Monthly Archives: April 2009

Neverland in Beverly Hills

Michael Jackson’s home has been transplanted into the old Robinsons-May building in Beverly Hills, they’ve even brought the gates. The garden furniture and planters. His awards, his socks, his personal drawings. It’s one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen, and one of the creepiest. And here is the splendour and the sadness.

The public information on the whole deal is pretty sketchy. Jackson was acquitted of the criminal pedophile charges of course, but owes a ton of money, I imagine for civil cases? So it seems that essentially all of his most personal things sitting in this vast space are the result of the repo man visiting his estate. Rather then just humiliating him in front of his neighbors, they have humiliated him in front of the world, stripped everything they thought they could possibly sell, and brought it on down to L.A. to sell to the highest bidder. The auction is now off, the money was raised and the stuff is going back to Michael, though it might remain in the public domain. You can read more on that here.

But essentially, you are looking at things most people were never meant to see. It is there by force. And it just adds an edge to the voyeuristic element, a frisson of violence and transgression. It only adds to the immense creepiness and unsettling nature of the things.

The creepiest thing by far, these figures that were so lifelike and who were everywhere. They were all white.

The woman in the background with the curlers is holding a copy of Women are From Venus, Men are From Mars. Butlers were everywhere, there were more than 5 of them, I didn’t think to count but now I am really curious. They were ubiquitous the way a good butler should be. Below you can get a sense of the scale of the exhibit, and the personal taste of the man himself.

There are also four or five life size wax figures of Michael Jackson himself. But somehow, that to me is a sign simply of colossal ego which I can understand, the rest of them I just cannot. An attempt to never be alone? Imagine sharing a huge mansion with them, it gives me chills. So to move smoothly from the mannequins to the paintings…

Creepy woman who looks like one of my older family members, with a Michael Jackson Triptych in the background. Michael Jackson’s poems are everywhere…written on the paintings that were commissioned, on Neverland’s kids menus, on slabs of marble out in front, on story book sculptures. This one reads:

I am the thinker, the thinking,
the thought.
I am the seeker, the seeking,
the sought.
I am the dewdrop, the sunshine,
the storm.
I am the phenomenon, the field,
the form.
I am the descent, the ocean,
the sky.
I am the Primeval Self
In you and I.
I am Michael Jackson

There are paintings of him everywhere as royalty, with crown and scepter. He has the crowns and sceptres as well, the ermined cloaks. And there are the paintings of him leading long lines of little children to the promised land and happiness

There are paintings of him surrounded by cartoon characters, the Marx Brothers, Peter Pan. And this, which essentially leaves me pretty speechless.

So there’s too much really, to convey. The kids. The kids are everywhere and are frankly terrifying. Dolls and furniture for children that…well, it’s hard to tell where the creepiness comes from, it doesn’t even lie in the pedophile charges though I’m sure that adds a dimension. It’s like Louise Bourgeois’ red rooms.

And the statues

There’s original art on the wall by Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin. There are drawings of children. An incredibly terrifying clown. Bikes and trikes and little cars. Collectible stautuettes in china and pewter and whatever else. And then the playroom stuff, filled with video games, pinball machines, his disney collection.

And some really cool stuff. The prop of Hans Solo after he’s been cryogenically frozen, an R2D2 and C3po, a lego Darth Vader and lots of Star Wars stuff. Arcade games you’ve been dying to play again like Super Mario and Digg Dugg and Pole Position. Edward Scissorhands’ actual hands.

He has a painting of Marlene Dietrich that she has signed and dedicated to him. His books are all there, almost all Hollywood with a smattering of Children’s classics and Black History. He has a letter from Ronald Reagen:

“I was pleased to learn that you were not seriously hurt in your recent accident…

All over America, millions of people look up to you as an example. Your deep faith in God and adherence to traditional values are an inspiration to all of us, especially young people searching for something real to believe in. I know from experience that these things can happen on the set…

You’ve gained quite a number of fans along the road since “I Want You Back,” and Nancy and I are among them.”

He has another Inter-Office memo to Tom Jones from Walt Disney…don’t ask me how. But it is HILARIOUS.

