Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cats are invading our backyard, and the dill has grown wild and is overtaking everything. When we moved in, there were about three alley cats that prowled around.... now, they've had babies, those kittens are growing up, and there are about seven or eight of them now roaming the alley. At first, the kittens were cute, but now they're wrecking our backyard (they've been scratching at the grass, tearing it up so that they mark a spot where they then use daily...) and there are fleas! Yesterday, i went and cut a lot of the dill seeds....

Anyway, today went to see "Ugetsu", which remains a magical movie. Tomorrow it's "Sansho Dayu"; this morning, TCM played "Stromboli". Reminds me that Peter Wollen concluded his book "Signs and Meaning in the Cinema" with the statement that, for the record, the best of Rossellini, Mizoguchi and Renoir is better than anything ever made in Hollywood. So in one day: better than Hollywood.

A lot to discuss... but Michael Giltz's analysis of the Emmys on his blog (www.popsurfing.blogspot.com) has been hilarious. Of course, Larry and i didn't bother to watch the Emmys: we NEVER watch the Emmys. Watched "H.M. Pulham, Esq." last night; this is an example of the "auteur" fallacy. Stanley Donen (when interviewed by Steve Harvey) once berated Andrew Sarris, because (as Donen put it) how the hell does he know what's personal to me? "Funny Face" (a film which Donen developed, and which he moved from MGM to Paramount in order to get Audrey Hepburn as the star, and which he shaped the script with Leonard Gershe) was (in Sarris's view) not a "personal" project for Donen. (All three of the movies he did with Audrey Hepburn were "personal" projects for Donen.) Anyway, "H.M. Pulham, Esq." is a "personal" project for King Vidor: the script is credited to Vidor and his wife, Elizabeth Hill; and when the credits come to "Directed by" Vidor (literally) signs the movie (his name in his own handwriting). He is saying, this is a personal movie for me. As much as "The Big Parade" or "The Crowd" or "Hallelujah" or "Our Daily Bread". And it's a lovely movie, superbly well crafted, even well acted, though the casting is problematic. Robert Young is fine, but Hedy Lamarr really tries, but she's just not the go-getting Midwestern girl of the book. It's not just that Hedy Lamarr isn't quite an actress, but she's so European. But i've always liked "H.M. Pulham, Esq." and i'm glad that King Vidor liked it, too.

But talk about insanity: Larry and i watched part of "Tortilla Flat"! MGM and John Steinbeck: a bad combination to begin with. Stir in Spencer Tracy, John Garfield, and Hedy Lamarr as Mexicans, and it's beyond parody! What the hell are they all speaking? I'd seen the movie when i was a child, and i had already read the book, but it didn't seem so absolutely hopeless as it did yesterday. When Akim Tamiroff comes off as the closest to "authentic"... this is why Hollywood used to have a bad name....

But a lot more to report. But how do we get rid of the cats, now that they've overtaken our yard?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Waiting for word on my mother. My mother fell this afternoon, she called my brother, he drove in, he called my sister, she called me en route to my mother's. My sister and her family are there at my mother's, while my brother waits with my mother in the emergency room. And i'm waiting to find out what's happening.

Last night was the next-to-last AAARI talk. Forgot that today was the day when there were those outdoor performances at Governors Island: Douglas Dunn, Elizabeth Streb, Reggie Wilson, and Yasuko Yokoshi present site-specific pieces. I woke up late (well, that's because i went to bed late; i stayed up and watched "The Lady Eve" and "The Palm Beach Story" and "Our Town" on DVD until about 4:30 in the morning) and then tried to figure out if i should rush to go into Manhattan to catch the ferry (at 1 PM) to get to Governors Island in time for the 2:30 performance. So i felt a little guilty, but then my sister called, so here i am waiting to hear how my mother is.....

