Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Living in New York City--in an Embalming Solitude

foto by tgw, "the moon way out over Jersey," new york city, 2005.
Sitting Here Thinking
I'm deep in thought in the deepest part of a New York City night. The air is still. The calm is embalming. Where my room is, at the back of a building, I look out my windows over Broadway, and that to one's thinking should be a view containing much cacophony as its soundtrack; yet, in this deep part of this New York City night, it is graveyard quiet, conducive to thinking, which I'm sitting here doing.

I've just come off one of my fav sites, wood s lot--a site so full of brilliant creations I sometimes rebel at the temptation of checking it out for fear something so intellectually beyond me will bite my ass and poison me to my own creative endeavors. I'm especially afraid of the photographs MW takes himself or plucks out of Internet-space. They are sometimes so awesome they do combat with my own theories of photography (out of my oval of vision) and roar against my humble attempts at photographing my urban life from local rooftops. Some of these photographs cause me to want to whirl myself and my old camera off the highest of these roofs around me, my suicide note being the images I capture as I'm falling off the edge of my world.

Three days ago now, wood s lot featured the photography of Lisette Model. I had totally lost track of Lisette Model even in my vaguest memories.

Lisette Model was born Elise Stern (her father who molested her changed the name later to Seyberg) into a privileged upbringing among Vienna's Austro-Hungarian hoi-poloi (her father was a physician to the royal family)--private tutors, learning three languages fluently--at 19, she became so accomplished a musician she studied with Arnold Schoenberg. She took up photography because of her younger sister who became a professional photographer before she did. She also studied painting in Paris, but photography took over her life and soon she was doing magazine photography for big French fashion magazines and then, on and on her fame as a fashion and style photographer went on and she made big bucks and was recognized the world over.

Suddenly seeing Lisette Model staring back at me through the lens of her camera I was taken back to an old book of photographs that used to be out on a table among other "picture" books in my grandmother's Carnegie Library. Every time I was down at her library, and that was quite a bit, my mother using my grandmother and the library as a babysitter (my brother wrote a book about growing up with a library in your family), I immediately went to that book and started "longing" my way through it photograph by photograph--especially fascinated by the photographs of Manhattan in that book--especially those by Berenice Abbott BUT also more especially with those shot by Lisette Model. She had moved to New York City in the late 1930s and stayed here until her death in 1983. It was her storefront photographs she shot in Manhattan, street-level sidewalk shots (she also took high-floor and rooftop shots, too) that really attracted me. My favorite of hers in that old book of B/W photos was "Two Singers in Sammy's Bar," very, very Manhattan to me even then, very Manhattan and Manhattan calling me through these photos. Remember, I was primed for coming to New York from a young age because I had a step-grandfather who was a native of New York City and who was like the New Yorker he was constantly bragging to us Texas hicks about the wonders, marvels, and overwhelming aspects of Manhattan, of all the boroughs. He claimed he'd been the chief electrician during the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931 and he had a certificate claiming him as such from the Empire State Corporation and signed by old Al Smith, one of my Catholic step-grandfather's heroes, the former Governor of New York who made the tune "The Sidewalks of New York" the city's anthem almost up until someone decided Frank Sinatra, a Jerseyite by birth, singing "New York, New York" became the city song kicking "The Sidewalks of New York" off the sidewalks of New York and into the gutter of washed away memories. And from my step-grandfather's tales I knew all about all the different famous bars and pubs and drinking establishments in New York City and "Two Singers at Sammy's Bar" stuck in my craw as the real NYC--plus, the man on the right looks a lot like my step-grandfather, who did wear boutonnieres in his lapels when he dressed up.

Lisette Model, "Two Singers at Sammy's Bar," NYC, 1940 (courtesy Addison Gallery, Andover, Mass.).

Lisette Model, self-portrait

It was those many Lisette Model images of New York City that I now recall as having been a cataclysmic factor in turning my future desires toward this great city--it becoming a bull's-eye I fine-tuned my narrowest aim at--eventually hitting my target in 1969, after traipsing about the US, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia (the banks of the Amazon), Trinidad & Tobago, Florida, California (as if Fla. and Calif. weren't a part of the US), British Columbia, looking for a home.
Berenice Abbott, Herald Square (34th and Broadway), 1936.

