Drive-In Saturday:
The Revolving Doors of Perception

Man ray revolving doors VI (carafe) 

Sound: "Passport Control" by Norwegian producer-sampler-Punkt Festival cofounder Jan Bang, from his album . . . and the Poppies from Kandahar on David Sylvian's Samadhisound label.  The influence of Jon Hassell is freely acknowledged, and Hassell appears on the album, albeit not on this track.  

Vision: Now Then, a film by Russell Mills.

Illustration: Revolving Door VI [Decanter/Carafe] by Man Ray, via the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Drive-In Saturday:
Paper View

A train story, by Maurice Gee, miraculously rendered in paper.  

From the New Zealand Book Council, via Ron Silliman.

They keep things in perspective in New Zealand:

And lest you should get the misguided notion from that first video that clever tricks with paper are a solution to every problem, or to any problem -- or, most particularly, to the perennial "Girl in the Gallery" problem -- consider this cautionary tale:

Ramona Falls, "Russia," via the very wonderful BOOOOOOOM! arts blog from Vancouver, B.C.


Drive-In Saturday:
Let's See SCOTUSBlog Post This One!


It is certainly true that SCOTUSBlog is the Blogospheric Go-to Resource for all things U.S.-Supreme-Courtian.

And yet . . . .even that worthy site has thus far declined to Rip the Proverbial Lid off of the Literal Scandal that is:

June Crenshaw: Sex Kitten to the Supreme Court

This lost, albeit scandalous, cinematic record of High Jinks at the High Court has at last, as it must in a Republic founded upon Principles to Be Named Later, come to light.  All credit is due here to the painstaking researches of playwright/screenwriter/connoisseur of the tastefully if tackily erotic, David Mamet, and his Circle.

Judge, so to speak, for yourselves:

Thorough and diligent Advocates will study this primary document closely, gleaning invaluable, nay, indispensable, well nigh irreplaceable, and simply irresistible insights into jurisprudence and judicial history, into Dred Scott and dishabille, and into the myriad varieties of Court-packing contemplated at one time or another by the Roosevelt administration.

How comforting to know that this material is certifiably, indeed certiorarically, Safe for Most Workplaces, so that it may be scrutinized at length and at leisure.  Continuing Legal Education credit has been applied for.


Cross-posted from Declarations and Exclusions.


Drive-In Saturday:
Eat, Crow!

Fox and crow by cliff1066

The fable of The Fox and the Crow, usually attributed to Aesop, is well-known, as is its moral: Beware of vanity and be wary of flatterers.

Usually, the good thing that the crow possesses and that the fox desires -- and obtains by wily application of the aforementioned moral principle -- is a piece of cheese.  It could just as well be something else, such as f'rinstance a Tasty Cookie.  

If the obscure object of the fox's desire were to become a Tasty Cookie, and if that cookie had a good agent who would negotiate a prominent place for it in the title of the piece, the tale would become that of "The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie", and it would proceed along the lines of this lively bit of puppetry, accompanied by the band mewithoutYou:

The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie from David Bell on Vimeo.

Via LAist.


Illustration: Detail from gate commissioned for the William Church Osborne Memorial Playground, Central Park, NYC, 1952.  Photo by Flickr user cliff1066, used under Creative Commons License.


Stompin' at the Savoir Faire

Grape Stomping at Grgich Hills by wallyg

Drink drink, drain your glass, raise your glass high!

    -- David Bowie, "Station to Station"

Thanks to Bottle Shock, the film version of George Taber's Judgment of Paris, many learned a version of the story in which two California wines flabbergasted the naysayers by beating out the best of France in a blind tasting in 1976, lending much desired credibility to California's claims to be taken seriously as a wine region.  

The winning white wine was a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena.  That wine is at the center of Bottle Shock, but if you know only what the movie tells you, you have no idea who actually made it.

