Thursday, February 24, 2005

Unreal city

Originally uploaded by Edwardius.
I took this on Monday, looking south, the last image before my battery died.

Notes from Day 12

I visited The Gates again yesterday, and shot some more footage with my Elph. The sun was out. I was happy. Could one build a tent and live in the park? A tent made of Gates scraps?

I thought of crossing the park to catch the 6 train to work, but didn't think I had time. I was on the trail right by the tennis courts. I walked a little more east, then saw that a Gate had fallen, or in any case was in need of repair. Four volunteers/workers were tending to it. It was at an acute angle to the paving.

I turned back. It was a little shocking, a little sad. (I suppose another reason why the project has such a short lifespan is that the materials might disintegrate if left out too long; over the weekend, I saw a badly frayed—or perhaps vandalized—hem.)

* * *

Notes toward a Central Park joke

I'm sure a variation on this exchange has taken place before:
Person 1: I didn't realize that each playground has a different theme. This is the Western Playground. It's all log cabin-y.
Person 2: Yes. And at the Diana Ross Playground, you have to dress as one of the Supremes!

* * *

The Times covered two Gates parodies this weekend. My favorite is the first, The Crackers; the second one, The Somerville Gates, appears to have been disassembled (due to a visit from the cleaning lady, as the site drolly puts it).

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I'm only dreaming

Good morning. I dreamt about the monkey painter. His name was in the newspaper. Russian-sounding—Vassily, Ivan, something. The article was more or less identical to the piece the Times did on the dogs-playing-poker artist, a year or two ago. Unfortunately, this morning the name of my simian portraitist escapes me. Any Dizzyheads with information in this regard, please drop a line!

Two nights ago, a series of words on a dark "screen" appeared in my dreaming mind's eye before I woke up. I remember two of the phrases: "Future Salad" and "Hoax Fed." The third one eludes me.

I've been taking short video clips while going through the Gates, stitching them together on iMovie, adding title cards, which "Future Salad" and "Hoax Fed" resembled.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Monkey in winter

Yesterday we went to look at furniture, then uptown because I wanted to show the wife a funny painting that I wanted to buy. It was of a monkey dressed up like a general. I never buy *any* paintings, but I had seen it the other day and it cracked me up.

It wasn't in the store window this time, but when we went inside I spotted it, along with a monkey dressed as some sort of clergyman.

"We have other monkeys," said the saleswoman.

There were about a dozen oil paintings in what could be called a series: monkeys dressed in human clothing, usually with a tobacco product protruding from their lips. My favorite was of a simian in a tuxedo—a monkey suit!—looking quite debonair, smoking a cigarette. There was also a monkey who appeared to be backstage at the ballet.

The wife would not indulge this eccentricity, and we left the shop.

Then we entered Central Park near the Met, and as we walked west we saw a couple cars moving slowly north on the loop, lights flashing gently. Then we heard a little applause. Then we glimpsed some orange hair—it was Jeanne-Claude! And Christo! I applauded!

* * *

Earlier yesterday, my parents strolled a ways through The Gates with us. In the 90s we saw a hawk, then two, then three, ostensibly stalking a squirrel, then another. It was like some complicated animal math problem.

* * *

Today was day nine of The Gates, and of my Gates odyssey. We actually went twice—once in the morning, from around 91st to 72nd, and then again in the late afternoon, entering in the 90s, heading up to 110th, walking east, and crossing back at 96th, then down to 86th. Highlights today included the reflection of the Gates in the water to the north; brilliant sun; one guy saying to his buddy, as he spotted a Gates-less stretch between two heavily-Gatesed ones, "What, he ran out?" Also we got a swatch from one of the gray-aproned volunteers. He asked a trivia question, which we promptly got wrong. There was a moment where it seemed he might not give up the swatch. But he did, and it's propped up on my lamp.

At the grocery store today, I bought an orange bell pepper. It was perhaps too willfully eccentric—later, I took a photo, which I'm going to splice into my pointless and entirely too absorbing mini-movies inspired by The Gates—but not as severely so as buying a General Monkey painting. Those bad boys cost nearly $200!

The paintings, not the peppers!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

We control the vertical

Gatesians! Check out, if you haven't, Charlie Suisman's audacious appreciation on Manhattan User's Guide.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Day Four, in which certain things start to connect


Remember this bit of cheeky gauntlet throwing?

I make tentative steps toward an airtight case.

