Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Free parking and good beer in downtown Clayton


This morning I attended a meeting that also included people who are thought to be very wealthy, though I have never seen their financials. Nor have I ever seen my financials, which is to say our financials, though my wife has, and she assures me it's not looking too good.

Under ordinary circumstances, publicizing that fact would be considered a breach of domestic security, but these are not ordinary circumstances and most of us are broke, anyway.

So I pull into Clayton this morning for the meeting that also included rich guys. Rich guys usually have a different take on parking than the rest of us, a little more take-it-as-it-comes. For me this morning, it was touch and go. I forgot to ask if they can validate my ticket at the lawyer's office - if they can't, that could be bad news; I had no paper money. And, if I pay at the meter and the meeting is good and I forget to go back out and feed the meter, I have an expensive Clayton parking ticket on my hands.

So, I pull into the lot by the little fragment of Wash. campus on Forsyth at the eastern end of downtown Clayton. There is a young woman working at thhe booth. I suddenly decide I owe that little fragment of the Wash. U. library system a visit. I ask the girl at the booth if this is free campus parking, She says they won't validate my ticket at Wash. U. So I discuss my poverty (she understands, I'm sure) and ask about street parking.

She sizes me up. She says if I'll be done within three hours, I can window shop at The Wine and Cheese Place and see if they'll validate my ticket.

I decide that's the ticket.

I attend the meeting. That's all fine. I walk back to the parking lot. I window shop said wine and cheese store. I discover it is also a beer store! A really, really good one!

I walk away with several varieties of deluxe, delicious craft beers. They stamp my ticket before I go. I drive off, having parked in downtown Clayton - without any cash money - for free.

I know, I didn't make any money off this deal, like those hustlers in the city who cut a deal with the cops to confiscate citizen vehicles on petty drug charges so the vehicles could be flipped for quick, hot cash. But that deal came undone - and I predict there will be indictments to show for it.

All I got to show for my hustle this morning is silver I didn't feed into the meter and a new place to buy fabulous beer, wine and cheese, right there in scenic downtown Clayton.

The Wine and Cheese Place has several locations, but the one with free parking in downtown Clayton is at 7435 Clayton.

*

Photo from a blog devoted to the joys and grievances (mostly, grievances) of life in West Hartford, CT. Looks like the kind of blog that is rendering community newspapers less and less relevant.

Portrait of Bradd Young, without still life


As previously lamented, I waited and waited at Bradd Young's surprise birthday party with nothing to do but ctach up with Chip and Pierre and draw pictures to pass the time.

Event photographer Warren Nichols (info@warren-photography4u.com) stayed the course and sent some pictures today to The St. Louis American.

The sexiest ones will get into this week's Partyline. Here is the life of the party with his birthday cake. Happy birthday, Bradd.

(Gratuitous link to Bradd's love scene with Toyy atop a pile of zombies from my amateur surrealist zombie movie.)

I'm playing a political celebrity on TV

Yesterday afternoon I sat for the taping of a segment on a new political talkshow called Midwest Talking Points on Charter Cable.

I'm the last person to sit still to watch such a thing, so why did I consent to appear on the show? A good friend of mine (also a rock-and-roll girlfriend, in a former life) does sales for Charter and twisted my arm. She also twisted the arm of her boss, a man with the enviable name of Bill Goodfriend. I thought, "If anything bad can come of helping a man named Goodfriend, that must be fate."

Then, there are the hosts. To the left, Mindy Mazur, whom I respect and admire dearly; and to the far ultra right, Ed Martin, who must be opposed aggressively at all times. I make a hobby of calling people in the Missouri Democratic Party and challenging them to listen to the flabby Democrat KMOX has lined up to "oppose" Ed Martin this time, so if I want to have either of my legs to stand on, I have to answer the bell to talk to Ed Martin when someone rings it, I guess.

That said, I deplore political chatter, and I'm sure my five minutes in makeup and lights did nothing to improve the woeful state of that rhetorical mill. I didn't get to see my friend Karianne, who was busy making sales calls keep the show on the air. It was nice to see Mindy. And I can confirm that the five minutes Ed Martin was in my direct sight he was not himself personally developing a new Swift Boatesque attack ad on Barack Obama.

"You've got one of the most dangerous right-wing people in Missouri politics as a host there, you know," I said to Bill Goodfriend, as I was leaving.

"He's trying to be more centrist on the show," Goodfriend said, "more non-partisan,"

I said, "Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace."

The good news is, while I was being treated like a political celebrity (that is, having makeup applied so I could talk about politics on the teevee), conditions conspired to make me almost act like one. I got a call from the Obama campaign. Did I want to talk to Michelle Obama on the phone tomorrow, just the two of us?

I did, I do, but that's the sort of opportunity to be given to a reporter. Our young staff reporter Jessica Bassett has spoken to Michelle before, and both thought they clicked. I called Jessica. She won't be available (she is going to grad. school part time, studying social work).

Alvin A. Reid went to Denver for us to cover the national convention. He deserves a chance to speak to the first black First Lady, just the two of them. He is available. They will speak this afternoon. Look for their interview on The St. Louis American website today and in Thursday's paper.

As for Midwest Talking Points, here is the show promo, and here is a teaser for the show that featured Tony Messenger, whose reporting on the apparently improper deletion of emails almost surely hastened Ed Martin's departure from the Governor's Office.

Doesn't Mindy Mazur look poised and beautiful? Doesn't Ed Martin look like a bad guy in a blue suit trying his mightiest to appear clean and calm?

The show premiered Tuesday, Sept.16 at 10:30 p.m. Each week’s show airs Tuesday through Saturday on Charter’s CCIN (Channel 3) at 10:30 p.m. in the St. Louis area. Viewers can also watch Midwest Talking Points anytime on CharterOn Demand. Midwest Talking Pointscan also be seen by Charter customers in Southeast Missouri, as well as Lake of the Ozarks, Warrensburg-Clinton and Sedalia.

If I make it off the cutting room floor, Mindy says my bit will air this week. Jeff Smith was in the studio just before me. Jeff always seems to be leaving the party just as I am on my way in.

If you think you should be on this show, even though you do not have a former rock and roll girlfriend mking sales call to keep it on the air, call Bill Goodfriend at (314) 394-2484. Tell him Confluence City sent ya. He'll say, "Who?"

*

Picture of Mexico City activist wearing a real political celebrity on her head from somebody's Flickr site.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Still life, without Bradd Young

Last night I was pleased and honored to be on the shortlist of invites to pop phenom Bradd Young's birthday party. Sundays are usually sacred family nights for me, but I really wanted to show some love to Bradd, who did his best to schedule his frequent flying to studio gigs in Los Angeles to play a featured role in my movie Blind Cat Black.

His production partner Orlando "Pretty Boy" Watson is my oldest friend in the hip-hop scene, other than Adam Long, and I definitely need to catch up with him. The hostess with the mostest, Brooke HollaDay, is also my girl, with a bump or two in the road we don't need to go down no more.

So I made the scene. Brooke's reminder was to be on time. I was on time. Bradd was late. I had something else I had to do. So I split - before the birthday boy rolled in.

But, before I split, I sketched the neighbor's back porch. The venue for the party was the Central West home of a lawyer who is popular in the black club scene, and it was a beautiful night to stand on his back porch, look across the way and try to find my dormant instincts for architectural drawing.

I just wish Bradd's smiling face was in the picture. Next time!

And keep an eye out for Bradd's live band around town as he warms up for a projected major (inter?)national tour following his first major release as an artist.

