And He Never Left!

Andrea Carney and David Hughes

In a comment to my post The Stranger Alongside Me in September our friend Milania remarked on my being a rescuer. In reply my husband David Hughes said, “I guess you could say she rescued me forty-four years ago this month! We’ll have to have Andrea tell that tale some day.” Milania urged me to do so “sooner rather than later.” Okay, but I should say that “rescue” sounds more dramatic that it really was, although David and I agreed that this story could get a little bit personal. Continue reading “And He Never Left!”

“Eat the book”: Electric Evangelists 2

Saint Francis @ Walmart

This second and likely last installment of Electric Evangelists (see Part 1) looks at longer works by two composers, both choosing to present religious texts simply spoken atop electronic scores. The third and fourth pieces are artifacts of pop culture, coupling SoCal evangelical eccentricity with European élan. The last composition contains no text at all. Continue reading ““Eat the book”: Electric Evangelists 2″

Falling Awake: Joseph Shuldiner (1957–2019)

Joseph Shuldiner

Yesterday my friend and collaborator Rob Berg messaged me that my old, dear friend Joseph Shuldiner died. Of a brain tumor. It’s a cruel joke: I’m the one bingeing on cheddar cheese, and last week I was told to go on statins.

My heart goes out to his spouse Bruce Schwartz, his sister Judy, and to all he’s touched.

Joseph and I go a long way back, but hadn’t corresponded for several years. Looking for a photograph last night I came upon a half-dozen file folders containing the following mementos. Continue reading “Falling Awake: Joseph Shuldiner (1957–2019)”

Rosenberg Resistance

Léger - Mockup for a scarf

The year 2003 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Their killing had a great impact on my wife Andrea Carney (see Part 1 and Part 2 of our trilogy). Somehow I learned that a major commemoration would be held in New York City on June 19, the same day they were killed. It was produced by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, founded in 1990 by the Rosenbergs’ son Robert, who was grateful for the support he and his brother Michael had been shown during the jailing of, and after the killing of, their parents. The fund’s purpose is “to find and help children today who are enduring the same kind of nightmare he endured as a child.”1 Continue reading “Rosenberg Resistance”

Vaneigem and Bubblegum

Zulu Compilation Gatefold image

Last week, when I was uninspired whilst reviewing my running list of blog topics, YouTube operated as a sort of Oblique Strategies, the deck of cards initially developed by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt independently in the late 1960s and early ’70s. (Eno included four of Schmidt’s prints in his 1977 album Before and After Science.) The cards’ suggestions and comments can act as disinterested—oblique—prods for artists when they encounter roadblocks during the creative process. And so YouTube essentially did the same for me, but not obliquely—rather, evidently, based on my past searches and pointing-and-clicking. “Recommended for you” last week was an obscure track from The Zulu Compilation (1984), an album I happen to have in my collection. Zulu Records was formed by Jayne Casey and Ambrose Reynolds (both of whom also worked in the band Pink Industry, which issued lovely minimalist and melancholic music in the ’80s). The compilation is perhaps most collectible for its inclusion of a pre-Trevor Horn version of “Love Has Got a Gun” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

I hadn’t listened to that compilation LP in years and had completely forgotten the track YouTube selected for me: “The Kremlin in Flame [sic]” by S.T.F.O.T.P.A. It sounds like something from the 1976 Art & Language-Red Crayola collaboration, Corrected Slogans (discussed in my post I Found That Essence Rare). After some searching I found the identity of the track’s creators in a 2010 interview by Arthur McDonald of The Royal Family and the Poor fame. Except that I’d never heard of the band. Or, rather, when coming across their LPs, two of which were issued by Factory Records, I’d passed them by. Continue reading “Vaneigem and Bubblegum”

The Pageantry, the Spectacle

Low still image

Back in the 1980s I was given tickets to a Southern California kitsch institution, Pageant of the Masters. The concept intrigued: an amphitheater stage filled with “ninety minutes of tableaux vivants (living pictures), incredibly faithful re­creations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces,” as described on the event website. But the execution, meticulous as it was, underwhelmed. I guess I wanted more vivants in the tableaux, which occurred too infrequently. But it did occur in a sort of sideshow.

That sideshow was not the companion Fine Art Show, which we took in before the Pageant and from which Andrea and I bought a couple of hand-altered Polaroids that hang on our walls today. Allow me to digress…

Boom Boom Room

The Fine Art Show was conspicuous by the omission of skin: many of the artists appeared to be too well constrained by a bland family-friendly bubble-wrap envelope, but not so well contained that we couldn’t detect hints of riskier work. Hell, Laguna Beach (the Pageant/Show’s site) was home to the Boom Boom Room, which OC Weekly (formerly a sibling to Denver’s Westword via Voice Media Group) claims to have been “the oldest gay bar in the Western United States,” its host hotel, the Coast Inn, having opened in 1929, per the founders’ granddaughter’s timeline. Laguna even had its own chapter of the Mattachine Society beginning in the ’50s. Continue reading “The Pageantry, the Spectacle”

Seeing Things

This Liberty still image

This past summer in Cheyenne my uncle Richard Hughes told me of his hallucinations. That a man going blind might also view visions seems an insult to injury. Yet his condition has a name—Charles Bonnet syndrome—after an eighteenth-century Swiss naturalist and philosopher. As profiled in ACNR (Vol. 8, No. 5, 19) Bonnet first listed his grandfather’s

silent visions of men, women, birds, carriages, and buildings, which he fully realised were ‘fictions’ of his brain. Bonnet himself later underwent visual deterioration and experienced hallucinations typical of the syndrome named after him […].

(Compare with “Blinky” Watts, the sound effects technician character from David Lynch’s short-lived TV series On the Air, who suffers from Bozeman’s Simplex, which causes him to see “25.62 times as much as we do.”)

Six months prior I came across a song by Richard Dawson, which I wanted to write about tonight only to find that he too sees things (due to a genetic defect), but through a glass darkly, as Dawson told The Guardian‘s Michael Hann, who remarked, “There’s an almost hallucinatory clarity to his writing.” Continue reading “Seeing Things”