Saturday, June 30, 2012

still-sound 80. Shoelaces

Last week a man with nice shoelaces came into the perfume store where I work.  The laces were red and complemented the chestnut shade of his shoes.  He bought them online from a company based in Brooklyn called The Knottery.  I showed him the dark oily brown suede shoes that I had on and enthused that they would do well to have a new set of fancy laces.  I'd been wearing this pair for over three years now.  They've been re-soled once. 

The gentleman with the nice laces looked at my shoes and suggested vanilla-colored.

I was impressed that he said vanilla-colored.  When I perused the website I found that indeed, there were vanilla laces on offer.*  I chose orange rosewood and royal blue.  They arrived two or three days later by post.  The color of the laces appeared (muted) through a small muslin bag.

The orange rosewood was more neon than I had ancipated, particularly as there was another pair actually called neon orange.**

I laced the oily brown suede shoes with orange rosewood and quite like the results.  I'm going to wear them to the perfume store today.

*technically the color is called Vanilla Cream
**my friend Laura and I came up with more appropriate names for the orange laces including Traffic Cone and Fort Lauderdale.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

still-sound 79. $1 records

I've been going to Amoeba in Hollywood once a week to look for records.  Typically I have something in mind when I go - usually an album by a band I know I like, but don't already own.  It's astounding how many vinyl LPs are on offer - a portal into the 80s when mega record emporia abounded.  Once I choose my main purchase, I move on to the $1 racks.  Although the monetary investment is minimal, I try to select from the bargain records wisely to avoid having a collection of never-listened-to vinyl.

I was particularly lucky on my last trip.  In the discount section titled "Lounge" I found Family Portrait, a sampler from A & M records.  I could not find a date anywhere but assume the recording to be from 1967. The purchase posed minimal risk as I was certain in my admiration for Sergio Mendes, Herb Alpert, Wes Montgomery and Burt Bacharach.   Family Portrait offered a number of pleasant surprises including a version of Fly Me to the Moon sung in Spanish by The Sandpipers and a delicious morsel of bossa nova by Tamba 4 called Dolphin.  My next trip to Amoeba will be dedicated to Tamba 4 in fact.

Of course there are a few strange choices peppered throughout the album, the most alarming taking form as a Liza Minella offering which refuses to languish in the California sunshine along with the other tracks.  A musical WTF?  She's not pictured on the album cover either, sitting on a picnic blanket with the girls in minidresses holding parasols.*

I found a recording of traditional Japanese melodies performed by flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and harpist Lily Laskine.  Being a fan of both Rampal and shakuhachi music, I didn't hesitate in liberating the geishas from the $1 rack.  I liked that the album was titled Sakura.

The previous owner of the record had scribbled his or her impressions of each song.  I found myself agreeing with nearly every assessment.  The fifth song was "exquisite, slightly Oriental - lyric, slow, plaintive and archaic."  Most of the comments included "not really Oriental."  This was also my main criticism.  I would have also added, "does not express the earthiness of the shakuhachi's voice nor does the harp defy European tonalities in the way the koto does".  But as I do not plan on reselling the record, figured that my comments would go unread anyway. 

I rememeber liking Chuck Mangione when I was small kid learning to play the trumpet.  It doesn't matter what the music even sounds like, Chuck's smile alone merited the purchase. Not to mention the white bird pinned to his shirt.

*Liza Minelli is included in the cover photo.  She's next to Herb Alpert in the lower left corner wearing a white sleeveless dress.  I only noticed this today. (1 July 2012).  Nevertheless I still find her song incongruent with the rest of the album.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

still-sound 78. What I saw in France (II)

The house that Rob and I are fixing up in France is in a little Minervois village called La Redorte.  There, I noticed a number of megaphones suspended high up on poles along the main road.  Every few days I heard announcements breezing through the windows as I raked cement on to the floor while Rob affixed tiles.  The announcements pertained to the upcoming bed and mattress sale in the village square on Saturday.  Or the screening of Shrek at the Salles des Sports next Thursday.  I guessed that the announcements were broadcast from the Mairie which is in a building that used to be a school.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

still-sound 77. Soul

Last Saturday I went dancing with my friends Carlos and Laura.  Carlos' enthusiasm for a night at the Echo called Funky Soul instigated our outing.  I don't remember the last time I went dancing.

We arrived at the venue shortly after its opening at 10 pm.  The place was relatively empty.  We watched from a banquette in the corner as people filtered in.  They entered the club and upon reaching the dancefloor immediately started to dance.  Not a shy rev-up with a drink in hand, these people were pulling shapes - throwing legs and arms with complete abandon.  We spotted a guy by the bar whose facial hair and outfit would qualify him as an honorary member of Yellow Submarine era Beatles.  He stood by a girl wearing white tights and a Jan Brady style white minismock.  I admitted to Carlos and Laura that I wish I had worn white jeans.

