college.  The album is saturated with little audio clips from various movies and songs and I've come across the original reference materials from which they were gleaned on several occasions.  Like piecing together a pop cultural jigsaw puzzle over many years.*

*It breathes me, the second title of this blog appears in Satyricon in fact.  I rediscovered this phrase while reading about Zen meditation practice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

still-sound 62. How to wax a moustache

I've already written about my moustache.  I'm writing about it again.  Mostly because, after months of trial and error, I have mastered the handlebar.  I want to share my knowledge so that others may benefit.

Grow your moustache so that the ends are long and straggly.  When I go swimming the long whiskers go into my mouth.  I've learned to accept this.

At some point in your morning routine place a tin of moustache wax in your pocket to begin warming it up.  I usually do this before walking Rosie so that I can groom myself upon my return.

Brush your teeth.  It makes so much more sense to do this before waxing.

Starting from the center, brush the hairs out with a comb.  When the wax is at least as warm as your skin, scrape some on to your nail and roll it into a (small) pea-size ball.  Rub the wax between the left and right index fingers, distributing it equally.  Mush the wax between your index fingers and thumbs.  Now, here's the key - run these fingers under very hot water, as hot as you can stand until you can feel the wax melting.

With these hot, waxy and still wet fingers, rub into the ends of your moustache.  Start smoothing out the  long whiskers while twisting and pinching a bit towards the ends.  Do this a few times and eventually introduce the ends skyward.  Then clean off your fingers in very cold water.  What little wax that remained on your digits will rub off much easier when cold.  With your wet, cold fingers, tap the handlebar into place a few more times.  The cold will harden the wax and set the shape.

Obviously you'll have to check it throughout the day as it will droop and become assymetrical.  This is unavoidable.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

still-sound 61. Pepper

Here's a black vase I recently made.  It's the size of a cantaloupe.  You can see me in the reflection taking the picture. I made it to match another vase of a similar shape, one that I received for my 30th birthday.  The birthday vase came from Poole Studio in England and is glazed very dark teal (almost black).  Very glossy on top and more speckled against a matte surface towards the bottom.   If I had been able to replicate the Poole glazing technique I would have.  Instead I settled on a nice, pepper black.

For my 34th birthday my friend Fiona gave me a fragrance from Hermès called Poivre Samarcande.  It's a scent I instantly liked.  Although the notes of black pepper are undeniably present as the name would imply, the spiciness is tempered with a suggestion of leather.  It wears very lightly - its statement is almost subliminal.  It does what few other fragrances manage to do - it makes me feel enhanced.  My friend Amely once told me that when she wears her signature fragrance (Chergui by Serge Lutens) she feels like "the best version of herself."  I love that she said that.  I love that she loves perfume so much.*

Poivre Samarcande was designed by the perfumer Jean Claude Ellena.  He is considered the master of the minimal / transparent style of perfumery.  He makes fragrance like a highly skilled craftsman - in control of every, barely-perceptible detail and fully aware of the fine balance of the finished piece.  His nose and hands must operate on their own, outside of the brain.  Something that only years of practice can afford.  

When I first moved to LA I worked at a book store.  A French woman would often come by and I discovered that she worked at the Hermès boutique up the street.  She was a craftswoman and repaired bags, shoes and other leather goods at a bench placed in the very center of the store.**  I was impressed and told her, "Wow, you're an artist".  "Artisan" she corrected me.

* This is the same Amely I mentioned in the blogpost titled TM.  After living most of her life in big cities she moved out to rural Wyoming last year to experience life differently.  I like to think about her against a backdrop of the Teton mountains, smelling of Chergui.
**I recently revisited this boutique on a search for a fragrance to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday.  The shop had been completely renovated - the layout was different.  The craftsman's bench was no longer there.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

still-sound 60. Moneyless

Mark Boyle foraging.  I found this picture on the internet but couldn't find a photo
 credit.  Thank you nameless photographer.

I admire this man.  His name is Mark Boyle.  I read about him in The Guardian.  He's lived without money since 2008.

Here's what he says:

I believe the key reason for so many problems in the world today* is the fact we no longer have to see directly the repercussions of our actions. The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that people are completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering involved in the production of the food and other "stuff" we buy. The tool that has enabled this disconnection is money.

So he went about living without money.  He grows and finds his food.  He lives in a solar-powered camper van.  He composts his waste and uses old newspapers as toilet paper.  He's a champion of the freeconomy movement.  He relies on other people and is relied on.

This is how the article ends:

The point is, I'd much rather have my time consumed making my own bread outdoors than kill it watching some reality TV show in a so-called "living" room. Where money once provided me with my primary sense of security, I now find it in friends and the local community. Some of my closest mates are people I only met because I had to build real relationships with others based on trust and kindness, not money.

I think he's on to something.  The way money operates in our culture preserves a cycle of scarcity, debt, and desire to consume.  Wealth trickles up the food chain and the few who benefit from the cycle have inconceivably large numbers attributed to them on computer screens.  Money is a symbol - a symbol we decided to be a measure of value. A symbol that allows and encourages us to think that some of us have more value than others and that we are independent from each other and from nature.  A symbol that leads us to believe that our actions don't have consequences.

Thank you Mark Boyle for doing something real.  I'm not ready to give up toilet paper yet but I am encouraged and enlightened by your model.