Lisette Model after coming to New York City became friends with Berenice Abbott who took the above photograph of my neighborhood way back before I was born. Berenice Abbott, like myself, liked photographing from building tops; in fact, at one time she had an apartment high up among the gargoyles she photographed atop the stainless-steel Chrysler Building, briefly the world's tallest building until the Empire State Building out stretched it in the competitive race of architects to eventually build a building that will successfully reach outer space in close proximity to the corporate-Power Elite heaven--that closed community of hi-heaven-rise luxury penthouses in some fabulous sky.

I tried to read some of the writings in wood s lot --in particular one on Neo-Marxist architecture and the Situationists by a man named Lebbeus Woods (why didn't my mother name me a cool name like Lebbeus?--Lebbeus Wolfe--how would you like to be named Growling?) but I ran aground. Here's an example from that piece, a la wood s lot :

New Babylon was inspired by and contributed to the work of the Situationists, a group of intellectuals, theorists and writers, as well as artists who were anything but Modernists in the classic capitalist mold. They were inspired by the irrational forms and practices of Dada and Surrealism, and were what we can could call neo -Marxists, meaning inspired by Marx’s vision of revolutionary socialism but seeking to use the capitalist system to achieve their ends. GuyDebord and others invented tactics such as derive, psychogeographie, and detournment, which seized upon then subverted capitalist notions to develop radical ways of living that were to culminate in revolution (Archigram first heard of these through Constant’s lecture, no doubt). Constant joined the Situationists early on and became their architect, much the same as Antonio Sant ’Elia had done with the Futurists, half a century before. The spaces of New Babylon were intended to be spaces of disorientation and of reorientation, from rational, functionalist society to one that is liberated and self-inventing. It was meant to replace capitalist exploitation of human labor and emotion with anarchist celebration of them. Its architecture was to provide a complex armature on which could be woven endlessly new, unpredictably personal urban experiences, determined by ever-changing individual desires. In the end, however, the architecture of the New Babylon seemed to overwhelm such playful, radical spontaneity by its sheer weight and monumental scale.

Whooo boy, as interesting as Lebbeus's introducing us to these beautiful dreamers, their dreamstates, and the thinking they did in those dreamstates at some soon point it got too deep for me. Lebbeus's relating his own experiences with men named Peter Cook and Mike Webb and relating those men to the architect Constant Nieuwenhuys and relating all of these men back to the 50s and 60s, a time of my attempting to be a Renaissance person, a time that is major in my time, on my time line, along my bee time vine, pissing my omniscient self off because for the life of me I've never heard of these dudes, the New Babylon project, Archigram, Constant Nieuwenhuys, or the architecture of Nothing. As much as I'm impressed by these guys, I don't have time to wade into their pool of dreams. I don't have time to investigate and sentimentalize over forgotten intellectuals, theorists, writers, as well as artists. Lebbeus mentions the Futurists, and that triggers in my mind my adventures as a Renaissance child and a brief fascination with the Futurists, fascinated first by F. Marinetti (the manifesto-writing king of all time), then by the composer Luigi Russolo, and the off-the-wall Umberto Boccioni. I joined them in their hatred of the past but not necessarily in their idolization of the future, especially the future of the machine and the mechanized society, a future that in a childish way frightened me--a technical world of automatonic rulers. And Luigi Russolo wrote music based on the sounds of machines--and George Anthiel the expatriate American in Paris wrote his famous Ballet Mechanique that is still to this day to me an amazing piece of American music, long now, I assume, lost in the deep woods of a really recent but quickly getting-fogbound past. So, you see, I've already lived through that and intellectualized on that. I began laboring trying to read Lebbeus's piece, and I suppose it's a well-written piece, and I'm sure Peter Cook and Mike Webb are smartass-interesting anarchists, but suddenly it all bored me--I had so heard it all before--and I returned to looking at Lisette Model's marvelous photographs.

The words MW was republishing weren't as impressive to me as those photographs. Let me add here that MW (the wood s lot proprietor) is a pretty good photographer himself--getting better and better in terms of his perspectives every time I check his stuff out.

I learned photography from my late best friend who had a great knowledge of cameras and how they worked and the wonders that could be created using them and who was a really great teacher of photography. I didn't "learn" photography as a student of his, I learned it from being with him so damn much, absorbing it from him as we bon vivanted around Manhattan, watching him always looking for "photographic perspectives."

