On Writing – Stephen King

Scribners, 2000
I picked this up at Border’s sale table. Good ol’ sale table.
This book had just been discussed in the most recent issue of The Believer, and so for $4 I got it. Came home and damn near read the thing in one sitting. Understand I was a big King fan when I was a teenager, but I gave up after the bloated “It”.
Here, King gives us some tips on writing, but the first half of the book is really his autobiography. It’s a good read–King no doubt has the page-turning knack–and the writing craft section is fair. He doesn’t pretend that everybody reading the book can be a successful novelist, but he does preach dedication and obsession. “Throw the television out,” is one of his first suggestions. I agree with him there.
As I plow my way through my film script, I took a lot to heart. It was just the break I needed.

Giorgio de Chirico: The Endless Journey – Wieland Schmied

Prestel, 2002
There’s not too many books on DeChirico, one of my favorite Surrealist painters.
And most of those are expensive and large, so it’s nice to find this small book from Prestel. In between the mammoth reading of Barrows Dunham and Will Durant (a report on which I swear is coming), I’ve sneaked in a few “in-one-or-two-sittings” books. I picked this up at LACMA and spent my time in Phoenix (where I developed stomach flu) reading it. A good primer on DeChirico (Rule One for writing on Surrealists: Not many of them were really Surrealists. Wha?) and one that stretches out to bring in the influence of Appolinaire and how Max Ernst created art that “answered” the ideology/symbolism as seen in DeChirico’s work. I had no idea really, but Schmied makes it all very clear. The book is no hagiography–it skips the last 30 years of his career–but hits all the major points. However, don’t read if you are looking to having stomach flu-based hallucinations. I found my self in a half-awake state stuck in one of his empty plazas with his mannequins. Unpleasant.

Matrix Revolutions

Dir: Andy and Larry Wachowsky
I come not for the philosophy, but one law: the law of diminishing returns.
The Matrix “trilogy” is over and thank goodness. Revolutions is essentially two hours of being hit over the head with a electric hammer. So disappointing to see that all the philosophical conundrums of the first film are solved in Zion with a big gun battle and hitting the smart bomb button on the game console, and then in the Matrix with a punch-up in a mud puddle. And so once again science fiction in American film is reduced to “things-blowing-up-in-space”, what was once exhilirating is now mastubatory, what was once multilayered is now Bush Administration good-and-evil. “Agent Smith is the yin to Neo’s yang” is not the most revelatory observation by a long shot, but it’s presented as such. Holmes/Moriarty, anybody? Superman/Lex Luthor?
Setting most of the final film in the “real world” of Zion makes for some great questions: If an EMP (or whatever) blast from a ship has the ability to knock out all the metal squid monsters and the fair people of Zion have enough technology and skill to build the city in the first place, why didn’t they set up their own EMP system as civil defense? Also, knowing their enemy, why weren’t the exoskeleton robotech machines designed to protect their pilots? As it is, it leaves the pilot exposed to the claws of the squids. I mean, ask a crab–does that have its tender juicy meat on the outside?
And so now Zion is saved, who really wants to live there? How depressing a place–if they’ve had to live there for centuries, couldn’t someone splurge on a coat of paint? What’s the economy of Zion? How does it feed itself? Who grows the space-cotton to make all those wool sweaters?
I don’t blame the Wachowsky Brothers for not letting a good idea alone, but it just looks like they couldn’t answer their own questions. And maybe the secret is that they weren’t supposed to.
And why do evil places have to have such bad weather? If you controlled the earth, wouldn’t you make sure you chose the best spot to set up HQ? I hear it’s often sunny outside the offices of Halliburton, so what’s the deal?

Mu – Afro Finger and Gel

Tigersushi Records TSRCD003

With Mu’s “Afro Finger and Gel” I finally get that feeling that I’m hearing something so different, so strange, that I can’t really compare it to anything.

This was passed on by a friend and on first listening, it seemed very noisy, confrontational, and intentionally ugly. But unlike a lot of music that uses this tactic, that was just the surface. There’s a lot of things underneath, disturbing, murky things, along with some heavenly brilliance which may be sunlight, but may be me passing out.
In no particular order, here’s what caught my ear.
They love timbales. They love ’em like early ’80s hip-hoppers and producers did. Anytime is great for a timbale break. Except these breaks are coming in the middle of dark, electronic hell-rides. There’s also drum breaks that remind me of the African tribal kick that made its way into pop during Malcolm McLaren’s reign (remember Bow Wow Wow? Peter Gabriel? Adam and the Ants?)
The Japanese female singer here is completely nuts, in the tradition of Frank Chickens and Yoko Ono–it’s threatening, smeared-lipstick fuck-you delivery, occassionally manipulated into flanging and distorted squeaks. “My Name Is Tommi” features vocalist Mutsumi taking on several roles in a recreation of a cheesy “adulterers caught on tape” tv show. She plays announcer, jilted girlfriend, and narrator, while the guy in the band plays the part of the philandering male (or is that her?). What was probably once a distancing encounter on the original TV show, is split open into bloody emotions of jealousy and hatred, and is one of the most unnerving things I’ve heard since Throbbing Gristles “Hamburger Lady” on their Third and Final Report LP.
Each track is about 5 or 6 minutes. Within that time Mu go in several directions at once. “Let’s Get Sick” starts off with a rhythm based around a skipping CD machine, but ends in a beautiful ambient mist. Yes, [looks at CD machine] this is the same song.
I don’t know too much about Mu. They are credited as Maurice Fulton & Mutsumi Kanamori, and they’re married, it seems. He’s from Baltimore. Baltimore rocks! They live in Sheffield. Sheffield rocks too!
For those who grew up during the turn of the ’80s, there was a brief time where the art rock crowd and the freakazoid hip-hop people engaged in a musical dialogue. Afrika Bambaataa, Liquid Liquid, Talking Heads (Mu nicks “Once in a Lifetime”‘s vibe for the final track), Grace Jones, some of that stuff sounded so new it was scary, another-planet material. “Afro Finger and Gel” is like that all the way through. It’s one of my favorite albums of 2003.
Here’s a brief article on them and Mr. Fulton in particular that explains a little more Mu. But not too much. I mean, where does Mutsumi come from?