“Dear Tom –

This is just to let you know how much I appreciate your efforts in trying to keep all the English people happy … I know many of their requests were unreasonable, but your stepping in and handling these things were a help to me and the others concerned with the making of the picture.”

So perhaps in some kind of context this wouldn’t be so funny, but possibly even then. I have no idea what the context is, but the idea of Tom Jones trying to keep “all the English people” happy is pretty amusing, I wonder what film that was? It’s from 1963.

At any rate, there are also a huge number of awards, plaques, pictures, and his clothes, gloriously reflective and shiny clothes. Thriller was the first album I ever bought, my brothers and I pooled our Christmas money to get it. And I love Michael Jackson, as Celine said while we were watching youtube videos, he has the moves that Justin Timberlake and all the rest of today’s performers only dream of. And he invented them. And the clothes look a bit ridiculous on display now, but he carried them off, he was that good. So that part of the thing I could enjoy without remorse or nausea. Though the body suits were a little disturbing.

I don’t even know how to wrap up what going was like. It made me incredibly sad mostly, thinking of the little boy singing ABC with the Jackson Five, and wondering how he has grown into … what? There are no words for Michael Jackson really. Or a million of them. A lost childhood, the ability to buy himself anything, indulge himself anything. The desire to create … what? I don’t know what. You could possibly boil it all down to sex but I hate boiling everything down to that, refuse to really, life is complex. But there is a wrongness to it all that lingers in your mind. And, well, sadness.

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El Salvador and such…

It’s early but feels late…a great dinner with old friends from Carecen days, veggie sausages and Belgian beer and amazing fries and good conversation, everything you could ask for from a Wednesday evening really.

Dan was down in El Salvador for the elections, and I was rather jealous…I was invited and considered it for a hot minute and then just didn’t bother to put it together…I did have a lot of deadlines, and vanquished them all to be fair. Had everything not been crumbling I would have felt on top of the world. El Salvador puts South Central into perspective though, and I know millions before me have loved and lost, tried and failed. Somewhere we are winning, and that’s what matters.

God damn, but it was 10 years ago now I was down there. With Don White, who just died. And I fucking miss him. The crazy thing about the elections this year…Dan was saying that TPS was almost a defining issue…Temporary Protected Status, it’s a temporary work permit that allows Salvadorans to stay in the US legally and work. Americans have no idea what it is of course, but it is everything to the immigrant community. I remember those applications, and the charlas for a hundred people at a time, and the lines of folks waiting at Carecen’s doors. And apparently the night Dan went down a couple of the hard right-wing people in the congress and the house stated that the FMLN were known terrorist collaborators and that if they won, it would put TPS at risk. And something that wasn’t even news here, well, it was front page headlines down there. And Arena milked it for all it was worth, saying that if Funes won, then everyone in the US would lose their status, the remittances would stop. And it closed up the difference and instead of winning in a landslide Funes won by a couple of percent. Arena owns the media of course. And the tragedy that losing TPS would cause…well, it gave a lot of people pause. And many voted against their consciences.

And Arena still didn’t win. I was there in ’99 for the presidential elections, and monitoring the elections in La Libertad. And there was this one guy in Arena colors, I still remember him sitting at a table, staring at me, hating me. I took his picture, my way of refusing fear. It wasn’t very brave of course, I knew he couldn’t touch me.

The thing is, I carry people’s stories inside of me. When people tell me things it lives in me, I know it has none of the crippling strength as it does for those who lived it. But I am still afraid of helicopters. I am still afraid of anyone in a uniform. I hold memories of rape and torture, and they are dear to me now, as were the people I knew who had suffered these things, who survived these things, who taught me what strength really is.  I remembered Raul, who only a few years before had been forced to flee for his life. From Arena. They burned down his house, assassinated someone they believed to be him, threatened his family and anyone who spoke to him. And this was years after the peace accords. I knew fear while he watched me, I can still feel it wriggling in my stomach though as a white American I knew damn well that in that time and place I was perfectly safe.

Arena won that election. We were staying in the local school, and that night we were kept awake by Arena’s supporters who ran in a large crowd around and around the town, setting anything that said FMLN on fire and waving it in the darkness, clapping and yelling.