In Michael Giltz's blog, he notes how everything is connected. Well, that may be true. In the Art & Leisure section of Sunday's NY Times, there's an article about an art exhibit in the Hamptons, which is curated by Edward Albee; one of the artists who is interviewed is Mary Abbott. This morning, we got a call from Charles Lahti that he's going to the Hamptons to see Mary. I've been reading Ross Wetzseon's book and Larry Rivers's autobiography, in which so many of the artists discussed in the NY Times article (like Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, Willem De Kooning, et al) figure, and the idea of the smallness of the artworld. (In his book, Larry Rivers talks about some of the bars the painters would frequent in the early 1950s, and how a lot of the Actors Studio people, like Geraldine Page and Steve McQueen, would stop in as well, and even a young singer who was starting to make a splash, Harry Belafonte.) That was the thing: everyone knew everyone.

And so people i know are doing a performance outdoors, and here i am, waiting to hear what's happening with my mother, how serious this fall is. I also watched the DVD of "Olympia"... i have to say that Pathfinder is one of the worst companies out there, Pathfinder makes Facets look like the Criterion Collection! The DVD (at least, disc one, which is what i looked at) is hideous! Larry noticed how terrible it looks! One of the most beautiful movies of all time, and it looks like sludge!

Anyway, my brother and his wife are with my mother at the emergency room; she's been examined, and they called in a plastic surgeon because the gash on her head is really deep: will it be a real scar?

We'll see what happens.

The news is insane: all this brouhaha over a confession in the JonBenet Ramsey case, while there is so much going on in the Middle East, and the prospects of nuclear testing in North Korea.

Actually, Brandon Aguilar's blog talks about this news diversion (i was clued into Brandon Aguilar's blog by Bill Jones). And Mason Wyler's MySpace page has been restored: all new pictures!

Well, have had a little communication with Brett; he's getting better and is planning a trip to Washington DC next week. Spencer Quest is in a holding pattern: he auditioned for "Naked Boys Singing" and they will give him a job as soon as one of the current performers leaves the show, and his next porn video, the Michael Lucas megaproduction "La Dolce Vita", doesn't start shooting until the end of September.

I've got to change my HMO: i'm still registered with Gouverneur, which is in lower Manhattan, and i no longer live there; there are a lot of doctors in Bay Ridge who take HIP, so i might as well get a doctor in my own neighborhood.

But my mother is so concerned about her appearance; if this accident did anything to change that, the irony would be too much!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Quite a lot in a week. Last week, screenings of "Born Yesterday" and "The Marrying Kind"; this week, screenings of "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" Some other films: Fernando Leon de Aranoa's "Princesas" and Yilmaz Arslan's "Fratricide". But also got some books at the Unoppressive Bookstore: "Crome Yellow and Other Works" by Aldous Huxley, the James Legge translation of the "I Ching", "What Did I Do?" by Larry Rivers (with Arnold Weinstein); "Republic of Dreams Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960" by Ross Wetzseon.

At the screening of "Fratricide", ran into a number of people, including Robin Holland, Tony Pipolo, and Adrienne Mancia. The film was quite strong; it's another of the German films made by immigrant "ethnic" filmmakers (another example: "Head On"), and this was quite gripping and very strong.

But afterwards, had a little talk with Adrienne. I mean: Adrienne is one of those people i've known since... the very beginning of my "professional" life, so that's more than 35 years. And we talked about the fact that this summer has been hard for the "nonprofit" film scene, and the fact that there is no "community" anymore. The default mechanism of the "indie" scene (which is not the "experimental" film scene; the experimental scene is bearly hanging in there) has utterly destroyed the cohesion of whatever community used to exist.

This week, i had been thinking of that, and the fact that there is no history any longer. That's one of the consequences of the Internet: there's this eternal present-tense. I don't even want to go into this whole lapse of memory. A few days ago, i got an e.mail from Wellington, asking me what i thought of "Red Doors"; it was fine, but i had nothing to really say about it. And then, thinking about it, and the other recent Asian-American female-directed films ("Face", "Saving Face", "East Broadway"), i suddenly became very angry. I was angry at the absolute tepidness of these films, the fact that they really took no chances (the fact that two of them were family comedies with a lesbian romance attached isn't being courageous, not when "Chutney Popcorn" and "Junky Punky Girlz" and other films from the 1990s had already happened). And in reading the press releases, all of these directors took such pains to distance themselves from being classified as "Asian-American". Yet what else are their films, if not typical Asian-American features?