It didn't take long for us to spring into action.  We chose a spot by the stage and started dancing.  We didn't stop until sweaty.

Throughout the night, clips of Soul Train graced a screen placed on the stage.  We watched as couples dressed in their craziest clobber worked their way down the Soul Train Line.  At one point a very tall, thin man appeared on the screen wearing bell-bottoms, sweater vest, dress shirt and a bow-tie that was nearly as wide as his shoulders.  A massive halo of hair adorned his head.  He dropped to the ground in rhythm and sprung up effortlessly with a smile stretched across his face.

I saw a man at the other end of the club, again, with a Yellow Submarine look - except he had a slight air of Lemmy from Motorhead.  I leaned into Laura's ear and said "Look, another Yellow Submarine Guy!"  I realized later that it was actually the same guy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

still-sound 76. Forty

This is a large porcelain bowl I made in the style of Lucie Rie.  I once read that if a potter wishes to make pots in a particular style, he must become the potter who makes those pots in that particular style.  I'd like to  make pots in the style of Lucie Rie.  I suppose I need to become Lucie Rie.

I gave this bowl to my friend Franco for his fortieth birthday.  I celebrated my fortieth birthday last month.  Franco and Adam took me out to lunch at Son of a Gun on 3rd Street to celebrate.  The food was even better than I expected.  The salad with smoked trout surpassed my expectations and I've been trying to recreate the dish at home - in the same way I try to copy Lucie Rie.  In neither case have I achieved the effortless perfection of the originals.  I drank a whisky cocktail called Penicillin with the decadent meal.  No one told me that the restaurant was decorated in a nautical theme.  Not like Seafood Shanty - more subtle.  There was a beautiful clipper ship drawn in gold on the front door.

When Franco turned 40 I told him, as someone who has been that age for a month, that it was fine.  It feels like 39.  It feels like 28.  I really don't feel any differently.  When I was a much younger man, I considered forty to be quite old.  I don't feel old though. 

My friend Laura gave me this beautiful glass vase as a birthday gift.  It looks like a floating test tube.  I placed a peony in it - these feathery flowers abound in June.  She also gave me a pack of Hojicha tea.  She bought the tea at Tortoise General Store in Venice.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

still-sound 75. Bugarech

I had first read about Bugarech on the Huffington Post.  It's a village at the foot of a mountain in Languedoc Roussillon - an area of the world where I'm particularly invested.  In fact I read the article shortly before I was due to go there last summer. 

There are some who believe that the mountain functions as something of a UFO portal.  Apparently electronic instruments fail to work when flying over, so airplanes are forbidden to include it in their flight paths.  I read how a number of 2012ers believe that a UFO emanating from le Pic de Bugarech would rescue them from apocalypse this December.  The local government has called upon the French army to help contain the enormous influx of new age hippies.

Bugarech has been wrapped up in occult mysteries since, at least the early 20th Century.  There are stories of people exploring the mountain and disappearing - only to appear at another location on the other side of the globe, with no recollection of how they got there.  It's earned the nickname Magic Mountain.

On my recent trip to Languedoc Roussillon, Rob and I took a day off from restoring the old village house and (on my insistence) drove out to Bugarech.  Rob drove.  I sat in the passenger seat and three of our friends who came over from London sat in the back.  Apparently there are two ways to reach Bugarech from La Redorte, our point of origin.  One entails large autoroutes via the city of Limoux and ten extra minutes of twisty driving on small roads - this option takes approximately 45 minutes.  The other route requires approximately two hours; a tour of every village of Languedoc and an ascent and descent of a mountain.  Then another one.  Then another one. When I chose 'Fastest Route' on the car's GPS I couldn't have predicted that we'd be following the latter route. 

I found myself apologizing to everyone for choosing such a crappy road trip.  I hoped that all would be forgiven when we entered a world of UFOs, Earth mysteries and a fascinating struggle between new age hippies and old world France.

We arrived in the village agitated and hungry (yet simultaneously nauseated).  When we left La Redorte the skies were sunny and hot.  We all applied sun block in preparation.  The chilly mountain of Bugarech was covered almost entirely by clouds.  The village was tiny; considerably smaller than La Redorte which is already tiny. No cafes were open and none of the 200 permanent residents seemed to be outside.   Apart from a large tent on the outskirts decorated with Renaissance Fayre style banners there was nothing to distinguish Bugarech from any other midi-Pyrenees village.  No new age bookstore, no otherwordly people beaming with an inner truth and eschatological wisdom.  No UFOs.  There were a few people passing by on horseback (kind of unusual and certainly unexpected) and there was a pack of motorcyclists bearing Spanish license plates riding by (again, kind of unusal).  Perhaps they also came in vain to spot UFOs.