Chateau Montelena's winemaker at the time was Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, who left that winery shortly after the success of Paris to join with Austin Hills (of the Hills Bros. coffee family) to found Grgich Hills Estate.  For various reasons, Grgich was disinclined to be portrayed in the film version, so he was written out of the story.  This is just one of numerous liberties taken by the film: other than the exterior of the main building at Chateau Montelena, for example, all those lovely vineyard landscapes (as well as all the scenes in "France") were actually shot over the mountains in Sonoma County.  

Now, however, we can offer a short film actually starring Mike Grgich, as well as Orson WellesJames Mason, the real Ronald McDonald, and some jolly elves from Gallo.

From the happy libertarians at, here is the amazing True Story of how free markets, competition and [comparative] freedom from nitpicky government regulation allowed the California wine industry to rise from its subjection to Old Europe to accomplish its manifest destiny to become the brave new world's wine superpower:


Photo: Grape Stomping at Grgich Hills Cellar, Rutherford, CA, by Flickr user wallyg, used under Creative Commons license.


Rights? Quite Right!

Bill of Rights mini Today is Bill of Rights Day, acknowledging the ratification and adoption of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution on December 15, 1791.

Bill of Rights Day was reputedly first proclaimed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, on the Bill's 150th anniversary.  President Obama opted this year for an omnibus proclamation, including Bill of Rights Day in a package with Human Rights Day and Human Rights Week.

Tim Lynch, of the Cato Institute, takes stock and finds many of our enumerated Rights honored more in the breach than in th'observance in these times.  

Google, meanwhile, goes its own way and takes the occasion to honor LL Zamenhof, the deviser of Esperanto, on its home page, drawing the sort of unreasonable ire that only the Internet -- and rights of free expression! in the language of your choice! -- can generate.

The Presidential proclamation urges us all "to mark these observances with appropriate ceremonies and activities."   I recommend that you exercise your unenumerated right -- it is in the penumbra of one or another of The First Ten, I am quite sure -- to take five minutes from your day to observe and to meditate upon this stately, silent, kaleidoscopic and slightly trippy visual tribute, by Philip Bell

The Illustrated Bill of Rights from Philip Bell on Vimeo.

[There is a great deal of detail and fine print in this video.  I strongly recommend viewing it in full-screen mode on the fullest screen you have available.]


Cross-posted to Declarations & Exclusions.


The Scariest Poem I Know


Below is a recent video interpretation of what I think of as the scariest poem I know: Sylvia Plath's "Lady Lazarus." 

The reading here is Plath's own, although some pauses have been added to the original recording for purposes of this video.  The heavy breathing at the start is added, as well.  The recording was made for the BBC in October, 1962, shortly after the poem was completed and slightly more than three months before Plath's suicide by gas oven in February 1963.  

I first encountered the poem around 1972 or 1973, as a middle teenager with no direct experience of the sort of extreme psychological states that seem to have been the poet's daily bread and nightly butter.  The Holocaust references were always overplayed, and they seem more so with each passing year, but the poem is as much about sensationalizing the awful as anything else, and the blunt shock value of those images was perhaps greater in 1962, with the war less than twenty years past.  As a snapshot of pain, and of the calculated dramatization of pain, the poem remains shudderingly effective and the final stanza, ending with the indelible "I eat men like air", is misogyny bait of the finest quality.

 «Lady Lazarus», de Sylvia Plath from blocsdelletres on Vimeo.

"The Applicant," which immediately precedes "Lady Lazarus" in the posthumous collection Ariel, has recently been given pride of place as the first poem, and the only poem of Plath's, in the Library of America American Poets Project collection of Poems from the Women's Movement. Although she was embraced by later feminists, if only in an oversimplified version casting her as a sainted victim of male cruelty and indifference, and although she wrote explicitly as a woman, Plath was never really "of" the women's movement, which only gained momentum and organization after her death.  It is just as well: if the Women's Movement collection proves anything, it is the old saw that nothing is better calculated than articulating a political agenda to make a strong poet turn out weak poems.  Had she lived, perhaps Sylvia Plath would have fallen prey to that trap.  Untethered to dogma and unhampered by any obligation to show solidarity with others in a cause, she was able to craft poisonous treats such as this.

