Friday, December 27, 2013

Miscellaneous Miracles

The Flaneur salutes his luminous lecteurs with some bijoux from the numinous notebook.

Mislabeled bats
show up and eat the cat's food
the cat doesn't like it
but is afraid of the bat's place
in the hallowe'en hierarchy

haunted by my father's death
I grew to cherish hauntedness

a long line of geese
     over a line of kayaks
subtle migrations

Coral forms over my eyes
until I'm walking around with
fish bowl sea horse eyebrow castles

all of this builds and builds
until I'm left with a dime store
mount rushmore on my shoulders

Cold Mount Diablo

foothills like ponies
     in the palomino earth
ghostly moon of bone

To thine own self be weird

Solstice 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recent Experience of Vertigo

Perhaps a dozen viewings into this classic of the bizarre, I am still realizing things about it.

In youthful glimpses of it on B&W TV, I remember not really getting it. By the time it was rereleased in the 1980s I had become a Hitchcock aficionado having published an essay on his TV program in an Anthology from City Lights. I had read quite a bit on Vertigo and was psyched  for the grand re-opening at a San Francisco movie house. Hitch owned the city once again.

That was probably the only other viewing besides my latest in which the audio was up to the magnificent score by Bernard Herrmann. This is pure cinema and it consists almost entirely of sound and vision not dramatic dialog and the score is utterly predominant.

Herrmann is a madman and a genius and this is a film of amour fou, of mad love.
What I learned that was new in terms of the soundtrack was due to the fact that I wore ear-buds. From the first one couldn’t help but notice that there are huge segments of the film with no dialogue; what I noticed this time was that even when there was dialog it was exceedingly quiet and moreover it subordinated to the musical score. The volume of the score doesn’t subside in order to hear the talking.

I have long owned the score on LP and it alone is a transporting art experience, with Hitch’s opulent Hollywood hyper-romanticism it is of course one of the headiest drafts in film history. A t once a lugubrious Douglas Sirk romance and a disquieting exposition of the psychopathology of everyday life worthy of Bunuel.

The other remarkable  innovation accompanying this viewing was my first look at the so-called “Foreign censorship ending.”
What an astonishment it is and what a missing piece of the puzzle.

What follows is my own theory of the movie and the reveal at the end is the “censorship ending.”
Scottie is a charming narcissist with gentle but strong presumption of imperious male privilege. He has had sexual relations with Midge but managed to extricate himself from their engagement. (Now he just enjoys her domestic comforts without the ring or the sex.)  He thinks nothing of dangling this fact before her adding that she was the one to break it off. The close-ups of her face tell a different story.
This is Scottie’s real moral guilt --not that some foolhardy cop died in a bootless attempt to rescue him

Then comes the highly implausible plot in which Kim is the macguffin mannikin. I won’t dwell on how absurd it is that a former friend would further damage him to that extent in order to pull off a Rube Goldberg fake suicide of his wife plot. He is the sadistic agent of the cruel fate that Scotties can’t escape. This is a morality play in the form of a “murder mystery.”
His sexual obsession for the shop girl turned actress, who adopts obvious poses in front of her dead doppelganger’s portrait or in the window of her house, is the plot. Her mystical slippage a the display of tree rings foreshadows Dark Shadows, yet gullible Scottie commits for the ride.
He goes quite mad after the actual wife’s body falls in front of him. I find his semi-animated nightmare sequence very effective and quite terrifying.
(note: I have experience severe vertigo and have had a loved one die in  fall).

midge’s final scene in the official film is really very sad--she’s alone in a clinic corridor and admits to herself he’s never coming back.

So then  with the promptness of narrative of a fairytale, he somewhat recovers, bumps into Kim’s character in the street and lets the fugue state he is in set an obsessive tone.
Then not only does she agree to get to know him, and submit to the makeover but--what was I thinking?!--she wears the Carlotta brooch.
Right after they finally had sex too.
The chandelier-like brooch is difficult to miss by someone with an Asbergers-esque obsession over her appearance.
Does her call the cops? No he decides to extract brutal revenge. The image of her high-heeled feet being dragged-up the steeple staircase is all you need.

In the censorship ending we see Midge again. She is listening to the radio that reports that the guy who set Scottie up is being sought in Europe for his crimes.
Then Scottie comes in. Without speaking she makes them two big drinks. Scottie goes to the window to stare out. She sits back contentedly. She’s got her man back.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Message

Hiya E,
Thought of you today, yr observation that Oakland is a tinderbox,
when I saw SF Chron headline -- curfew for under 18-year-olds in Oakland.
They wild.
After the Trayvon verdict it really felt dicey in the streets.
Now Sears & other places are leaving the boards up not replacing windows--adds to the apocalyptic.
And big "Fruitvale" billboards rippled overhead above that as the helicopters remained parked in the sky.
One of the reasons I keep a somewhat scruffy look.
 Hostile teenagers may not respect you but they figure you're a scrub, not enough $ to risk robbing.
Not like the O.cops are hard at work to prevent or catch such activity.
Remember my Mexicali Rose neon photo?.
I ignored them not to attract unwanted attention but right across the street when I took that photo
there were riot-gearish cops just hanging out in case the Police State complex came under attack.
While waiting for you on the street a bus drove past loaded with prisoners, cold iron bound
Yrs, StR

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ferry Boat Ray

The Flaneur heads down to Jack London Square and takes advantage of a Clipper discount card to traverse the Bay on the Oakland Ferry this summer of 2013.