Move over, Andy Warhol, she asked me to show

Someone best known to me by the inviting MySpace handle hard kiss in c minor has invited me to pin some of my sketches to the wall at an art exhibit described to me as "more of a little party," to be curated in a space conveniently located across the street from The Tap Room, a place I know how to find.

She asked, specifically, for "Young man listening to my neighbor present on atheism at adult Sunday school" (posted above) and "the last page of similar drawings here on MySpace," which I'd posted up there simply to satisfy blogger logistics, since my scanner at home dumps to a computer that is a dog, so I archive my scans on Space of My.

The date: Friday. October 24. The place where I'll be stick-pinning my art up: a loft across from the Tap Room on locust. Title for the show: she doesn't know yet. My fellow, a'hem, artists? Mike Paradise, Chris Gustave, Jenni Desuza, Dana Smith and "a printmaker in Connecticut" (we'll get his name back to him, later. The vibe: "it's less formal and more of a little party."

"Whaddyathink?" she asked.

I think no one has asked me to hang up my (a'hem) art in public since I graduated from Maryville Elementary School

I think I'm in.

Knock knock Rebecca Rivas

I had lunch this past week with local filmmaker and journalist Rebecca Rivas. She had got in touch tell me that The West End Word was halving its publishing schedule, from weekly to bi-monthly, so her full-time reporter job was becoming a half-time reporter job. Did I have any work for her?

Most likely not - The St. Louis American remains a weekly, but we are adequately staffed, at the moment. Rebecca is very talented, and there are many reasons we should know one another, with mutual friends (Lyndsey Scott) and dual passions for journalism and making movies, so I asked her to lunch.

When our lunch date rolled around on the schedule, my mouth was post-op and happiest when shut and still, so I mostly listened (and sketched) while she talked. She talked about growing up in the Southwest in a majority Latin culture, where the demographic used as the basis of prejudice was country of birth. I was surprised to learn that some of the fiercest anti-immigration border town bigots are Latin Americans who have been in this country for a generation or more.

Denver, from there, was a shock for her as a young girl - not only the bitter cold, but the hostile taunting white boys, who evidently felt entitled to dump on the only brown girl in class.

Thence, via the Mizzou journalism school, to St. Louis, where she came to know our sordid local politics, first reporting for The Arch City Chronicle and now for The West End Word, where a detailed series she did on commercial tax districts caught my eye as exactly the kind of civic journalism that a weekly should be doing. (Also, the kind of locally relevant stuff almost nobody reads.)

For now, she is working full-time as editor at The Word, spelling the staff editor for a few weeks. Next year she returns to Peru to work on her third film. Her first film, At Highest Risk, details the perils of health care for Andean women. Her second film, Knock Knock America, follows a group of African immigrant youth in St. Louis she met through the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. I asked her to update their stories as a (poorly paid) freelance front page report for the American, and she accepted the assignment.

I hope St. Louis can hang onto a sharp ax like Rebecca Rivas! You can find her through her film website.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pat Egan, the Irish rover, in residence at McGurk's

The Irish rover himself, Pat Egan (originally of County Tipperary), is in St. Louis for the next couple of weeks, in residence at John D. McGurk's, where the news (and staggering news it is) has it that the sound system has experienced a monumental upgrade.

McGurk's - known for decades as where the world's best Irish music can be seen nightly in St. Louis - and actually heard on several of the quieter nights of the week - now is a pub where music can be heard nightly, even (and here is what has the boys staggering!) heard by the musicians themselves!

I've a surprise birthday party in the city tonight, and evening business tomorrow, so I hope to see Pat and the lads (including a young man named Devan from Chicago and perhaps Tommy Martin himself on the pipes) one night or both. The pub, of course, is at 1200 Russell in Soulard.

I sat with your man yesterday in two successive public houses, enjoying my first substantial nourishment via adult beverage since my gums went under the knife a week ago. My mouth is still better disposed to staying shut while someone else perfroms the labor of rattling on about things, so I goaded to Pat to talk about life in Baltimore, the Irish music road across America, the mother back home, Michael Cooney, Tom Hall, Charlie Pfeiffer, and his perennially deferred recording plans.

On that last bit, the idea of going to Nashville to make a record with my longtime production partner Lij had finally taken root after my talking it up a great many times. I whipped out the phone and had your man on the line in Nashville right there from the tavern, and that sessions is in the works.

I'm gunning for my second "executive producer" credit. The first, also in the Irish line, would be the Michael Cooney solo pipes record, which I set up with Roy Kasten and then disappeared into newspaper deadlines, doing no further work until it was time to come pick up my copy of the sessions on Roy's doortstep. My vision of "executive production," in fact, is very long on sitting at a public house and putting the cellular communications network to maximum effect, guiding the right people to the right places at the same time, then waiting for the music to materialize.

This sketch of Pat is rather in the key of a young, scarlet-headed Oscar Wilde (or Javier Bardem), which looks very little like our man from Tipperary, of course. Maybe I'll come back from the pub with a better likeness tonight.

It's possible to see all bushes burning


Heartbroken over terrible news that has befallen a family friend (and which I will memorialize here, in time), I'm going through the motions of life while thinking mostly of death.

One of the motions of life, for me, is sketching from life, then coloring my sketches with my daughter, then posting the result up here as a trace of something vivid that happened before my eyes.

This is museum professional Gerald Bolas giving remarks at the "Pursuit of the Spirit" opening at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art last Sunday. Bolas became the mentor of Terrence Demspey when he directed the art museum at Wash. U. and Dempsey was a student in the area. Bolas went on to direct other museums in other places and is now a consultant, I gather.

He had the warmest regards for Dempsey and his MOCRA project at Saint Louis University. He spoke up for the consummately eclectic and inclusive nature of that project. Bolas and Dempsey both are open to flashes of the spirit in unlikely places, which seems to me to be the only way to catch those evanescent winks of light and vision.

As Subcommandante Marcos of the Zapatista revolution once said, "A heart will open up when no one's watching it. Or, as Gerald Bolas said last Sunday, "Once you've see one burning bush, it's possible to see all bushes burning."

Pursuit of the Spirit remains open through Dec. 14 and should be regarded as a must-see show. MOCRA is near where I work, so anyone who wants to catch up with me and see it at the same time, let me know.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I sang in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra choir


The opening of opening night of 2008 for The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra was unforgettable.

Musical director David Robertson turned to greet the audience. He struck up the band. The orchestra played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

David continued to face the audience. He began to encourage and conduct the audience - as a choir. He got us started in singing. We picked up, quick, and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" - as a choir, with the Symphony and David Robertson.

"Holy shit!" I said to myself. (My wife was home sick. Toyy and Asmeret and Mama Lisa and Lyndsey and Lola and Brooke and John and Frank were all unavailable at the last minute.) "David Robertson is playing choir conductor - and I am in the choir!"

Some young women behind me had gorgeous soaring soprano voices. I could feel and hear them hemming themselves in, hearts springing to do more - they had the chops and volume to solo all over this melody, but they felt part of a mass choir formed by the Symphony conductor and didn't feel emboldened to solo.

In the cheezy movie version, the conductor would spec out the talent in the nosebleeds, step aside on the conductor's stand, and somehow manage to signal for them to solo, all the way up there. My girls then would have taken the melody and done acrobatics on it, in the register of angels, while the conductor smiled up in a honeyed glow.

This did not happen Friday night at Powell Symphony Hall. The girls soared, but held back. The audience sang as a mass choir. David Robertson conducted us, all together. I was proud to be in St. Louis and a taxpayer supporter of this Symphony and an American.

