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8 January 2010

Fun with problems

neversleepsneverquits
The urge is to disclose all my problems.
The problem is that I don’t realize they’re obvious.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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19 October 2009

Epic parties & the morning after

weliketoparty

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& equally epic afterparties:

statement
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11 August 2009

Responsibility is my albatross

Seriously though. It is. The same can not be said about the San Francisco band Girls if their latest video is anything to go by.

And I love them for it. My previously established band crush continues. I am reminded of visits to friends in unfamiliar cities; of idealized staycations; of taking pleasure in your friends & what’s around you.

I clicked around some more online and found some older videos by them. These ones are a bit more homemade than the already homemade aesthetic of their more recent vids. I’ll admit that, by comparison, they are somewhat pitiful. In an awesome way — all of them suffused with that same California mood & California light. But still. Sort of pitifulawesome. After the jump, more of these halcyon days & halcyon ways.

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28 July 2009

Merce died…

UPDATED APRIL 22, 2011: As you can see from the comments at the end of this post, I attributed the quotes that originally accompanied these pictures to the wrong person. They were not from Merce, but from a colleague of his named Nancy Dalva. I’d recommend you read the full text of her piece “How to be a Guru.”

Whoops! The internet is confusing. Enjoy her piece, and enjoy the pictures in isolation.

***

I hope you will not consider it horn tooting to point out my earlier post about him, as brief as it was. I am so happy, now, that I saw him before he was found. And all I can say is at least he seemed to know what was coming. There’s a beauty in that, in preparation.

And, also, there’s a certain beauty in improvisation. So, in what I hope you’ll take as an experiment in what Merce himself might have called “chance procedures,” here are a series of images from the Black Lips concert I attended the day before he passed, along with quotes from the man himself. No explicit connection, but imply whatever you’d like.

Photos via BrooklynVegan.com by Bao Nguyen. Quotations via Bill Bragin‘s Twitter stream.

***

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]

[Redacted at the request of Nancy Dalva.]
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28 June 2009

MJ salute…in black or white.

mjwave

The only thing I could think about when I heard the news was everything save its import as news per se. What I thought about was the prior death of Ed McMahon; the nearly simultaneous passing of Farrah Fawcett; and last month’s sign off by Dom DeLuise.

I returned to a far earlier time. These were icons of so many adolescences, including my own. The world that raised me would forever be turned upside-down. It was preparing to one day be forgotten.

farrahfawcett
Farrah capsized.

I was reminded of May 16, 1990, the day both Sammy Davis Jr and Jim Henson died.
jimhensonsammydavis
That day, at age fifteen, it seemed as if the entire cosmology of people who were famous to me as a 10 year old might die simultaneously. With last week’s news, it’s as if Cannonball Run were a snuff film; as if the cast — and a constellation of “could be” cameo stars — were being targeted for elimination, one-by-one.

The idea I’d like to play with here is The Problem With Nostalgia, one of the many being the sad truth of it’s ephemeral nature. To explore this, let’s try on for size a pair MJ pictures that have been replicated less frequently in recent days.
mjsinatra

mjastaire
(Prior two images via The Floacist)

In the first, MJ is pictured with another all around entertainer, Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). I’m guessing most readers of this BLOG (generally speaking, you are within fifteen years of my age) will recognize him.

I’m just as certain a large number of people will not recognize the man whom MJ is pictured with in the second photograph. He is not pictured in his prime. And he’s been gone for almost generation. (Hell even Jackson, pictured with naturalistic afro, may be unrecognizable.) Anyway, that man is Fred Astaire (1899-1987), the most famous song and dance man from vaudeville and early film, and a major stated influence on Jackson. Viz MJ’s video tribute to Astaire as muse

…versus this mash up, which sets Astaire against MJ’s music:

Having slipped into retirement for the first time in 1947, Astaire is emblematic of what happens to the wide renown of The Most Famous People In The World if their fame derives from popular culture.

It fades.

I’ve heard it said that the only person who cried real tears for Michael Jackson was Madonna. She’s the only one who gets it, the only one who understands.

***

The picture at the top of this post gives a hint of how so many of the newscast memorials to MJ have been cast. He is pale and ghostly, like a phantom rider. (This one or that one? You decide.) He is too aware that his time of passing is imminent, too knowledgeable that he has maximized his use value in this world. Even his blackness — which once served as a culture warping contrast to the skin of Sinatra and Astaire — had been bleached away. In that picture at the top of this post, MJ is not so much here as in stasis, trapped in an extended goodbye.

I prefer to remember MJ as the creator behind one of my earliest cassettes, a man who — because of an equally early acquisition of Van Halen’s 1984 — ended up on a shelf where it literally seemed as if he was being looked after by an angel:
mjvanhalen

Of course, MJ’s presence was more complex than that of a simple blessed being. As the maker of Thriller, he designed a perfect introduction to horror for pre-adolescents; yet more curious is the fact that when he then had his hair set on fire by Pepsi Cola itself, the reaction wasn’t horror, but humor. That incident introduced a generation to notions of sarcasm and ironic hilarity. It gave us our Icarus-like understanding of fame. Those who fly to close to the sun must get burned. MJ would become a Ghost Rider, indeed.
ghostrider

But I’ll be frank. The recollection I am going to cultivate, the nostalgia that will become my truth, is that MJ was someone not-quite-real — porcelain-perfect, he’ll have the skin he always wanted, and he will be surrounded by friends, and he’ll be in a happier place, glimmering gold.

A picture of what I mean by this after the jump…
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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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