I stumbled inside the village's small church.  I took a picture of a drawing depicting Jesus in a somewhat Shroud - of - Turin style.  We all climbed back into the car and drove off searching for food.  "If we had just explored INTO the mountain..." my mind insisted.  Or "Didn't you want to see what was going on in that big white tent?"  I didn't voice these thoughts however because at that point it was unanimously understood that I had lost my credibility as a capable tour guide.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

still-sound 74. A gentleman's fragrance

I have the pleasure of knowing a very elegant gentleman named Michael.  He's a little older than me and has led an interesting life.  I saw him yesterday and was saddened to hear about the recent death of his father.  Most of our conversation was dedicated to him.  Although he reached an impressive age and suffered poor health recently, his death was no less devastating for Michael.

Michael's father was a true gentleman.  A dandy in fact.  Michael was proud of this fact.  He emigrated as a young man from Baghdad and spent the rest of his life in his adopted city of New York.  Michael has a fine appreciation for fragrance which is most likely an inheritance from his father.  He showed me an enormous old bottle of a Guerlain fragrance I have never seen before called Extrait de Pot-Pourri aux Plantes Marines.  I guessed that the bottle must have originally contained 750 ml or perhaps an entire liter of perfume.  His father bought it 45 years ago and kept it in his closet along with two other unusually large bottles of Hermes fragrances: Equipage and Caleche.  I was familiar with the Hermes fragrances and was delighted to smell the beautifully preserved, vintage versions.  In such large, spectacular bottles no less.

Michael had just returned from New York.  He's due to go back in a few days for the funeral which, upon his father's request, will be held in a cathedral and feature a full church choir.  I love that what Michael took from his father's well-appointed life, to remind him of his old man, were his scents.

Friday, June 8, 2012

still-sound 73. A spritz of absinthe

I love this painting.  My best friend Kirsten Glass painted it and included it in the exhibition she just installed at the xero, kline & coma gallery in London.  She titled the show A Spritz of Absinthe.

It's mysterious, dreamy and a little bit spooky.  A face emerges as though from a fairy tale mirror.  Its horizontal positioning reminds me of an experience Rob had in our old flat in London.  Recurring, inexplicable occurances convinced us that the house was haunted.  One night Rob woke up in a half-dream state to be looking right into the eyes of a glowing face looking back at him.  He started screaming.  It sounds scary and it was.

Kirsten has always been able to enter that liminal space between awake and dreaming in her painting.

The atmosphere of her work makes me think of Symbolist painters of the 19th Century.  Never approaching pastiche, the resemblences occur in the themes, light and mood.  Here's a painting by Franz von Stuck:

Here's a detail of a painting by Gustave Moreau.  It's an apparition of the floating head of John the Baptist.

I would love to see Kirsten's show in person. Pil and Galia, the two very interesting artists who run the gallery told Kirsten, as they tell all the artists exhibiting in their space, that she was free to do absolutely anything she liked.  The space isn't motivated by sales so the spirit of the gallery is fuelled entirely by the artist's intention to make and show.

The invitation to A Spritz of Absinthe

This is a very refreshing attitude and a necessary alternative approach to the current art world driven by tastemaker gallerists, the bankability of superstars and the influence of uber wealthy collectors motivated by business investment and the acquisition of status objects rather than by the classical understanding of patronage which implies a personal connection and commitment to the development of an artist.  It's a pity that artist-run spaces do very little for the financial security of artists, we all have to pay our rent, but it's shifting the energy back towards community and giving us a level of control over the reception and flow of our work.  This is essential now more than ever.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

still-sound 72. Barometer

These pink clouds floating over Los Angeles at dusk made me think of a funny little card my first grade teacher gave me.  I wasn't special, she gave it to all of the students finishing up their first year in school.  A parting gift, if you like.  The card had a picture of a steam locomotive with smoke billowing from the train.  The smoke was textured - fuzzy, like flock wallpaper.

The smoke-shaped fuzz changed color.  If you consulted the key in the bottom corner you could match the hue with upcoming meteorological conditions.  Light pink indicated fair skies.  Lavender blue would portend precipitation.  The shades in between indicated in-between weather.

I stood the barometer card on the windowsill of my bedroom when I got home.  The following morning, the first day of summer vacation, I looked at the card on the window. I openly accepted its promise of sunny skies.