**

Next weekend (Oct. 3-5) David Robertson conducts The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in:

MOZART The Abduction from the Seraglio Overture
STEVEN MACKEY Time Release (Friday only)
HK GRUBER Rough Music (US Premiere) (Saturday only)
CHRISTOPHER ROUSE Der gerettete Alberich (Sunday only)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7

That's a clever way to get three shows out of one!

Amateur sketch of the maestro by me Friday from the nosebleeds.

He is weary of madness on parade


A couple of weekends ago I cleaned out my car to the exciting new record by The Pat Sajak Assassins and came up with some stuff about the '70s art rock and '80s art pop it reminded me of.

By the time I had my smart aleck story framed (as orchetral maeuvers in "the dork") I realized that my buddy Brett Underwood had a performance piece on the record and I knew my story really should have been about that.

Really, I should have just published the words by Brett he performs on that piece. So I posted my goofy thing and thought to ask Brett for a copy of his words. Then I forgot. Then today I remembered when I saw a copy of the new Pat Sajack Assassins record, LUNCH?!?, in the garage of John Eiler, the Confluence cat who gave me my copy to begin with.

I remembered. I asked. Brett hooked me up. I am delivering. Brett Lars Underwood, ladies and gentlemen.

*


ORGANIZATION
By Brett Lars Underwood


He is weary of madness on parade. The feng shui isn’t working today.
He’s tired of stepping on it all and being the behemoth in his space.
He stacks the detritus all along the walls, sits down and stares at the page.
He writes:

A vista.
Clear a view through a cluster of clambering nincompoopery.
A walk amidst birds and trees and turn-of-the-century urban landscaping.
The lungs of the city and frayed shoestrings commingle and shuffle.
Sunshine and dilated pupils. Dreamy clouds form dreams…lots of dreams.
Dreams of order. Dreams of silence. Dreams of daydreams of sleep and bliss
in nightmares of clouds.

While breeze brushes the grass into nothing but park grass and man-made wonder and:
“Mommy”, the little girl said, “why do some of these trees look plastic?”
“Well, Jenny”, the Mommy said, “that’s an interesting question.
But maybe more interesting is the question: Why are some trees made out of plastic?”

A police helicopter hovers over a nearby neighborhood.
“The Previl wears dada”, said the little girl.
“What?!”, said the mother.
“Daddy says that when Rosy walks into the room”
“Don’t make me slap you again”
“Oh, Mommy!”

There was pause exemplified by a space in this page.

And then another one.

“Mommy, what’s an orgasm?”

A diesel powered leaf blower drowns the breeze of thought.

“I need to go to the mall.”
“Not again, Mommy! What’s dada?!” the little girl screamed.
“The first word that came out of your mouth”, the mother sighed.
“Rosy thinks our house is shit”, said the little girl.

The mother yanked the girl by the arm and walked her out of the park to the parking garage in her mind. They drove 24 miles to a shopping mall. There was a black cat in a camouflage hoodie holding a sign that read, “Waiting for MODOT”.
The clouds formed into “Got MILF” and the mother began to cry yesterday’s tears.
She decided to buy shoes.
Lots of shoes.

He sighs and conceives airtight boxes housed in many-shelved units but can’t find his hammer. He takes a majestic dump and decides to take a very long walk during which he kicks a soda can for some time.

______________________________________________________________________*
**

Performed live with the band, the piece is titled "Orgasmation Station." I've not seen it on the PSA MySpace page. Maybe Joe can post it up there at some juncture.

Live CBGB performance photo by Eric Fogleman from that there page of the Space that is My.

The band is playing with Salisbury at the Tap Room on October 25. Brett will be in the housing, bending taphandles.

Powell faithful shower love on Fima and Symphony


St. Louis likes to pride itself on having the best fans in baseball, and last night our city showed itself to have the best classical music fans in show business, in the same sense.

Give me Shea Stadium (R.I.P.) 10,000 times out of 10,000 times for undeceived insight into every flaw in a game of baseball as it unfolds, while Busch Stadium is Ground Zero for unwavering support (bordering on cow-eyed adoration).

Likewise, at any number of venues in New York City, you can watch a sea of faces wince when the french horn comes in slightly off-note or a section is minutely unresponsive to the conductor's sense of dynamics, but on a good night at Powell Symphony Hall, one can bask in the arms of an audience that knows how well we have it.

Last night we had it good, with The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra - often, we had it great. And we knew it.

The highlight of the program, for me, probably was not Yefim Bronfam's featured performance on Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor - I enjoyed more the sneaky sequencing of it after John Adam's Guide to Strange Places by musical director David Robertson, which revealed Rach 3 as the soundtrack to a great chase film that I guess it always was.

But the people would not sit down for "Fima," as we are told his colleagues know him. I quit counting the curtain calls. Even from my seat in the nosebleeds (where the sound is sublime), I could see David electrified for his hometown audience to be showing this much support for a strong performance of a classic piece of music.

John Adams - the composer was a surprise guest, on opening night!- got almost as much love. There was a lot to love about this program. It was one of those nights that made me think St. Louis will get to keep David Robertson.

**

They do it all again tonight - tickets available!

The rude sketch of Fima from the nosebleeds is mine. I forgot to go get him to autograph it during intermission. Duh!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Greg Hazleton gets his PhD at Wash U


All community newspapers have some space reserved for announcements of good news - even something as homy as going on a vacation, if the town is tiny enough.

In cities, business journals handle this function - for businesspeople - and the daily will let the public know if you are getting married or buried (for a price), but a lot of ordinary good news about everyday people has no outlet but word of mouth.

And, now, blogs, MySpace bulletins and the like, though then it's almost always people publishing good news about themselves - what the Australians aptly call "selling tickets" on themselves.

I'll try to fill this gap by selling tickets on my friends, from time to time. Here is some good news about my friend Greg Hazleton: He finished his dissertation and defended it successfully! He's a PhD now! He focussed on Gertrude Stein, writing in the English Department at Wash. U. Major congrats, Greg!

What's more, he did it all while being an effecting teacher, according to his students' comments on Rate My Teacher. Notice that his "easiness" grade is low (3.3 on a scale of 5), yet the other ratings judging his ability, effort and dedication (helpfulness: 4.7 with a bullet!) are high, which proves they weren't going easy on him just because he went easy on them.

Here is a typical response:

"Pretty good teacher, but extremely extremely hard grader. Despite the extremely hard grading however, the comments he provides are extremely helpful and informative. also, is there 100% for his students and always encourages you to come in for help."

Having been a not very helpful easy grader at Wash. U. back in the day, I can tell you this is the comment the writing teacher supervisor dreams of getting about his grad student faculty.

Greg is on the bill for Day of the Dead Beats 2008, to be held 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 at The Way Out Club, 2525 S Jefferson Ave. Greg is reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti. More on that gig, brought to us by Brett Underwood, anon.
Until Greg sends me part of his dissertation to publish, I leave you with my dopey sketch of him pouring me a beer at The Tap Room and saying something strangely memorable. The likeness is not so impressive, if you know Greg. One of his students on Rate My Teacher said it better: "Pop a three-point hat on him and he looks exactly like a Revolutionary War minuteman."

Gloom fatigue and disaster capitalism


When I started reviewing books for The Nation magazine in my twenties, a former professor of mine - a much older and wiser man - with whom I remained friendly would never recognize that publication by name. He would only say that I wrote for "one of those gloomy magazines."

David Hadas was a New York Jew who had forgotten more about leftist thought and politics than I will ever know, and I knew that, so I tried to allow his mellowed perspective to ease my annoying enthusiasm, even then.

Now I am entering middle age, I suppose, and I understand much more about what David Hadas might have called "gloom fatigue." I also have entered a world of practical politics in Missouri, where it is often said the game gets played between the 45-yard lines - where the best candidate is the one who can move the ball five yards in the desired direction, because that's all the further it's likely to move.