Once we were walking up 6th Avenue (toward Central Park) when he suddenly stopped and said, "Look up there on your right at where those buildings join...up there, see?" I followed his finger to where it was pointing. "Tell me, do you see a photograph up there anywhere?" I said no. He said, "Look at that top shadow up there...see it?" Suddenly, yes, I saw that top shadow and, yes, I saw what he was trying to teach me, I saw the photograph--that shadow did look like the shadow of a bird--an architectural bird, as though the shadow was part of the building's canvas on which the sun had painted it. That's how I learned photography. I learned photography--what I didn't learn was the camera, using the camera manually, you know, knowing all about it, how it works, what it can do with different size lenses, and filters, and what it can do with distances or with close ups. That I didn't learn. Besides, my friend spent thousands of dollars on his cameras--he had 2 Nikons and one Hasselblad...I know the Hasselblad cost him over 5 grand. I didn't have that kind of money to buy that kind of equipment. Besides, he worked for Time, Inc., and had access to film and processing and bullshitting with some of the greatest photographers in New York City and the world at that time. He was close friends with Roy DeCarava and Gordon Parks--I met DeCarava through him and have a signed book of his, signed to me, while I was standing in front of him, to prove it.

I argued photography with my friend sometimes--I'd say, "Now say you set your camera up focused on a subject and while your back's turned a baby crawls up and accidentally sets off the shutter on your camera and it shoots and leaves you with a shot! Who gets credit as the photographer on that shot? You or the baby?" To which he quickly responded, "Me, I'm the photographer since I'm the one who set up the camera on the subject. It was my EYE that produced the photograph. The baby merely operated the camera. It doesn't matter who takes the picture. Look at all the people around us 24/7 shooting pictures--look over there, that guy's taking pictures now, yet those people aren't taking photographs because they don't have photographic perspectives in their mind's eye when they focus on what they think is an object worthy of taking a picture of...." And we would argue off into long nights into early dawns, one time going up on the highest walkway of the 59th Street Bridge at the crack of dawn, me with my notebook to write spontaneous poetry as the sun came up and he shooting away with his Hasselblad like a wildman--with my friend suddenly saying, "My photographs are my poetry."

for The Daily Growler
READ ALL ABOUT HER, an article on The Daily Growler Official Pastor and Spiritual Adviser, Pastor Melissa Scott

It's All About Oil
a special report from our old curmudgeon reporter, Walter Crackpipe

While puffing on my pipe this morning I heard an interesting statement--you notice no men smoke pipes anymore? I suppose it has to do with cancer but since when were people who devoutly smoke worried about cancer? As one of thegrowlingwolf's ex-wives said, "I'd rather risk cancer than do without my Salems." Needless to say, since The Daily Growler is a fun place for the tongue-in-cheek, sarcasm, vulgar insinuation and accusation, bad attitude, and glorification of ironies and parallel-line persuasions and dissuasions, that wife died of lung and throat cancer at age 59. They said, however, no matter how she suffered, she died with a satisfactory smile on her face and they said as she was being cremated the crackling of her fats as she was cooked away were like she was laughing at the fire like she had laughed in the face of those who always pestered her with "you know you'll die of cancer if you keep smoking those Salems." And I agree, one must risk death in order to truly enjoy life--life that is getting harder and harder to survive given the direction OIL is taking us--the fires of Gehenna and Hell or Hades or whatever you wish to call the core of the earth are surely fueled by oil--"Earl" as old Texas folk types used to call it.

What I was listening to while puffing on my pipe this morning, was T. Boone Pickens, that scoundrel, giving a speech before some oil and gas tycoons (all so fucking cowboy rich they have no idea of anything except their own utopias--utopias where they control the power, the energy, the OIL). In this speech, old dumb Amarillo, Texas, high plains crooked oil man hick, T. Boone, said it was his opinion that by God, We the People of T. Boone Pickins's USA had the right by God to ALL of Iraq's oil, those sorry bastards. We had the right to ALL their oil because by God 3,000 Americans died because of those sand monkeys perpetrating 9/11 on us, that wonderful oil empire day of reckless glee--remember after 9/11 how oil prices shot from 35 bucks a barrel to over 200 dollars a barrel? As a result, Exxon-Mobil's profits set world records. Chevron's profits went through the roof. Conoco-Phillips (the Continental Oil Company merging with Phillips Petroleum of Bartlesville, Oklahoma) profits zoomed up past supernatural roofs.