*He names some of these global problems: sweatshops, environmental destruction, factory farms, animal testing labs and  wars over resources.  This list doesn't even include the spiritual and emotional problems that should also be addressed.
**This comes from an article in The Guardian from 8 November 2009, titled My year of living without money

Sunday, April 15, 2012

still-sound 59. Piñon


When I meet up with friends for drinks, it's often at El Prado in Echo Park.  It's close enough to home for me to walk.  They have a turntable on the bar and play records.  The names of the beers and wines on offer are written in white, directly on the mirror that lines the wall.  The counter along that wall is made of weathered Carrera marble and at one end holds up a disco ball.  On several occasions I caught the scent of a woodsy incense wafting through the space.  I found out that the incense was Piñon.

I thought it smelled familiar.  From Incensio de Santa Fe I bought Piñon and Douglas Fir incenses online.  Apparently they're the smell of the Southwest.  I wouldn't really know as I never visited the Southwest.*  California doesn't count.  California is California.  I found that these incenses smell better from a distance.  At home I burn them from the outside terrace and let the smoke breeze in.  It makes sense to scent a bar with Piñon - it's quite strong, natural and pleasant.

The last time I drank at El Prado I listened to a Mark Lanegan album and caught up with my friend Nick.  We talked about lots of things but one story particularly caught my ears.  He had been out to Joshua Tree recently with a bunch of friends to celebrate a birthday.  They decided to camp out in the desert (something he vowed to never do again).  To make the experience more interesting, they ingested mushrooms.  Under the mycelial influence, Nick saw something unusal in the night sky.  He saw a glowing orb that seemed to change its position instantaneously in a square formation.  He wasn't the only one to see it. They all saw it.  Either the power of suggestion influenced their collective hallucination or they lifted a veil that separated them from experiencing a dimension that is ordinarily denied.  Either way I enjoyed listening to his story.

I also enjoyed the scent of Piñon in the air. 

*My friend Jane read this and pointed out that my Mother lives in the Southwest.  She's absolutely right. I have been to Arizona many times in fact.  For some reason I was equating The Southwest with New Mexico.  I have never been to New Mexico.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

still-sound 58. Razzia

Razzia by Seb Patane, pressed flowers on found print, 2006

This is a picture made by Seb Patane, a friend of mine who happens to be an excellent artist.  The name Razzia is German for Police Raid.  The scene seems to involve plain-clothes detectives and bystanders in a subway station in Berlin.  In the 1970s from the looks of things.  Faces have been obscured to protect anonymity (a recurring theme in Seb's work).  But the most important detail in the picture is that one guy is transforming into a flurry of flowers.  It's so whimsical and unexpected that it seems strange that only the man in the leather jacket seems to notice.  Everyone else is so oblivious.

I like the contrast of materials used in this piece; a found picture of a fairly gritty scene* and pressed flowers (mostly associated with grandmothers and love-struck girls).  Urban Romanticism.

I wonder why this guy is transforming into flowers?  Maybe he's made a great discovery - he's entered into an Enlightenment.  Maybe he is crossing over and his essence is leaving his body.  Maybe he took a mind-expanding drug (the very reason for the police raid).

Maybe he has a crush on someone like a love-struck schoolgirl.

*I've noticed that most pictures of urban places before the 1990s look gritty in comparison to today.  The graininess of the filmstock is apparent and cities themselves look more urban...not as scrubbed up and Disneyfied as today.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

still-sound 57. Night scented

I wish you could smell these datura flowers.  They hang like witches' hats in front of my neighbor's house and emit a sweet floral perfume in the evening.  The scent trails down the street and lures you in.  The flowers and leaves themselves are highly toxic.  I read that every year there are fatalities from datura poisoning, mostly intentional.  Datura belongs to the moonlit world of deadly night shade, mandrake and belladonna.  The working materials of a witch.

On the album Never Forever, Kate Bush sings a song titled Night Scented Stock.  The album was released in 1980, four years after a the British perfumery Penhaligons introduced a new fragrance with the very same name.  The song itself is wordless.  Kate's voice is the only instrument, layered and polytonal like a chorus.  The song begins with a quiet, beckoning melody and eventually builds into a final, protracted, dissonant chord.  It's a Pre-Raphealite fantasy of a nocturnal English garden ... of longing, beauty and peril.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

still-sound 56. Tortoise General Store

I saw these hand-dyed indigo textiles at the Tortoise General Store in Venice last week.  I like how the red one has a fractal pattern.  They were hanging on a clothing rack in the annex behind the main building.  I told Sachiyo at the store how much I liked them and asked if I could take some pictures.  Not only did she say yes, she also offered me tea.  It tasted like genmaicha.  She only filled the tea cup a half inch or so.  "It's just for the taste" she said, handing it to me.  It was actually the perfect amount.

Many things caught my eye.  A beautiful book about Lucie Rie written in Japanese.  This bowl made of iron (looked over by an iron bird).

Two women walked into the annex and spoke with Sachiyo in Japanese.  They were also offered tea.  When they were alone they spoke Korean to each other.  At one point I turned around and saw that one of them was playing vigorously with Rosie (I brought her with me on my Venice outing).  I had been to several other shops that day and everyone cautiously asked if they could pet the pug.  I liked how this woman just went for it.  Rosie seemed to like it too.

In one corner I found several products made of hinoki.  I bought a box of incense made from the wood.  The unlit sticks smell wonderful.  The scent of the smoke is nice too but mostly it just smells of burning wood.