It's a delicate art - you try to meet people closer to where they are, and try to take them not nearly as far as you would like them to go, because that's just about the only way to get them to budge at all. That's pretty far from writing incendiary book reviews for The Nation magazine.

Intellectually, however, my instincts remain with the left. Every atom of my brain looks at the present financial collapse and sees the failure of free-market capitalism. Just like all of my brain looked at the Olympics in China and laughed bitterly.

I didn't hear a single soul point out that we were gleefully participating in a party thrown by an ostensibly Communist nation. When I was in the U.S. Navy in the mid-'80s, the only parties we were throwing for "Communist" nations were covert wars, and they weren't invited until it was too late. And they didn't survive the party.

Of course, there is a big difference between a "Communist" nation whose "Communism" is likely to make coffee and bananas more expensive in middle America and a "Communist" nation that has emerged as our Capitalist nation's most crucial creditor and investor. But economics and ideology have always been shamelessly mishmashed in political rhetoric in this country, with "Communism" falsely opposed to "Democracy," rather than to capitalism.

Really, we have been keeping the world safe for capitalism, not democracy, and look where it has gotten us? We privatize the profits and socialize the losses. That's the big, loud message of the latest bailout.

That's what I think, anyway. I wonder what Naomi Klein thinks? She is The Nation writer who originated the telling and, at this point, undeniable phrase "Disaster Capitalism." My friend Brett Underwood (bartender, agitator, writer) is trying to organize some sort of magic bus to see her speak on "Disaster Capitalism: Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys" at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at the University of Chicago, The International House, Assembly Hall, 1414 East 59th St. (A free event, and Brett says gas is on him.)

I'll be putting out a newspaper that day. As Brett would say (he has kept more of the edge on than most of us), "What's your excuse?"

Brett shared a link to a very recent Klein essay that looks at the proposed bailout in the context of Disaster Capitalism. (Gloom fatigue alert!) Her core advice: "It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right's ability to use this crisis - created by deregulation and privatization - to demand more of the same."

Her argument: "The dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock. The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor."

VideoNation has also posted a clip of Klein explaining the background of her concept. Warning to anyone susceptible to female beauty: she is disarmingly beautiful.

p.s. Local hook: The critique the public school activists in St. Louis have been offereing regarding Mayor Francis G. Slay's alleged/apparent destruction of the public school district perfectly fits Klein's critique of a "Shock Doctrine."

**

Illustration of Naomi Klein in the context of her ideas by Evgeny Parfenov.






Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chris Koster's name in chocolate

This evening I dropped in on a top-dollar fundraiser for Chris Koster, where they were handing out large chocolate bars engraved with the candidate's name.

Koster, as any political junky in Missouri could recite in his sleep, is a former Republican state senator who dramatically switched parties, filed for attorney general (the State's number two job!) as a Democrat, and won what has been described as the tightest statewide primary in Missouri history.

("Has been described as" is an admission that I don't have the patience to check this claim against the historical record.)

For months I attacked Koster as shrilly as any progressive, labeling him "Flipper" in The St. Louis American's Political EYE column.

Meanwhile, he kept coming into the newspaper with the same, direct line of attack and a sharp set of suggestions pitched to appeal to the black electorate. By endorsement time, he had won the respect of the newspaper, and we had dropped the "Flipper" thing, though we still endorsed Margaret Donnelly.

It must say something that I called Margaret to express regrets when she narrowly lost, though I only offered my congratulations to Koster tonight when I saw him face to face. All the same, the congratulations were sincere. He ran a tough, skilled campaign - and he left some well-defined promises and goals with which the black community can challenge and judge him.

The best point he made in the campaign was that his credentials to the right are well established, having been a prosecutor and a Republican. He argued that it would be easier for him to veer to the left on certain issues than it would be for Margaret, who would fight for statewide office and then (if she won) run a difficult office with the reputation of a liberal. (She also is a woman who is small in stature, though Koster did not point that out. Everyone understood these to be factors, fairly or not.)

That's all politics, needless to say. As for the job itself, there was never any doubt in my mind that Koster is qualified to run the Attorney General's Office. He is a sharp guy with abundant experience as a prosecutor and a politician. I will vote for him without hesitation or reservation on Nov. 4.

From the looks of the room tonight, the rest of the party has come around to him. In the house: State party chair John Temporiti, state Auditor Susan Montee, the Democratic campaign chairs for both the Senate (Jeff Smith) and House (Rachel Storch), County Executive Charlie Dooley, Comptroller Darlene Green and former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.

Plus, all of the lawyers who footed the bill. A lot of high-powered, top-dollar attorneys in that room. I like attorneys, myself. I find them intelligent, expressive, direct, well-informed. I enjoyed myself and would have seen the party through to the end, except my mouth is an experimental space in the wake of oral surgery and I felt vaguely freaked out the entire time, as a result.

"Congratulations, Chris," I said to the candidate, quite sincerely - yet I was thinking the whole time about the bone graft swishing around in my gums.

I'll get over it. And I hope progressive Democrats get over Koster's Republican past and his victory over Margaret. He deserves our vote.
P.S. The chocolate is delicious.

First known American Indian baptism


Here is a piece of Christian history in the Americas I'd not yet encountered, courtesy of the book I just read that convinced me Christopher Columbus from Genoa (Italy) was actually Cristofor Colom of Catalonia.

The first sacrament of baptism administered in the New World!

Charles J. Merrill writes:

"The new Christian was an Indian who took the name Juan Mateo. The minister was a friar of whom Las Casas wrote, 'Fra Ramon Pane did not speak our Castilian language properly as he was of the Catalan nation.' This friar Pane, or Paner, was also the author of the first book written in the New World, called, according to the 1498 edition, now lost, An Account of the Antiquities of the Indians."

So I guess that also makes this a piece of lost publishing history, too.

**

Engraving of Moravian missionaries baptising Delaware and Mahicans in the Lehigh Valley (1757) from The Library Company of Philadelphia, courtesy of Explore Pennsylvania History.

A guide to strange places with SLSO


The best band in town - The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra - has its first gigs of the new season this weekend. Though opening weekend deserves to be sold out on the eve of opening night, it's not. According to the website, most seats in the $19 to $105 range (with many price points in between) are still available.

These guys are really organized - they plan and post their setlists in advance - and this one is a beauty:

* Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 3
* Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra (excerpted on the SLSO site).

I know, I know, they're a cover band. But they're a really cool cover band! And, in the orchestral world, covering the modern composer John Adams (as SLSO does more and better than anyone) is about as original and inventive as it gets.

But why listen to me talk about this band when you can listen to the bandleader, the approachable genius David Robertson, talk about his band?

In promoting opening weekend, the Symphony is introducting the first in a series of video snippets about their programs. The video on the opening weekend program is very tastefully done. Lots and lots of David talking, which is never less than fascinating (or publishable), with several musicians also acquitting themselves insightfully. The candid rehearsal clips, with David and the band interacting with the music in civilian clothes, are beautiful.

And all of this without crass corporate sponsorship - which, if you sample similar video previews from other U.S. symphonies, is bucking an obnoxious trend. I only wish the director of the clip were credited.

I'll have to ask my old friend Eddie Silva who did the good work on this thing and why they aren't telling us on the website. Eddie runs the Publications Department at SLSO and pens a very interesting blog about life at Powell Hall. A recent post relates how violinist Becky Boyer Hall lost a big toenail in a Powell Hall mishap, just before the first rehearsal for opening weekend.

The toenail came off. The show went on. That's why you need a guide to strange places.