If there had been any "innovation", perhaps i wouldn't have felt so angry. But these films were all so ordinary! Actually, well-done, but ordinary.

Maybe that's the problem, i'm so tired of ordinary. The reason i loved the whole "scene" in NYC was that nothing was ordinary. It's like last year there was that documentary that Chuck Ignacio did on Charles Busch. It was charming, and i enjoyed it, but then i remembered actually seeing some of his plays. How pitiful they were! There was the time Larry and i went with Meredith Brody and Warren Sonbert to... it was playing on Second Avenue, and it was a play in which Charles Busch was making like Joan Crawford from one of her 1940s MGM war melodramas. During the intermission, Warren just turned to the rest of us and said, i can't believe it's come to this. And we all agreed to go to some new restaurant that Meredith was supposed to review for the Voice. I mean: from Jack Smith and Charles Ludlum, Charles Busch just seemed so ordinary. (At least, that was Warren's view; he was shocked at the declension from Jack to Charles Busch, at the way that Charles Busch seemed so domesticated, how Busch's work wasn't even that different from the Hollywood movies he was parodying.)

And now, you don't even get things with the competence of Charles Busch.

And there's so little sense of community, of shared interests. Of course, what i love is the absolute self-interest of people. In "Push Comes to Shove", Twyla Tharp never mentions any other artist in terms of the congruity of their aesthetic interests. For example, "The Bix Pieces" and the section in which the narrator explains "Why They Were Made", this was congruent with other works in which the "subject" was the act of creation, in which the work was about the work being created, such as Hollis Frampton's film "nostalgia" or Robert Morris's sculpture "The Box With the Sound of Its Own Making". (And both Frampton and Morris are mentioned in Tharp's book, as two people who became part of her social circle once she started living - and then marrying - Bob Huot.) I'm used to this kind of self-interest: i grew up with it, with all those people and their absolute self-centeredness.

When i mentioned that Jonas lied in his little piece in The Brooklyn Rail a few months ago, i meant that Jonas claimed that he was so meek, that he would never try to hurt anyone. Well, i know that's not true. I saw Jonas when he was scheming and trying to get even with people. And then he turned against me. For about a year, whenever he was interviewed, he would slam me, talk about how i had been a "disappointment", how i was damaging the cause of avantgarde cinema, and so on. And i knew why Jonas was slamming me, so i finally got sick of it and wrote Jonas a letter saying that if he wasn't going to say anything nice about me, just don't mention me at all.

(So the question always is: what did you do to Jonas that he was angry? Actually, i didn't do anything to him, it was Annette Michelson who wanted - as i was told by Nadia, the ex-librarian at Anthology - to kill me. She was angry. So how did i get even with Jonas and Annette? I did my usual: with Jonas, i nominated him for the Rockefeller Intercultural Film/Video Grant, and then i campaigned hard - behind the scenes - to make sure he got it, and in the case of Annette, well, if people know her, they know she can be accident-prone, and there were at least three times when - as her neighbor on Wooster Street - i saved her life. Like the time i came home from Thanksgiving at my parents', and in the hallway, i smelled gas. So i rushed into our loft, but it wasn't there, and finally i banged on Annette's door, and then i went and got to housekey, and opened Annette's door, and was almost overpowered by the smell of gas, and then i found Annette on the floor, and i banged on the door of my uncle's loft, and Rocco came out, and the two of us dragged Annette to the windows, which we opened, and he called 911 while i tried to get Annette to start breathing.... Annette had been offended by me because Robert Breer and Ken Jacobs had told her about my work, my performances which were "critiques" of the artworld, i simply thought they were reportage, but other people took them as critical and satirical, and Annette was mortified that people were laughing at her words... a lot of times, when i wrote my plays, i tried to duplicate the speech of the people i knew. So Annette went on the warpath, and Jonas joined her. And then i kept saving her life....)