Well, hell, Mel, T. Boone has at last admitted we were in Iraq for that OIL. Oh hell, how quickly we'd forgotten that. We stupid liberals believed we were in Iraq because Madman Saddam Hussein (pronounced "Sad-Dam Hoosane" by Pappy Bush) had tried to kill our ex-faux president's old daddy. Now T. Boone is telling us dammit we were there to revenge the 3,000 who died in the 9/11 military attack on the WTC and the 4,000 brave American soldiers who sacrificed their lives to revenge 9/11 and to teach militant A-rabbs (how T. Boone pronounces "Arabs") a lesson. Those A-rabbs who didn't lay down their bodies in the streets of Baghdad so the US Army could roll their "Mission Accomplished" forces with relative ease into Baghdad to pull down that statue of The Butcher of Baghdad so that the Iraqis in unfettered joy could throw rose petals at the revenging US troops so they could go victoriously immediately to secure the perimeters of the Iraq oilfields and begin the construction of the George W. Bush International Airport (I wonder if it's still called that?)--oh, you had forgotten about the George W. Bush International Airport? How about the name Chalabi? Does that name ring a bell?

So T. Boone says, dammit, that's OUR oil, fuck the Iraqis, fuck the Kurds, fuck Turkey, fuck Iran.

Think about this. How did the Bush Family Empire get so rich? How did the Rockefellers get so rich? Why is John D. Rockefeller III the Governor of West Virginia; what's a New York City, Ivy-League-trained rich brat son of Nelson "Who Died With a Smile on his Face and His Dick Hanging Out of His Tailor-Made Pants" Rockefeller doing in a hayseed state like West Virginia? How did Unka Dick Cheney get so fucking rich? How did the Halliburtons, a hick Oklahoma family, get so fucking rich? How did Messrs. Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) of Houston, Texas, get so rich? How did the State of Alaska get so rich? How did Greek geeks like Onassis and John Negroponte's father get so rich?

Recently just over the Pakistan border in Iran there was a suicide bombing that killed 5 high-ranking Revolutionary Guard Iranian military commanders. The people who took proud credit for the bomb that killed these five military dudes and 35 nobodies who were there curious as to what was going on were a Sunni anti-Shiite group calling themselves Jundullah, which means "Soldiers of God" (God-damn, if we could just get rid of these gods!). These soldiers of God are intent upon disrupting things in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan. Right across the border from Balochistan in Pakistan. Never heard of this Balochistan and the Baloch people? Take a guess at why they are so important in our current failing in our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan? Asking yourself, too, as you read this, why did we invade and try to occupy Afghanistan when they had nothing to do with 9/11? Why have we been interfering through Pakistan in this Khyber Pass region of Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran in the region's politics and warfare since back in the Reagan days? Well, here you go, have a read:

Balochistan is in the southwest portion of Pakistan and borders Iran, Afghanistan, and India. The province is rich in oil & natural gas and its mostly 800 miles of underdeveloped coastline is flush with an abundance of ocean resources. A portion of Balochistan resides in Iran and is known as "Sistan and Balochestan", an Iranian province bordering on the Sea of Oman and Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is Iran's poorest province and is home to roughly 400,000 people. Could the US and Iran find some common ground for an independent Balochistan? Why not link the issue to current US and Iranian grievances with each other? Perhaps Iran cedes some territory for US concessions and economic aid. Once the troublesome Pakistani military is out of Balochistan on the Pakistan side, and the Baloch become independent and negotiate fair treatment for their people, and worthy prices for their land and resources, the Baloch might agree to stop attacking commercial interests.

The Baloch view themselves as an occupied territory and have done so since March 27, 1948 when the Pakistanis invaded Balochistan. Quoting Dr. Wahid Baloch, "Balochistan was a free sovereign independent state with its own parliament, the Dar-ul Awaam, the House of Commons, and Dar-ul Umraa, House of Lords. Soon after the creation of Pakistan, Pakistan invaded Balochistan and forcefully annexed it into Pakistan. From 1977-2005, Pakistan continues its crime against the Baloch people. Thousands of Baloch political activists and students have been arrested and are being tortured in secret jails. Many are missing, including Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, Goher Baloch and Akther Nadeem Baloch. Pakistani military, paramilitary and security forces are given the task to arrest, kidnap or kill any Baloch who talks or thinks about freedom. More than 600 military check [points] have been established all over Balochistan to control the activities and movements of the Baloch people.

There are 60,000 Pakistani troops stationed in Balochistan and more are on the way. Balochistan has been turned into a military occupied war zone. Baloch people are living in fear and in hopelessness. They are desperately looking to the world community...for their help and rescue against the tyranny of Pakistani and Iranian regimes."