Exhibit A:
"Purify the colors, purify my mind, and spread the ashes of the colors over this heart of mine!"
—The Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"

Exhibit B:

Originally uploaded by Edwardius.

Exhibit C:
"In the fields with which we are concerned, knowledge comes only in lightning flashes. The text is the long roll of thunder that follows." —Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Chapter N [On the Theory of Knowledge, Theory of Progress]


Dear Mr. Dizzies:

You may be interested to know that the surname Freud is a codename for members of a group of concerned citizens who speak out against "environmental art." They have worked tirelessly to make the public irritable about charming and sometimes even transcendent projects.

If I were you, I wouldn't have posted my intention to be at the Christo exhibit each day. These people are a violent lot and they mean business. If you feel you need a chaperone who is familiar with Freudian ways (I'd prefer not to reveal my former affiliations—let's just say, that Richard Serra and I haven't always been on the best of terms), please let me offer my services.

All the best,
Othello Crabapple

Monday, February 14, 2005

Hero 2: White helmeted warrior makes speech in front of orange car wash

Originally uploaded by Edwardius.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Heaven's Gates, Freudian slips

[Working title: "I Love New York"]

Yesterday we visited Central Park around 4 p.m., eager to be there on the inaugural day of The Gates, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's long-aborning project. We entered at 86th and CPW, and by about the second gate I could feel myself smile. It's a formula for pure joy—simple, repetitive, and inspired in every sense of the word.

[Voice from the peanut gallery: "What do you mean, 'every sense of the word'?"]

There's something serene and a little silly about the project. It calms us down and it makes us laugh. Looking askance from the route you're on—at one or several other trails similarly garlanded with the orange thresholds—gives a surreal sense of infinity, a familiar landscape taken over by friendly invaders. The gates and drapes enhance the trailness of the trails, happily impose thousands of contexts. We're in the Garden of Forking Paths. (Indeed, even in today's brilliant sunlight, one couldn't help but conjure a future Law & Order episode—the criminal obscured by the endless iterations of orange.)(Or is the whole project a tribute to Jeanne-Claude's hair color?)(I love them, by the way—I love the way they say their art is useless.)

[V. from the p.g.: "You didn't answer the question, Mac!"]

Right! Back to "every sense of the word"!

Inspired! Yes, because the most beautiful moments of The Gates (already we're on wonderfully slippery ground, because this art exists in time, it is temporary in duration yet infinite as a river in the ways you can read it) occur when the wind courses through, causing the fabric to billow, as if articulating a thought, a face, a memory. Sometimes a whole path will be set aflame, as it were, antic orange all around. Sometimes only a few in the sequence will be stirred. Central Park, the lungs of the city, gets to circulate this glorious February ice-sharp air.

Two thoughts:

1. See my appreciation of Todd McEwen's Who Sleeps With Katz ("Central Park is a god and also the abode of the god"). And let's think about how all that is solid melts into air. [Sountrack: Talking Heads, "Air."]

2. Fans of Zhang Yimou's Hero, with its textile-grokking cinematography (courtesy of Christopher Doyle), will go wild over The Gates. Consider it a whimsical, abridged-and-elongated theatrical version of the film, transposing the film's vigorous palette (blue, red, green, white) to a color key all its own.

I'm going to try to go every day until the end.


Postscript (adapted from an e-mail I just sent a friend): I overheard one guy saying [today], "This is the biggest pile of crap I've ever seen." Oh, get over yourself. [...] On Nightline on Friday, they were talking about The Gates, and saying, "Not all New Yorkers think it's a good idea." They interview one "Olive Freud," of the Sierra Club, "The park is for people to enjoy nature, not for this sort of commercial enterprise," etc. OK, fine. Then they talked to another naysayer—and I swear, his name was something like "Bill Freud" (Edgar Freud?), and he was also part of the Sierra Club! Maybe Olive's husband or brother. It was not exactly a convincing case.

Everybody, please: Get over yourselves.


Postpostscript (addendum to point 2, above): Cf. the doorways without walls in Kim Ki-duk's Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Breath, eyes, memory

Has anyone mentioned the Arcade Fire and The Arcades Project in the same breath yet?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Contractions

I loaded up the iPod with most of a Descendents album the other day, and this morning "I Won't Let Me" kicked in on my way to work. The song was unfamiliar—it'd been years since I'd last heard it—and so great that I marveled at each new surge of energy. Bracing stuff! By the chorus I figured out what it was, and when when the song ended, I played it again. And again. And again.

And again. I felt like I would never get sick of it.