I'm never going to get anywhere if i don't go for the kill.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Has it been almost a week since i blogged? A lot of info on other blogs: some comments on Chabrol's "The Bridesmaid" by George Robinson (it's now so disconcerting to see movies at festivals, etc. because when they're finally released it seems as if it should have happened long ago), there's a real discussion of "Deadwood" on Matt Zoller Seitz's blog, a lot of showbiz tidbits on Michael Giltz's blog, and Dave Kehr alerting people to some info from Pierre Rissient about the credits for a number of people who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Which brings me to John Garfield and watching some of the movies on TCM yesterday.

Melissa Hayden died. As Audrey Hepburn says in "Love in the Afternoon", more later.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A week of death. On Tuesday, Arlene Raven died. We just got notices about her death via e.mail. Was glad that she was able to get that special award from AICA, she seemed frail while she was there, walking with a cane, but i hadn't realized how ill she was. In the NY Times, an obit on Jason Rhoades, dead at 40. It seems so long ago (and it was: more than decade) when he was the hot young artist, when his installations seemed to be everwhere. Only 40, yet he seemed like an "old" artist already, because of the hyperactivity of the artworld in the last decade, the way fashions change every season, the way a "hot" young artist is passe in a year or so. Arlene Raven's period in the art world (as The Village Voice art critic in the 1980s) now seems so pristine, in that it was an era when "ideas" were intensely debated.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf also died this week. Who knew her nephew was General Norman Schwarzkopf? What you can learn from a NY Times obit....

Friday, August 04, 2006

Agh! Some idiot is spamming me in the "comments" section! I've tried to get in touch with the blog administrator, but there seems to be no way to get rid of these spammers! Can't stand it; might give up the blog if i can't get rid of the spammers. (No i do not want to find a way to make money on some scam... i should report the spam to the police... since it's so obviously a con.)

Anyway, another week. Yesterday, went to a press screening of Jan Svankmajer's "Lunacy"; inventive and expertly done, but very Mittle-European, i.e., mirthless humor, satiric and witty without being really funny. Reminded me of that other recent Eastern European non-laugh-riot, "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu". Then in the evening, there was a screening of "The Night Listener" but when i got there, there was a line and it wasn't very organized. I got there at 6:30 (the screening was supposed to start at 7:30) but they started handing out tickets by 6:45. Unfortunately, behind me there was a woman who had three of those free passes, and she had a passel of children with her... even though i had gotten my ticket, i decided to leave, because i didn't want to sit in a theater with a lot of children. (I'm sorry, but certain topics do not seem to conducive to children, such as literary hoaxes involving abused children.) I also decided to leave because it was 6:50, and it was starting to rain, and we were waiting outside the theater. But i did see "The Last Movie", which was as messy as it was when i saw it in 1970; luckily, there's no real nostalgia in the movie (it's far too incoherent for any singular emotion to come through). Dennis Hopper is such a curiosity, because "Easy Rider" is really kind of lame, and "The Last Movie" is so dissociated, yet he's gone on for so long. He's got some sort of talent, but not as much as he thinks he has.

After the screening of "Lunacy", i went past the Unoppressive Bookstore on Carmine Street, and (finally) picked up a copy of Twyla Tharp's book "Push Comes to Shove". A very amusing read; i'd glanced through it when it came out, but never bothered to read it all the way through. What was amusing was that whatever i thought about Twyla personally was absolutely confirmed. I have to say that i think "The Bix Pieces" is one of those works which, for me, were truly transcendent. It was a lovely dance... but when there was the section with the narrator, explicating the methodology for the dance, and the reason "why it was made", that did it... it was exactly the kind of self-critical work, a work about its own creation, that i always felt was the most important aspect of post-modernism. As Benjamin Buchloh once remarked (about the visual work he lumped together under "appropriation"), it was the most radical extension of modernism by explicating a self-critical awareness that was the true justification for post-modernism.