**

My rotten sketch of SLSO violinist Darwynn Apple is from last season. Darwynn muste on the gig this weekend because I saw him in rehearsal on that there preview video.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

His name wasn't Columbus and he wasn't Italian


You can't get any farther from having a knife in a fight than my knife is from the fight over whether Christopher Columbus was or wasn't Italian.

The closest I come to Italian is my second cousin Madeline's butcher husband in Jerseyville, who wouldn't recognize me tomorrow if I asked him to trim some fat off the pork loin that looked good to me in his cold meat section.

And as for the coming of Columbus to the Americas (and the millions of other Europeans after him), I'm not sticking up for that as a particularly welcome development. I'm more with the wiseguy who said the Maya and Iroquois should have had a tighter immigration policy.

But I do love early Modern European history, and I can whet my knife on just about any historical tussle if it's sufficiently well written. So I occupied a day or two on my post-op sickbed recently making my way through Colom of Catalonia: Origins of Christopher Columbus Revealed by Charles J. Merrill, a witty writer who makes his way in this wide world as a professor of foreign languages at a 2,100-student Catholic university in Maryland.

Merrill is a bookworm, rather than a shit disturber. He's not trying to rain on anybody's Columbus Day Parade just to see what a bunch of Italians look like when they get wet unexpectedly. He's more interested in getting to the bottom of a genuine historical mystery that has been treated as a given for no good reason - or, maybe, for a lot of bad reasons.

Readers coming to this old knife fight clueless, as I did, will be surprised to find a long list of nations with claims to having sired the man who knew himself as Cristofor Colom. (The last name, by the way, means "dove"; "Columbus" is the Latinate version of it.) My favorite alternate variant of Columbus has the intrepid explorer hailing from Norway, with his actual name "Christopher Bonde." But that's just for the easy, anachronistic joke: "My name is Bonde. Christopher Bonde"; a 007 of the early modern seas.

The theory of origins that Merrill finds most plausible was first proposed in 1927, not by some disgruntled Catalonian nursing a 400-year-old grudge, but by a Peruvian scholar who was sent to France on government business to sort through archives in the interest of resolving South American territorial disputes. At which point, the poor guy entered the Bermuda Triangle of the Christopher Columbus identity question, which also consumed 25 years of Merrill's life before he emerged from the darkness with this interesting book.

The Catalan theory was only two years old when, in 1929, it was assaulted by a fellow Peruvian, a fascist who dedicated his book attempting to reestablish Columbus as Italian (or, more specifically, Genoese) to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. To drop one more recognizable name, in a book with a blizzard of unrecognizable names of dead men (with nicknames like "The Impotent", "The Fratricide" or "The Spider," many of whom died by poisoning), we briefly meet a defender of the Catalan thesis from the 1960s who talked his way into Iberia, James Michener's discursive travelogue about Spain.

The argument that ultimately convinced me that Christopher Columbus of Genoa was really Cristofor Colom of Catalonia requires keeping track of a significant number of these dead men with strange (and similar) names, which is above the paygrade of this moonlighting blogger. His Catalan identity was obscured, in brief, because his Catalan youth was a rebel youth, and the dynasty Colom and his cronies rebelled against was the same dynasty from which Ferdinand - the co-ruler of Spain who greenlit and funded Columbus' historic voyage to the Indies - descended.

If the pain medicine I was high (or, really, low) on when I read this book is letting me remember this correctly, it was all about political expedience and claims to loads of land and booty. I will say this much checks out against what little I know about power politics as it is played out in 21st century St. Louis. Here, the assimilated Lebonese Catholics pass as "white" when it comes time to get "white" people to vote for you so you get to keep the keys to the towing contracts and the lucrative IT outsourcing and stuff like that.

Here is one catalgue of evidence about Colom from Charles J. Merrill that doesn't require keeping track of too many dead men's strange names:

"Columbus gave an island in the Caribbean the name Montserrat because of his attachment to that Catalan monastery and shrine, and because he was accompanied on the second voyage by Catalan monks expelled from there and replaced by Castilians. So many of Columbus' supporters in the royal court, and so many of his associates on his voyages, were Catalan speakers because he was one also. The Bobadillas who were so important in his career, connected with Catalonia though they're never mentioned as such in the standard histories, were characters from his past life as a rebel against Ferdinand's father (and against Ferdinand's wife, uncles, etc.). And Columbus' handwriting was Catalan, and his Spanish has so many Catalanisms in it, because that's the way people from Catalonia wrote and spoke."

I'd drink to that! If I wasn't still on pain medicine.

**

Cristofor Colom doll from the Kiseno Guest House in Petersburg, Alaska, in the "Celebrity Doll" collection along with Lucille Ball, Liberace and (indeed) Ferdinand and Isabella, who funded the journey that made his identity worth disguising for all these centuries.

A day in the life of a holy hip-hopper on the grind

You ever wonder what it's like on the set of a holy hip-hop video? No?

Self-produced internet media being what they are, this, too, is available now. Welcome to Slugger Roo TV.

In this episode, Slug picks up fellow holy hip-hopper Praiz' at the airport in St. Louis and takes him to two video shoots: one at a church, Remnant Worship Center International, and the other in front of a green screen at Jamestown Mall.

At church, we mostly see Praiz' lip-synch to the track he produced for Slug, "Cold Outside." It's interesting to see someone in hip-hop attire dance and lip-synch to a beat while standing on an altar, flanked by video light banks.

It's up in the mall that we actually see Praiz' pray. That's consistent with the dude's philosophy. When I first introduced these two guys, Praiz' aggressively encouraged Slug (who used to be a really bad guy) to get out in the streets and in the clubs to testify.

"Just because 50 Cent is in a church, is he any less a thug?" Praiz' challenged him. "Church is fine, but the world is outside. We need to be outside."

Slug used to be outside, all right. Kenya Vaughn of The St. Louis American grew up in Alton, where Slug was once a young bad buy. When I first profiled him in the paper, Kenya said her family members fell out. "Isn't that Slugger Roo? The Vice Lord?"

It was. But then "Slugger Roo got saved!" as his first gospel single declared. He has been grinding on his gospel rap ever since. That's how this thing with Praiz' got going, once I put them together one day.

With my concept of a confluence, borrowed from the geography of our city, I love to bring different kinds of people together. Nothing makes me happier than to see two people I have brought together make the most of the connection.

Praiz' was much further along in the industry game when Slug met him (Praiz' had a monster hit with his song "Deliver Me," which dominated local gospel radio and is still known by heart throughout black St. Louis), and Slug respected that. He worked hard to keep alive the connection - Praiz' had moved onto Tallahassee, when they met - and he instigated their long-distance collaboration. I am proud, a little fatherly, to see a single come out of their collaboration, with a video on the way now.

You get a good taste of Praiz' music on his website. I dig it, without being a Christian myself - I love the sounds, the imagination, the passion and the loving vibe. But if it's a day in the life of two incredible guys like this you'd like to know more about, then Slugger Roo TV is the place to be.

*

Pic of Slug and Praiz' on the first day they met is by me.

Live Portnoy to silent Golem


My love for silent films screened with live musical accompaniment having been previously established, I can cut right to the calendar listing and let the people know that our friends at Webster University Film Series are screening The Golem (directed by Carl Boese & Paul Wegener, 1920) on Sunday, October 5 at 8 p.m. at Moore Auditorium (on the campus of Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood, Webster Groves) with live, musical accompaniment by Kim Portnoy and guests.