This is unusual iPod behavior for me—I usually let the gods of shuffle have their way. The song had a peculiar hold on me. How had I spent all these years without it?

Curiously: Yesterday, while getting a haircut (thus sliding in my good-luck follicle-shearing right before the Chinese New Year deadline), Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me" was playing—a decent enough song, with a similar lyrical conceit.

If any Dizzyheads know an eccentric millionaire, get her drunk, and while said moneybags is three sheets to the wind, have her sign an agreement saying she'll put out a limited edition 7" single on colored vinyl with the Descendents on side A, Pink on side B. Make sure there's a notary public on hand.

When the single is released, buy two copies. Play them simultaneously on different record players.

Write me a postcard and tell me what it sounds like.

Ear we go again

"The sea and the ear are connected. Each bump, tilt, and slide of the boat registers in the inner ear. Labyrinth is the word anatomists use: deep inside our heads are looping canals and a snaillike cochlea filled with a gelatinous mass, freckled with lime crystals, and lined with delicate hairs that give us hints about whether we're walking on the walls or not. My inner ear is sick, all the hairs mown down. I fall, get dizzy, fall again." —Gretel Ehrlich, The Future of Ice

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sensitivity training

We stopped in to make a haircut appointment and U2's single "Vertigo" was playing.

Later, on East 60th Street, we passed by a woman's clothing store called "Vertigo and Friends."

Long long long

The sun is blazing here in New York—rendering our previous post, on art vs. cold weather, a bit moot. So disregard those menus—save them for when the next blizzard hits—and feast your eyes on the following marathon-length sentences.

'Patrick O'Brien's father was not born in 1877; his family was not "briefly split up on the death of Patrick's mother"; it is untrue that "his formal schooling was seriously disrupted by . . . recurrent respiratory complaints which dogged him throughout his childhood"; he attended Lewes Grammar School for three years, not one; there is no evidence that his stepmother possessed a "collection of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century literature", and consequently no possibility that he read "voraciously" in her non-existent library; as Patrick himself recorded, he was not fifteen but twelve when he wrote Cæsar (sic); he wrote Hussein in 1937, not 1938; nothing suggests that his first marriage was "further strained" by the fact that his second child was born afflicted by spina bifida; the colorful description of his supposed first meeting with my mother during the Blitz is entirely fictitious; his elder brother Michael never aassumed the name "O'Brian", nor did Patrick's decision to assume that name by deed poll have anything to do with Michael; he does not appear to have claimed Irish birth on the cover of any of his books; several of the stories in his collection The Last Pool were written long before "his years in Wales"; "The Frozen Flame (in the United States entitled The Catalans)" has the titles the wrong way round; the hero of The Golden Ocean is Peter Palafox; it was not "Lord Thomas Cochrane" but Lord Cochrane whose career provided background material for Master and Commander; and there is no evidence that Patrick was inspired by Captain Marryat (he certainly possessed none of his works).'
—Nikolai Tolstoy, letter to the TLS, December 3, 2004, criticizing the new Dictionary of National Biography's entry on his stepfather, Master and Commander novelist Patrick O'Brian

'But the interstates now have razed their way on out into the last aboriginal outbacks of the South, and in all the Fox's Dens and Bali-Hai lounges of the motels that have accumulated along their length, townsmen from the peanut gins and feed mills of nearby scruffy little communities—great-grandsons of Jackson's fance skirmishers and Jubhal Early's mounted raiders, who were accustomed until recently only to the beercan-popping hoot and stomp of local pine-planked honky-tonks—gather on a Saturday night to roost, in khakis and clay-clotted brogans, in a windowless grottolike clandestine gloom lascivious with dim glows and quilted leather and a sweet whiskey-tinged must of the urbanely illicit, fingering damp paper napkins imprinted with raffish cartoons as they brood over their bourbon-and-ginger-ales at the waitresses bobbling back and forth in Bo Peep thigh ruffles and net stockings, all the while mulling the savory intimations of secret abandoned sheet-thrashings in the rooms along the rear parking lot, until inevitably one of them, after a waitress' leggy passage by him, jumps atop a table with a loud obscene yawp of supplication, and then, as he is being herded toward the door by the manager, snatches up a chair and sends it skidding calamitously down the length of the bar with a parting bawl of outrage and longing—this, a hundred years later, about all that is left of those legendary heedless charges wit wild gleeful yodels up the slopes of Cemetery Ridge and Malvern Hill.'
—Marshall Frady, The South Domesticated, as quoted in Hal Crowther's "Son of a Preacher Man: Marshall Frady (1940–2004)," in the Winter 2005 issue of The Oxford American

Friday, February 04, 2005

Winter ours

Many people—especially acquaintances up and down the Eastern Seabord, as well as the Manitoba readership—have asked me how to insulate themselves with "art" as the weather gods continue to launch their snow, sleet, and brutal winds our way.