Reading "Push Comes to Shove", i was reminded of the many conversations about art that i used to have, with a lot of different people. There really was a community of artists, and i enjoyed that community. I was reminded of this because of the visit last week by William E. Jones and Mark Flores. I was glad that Bill's "V.O." got such good reviews (Halter in The Village Voice, Mookis in Gay City News). It also brought to mind the kinds of similar interests that Bill and i share...

For example, we both regard "pornography" as a subject which can be analyzed... but we're interested in the erotic attraction of pornography as well.

But reading Twyla's book, and talking with Bill, reminded me of the "discourse" which used to be part of my life. And it's becoming so rare, because the "center" is so scattered.

Anyway, Bush has gone on vacation. Nothing (not even World War III) is going to keep that man from his "vacation". When is he not on vacation? And why isn't there a protest in Middle America about his shirking his duties? It's like all this week, whenever i've been in Manhattan, there have been people with clipboards, asking people to sign up for the Democratic Party. I'm sorry, but doing that in New York State is useless: this is one of the few states that voted Democratic in the last two elections. New York State doesn't need more Democrats: Florida does, and Indiana, and Kansas, and South Dakota, and North Dakota, and Utah, and... need i go on? Hezbollah has just launched missles near Tel Aviv, two American generals have testified before Congress that Iraq is nearing civil war... but, please, don't disturb George W. Bush on his vacation.

Will nothing bestir that man?

Ruth Franklin (in The New Republic) had a really charming review of the new novel by the English novelist David Mitchell, where she spent more than half the review explaining that the most difficult thing to write was a good review; it's so easy to dismiss a work, to express your anger and digust at a bad book, but to really express why you like a book, that's difficult. Pauline wrote, "Though sinking to the level of the work is a danger to the critic, to movies the more serious danger, of course, is that critics may not rise to the level of what they're reviewing. And, even with movies as bad as they are now, I think this is often the case, because those who stoop to review become insensitive." And so many of the young people now stoop so low, it's impossible for any of them to write without being snide. But to find someone who gets one excited about a movie, that's becoming rare.

I remember, a while ago, Janie Geiser's dismay over "Getting Out", because she felt that Twyla was such a genius, and making an evening-length work to Billy Joel music was so beneath her. Yet it was a success, a huge hit: it was, in fact, Twyla's retirement fund. But Twyla has that need for "success", not artistic success, but commercial success. (As an artist, her work really ended sometime in the early 1980s.) Artists may outlive their inspiration. This is something that has to be recognized. (Stanley Kauffmann was particularly acute about this situation in regards Antonioni; as one of the major American proponents of Antonioni, he wrote with sincere insight about the problem facing Antonioni in movies such as "Zabriskie Point" and "The Passenger", works he felt inferior to Antonioni's peak, the quartet of films from "L'Avventura" to "Red Desert": "Important artists finish, sometimes, before they quit work. Faulkner, for instance, wrote copiously but not very significantly in the last twenty years of his life. It may be that Antonioni, who began fairly late - he was thirty-eight in 1950 - has finished fairly early, as far as his major work is concerned. Apparently the elements that fused in him to raise him above anything like ordinary considerationare no longer functioning for him; yet he wants to be active, and is certainly able to work with his skills. If this proves to be continuingly true of his future, it will be bitter for his admirers, like me, but it cannot possibly diminish our gratitude for what he has done.")

In short, if Twyla Tharp is no longer capable of creating work on the order of "The Bix Pieces", then let her create work which is enjoyable and entertaining, and which can prove successful with a mass audience. But the thing is: she shouldn't delude herself that she's working at the same level of creativity and achievement.

But that's the thing: most people are deluded.