And I knew fear then too, peering between the crack in the large wooden doors that separated the school’s courtyard from the street.

I remembered Arcatao in Chalatenango, a center for the FMLN and one of the places hardest hit by right wing forces during the war. The beauty of the church there, it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, both for the scenery and the people who lived there, though everyone and everything carried the mark of war.

and they honored those who were murdered thus, a church lined with crosses

There the stations of the cross are represented by the stations of a people in struggle, few things have moved me like that place.

And there is also the memorial of Monsenor Oscar Romero in San Salvador, with drawings on the wall of torture and death, a memorial of all who fought for something better, and whose lives were taken.

I have not believed in organized religion for a very long time, but I could pray in a church like this. And I did. Romero once said that a priest’s place was with his people. And if the people were living in poverty, were fighting for justice, were being killed, then the priests should also be facing death by their sides. And so they killed him. He is one of the people I have been thinking about in my own little crisis of faith. It is tiny. It is a tempest in a tea cup. I am getting over it.

So I cried when Funes won, for someone who doesn’t really believe in elections, I have been doing a lot of crying I must say! But after years of civil war and torture and disappearances and an intense war of the people against the oligarchs, well. For everyone I know who had been raped, tortured, had family murdered…I cried when the FMLN took power. And I am thankful that a few nut jobs in the senate and a media that made them seem far more important than they were weren’t enough to change that. And now I sit with the same feelings I have about Obama, thinking things will get better. But probably not much. But it was a symbolic change and that carries its importance. And god knows we need to celebrate any victory that comes along, we just can’t think that’s anything but the start of a new struggle.

So…I dunno. I dunno where I’m at as I sit crouched in the echoing space that used to be filled with things I believed in. I’m getting used to that. I biked home rather tipsy, my favourite sweater streamed behind me in the darkness and my shadow rode before me in the street lights like a crow, a harbinger of things to come. I looked cloaked and daggered, something from times long past or times to come, I’ve been feeling like that. I’ve been living in the moment and living well and loving every minute of it until I am alone, and then I am outside of time somehow, poised on the edge of something. I’ll find out what it is I suppose.

And my packet arrived today from LSE so it all feels truly official and done and dusted and I’m in and I’m moving to London, and life really feels pretty good. It doesn’t really matter that everything else has crumbled into dust, because where else do amazing beginnings start from? A big packet in the mail gives such happiness.

Muay Thai and the Museum of Death

Thai festival today! There was absolutely no parking at all anywhere, but it was worth it when we got to Thai town. The day was sunny, the skies were blue, the crowds were hopping, and the food…oh the food was magical. We ate in the little square, in the least-full looking restaurant though we still had to wait for seating. I kind of wanted to throw over vegetarianism, even more than I already have I mean, and order the chicken volcano (it’s an entire chicken, steamed veggies, and the whole thing seems to be on fire…I don’t think you can ask more from an entree.) But I didn’t. And I wasn’t sorry taste wise.

We actually only saw dancers, none of the dancing, though we did wander the booths. Because the main attraction and the real reason we were there?

Not him specifically, though I wouldn’t have minded, especially as he is a new champion. We were there for Muay Thai, or Thai boxing. Remember Ong Bak? Oh yeah. Unlike Western boxing, you don’t just use your fists. It is known as the “Art of the Eight Limbs” as there are 8 points of contact, the two hands, shins, elbows, and knees.

And while it has no long tradition of women fighters (tradition holds that a Muay Thai ring will be cursed if women fight in it…not surprising of course), there is a new popularity and some kick ass women fighters were there.

And we stood watching it for several hours, there were 18 matches in all, and I think we stayed for perhaps 11 of them…we left after the first heavyweight match as it wasn’t as exciting or lively I’m afraid. A very drunk thai man in a wool hat enlivened the afternoon; he really wanted to bet. He kept shouting out bets that I couldn’t understand, 200 of something or other, and cheerfully embraced everyone from the fighters to security. And there were a few guys behind us who drank the whole time, smoked three bowls of weed and had the most revolting conversation I have ever heard. I pray that they die single and never reproduce, but any women priveleged to hear their comments would have to be dead before allowing any of them to touch her.