Here is what the filmheads at the film series say about The Golem:

"Widely recognized as the source of the Frankenstein myth, the ancient Hebrew
legend of the Golem provided actor/director Paul Wegener with the substance for
one of the most adventurous films of the German silent cinema. Suffering under
the tyrannical rule of Rudolf II in 16th-century Prague, a Talmudic rabbi
(Albert Seinrück) creates a giant warrior (Paul Wegener) to protect the safety
of his people. Sculpted of clay and animated by the mysterious secrets of the
Kabbalah, the Golem is a seemingly indestructible juggernaut, performing acts
of great heroism, yet equally capable of dreadful violence. When the rabbi's
assistant (Ernst Deutsch) takes control of the Golem and attempts to use him
for selfish gain, the lumbering monster runs rampant, abducting the rabbi's
daughter (Lyda Salmonova) and setting fire to the ghetto."
Sunday nights are tough for this daddy, but since I just cancelled a road trip for that weekend, I have some bargaining power on the domestic front, so maybe, just maybe, I'll be there in the flesh.

Admission is $6 for me and you, $5 for old folks, students from others chools and Webster alumni, and $4 for Webster University staff and faculty.

*

Image of Gary Lucas live scoring The Golem from his website.

They met on the amateur zombie movie set

Introducing: a new Society Pages thread to Confluence City.

Grinning away here we have architectural historian and reluctant coffee entrepreneur Lynn Josse and banker and bon vivant Neal A. Alster, celebrating the nuptials of Amanda Allen and David Adkins this past Saturday.

I take the Society shooter to be the architectural writer Michael R. Allen, brother of the bride and beau of Lynn. Neal's family has an intimate professional relationship with the groom.

Why do I care? Well, first of all, I very much like these two people, which I would still like to consider the primary thing, on the face of this at times friendless and hostile Earth.

Why was the picture sent to me? Because I am the degree of separation between the two. Had I not undertaken to make an ambitious surrealist zombie film two years ago, Neal would have been a smiling friend of the groom at this wedding reception and Lynn would have been a smiling friend of the bride, but they would not have ended up posed and smiling together in a photograph, just the two of them.

Lynn - friends of my silent coproducer and featured actress Stefene Russell - was "scenic coordinator" for my movie, Blind Cat Black. That means she did everything I thought a director does. I, the director, looked at Lynn a lot and said, "What do we do now?"

(What we do next is get Lynn involved in the next film, long before we start shooting. Her core crtique of my finished movie was too little thought went into pre-production. That's believable. I didn't know there was anything called pre-production.)

Neal plays one of the johns in Blind Cat Black, which has a prostitution theme (which I didn't invent - it's in the Turkish poem that I set to music; we then made a silent film and edited it to that poetry score). Neal co-stars in the scene that drove my friend state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed out of the premiere at The Tivoli. Her description of what she saw of that scene has circulated at the mosque, I take it, as none of my other black Muslim friends will accept an invitation to see my movie.

"To dramatize prostitution is not to celebrate prostitution," I tell them. "It's like the Scared Straight movies Officer Friendly used to show us in school. You can't scare someone away from being a junkie without portraying what a junkie's life is like. Jamilah missed the last image in that scene, which has The Pharoah (K. Curtis Lyle) weeping over the blowjob - the Elder mourning the lost generation of the streets."

We've come pretty far from Society Pages, haven't we? And the nuptials of Amanda Allen and David Adkins? Congratulations to the bride and groom! May a Pharoah never weep over your lovemaking in an amateur surrealist zombie film!

As for Lynn and Neal, I hope to see you on the set - I mean, at the pre-production meetings - for Go South for Animal Index! Want to start on Super Bowl Sunday again? Start shooting, that is. That means we should start pre-production ... when? Lynn? What do we do now?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Revising and expanding the Canon


A professional photojournalist/videographer I know who is thinking of going independent sent me the following note that seems worth looking into - the videoblogosphere is clicking away on this development.

*

Canon posted Vincent Laforet's pre-production 5D Mark II video shoot. For those of us who will be buying our own digital equipment in the next year, check this out. The price of one of these camera bodies is around $2,000. These camera shoot still images as well as video; the resolution at 3200 ISO is nearly flawless.

The mount they use with the camera is so small, and I think that this technology is really going to change how we take pictures as professionals for years to come. The chatter is that it's going to be so difficult to get your hands on one of these.

The video itsself is a bit hokey but, make sure to go to the blog site to see the behind-the-scenes stuff. It is going to be crazy. Check it out.
*
Okay, I will!

Descants on this enchanted frequency



I have one good thing to say about post-op convalescence: all that time to read!

I finally knocked out the new Victor Serge novel - well, newly translated (by Richard Greeman); the writer died a hounded, exiled Communist in Mexico in 1947. Unforgiving Years is aptly titled: It's about the death throes of the dream of revolutionary Communism.

The action and point of view are splintered among several revolutionists in several European theaters of war, in Mexico and in the U.S. (which looks like babes in toyland to haunted Communist eyes). The book's most lyrical stuff describes a bombed-out German city, where revolutionary double agents wait out the Allied bombing campaign with half-hearted Nazis, whole-hearted Nazis, and a bunch of ordinary Germans jammed up in it without much of a choice.

Throughout, the characters are more like instruments in an orchestra than people whose lives change in instructive ways. The one that wants to leap off the page into a film is a disabled German vet known as "Minus-Two" (for the number of limbs he is missing). Let's walk with him as he leaves the underground bomb shelter.

"Minus-Two hauled himself up the stairs, limped along a narrow corridor, skirted a bulwark of sandbags, struck the high notes of a piano keyboard with his prosthesis as he went by, making it blurt out a cracked lament, listened to this fragment of lied fade away, and continued on, with a little apprehension now because there was always a risk that the entrance to the underground might be blocked by fresh debris. It wasn't: silvery clouds opened against a dusting of stars. Minus-Two whistled between his teeth the triumphal march of King Frederick's fifes."

I see Werner Herzog is getting ready to make a crime drama with Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. When he is finished with that, he should sink his teeth into Minus-Two! Serge's wartorn children also seem to have crawled out from under a Werner Herzog shoot:

"On sunny the mornings the children emerged in their clean clothes like baby scorpions scuttling out from under a stone to bask in the heat; out came the children to roll marbles, throw balls, skip rope, and play war. They played at escaped prisoners, who were chased, caught, and solemnly shot, yet despite the inevitability of this outcome, they all wanted to be the prisoner ..."

Minus-Two's departure into philosophy during an all clear reminded me of listening to Herzog muse about "the jungle" during the making of his great films with Klaus Kinski:

"The earth has a phosphorence all its own. The crutch, the cane, and the iron tip of the prosthesis added nothing to the scattered sounds of solitude. Stones fell of their own accord. The nocturnal rustlings of the city were like those of a forest: they filled the silence with a minute tremor that was the very substance of silence. The vibration of a spring night in the Black Forest orchestrates the beating of wings, the cries of animals seeking one another out or simply expressing their joy to be alive, the pricking of deer hooves along paths known only to them, the fall of dead branches, the hum of the wind ... And there can be no doubt that the respiration of leaves, the radiance of the stars, the thrust of roots through the soil, the rising saps must chime in with subtle, essential descants on this enchanted frequency."

I also speed-read a book that seems to prove that Christopher Columbus the Italian was actually Cristofer Colom the Catalan. But that's another story!

*

Image by Monstromo, who gets the Colom of Catalonia book next.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cool posters for obscure arts events (collect them all)


I'm running out of places to put them, but I can't quite quit collecting cool-looking posters for obscure arts events. I got one in the mail today (the actual, physical mail) that is inspiring this public service announcement.