To get you through the next five weeks, we've drawn up the following five outlines. Length of commitment varies wildly. Substitutions are acceptable. Print out, forward, destroy.

Read Wallace Stevens's "The Snow Man" [1 min. reading time, 10 min. reflection]
Then listen to The Arcade Fire, FUNERAL [c. 1 hour]
Then read Christian Bök's CRYSTALLOGRAPHY [1 day]
Listen to Clearlake, "Wonder if the Snow Will Settle" [3.5 mins]

Listen to The Colourfield, "Monkey in Winter" [5.5 mins.]
Then watch ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER [c. 3 hours]
Read Harvey Pekar's "Old Cars in Winter" [15 mins.]
Optional: Read Yukio Mishima's SPRING SNOW [2 days]

Listen to Apples in Stereo, "Winter Must Be Cold" [4 mins.]
Read Gretel Ehrlich, THIS COLD HEAVEN and THE FUTURE OF ICE—the latter will make you wish *it was even colder*. [reading time: 1 week]
Listen to Fountains of Wayne, "Valley Winter Song" [4 mins.]

Read Maureen Howard's A LOVER'S ALMANAC [1.5 day]
Listen to Sigur Ros, "( )"
Read Anthony Powell's A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME, fourth movement ("Winter") [1 week]

Read James Joyce's "The Dead" [2 hours]
Watch MIRACLE, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team [2 hours]
Run around screaming, "Do you believe in miracles? *Yes!*" [1 hour]
Read "The Snow Man" again.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Garrulous Keeler

Richard Polt, esteemed founder of the Harry Stephen Keeler society, shares this Keeleresque description of a Keeler book (one of my favorites). (Compare the American and British dustjackets.)

1. Cheung, Detective.
By Keeler, Harry Stephen
London: Ward Lock & Co., Limited, 1938
Bound Board. Good Plus/Overall Very Good (see Notes).
8vo. First Edition in a Lovely period wrapper which appears to date from 3 yrs later. This Edition PRECEDES the US first which was retitled as 'Y Cheung Business Detective'. On the reverse of the Title page it states "First Published in 1938" in the centre of the page alone, the only other info is a 'Made in England' and printers details at the foot of that page. Opposite the title page is a box with details of "Other Novels by Harry Stephen Keeler" and this title is not listed, and none of which were published later than this title, which is a usual indication of it being a First. However there is also the number ' 849A ' printed above the publisher on the d/w and there is also a list of his novels on the rear of the d/w where this title IS actually listed. This number on spine of dust wrapper seems to indicate that this wrapper could be part of the Ward Lock reprint series??. Having checked all of the titles, inside and out, the BOOK is definately a first, all the titles listed are earlier than 'Cheung', but it looks as if the wrapper is one from 3 years later (1941) since the last few titles listed on the rear are 1941 titles. This is not unusual since unsold copies of a First Edition ( particularly during the war years, and the paper 'relocation' for war purposes in the UK) were often issued later in 'amended' wraps. It is possible that the war halted production and it wasn't actually issued 'til later, but together with the numbering on the spine I suspect the former is the more likely? The predominently yellow black and blue/green illustration on the front cover is of a (rather frightened/menacing looking ?oriental looking) man peering through a door with his hand on the ?light switch.

On the d/w spine is the Title and below a large question mark with 6 heads featured in the mark. Boards sl.mottled, crease down front board. Black titling to spine. Head/tail of spine sl. bumped. Previous owner has reinforced d/w with masking tape on reverse overlapping the edges at head of spine approx 20mm x 4mm, barely visible. Price clipped. 318 pp. Light Foxing throughout, with some darker 'spotting' here and there, but Overall a Tight and Bright copy. A mystery, featuring a Chinese detective with an engineering degree, set in Indianapolis. (Keywords: DETECTIVE STORIES. CRIME WRITING. MURDER. MYSTERY. SUSPENSE. FICTION. LITERATURE. 1930'S. CHINA. Y CHEUNG BUSINESS DETECTIVE. CORRECTIONS)

The price of the book is US$ 262.43 [...]

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