The above was the best shot (and the tats by far the best as well), the light was none too good, even after we’d worked our way to the front. And like western boxing, there are a lot of clinches…where the photographs essentially look like two guys holding each other tenderly. I did get a good one of spittle flying out of a guys mouth, and some good expressions…I might put those up later.

Jose and I had lost Bev by that point, she wasn’t so into the fighting, or the standing in the sun for hours. I was too into the fighting to notice really, until I started getting tired, and then we moved and my legs were hating me. They still do. They might hate me for some time. Because we walked down Hollywood…passing some amazing graf

There was more, but I tire…we were headed exploring, and to the Frolic Room, and we passed the Museum of Death. I have been wanting to go there for some time, with such a name how could you not go?

The best thing about the Museum of Death, apart from the name, is that the owner has a siamese turtle.

It’s a bit blurry, but it is extraordinary…and will be as long lived as a regular turtle, as there are two hearts. He had an albino turtle as well, who was lovely.

You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, and it is pretty…gruesome in there. Very gruesome. Very graphic. I’m glad I went, I recommend it to everyone with a strong stomach and a taste for the macabre. I shan’t be going again however! You start out in the warm-up room, full of the embalming arts, a horrifying training video, pictures of dead babies laid out in funeral splendour, the implements of the trade, matchbooks from funeral parlours…you move into a corridor full of photographs of car accidents, a couple having an affair who killed the husband, stripped, dismemebered him while naked, had much traditional fun with the body parts, and took pictures of it all. They were caught while developing them (this is pre-digital days obviously), and lads, the woman was released after only 6 years, so she’s out there and possibly dating.

There’s a room on suicide cults. A room on L.A.’s biggest crimes…the Black Dahlia (those photos will keep you from sleeping for a week), the Manson murders (likewise), OJ Simpson (seems like a sweetheart next to the rest…) There’s lots on serial killers, little write ups, surveys they’ve filled out, letters, pop up books, drawing, pictures…Richard Ramirez showing what Jeffrey Dammer’s fridge probably looked like, a cheerful letter from the Son of Sam. It’s a nice intimate look at the mind of killers.

Ooh, and there’s Jane Mansfeld’s stuffed chihuahua. And a video room. And a section on hollywood stars who have croaked in extraordinary or violent ways…I’d say more but I’m winding down. So go. And don’t forget that the Frolic Room is only a few blocks away, you will almost certainly want a drink. I admit to “needing” one after the Museum of Death. And who could ask for more from their dive bar?

Jim Belushi was here. He fit in with the mood.

And so two beers later, my legs hating me much more after a museum tour, we walked to the train station. Which was crawling with cops. And waited for the train. And waited. And waited. Union Station was closed due to a “police incident,” and I couldn’t find anything yet on the news this evening, but hopefully tomorrow. Finally the train came, and it was packed full of course, and there was a break-up in full swing right next to us. And both the girl and the guy were annoying. I almost wanted them to stay together so no one else would be tempted to date either of them. And my legs were hating me. And I was starving. And freezing.

So back home to Echo Park, chilaquiles at Rodeo Grill, and back home. To play some with my pictures. And to write. And to sleep, but I shall hope for no dreams!

Justin Townes Earle and Cory Younts

Came to LA again, played at Spaceland this time. And I see them every time they come, and I am always blown away.

Always. They’re just getting better and better in fact, though I’d have a hard time saying whether their latest album “Midnight at the Movies” or “Yuma” is my favourite. And I love “The Good Life” as well. The latest is less country I’d say, more folk, but we all know the distinction is a stupid one imposed by commercial interests, the tradition is the same one, and Woodie Guthrie, Hank Williams Senior, Steve Earle and Townes van Zandt and… the list goes on really, they all transcend definitions. I love them, and as young as he is, Justin can be added to the list on his own merit and not on the strength of a name given him at birth. He adds a new greatness to the decades of tradition, and I don’t think there is a higher compliment I could give anyone. His song lyrics are incredible, I love the deeply personal nature, the beauty of so many of them. And the good times, and the good food, his own flaws and the bad women. And the good ole working class traditions of  work and struggle. And you can sing them in the shower, which to me is one of the ultimate tests of a good song.