 The Applicant - Sylvia Plath from blocsdelletres on Vimeo.

John Berryman may have had the last line of "The Applicant" -- Will you marry it, marry it, marry it -- in mind when he wrote: "Them lady poets must not marry, pal."  Not that Berryman was the most reliable judge of these things.


Photo: "Dachau" by Flickr user RebeccaPollard, used under Creative Commons license.


Drive-In Saturday:
All You Need is Lovecraft

A Modest Late October Suggestion to Our President

Dear Mr. Obama:

Have you noticed, as I have, that Halloween stores have popped up like slithy toad stools to occupy every empty retail space in These United States?  

Mystic caverns shoggoth

Of course you have. Your eyes are everywhere, after all, particularly since you declined to roll back that millstone on civil liberties that is the PATRIOT Act.  

But never mind that: we were talking about commercial real estate. Mervynses and Circuit Cities may come and go, but the Eve of All Hallows lingers on.

In the interest of the care and feeding of our Great Recovery, permit me to suggest that your course is plain.  You must immediately propound an Executive Order declaring that the last day of every month shall hereafter be celebrated as Halloween, and that the spirit of Giving Back necessarily compels every Good Citizen to participate with Gusto in the Celebration of All That is Dank and Nasty, every thirty days or so.  In consequence of this prudent and judicious edict, all of these smilingly entrepreneurial Mom & Pop-up stores will never close, the grand engine of consumer purchase will idle no more, jollity will rollick 'cross the land, and all manner of things shall be well.  

In anticipation of your prompt endorsement of this wise and obviously beneficent policy, I remain

Yr. humble servant, 

G. Wallace


Phooey!  And gooey, and p'tui!

Truth be told, I lost most of my interest in Hallowe'en once I figured out that the adults and beer companies had taken it over. 

Still, it's a perfectly good excuse to post this video, in which San Diego's own Eben Brooks pays poppish tribute to the Greatest and Oldest of the Great Old Ones.  If the President embraces my petition -- with all eight arms, of course -- you'll be hearing this one on the radio all the year 'round.

Extra tentacles, please!


Photo: "Mystic Caverns, Shoggoth?" by Flickr user Clinton Steeds used under Creative Commons license.


Drive-In Saturday:
Siegfried Season

Siegfried - I am going to Eat You

Los Angeles Opera's new Achim Freyer production of Wagner's Siegfried opens this afternoon.  I won't be seeing it until the closing performance of this run, on October 17, but favorable reports (and rumors of an amusing toy dragon) have already emerged from the dress rehearsal via Out West Arts and Alan Rich's happily returned SoI'veHeard. (Alan's post also discloses that the promised live recording of the LA Philharmonic's world premiere of Arvo Pärt’s Fourth Symphony ("Los Angeles") from this past January will finally see release via iTunes next month).

LAO has not released any video thus far from its Siegfried, so I will fill the gap with two prior tellings of the tale.  First up, Siegfried defeats a thirsty dragon -- not a transformed Fafnir, since this version is adapted by Thea von Harbau from the Nibelungenlied rather than from Wagner -- in Fritz Lang's 1924 Siegfrieds Tod.

By way of contrast with Lang's impressive-for-their-day physical effects, this next video shows off a 2008 production of Wagner's Siegfried staged in Valencia, Spain, by director Carlus Padrissa and the Catalan theatrical group La Fura del Baus, with hyper-elaborate video projections by Franc Aleu.  Zubin Mehta conducts.  It is difficult to say whether this production ultimately tromped on or deferred to Wagner -- the former is probable, given its apparent Mad Scientist overtones -- but as sheer eye-poppery (in conjunction with That Music) it does not fail to impress:

This is best appreciated at full size and in high definition on Vimeo, here, where it was posted by Martin Inda, who handled video post-production on the project.  Oooo, sparkly.


Illustration: a conventional sort of a Siegfried in Opera Stories from Wagner by Florence Akin (1915).