If you also like to collect cool posters for obscure arts events, then by all means you should get on the mailing list for The Renaissance Society, located up in Barack and Michelle Obama's neighborhood of Hyde Park. As the Obamas once were, this tasteful gallery is affiliated with The University of Chicago.

Curator Hamza Walker and company produce big, beautiful exhibition announcements, with an essay and schedule all printed on the back of the poster. The image above is not quite what adorns The Renaissance Society exhibition announcement of its new show, Francis Alys: Bolero (Shoe Shine Blues) and Politics of Rehearsal, but it's close. It's from the same shoe shine series, as presented at the 2007 Venice Art Biennial and posted up by Design Boom.

Hamza Walker is very smart and rather modest, if the tiny size and obscure placement of his byline for the essay printed on the back of the poster is any indication. He was in St. Louis, recently, for a one-day conference on "blackness" at the Sam Fox School. Thomas Sleet and I chatted him up on the outskirts of the olive tray. He seemed like a nice man. After reading his brief essay on the back of this new poster, I know a lot more about shoeshining and Mexico City than I did before.

Closer to home (if home, for you, is St. Louis), Mathew Strauss and White Flag Projects have also blazed new trails in the art of promoting art by producing collectible exhibition announcements. If you're not on their mailing list, then you're missing out.

Or, maybe, running out - of places to put all this cool stuff.

Misery running in the family


My little bitty skinny kid now has one phone number taped to her bedroom wall. It's the number of her sister, DeDe. (Technically, in the white man's terms, they are cousins.)

DeDe broke her arm recently. When this news reached my kid, Leyla Fern, she insisted immediately on calling her sister to check on her.

DeDe said she is fine. Her front teeth also look about like mine, following my oral surgery on Saturday, though DeDe evidently is taking her situation with better cheer than I am.

The sad thing is, DeDe's father Pafio (my brother/wife's cousin) is also down one wing at the moment, following shoulder replacement surgery. His body is badly depleted from chemotherapy; he is a lymphoma survivor.

My family is making it hard for me to feel sorry for myself, with this alien bone acting all wiggly in my gums. But hey, those are the only gums I got!

Desegregation of the spirit at SLU


When I think of St. Louis as a "Confluence City," it reflects both my personal reality (knowing and loving all sorts of people around here) and a piece of desperate wishful thinking, since I know (we all know) that St. Louis needs much, much more desegregation of street, school and soul.

Here is one guy on the right path: Terry Dempsey, otherwise known as Terrence E. Dempsey, S.J., founder and director of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art on the campus of Saint Louis University.

I sketched (Terry) badly yesterday as he gave welcoming remarks at the opening of MOCRA's 15th anniversary exhibition, the divine Pursuit of the Spirit, and then had him sign my crummy sketch.

Terry's curatorial approach is profoundly "confluence." He founded the first musuem of contemporary religious art that opens its doors to work from all faiths. As remarkably, in a town known for freezing out and demeaning its local artists (sometimes even after they have rung the bell in other, bigger, better art markets!), Terry mixes the international with the national with the local. He does this routinely and without fuss.

To wit: in the new show, there stood eternal religious classics by George Rouault, right beside a piece by the local artist (and my old friend) Belinda Lee that echoes Rouault.

And: in his remarks, he called attention to the local artists in the house (Jon Cournoyer was one) and all but begged his guests to engage these artists in conversation about their work.

As I said to Terry when I requested his card, "I put you on the list of people St. Louis needs more of."

I have a mouthful of pain following oral surgery, but will have much more to say about this special show before it comes down.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Escape voice mail hell: Get Human

This is a public service announcement from Confluence City.

A forward-thinking friend of mine recently gave me a copy of the book Authenticity by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, which (for what it's worth) Time Magazine has credited as providing one of the 10 ideas that are changing the world.

So far, it has one tip that definitely will change my world: the website Get Human.

Founded by Paul English in 2004, Get Human has a simple and noble goal: that of providing a public clearinghouse of strategies to bypass automated voice message systems to get to a human being who will answer your questions.

In the spirit of Get Human, I will offer one-click access to the page we will all be looking for when we go to their site: the complete list of tips for all companies currently covered by the site. It also has the numbers to call for each of these companies.

Tell a friend to tell a friend to ...

Toyy discovered by zombie who discovered Nelly


My girl Toyy is on the Nelly track now - she has been "discovered."

It's not the first time. Toyy has been wined and dined in New York, she has rocked a full house at The Pageant, she has released a mix tape (Toyy's Story) that was the hottest disc in town for a minute, she has won local awards as an emcee, and she has earned as much genuine respect on the local scene as anybody.

But only now has she had the magic Dale Ashauer touch.

Dale writes:

*

I was running sound for Cafe Soul last night, and who got up and sang some smoooove R&B? Toyy. We talked after the show, and I got her demo cd. I know almost nothing about rap, but there's a few strong hit possibilities and some great soul. Intelligent lyrics and poetic phrasing. Solid music tracks.

Maybe history will repeat itself. The last time an aspiring rapper handed me a demo it was late '99 (I think). A young northside guy stopped at KDHX and asked me to play his single, "Country Grammar," so I did. Look out.

Maybe I have the magic touch or I'm the magic to be touched or something. I might be the rap genie in the 40-ounce can. I hope so. Toyy is pretty awesome.

*

Dale is a musician and sound engineer though, as his note makes clear, not on the hip-hop scene. On most other scenes, though. It would have taken a minute to make the connection, since last night Dale wasn't in a fright wig or plastered by zombie makeup, but he and Toyy had met before, on location shoots for my movie, Blind Cat Black. Dale was the zombie wrangler and one of the zombies. Toyy was The Absent Minded Tightrope Walker, the star.

One of the movie's editors, Kevin Belford, has been so nice as to YouTube four of the 28 scenes. Two of those actually star our star, Toyy:

This Monster Traveler in Hashish (which features pop phenom Bradd Young)
Black Coal (which features the artist Jason Wallace Triefenbach).

The photo of Toyy is from that there movie shoot, on location outside Sam Light Loans.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Something spiritual on the way to the auction


I know what I'm doing tomorrow on my way to the Poetry Scores 2008 Experiential Auction: I am hitting the free opening at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (at Saint Louis University) for its 15th year anniversary show Pursuit of the Spirit.

I would bet the vast majority of people who live in St. Louis - including many visual art enthusiasts - don't know this town is home to the world's first interfaith museum of contemporary religious art, right on the SLU campus, in a renovated chapel.

Not that I'm anything approaching the regular I'd like to be (and should be, since it's right between where I work and where I eat lunch at two or three times a week). In fact, I have visited but once, for the Junko Chodos show, which rates among the best museum shows I have ever seen in St. Louis. (Note to Tony Renner: check her out; I think she's all for you.)

My wife and I caught a rerun KWMU interview with Terrence E. Dempsey, S.J., Founding Director and Curator of MOCRA, while driving home from dinner and drinks last night. He came across as a smart, engaged, cool guy.

I particularly appreciated one riff about the perception of the sacred in art. He said people tend to localize spiritual art to a specific time period they associate with the sacred, typically in the distant past. But, he insisted, the passion in artists that inspired (say) vast oil paintings of Christ on the Cross are just as active, in their own ways and media, today.

He remembered a past MOCRA installation, where a contemporary artist used an assemblage of TV sets plugged into VCRs to achieve the effect of a stained glass window changing colors as the tone of sunlight changes throughout the day. I'd like to have seen that.

This makes me want to schedule a deeply spiritual poem for the Poetry Scores calendar and see if these guys will co-curate the Art Invitational in their beautiful space. Maybe "Incantata" by Paul Muldoon, the anguished cry of a non-believer who watched a former lover die of cancer when her religious beliefs prevented her from seeking treatment?