Well when John Henry died, he lay lookin’ at the sun
He said Lord take me now my work is done, Lord, Lord
Lord, take me now my work is done
Yeah, but when they laid him out in that box of pine, boy
They laid that hammer by his side, Lord, Lord
laid that hammer by his side

Yeah Joe Hill, he worked any job he could find, boy
He’d rake your leaves, and pick your vine, Lord, Lord
Rake your leaves, and pick your vine
Yeah and they killed Joe Hill, put a bullet to his name
But that bullet made a martyr of the same, Lord, Lord
that bullet made a martyr of the same

Yeah, and my grandaddy worked his whole damn life, well
He never saved a nickle though he tried, Lord, Lord
Never saved a nickle though he tried
And he died in Tennessee but he couldn’t find no rest,
With that long road to Texas lyin’ ahead, Lord Lord,
that long road to Texas lyin’ ahead

So I ain’t no brave man, And Lord I expect to lead
A long life a’workin’ and you’re dead, Lord Lord
A long life a’workin’ and you’re dead
They killed John Henry, they killed John Henry
They killed John Henry, but they won’t kill me, Lord
They killed John Henry, they killed John Henry
They killed John Henry, but they won’t kill me.

And his favourite Van Zandt songs? Mr. Gold and Mr. Mudd, and Rex’s Blues, mine too, though I’d throw Dollar Bill Blues in there. And there’s a cover of him playing his Daddy’s Tom Ame’s Prayer…another of my favourites. And they did a Replacement’s cover, Can’t Hardly Wait…I love this song. And the Woody Guthrie song they always play, I Don’t Care…funny, it’s just funny. And explains why I love everything he writes. All the man needs are liner notes, then some of the hipsters who attended last night’s concert would find out who Townes, Woody Guthrie, Joe Hill and John Henry actually were.

Cory Younts is fucking incredible as well, the mandolin, the banjo, the harmonica…the man is a quick picking master, lyrical and gorgeous one minute, and then the best train you’ve ever heard, he can make your heart stop its beating. I almost prefer just the two of them together to the more orchestrated tracks on the albums, but then a CD can never speak to what it means to see someone play live. Go see them play. And buy their music here, more of it will go to the band and less to evil Amazon or itunes…

Frank Fairfield opened for them, and he was great too, he made me happy…like stepping back in time really, way back. And I couldn’t believe I was in L.A. The old school fiddle playing, banjo, guitar, the quaver in the voice, the shabby grey suit, the old Carter Family songs and pure death and desolation. There’s just something about him…you can hear him here, but contact him, stay up on where he’s playing, anything else? I’m afraid not…

G-20: Deescalating tension and getting the police to laugh

This video was shot by my friend Leonardo Vilchis currently in Londres, uploaded by someone I do not know to youtube, and a beautiful thing…

Leonardo is one of the folks I most love and admire, and here is what he said when he put it up on facebook…”Era increible el control que tuvo este hombre del espacio y como deescalo la tencion.” And you can tell. He has not just the protesters, but the police laughing. And a hug. The tensions have been so high, this must have a been a small moment where everyone became human again.

And there’s a school occupation on in Glasgow! Wyndham school to be exact! Glasgow City Council has been threatening the closure of a number of schools…some of my friends have been working on getting the news out about the council, check out the latest news on their blog.

And all the Iowans I know (and somehow I know a lot) are celebrating the fact that one of their courts says the ban on Gay Marriage is unconstitutional.

It’s been a good week for those fighting for a better world…just not in my neighborhood.

Should be, could be April Fools

Circle Stones tm (Crop Circle Flint tm) Please note that these terms have been copyrighted by the Metaphysical Guide to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. I encourage you to respect copyrights. I do.

Circle Stones are pieces of native Flint that have been found within Crop Circle formations in England. They seem to differ markedly from other Flint, on the energetic level (that’s the only possible level that can be argued I’m afraid)–even Flint from the same fields but outside the Crop Circle. The phenomenon was first noticed in 2007, in the three Crop Circles pictured above (sorry you can’t see them, they are pretty. I guess neither Dave, nor his tractor, were as drunk as I thought they were. I didn’t make Dave up, the fossil guy gets that distinction).