The exhilarating crossing begins slow as you crawl past container ships the size of big city buildings. Alongside the Ferry Pier resides FDR's yacht The Potomac. One evening in late July, I was aboard it for a small bluegrass show by Blue & Lonesome. There was fine wine and I took a moment alone on the upper deck to smoke my spliff where Roosevelt and Churchill snorted alcohol in copious amounts. FDR reached it by a one-man elevator which he operated himself by hand.
Below the main deck were two restored and furnished bedrooms. One was for Franklin and his girlfriend; the other one was for Eleanor and her girlfriend.

On a recent visit to Aquatic Park SF via the Oakland Ferry to Pier 41, I was just retiring to some terraced steps for a picnic when I observed two maybe foreign guys focusing in on an unsuspecting girl's private spot while she was sunbathing. With a telephoto lens no less.
I alerted the girl. 
Cads!  By-standing males would beat them up if they tried it elsewhere.

(More to come)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

Hasty dispatch from the moving sidewalks of Berkeley to Oakland.

Hardly a raid on the inarticulate, yet herein the Flaneur attempts to recall a moment of inchoate happenstance.

As a local expression of the summer heat wave, I have employed visits to the cooler environs of Jack London Square to relax some evenings.
There I was on a recent night as an outdoor exhibition of a recent film took place. On a lawn alongside restaurants with outdoor fire pits an inflatable screen had been set up, its frame a tubular deal giving it roughly the shape of an etch-a-sketch.
An elevated patio above the rest rooms etc. afforded me a dignified seat away from the crowd to have smoke and enjoy the crepuscular bay side atmosphere as pleasure craft came back to dock contently. It's quite a prospect to wait until it's dark enough to comfortably show a film outdoors a few nights after the solstice. Impatience prevailed naturally enough when after a quiz and a raffle the mob felt it had collectively waited enough and a booming male voice introduced the film.
I grabbed a spot on the lawn as close as was practical and settled in for what was turning out to be a slightly chilly spot despite the heat of the day.
The film started with a blurt, the video control semiotics visible over the picture with a women's voice-over described what was being shown on-screen for the benefit of those without sight. Prolonged giggling ensued as even the simultaneity of twitchy warthogs was noted in the obtrusive narration rapidly interspersed with a recitation of the credits as they passed by.
Fortunately the night had fallen a bit further by the time they stopped and restarted the film, the screen became more legible as it went on.
It is a enough pleasant film and just right for this family-centered crowd with its relative smattering of hipsters and bystanders like me. Some of its clever-cute spiritual jingoism and the over-long "revelation" of its ending might not have been missed by this viewer. Moreover though it is a well-wrought use of so much CGI it is left with that nagging irreal feeling when it wants to be at its most naturalistic. And some sequences such as Richard Parker the tiger pounces on the heinous hyena are so abrupt as to be incomplete--as in what exactly happened to the hyena's corpse? Swallowed in one bite?
But it was loose enough to allow the attention of the young crowd  to wander and then draw them back in at the thrilling moments. I suspect many of them had already seen the film as well. Some young folks quite close to the screen were noticeably slapstick in their antics. A tall young guy with a wild "natural" hairdo was bounding around while still sheathed in a sleeping bag like  a cartoon. Sitting next to me were a Sino-American couple who had brought their alert looking little terrier. The dog watched every outlandish behavior with calm forbearance.
Then as the film's bestial soundtrack roared to a crescendo, the rodeo-clown kid came running down some stairs behind the screen to dive toward the scrum of sleeping bags. The dog barked a single loud bark in admonition and everyone froze for a second. It was as if it was one last adrenaline-inducing thrill, one more of the many vivid animal sounds in "The Life of Pi." The tall kid was momentarily spooked, and then the tension resolved in general laughter and merriment. A sweet looking young black girl and I exchanged a twinkly look and everybody rose to go.
"I thought that he looked like a smart dog," I told his proud owner.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Seven Days in May

Even if reality is illusionary, fungible, and entirely contingent on apparent sensory phenomena, the Flaneur entertains the notion that if you defenestrate yourself you will still have to face the sidewalk.