(My "charm", such as it is, is that i'm as critical of myself and my work as i am of everyone else. Of my more than 30 performance works, i would honestly say that only about 5 were really fully achieved works, in which i actually accomplished what i set out to do. The others range from "interesting" to flat-out terrible. But that's why i was "avantgarde" or "experimental": i was supposed to mess up, i was supposed to try for something "new" and in doing so i was supposed to fail. I know that. Pauline was absolutely flabbergasted by that: that i could go through my own work and rip it apart, even more severely than she would. I'm no dummy, though there are so many dummies around. Poor Larry: he's surrounded by them! And the other thing that's hideous is that so many of these people want Larry to introduce them... but why? Larry doesn't do that. He never did. In my life, i've rarely had people introduce me... if i did something, if people noticed, fine, if they wanted to meet me, fine. I sent Edward Albee notices about my performances, he started coming to them, and then he introduced himself because he was a fan of my work. Fine. I didn't do anything to make him a fan. The other thing is: i don't want to know people. It's like Jean-Luc Godard. No one loves his movies more than i do, but in 1970, when i actually saw him, when he was at a screening of "One Plus One" at Hunter College.... a more miserable excuse for a human being i have never encountered. And it's only been downhill from there. Most of the people i've met in the art world are not fit for human contact. Most of them, in fact, are the most pitiful, disgusting, hideous excuses for human beings i've ever met. They're mostly monsters, so totally self-centered that they wouldn't even notice if the world blew up around them, just as long as they got theirs, they're so desperate for recognition and success and adoration. And who am i kidding? Of course i want the same things, but i want them on my terms, which means, i want to do what i want, not what other people want me to do or what they think i should do.)

Hell, i can give excuses as much as the next person. But one reason i will never again do anything in terms of "live" performance: in 1982, i wrote, designed, co-directed (with Larry) "The Dialectic of Enlightenment" ("you can't copyright a title" and i took that from Horkheimer and Adorno), a play produced at Theater for the New City. I tried to stuff as much of "life" in it as i could. There were people who were part of the Weather Underground (Larry had known some of those people from his SDS days), there were women composers and choreographers discussing feminism (Twyla talks about this in her book!), and there was somebody with what (at that time) was known as an immunodeficiency disease (first called GRID - gay-related-immunodeficiency-disease - then finally called AIDS - acquired-immuno-deficiency-syndrome). Well, when i got my (negative) review in The Village Voice, the reviewer said that there is the insufferable character dying of some "unnamed" disease that they spend all this time discussing in terms of possible symptoms and possible means of infection, etc. Who ever heard of this "immune" disease? (What, was this guy living under a rock?) But the kicker was that, six months later, Theater Communications Group published the play in their "Plays in Process" series. So cut to 1989, and TCG is getting ready to publish its anthology of AIDS plays, "The Way We Live Now". Since my play was, if not the absolute first, one of the very first plays ever to deal with AIDS, and since TCG had already published it, you'd think they'd maybe use an excerpt (the thing is HUGE, it was three-hours long, and the text as published by TCG was almost 200 pages), and, if not that, at least mention the fact that, early in 1983, TCG published a play that included (as one of the many subplots) a character with AIDS. So i get a letter, telling me that they will not mention my play, because, even if it is true that i wrote the first published play about AIDS (as far as they can tell), i am an Asian-American, and have been classified as an Asian-American playwright, and mentioned in their recent Asian-American anthology, and i cannot get credit for everything i've done, because i can only get credit for what they have decided i can get credit for; in short: i cannot get credit for what i have done, i can only get credit for how they want to classify me. Well, if that's the way the American nonprofit theater is, then i don't need the goddamn American theater. And i haven't written another thing for the theater since!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The heat. The oppression is so enervating. When there's a heatwave, i'm reminded of the ending of Tillie Olsen's "Yonnondio" when the heat just saps everything. One problem is that, by the weekend, once the heat starts, it just kills any desire to do anything. Read Rockwell's review of Yoshiko Chuma's performance at Gowanus. It sounded so pleasant. In the last week, some things seen: "Hamilton" (a true American indie), "Zero Town" and "The Amphibian Man" (two Russian fantasy films, the latter as cheesy as one of those Universal horrors of the 1950s, like "Creature from the Black Lagoon"), "Quinceanera", a program at Scanners, the Video Festival at the Walter Reade, "Hollywoodland", and "Rocky Road to Dublin" with "The Making of the Rocky Road to Dublin".

More later. Dave Kehr's review of the Mr. Moto boxset is quite intriguing, with its info (culled from the extras on the discs) on Norman Foster.

It was a busy week... what's up for this week?