Do you smell the oil in the above? Do you smell the oil in all the conflicts we are involved in around the world at the moment? It's the real reason we are trying to occupy and rule over Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the real reason we have a military base in Uzbekistan, an Islamic nation under a ruthless dictator. It's the reason Russia recently made an invasion into the Republic of Georgia; it's the reason we are the backers of the regime currently ruling over Georgia; it's the reason we pump (a good word for this, too) billions of dollars into the Georgia economy; it's the reason we need Georgia to be on our side; it's the reason we are agitating back and forth with Iran (whose sovereignty the US and Britain have been violating since it began; the same could be said about the sovereignty of Iraq); it's the reason we kiss the big, fat asses of the Royal Families of Saudi-Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Dubai, hey, remember, the new home of Hallitburton, which means these oily bastards can now credit all of the billions of profits they ripped off We the People with their Iraq War contracts to their Dubai bank account and they don't have to pay one dime in taxes back to We the People since it does not appear on their USA books. The IRS knows about these corporations pulling this shifty shit--like WalMart incorporating in Communist China as WalMart-China and beating us not only out of tax money but trade dollars, too, but they claim their hands are tied to do anything to prosecute these big corps without Congress passing laws dealing with these many creative accounting schemes promoted by management consulting firms like Price Waterhouse-Coopers (poor old Lybrand got shafted in the merger). You know, one of the reasons we're so pro-Israel is because of oil and Israel having a Red Sea port--why Israel is so determined to keep the Gaza Strip in ruin because otherwise that Israeli seaport would be in Palestinian/Egyptian territory. And why is that seaport so important? Because it's going to be the terminal for the pipeline that will soon run down from the Iraq oilfields through Israel to that Red Sea port at Eilat, or Umm Rashrash in Arabic.

The Obama Administration is currently considering opening up drilling in Alaska in one of the remotest parts of the world, a wilderness area still abundant with fish, whales, sea lions, walruses, moose, elk, polar bears, Native Alaskans--totally unspoiled, a scene that pains an oil executive to look at. So painful, these oil execs are prodding the Obama administration to give them the right to drill right in the smack-dab middle of this last-wilderness-paradise on earth. Conoco-Phillips, British Petroleum, and Shell Oil support the State of Alaska and all the renegade Whites who invaded it and occupied it for its gold back then; these same White assholes (Sarah Palin's honky relatives) now want to drill the hell out of it for its oil. Fuck the animals. Fuck the fucking Eskimos--Sarah Palin calls them "our native people"--fuck the world's future--these greedy "get it while you can" bastards who already have world-record profits but who are constantly driven by their obedience to the profit motives of Capitalism to the point they, like a mentally disturbed dude who likes to molest and rape children or serially kill innocent young women, molest and rape Mother Earth, especially in the sacred places of North America's true indigenous people--all for OIL.

The Power Elite in this country knows how wealthy it can get off OIL and WAR--most of our WARS since the British Empire started to collapse have been fought over OIL in some fashion or another. Remember that movie, "Oil for the Lamps of China"? Watch that old movie "Boomtown," too, filmed on location in the oilfields around and on the streets of the oil boom town of Burkburnet, Texas, and it will show you the Hollywood glamorized but truth about how ruthless oilmen are and how crooked and deceiving they are, especially in the way they treated the Native Americans in that oil rush that happened in Oklahoma Indian Territory right about the time Oklahoma was suddenly said to deserve statehood (1907) and Tulsa became the oil capital of the world and those are the same oil and gas fields T. Boone Pickens would make his fortune off of.

OIL. We are addicted to oil. Even little pissant G.W. Bush admitted that and he should know--remember his old Pappy gave him and one of his Saudi-Arabian brothers an oil company to ruin, which they did, G.W. Bush coming out OK, but his Saudi-Arabian brother not, found dead one day with his head blown off and a shotgun conveniently placed nearby. Oilmen love guns, by the way. A Texas oilman, Amon Carter, got so rich, he built museums to himself all over Fort Worth, Texas, Cowtown as it used to be called. He also had a fabulous coin and stamp collection. Oh yeah, and a lot of fine art and antique automobiles. Nelson Rockefeller, whose wealth came from OIL, built a museum to hold his fine art collection; plus the Rockefeller family had a big garage full of antique cars up on their Bedford Hills estate. J Paul Getty, a Louisiana oilman, built a museum for his art collection in L.A. Look on the doors over museums--there's usually a rich oil man's name up there.

Think OIL. You're sacrificing everything for it!

for The Daily Growler

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