How much the same it is yet how utterly odd Berkeley seems today.
So far less of what it was known for bookstores, record stores, multi-colored and gentle street life and cafes. A lot seems like college town anywhere with the new young society's skeins of communication and distraction.
A gnomic sort of economic cleansing has happened  oddly juxtaposed with the phalanx of new housing downtown, housing stocked with disadvantaged people largely from elsewhere. After all these years here the only familiar faces downtown are those who live on the street there.
The plaza downtown with its accommodating openness is in for a retrofit, one with an eye toward socially engineering the indolent and indigent who flop there by day.
Then there are the seventy thousand non-native trees that various entities has decided to eliminate from the Oakland-Berkeley hills. Gone for any reasonable future will be the forest-like wildness replaced one suspects by tastefully-designed parkland of native landscaping with poured concrete borders. In other words, it's almost impossible to imagine a result that won't equate with urbanization of the hills.
To ask again: what about the animals who live there now and depend on the trees? what about the air-cleaning activity of all those trees?

(more to follow)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Evidently Fourth Dimension

The Flaneur summons several recent scenarios in search as ever of the proximate zeitgeist.

Easter Sunday was last day of March, sunny and brisk. I set out walking for a new venue in my old neighborhood. For the better past of two decades, I lived on Woolsey street above Telegraph. This was the real Berktown bordertown area where historic marches were opposed and stopped or scattered by the militaristic Oakland police in the anti-War sixties. And where for generations before that a kind of interzone,a liquor-abundant supply depot one mile down the line from UC Berkeley's ever-thirsty students.
Alone among the enterprises to persist in its nuisance is the White Horse bar and the White Horse liquor store, historically tied but perhaps no longer connected as businesses today. Since before World War II, the homosexual demimonde has found the White Horse bar a friendly and accommodating place.

Nearby, representing yet another generational swerve is the recent-opened Stranded record shop --specializing in vinyl LPs. The name is short for Stranded in Oakland I believe. Wondering as I have been about such a fate myself these days, it fit my mood.
Today Stranded is hosting a free performance by the intriguing Bonnie Prince Billie and a singing partner. Songs originally recorded by the timeless Everly Brothers predominated. Prince Billie, formerly Will Oldham and formerly of the Palace Brothers is a shining exemplar, not to say hero, of the new Americana movement in popular music. He has a fine voice and plays guitar well; he effortlessly enlists one in the honesty of his schtick.
As I walked up it seemed that the four or five people ahead of me had already been stopped due to the packed state of  the record shop, a single oblong room. Despite my landing quite wide of the demographic both inside and outside I was nevertheless more or less determined that my two mile walk be not in vain. People milled outside to catch what they could lof the show, but there would be no usable audio reaching these tired ears out there with traffic going by. Luckily the guy-who-works-there took pity on this unlikely cat and allowed me to squeeze into a corner spot. We chatted and he warmed to me a bit. It turned out that a colleague from Negativland (semi-defunct) was working the sound for this.
A cool little stage was erected down the far end with dance-hall girl velvet curtains. At last the musicians emerged and took the stage with only acoustic guitars and microphones. So despite the airless heat during the 90 minutes I was there, the sound was all pleasure and no  pain.

(more later)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Asteroid Miss, Meteor Hit

The Flaneur recalls the fifteenth of February, in many regards a singular day. A balmy mid-winter day with sparkling sunshine encouraged my adventure by train to the Embarcadero in San Francisco. There I sat out on a pedestrian pier and had lunch. These were random jottings from my perch above the placid bay waters.

wanting someone who does not want you
can be a form of hatred

indigo girl
passes by on the pier
who does not want you?

three or four futuristic sail units
towed by power boats
like slender billboards

perpetual swivel seat
cartoon rocket ship replica
retro pyramid building

bridge tourniquet

appearance of a rolling breaker
perpendicular to shore

there's always someone else in san

three thirty bells toll
four descending
four ascending

jack herrer, grand-daddy purple
even leftover girl scout cookies
too high to go to Mass
(by a long shot)

Port of San Francisco

70 degrees on a calm bay
no large ships
scant traffic
remote sailboats
the ferries come and
are gone
come again
turn around to reverse in quietly

by accident I
saw my butt in the mirror
     last night

15 February 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mid-Winter Still

The Flaneur admits to being a bit attenuated these days, and hereby offers, again, instead of a regular column, these few haiku.
With a dedication to my fellow Massachusetts natives still there and all who endure the wrath of Nemo. We left for California after the blizzard of 1978.


hummingbirds orbit
      the saturnine bird feeder
in light rain


outside my window
      spider against the night fog
how lonely it is


headlights in the hills
      oscillate along the ridge
furtive high school noir

late January-early February

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Festival of Lights

The Flaneur's heart heads upward like a loose ember from a holiday bonfire.

at new year midnight
     silent bike glides below
screen-lit handlebars

street in early dark
     little girl walks home with dad
light show on her shoes

stars slip past soundless
     for the most part unobserved
night has no mirror

1-7 January 2013