MOCRA second fiddle David Brinker attended Poetry Scores' 2006 Blind Cat Black Art Invitational and introduced himself, saying how much he enjoyed the show. So, who knows?

The Pursuit of the Spirit reception starts Sunday at 1 p.m. I need to be at Atomic Cowboy for the Experiential Auction by 3:30 p.m. (the event starts at 5 p.m.). See you sometime in between? And then later at the auction?

*

Image is Cia Cara #1, 2008, by María Magdalena Campos-Pons., a large-format Polaroid, from the Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art.

Yankee Haiku & Ballpark Village rant


It has become almost impossible to get sentimental over professional sports stadiums, especially in St. Louis, with its big hole in the ground where the old baseball stadium used to be.

This big hole in the ground should have been Ballpark Village by now, but I'm in no hurry to see that plan come to fruition. Just what St. Louis needs: a new zone of nationally branded corporate restaurants and entertainment spots to drain guests and revenue away from what locally owned businesses actually do remain in this town.

The Cardinals have said that Baltimore-based project developer Cordish has attracted ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Café, Barnes & Noble, Gold's Gym to other similar sites. Is that good news? Maybe for Florida, New York, Texas and Delaware! Not for us!

ESPN Zone is owned by Disney, which is headquartered in Orlando, Florida and incorporated in Delaware. Hard Rock Cafe is owned by the Seminole Tribe, which is based in Hollywood, Florida. Barnes & Noble is headquartered in New York and incorporated in Delaware. Gold's Gym is owned by TRT Holdings, which is headquartered in Irving, Tex. and probably also incorporated in Delaware, thanks to the lenient and flexible Delaware General Corporation Law, which makes that state notorious as a corporate haven.

God forbid someone leave a St. Louis Cardinals home game and spend any of their leftover money at a business actually owned by someone who lives in St. Louis!

Believe it or not, I got into all that for one small reason: to pass on a poem I wrote about Yankee Stadium. As any baseball fan must know by now, this weekend marks the last time baseball will be played in the House That Ruth built.

I lived in New York for six years and saw many games at Yankee Stadium. I am a Mets fan, yet highly susceptible to the mystique of just about any older baseball stadium, especially that one. During my first visit to see baseball in the Bronx (wish that I had recorded the date ...), I sketched some small poems that I have loosley defined as Haiku.

*

YANKEE HAIKU
By Chris King


Old usher escorts
sexy girls to seats
with his eyes

Warm glob red
on my arm, on my shorts
my neighbor's catsup

Twenty hands finger
a stranger's money and candy
Cracker Jack here!

Big pink sticky
tampon on a stick
cotton candy

The runner goes!
The throw is wild!
The collective ugh

Every aisle
an avalanche
down six in the seventh

No reentry after exit
no exceptions
except for the pigeons

*

Picture of Yankee Stadium and the old Polo Grounds from Baseball Library.

Jamaican me think about my gums all cut up, mon


I did something this morning I really wish I hadn't had to do: I paid someone to cut into my gum for the purpose of grafting some new bone up in there.

The deadener has not yet worn off, so no worries, yet. But worries coming, most likely - or, at least, "discomforts," as the medical literature sent home with me warns.

My oral surgeon gave me the option of listening to music on headphones while he shot, sawed into, and sewed up my gums. I gratefully accepted the option. I listened to a mockup of the Poetry Scores score to The Sydney Highrise Variations and tried really, really hard to think about architecture in Australia or the rise and collapse of modernity - anything other than you know what.

Rocked back in the padded dentist chair, I savored the last phrase of Les Murray's poem, as I always do: "modernity's strange anger." That sums up so much of what I find noxious about contemporary politics and public discourse. Right now I am even liking thinking about stuff like noxious political discourse, rather than pain, during this brief post-surgical honeymoon period when my face remains completely tricked out of feeling anything.

"Do your best work, doc," I urged my oral surgeon, as I was settling in to listen to some Les Murray set to song. "It's like, all year, there is that one time you nail it off the tee, drive it right onto the green, right where you imagined it dropping - this is that time."

"Okay," he said. Then he twinged a glinting hypodermic needle deep into the softest and among the most treasured tissue that belongs to me.

Those who know I edit a newspaper published by an oral surgeon may wonder if my doctor is my boss. He is not. I really didn't want to blur those lines (though our publisher once did me an enormous favor by performing emergency surgery on a friend of mine, pro bono - he's like that).

Those who know I am a white guy who works for a black publisher who fights constantly for African-American inclusion in public and professional life may wonder if my surgeon is black. He is. He is a Jamaican of African descent. Jamaican me worried about how weird my gums look all bone grafted and sutured, mon.

He and his wife, a Jamaican dentist of Indian descent, go home regularly to perform free dental work for the poor in a spirit of charity and public service. I just know someone that righteous could not possibly botch my gums, which I love so very much, nor would he leave me in any but the most necessary of "discomforts".

Jamaican me hopeful, mon.

And I have the usual, dubious consolation of a profoundly clumsy man: if it really, really hurts, I can blame myself. Why? Because when the doctor was almost done, he pinched my lip; I groaned; he asked if the deadener was wearing off; and I attempted to gesture, "No, mon, you just pinched my lip."

Unfortunately, my hand gesture got all tangled up in the suture thread dangling out of my mouth - and I ripped all of the sutures right out of my gums!

Didn't hurt a bit, mon. Didn't hurt a bit.

But I am afraid it will, mon - I am afraid it will.

A movie for people who like beer and boobs


Jiri Menzel's new film, I Served the King of England opened yesterday at The Tivoli, based on the novel of the same name by the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, which (in Paul Wilson's standard translation) qualifies as my favorite book.

That qualification may inspire a very small group of my very best friends to go see the film, since they know how passionately I approach my reading and that I crave complicated stories, full of life and truth. There also is a category of people attracted to art house international cinema, who will try just about any film with subtitles that comes to town.

I'm trying to reach a different, and altogether broader, group of people than my closest friends and art house mavens. I am trying to tell the people who like beer and adore the female form that I Served the King of England is the film for them.

The hero, as the title implies, is a professional waiter (though he actually served the Emperor of Ethiopia; it was his mentor in the trade who waited on British royalty). As a waiter in Prague, he often has occasion to draw large, fat mugs of the most gorgeous, foamy, golden beer I have ever seen on the big screen. If you like beer, this film will make you desperately thirsty!

The film follows the structure and approach of the novel, which is picaresque. That is, it follows the adventures and point of views of an isolated hero (a "picaro"), whose wanderings give the story its shape and whose voice is the only thing that connects up the story's varied incidents. This picaro's life is a series of leaps from disaster involving a love affair or a job that implodes or explodes, and he always leaps into yet another job and another love affair. For me, it felt like reliving my twenties, except that this picaro had jobs!

For lovers of the varied female form, our picaro's episodic life is a blessing, because each time he comes to share a woman's bed (or couch or table), we get to share it with them, and they are all very troublingly beautiful Central European women. This film is erotica of a very high order. Our picaro is very playful in the bed - he likes to make tableaux of his lover's body using whatever is at hand and, with him being a waiter, that's often food - and the camera cherishes each woman's body for her own distinctive physical characteristics along the way.

Oh, by the way, our picaro also ends up working as a waiter on a Nazi stud farm, surrounded by naked, nubile German madchen, from which the above still was captured and lifted from an Australian critic's perceptive review. But that's much less fun for the eye than his intimate romps with one beautiful lover at a time.

Art house fims can live a gnat's life in St. Louis, so get to The Tivoli while you can! - if you like life, truth, beer or boobs.