Flint is a sedimentary rock composed of entirely of silica. It occurs as concretions, in band or nodule form, in limestones, espceially chalk….(and it is a curse to British gardeners everywhere. Everywhere. It is ubiquitous)

Robert Simmons writes (someone told me he also wrote this article… why deny yourself the  joy of quoting … yourself? ) “Like Azeztulite, it is not so much what the stones are that matters, but rather what is being expressed through them (In my opinion, buying Azeztulite is also a pretty dodgy idea). We have found Flint which is not from crop circles to be a solid and helpful ally, and even the Circle Stones, as we call them, hold the qualities of Flint. Yet they also carry the currents of the crop circles themselves, and as such lead human beings into conscious communion with spiritual worlds and beings which are beyond our current imaginings. As a beginning I sat with one of he Circle Stones and worked meditatively to find the “voice” of the stone itself, and the intelligence behind it….(there doesn’t seem to be much intelligence in its physical proximity for certain)

Later that same night I slept with one of the Circle Stones (get your minds out of the gutter), I dreamed a great deal, and woke about midnight with my whole body tingling inside and out with a pleasurable current that seemed to be the life force itself…(all right maybe you were right to be in the gutter, and how much is that stuff again?)

And I haven’t much more to say about this at all…but at $1 a gram, this guy is pure genious.

Shocking Split Rocks Comics World: Alan Moore Abandoned by His Beard

In a shocking development that has left the international comic book community gasping in disbelief, acclaimed author Alan Moore has parted ways with his famous Beard, long rumored to be the source of Moore’s celebrated genius, as well as the driving force behind some of his more eccentric behavior. While the circumstances surrounding the split remain shrouded in mystery, reliable sources have speculated that The Beard was awakened to a state of heightened consciousness either by Moore’s exceptionally impassioned reading of Gogol’s “The Nose” (possibly during a full moon), or by a mistranslated passage in an incantation offered up to the author’s favored deity, the Macedonian Snake God Glycon.

Yeah yeah, I guess this is a proper April Fools, and I didn’t come up with it either, I just wish I did! Bridget McGovern did, you can finish the story here.

Echidnas!

They have spines, a long snout that combines the function of nose AND mouth, and they eat ants and termites. That’s the boring stuff. The fun stuff is here from wikipedia.

The long-beaked echidnas have tiny spines on their tongues that help capture their meals.

Echidnas and the Platypus are the only egg-laying mammals, known as monotremes. The female lays a single soft-shelled, leathery egg twenty-two days after mating and deposits it directly into her pouch. Hatching takes ten days; the young echidna, called a puggle, then sucks milk from the pores of the two milk patches (monotremes have no nipples) and remains in the pouch for forty-five to fifty-five days, at which time it starts to develop spines. The mother digs a nursery burrow and deposits the puggle, returning every five days to suckle it until it is weaned at seven months.

Male echidnas have a four-headed penis, but only two of the heads are used during mating. The other two heads “shut down” and do not grow in size. The heads used are swapped each time the mammal copulates.

Yep, I don’t think I need add anything to that. No nipples but a four headed penis that can switch-hit (they should have called THAT a puggle, but it’s a good name for a baby I guess)…wow.

Simon Bolivar

No, I’m not mocking Bolivar. Well, except for the fact that his full name was:

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Palacios y Blanco

I just think that’s funny for some reason.

Why Must I Cry (Crunk Remix) (You’ll never know, but it does inspire tears)

Yeah, I really wish this were a joke…I started out laughing and then was just more and more disturbed, though the “running away” scenes were pretty awesome. And the soap. In the shower. Dear God. Why indeed?

And I feel like I need a finale. That’s a lot of pressure, there’s so much good stuff in here. I’m going to think about it. Wait…

Nick Frost!

Was accidentally infected with the very real zombie virus while making Shaun of the Dead, and has been hiding his zombie nature since with the help of powerful friends of friends….