Monday, November 30 2020

I spent November in the past, finishing a memoir. I’ve been having a little trouble coming back. My stop-over island between Now and Then is a documentary called I Like Killing Flies. Matt Mahurin made this movie about Kenny Shopsin, his restaurant, and his family in 2004. The New York seen here—waves vaguely—was an unlikely fish pancake of comfort and desire and conflict. Mahurin’s unfussy, no budget video captures how we moved and what we ate (if we were lucky). It also documents Kenny’s move to the Carmine Street corner space, a location missing from the Shopsin’s Wiki.


Manfred Kirchheimer’s Free Time is the sixth film made from a load of footage Walter Hess and Kirchheimer shot in the 1950s. (Claw, for instance, was also made from that haul.) The below stills are all from Free Time, a hundred tableaux conjoined into a peaceful thrum. The title is what Kirchherimer captures here, an aimless kind of suspension in the streets that just isn’t possible now. No phones in sight? We don’t even have watches, mister! Its virtual run at Film Forum ends on Thursday.


You know that footage of the drunken British lads kissing and hitting each other with chairs? Let it run to its many logical conclusions with the the Hard Lads game, a thing I paid five dollars for. Would I have done this without the pandemic? Yes.


Many events of this past five or six years have been shaped by a behavioral pattern native to actors of all political stripes: affect and assertion. Someone announces a feeling and then asserts, as empirical, a vague story that supports the feeling. This pattern is another version of a larger dyad presented as myth vs. inquiry in this American History XYZ piece I wrote for Bookforum.


For anyone else grieving, Nick Cave’s latest Red Hand Letter provides a good, concrete suggestion.


Here is a long interview I did with Emily J. Lordi for Bookforum. It’s about soul!


Are people around you talking shit about TikTok? Have you, yourself, become a scold? The teens of TikTok are infinitely more interesting than your buddies on Twitter. They are talking about Southern potluck socialism and family relationships to slavery and the Fermi paradox.


Bill Callahan and Will Oldham cover “Deacon Blues” with Bill McKay. Sublime. Ariana Grande and Thundercat play “Them Changes.” Also sublime, and more solos than most jazz.


A lot of this Judith Butler and Claudia Rankine conversation from October 29th, 2020 is a bit polite, but go to 35:00 and watch the short film called Situation 11. Made by Rankine and John Lucas, this piece is roughly six minutes of repurposed smartphone footage, a bit like Arthur Jafa’s Love Is The Message. The films starts with Amy Cooper and moves into an inferno cake of Karens. The layer of the lens, that gap between the viewer and these monsters, allows them to be apprehended in their full violence. After the video plays, Rankine asks Butler, “What do you have to say for your people?” The politeness drops and the conversation lights up.


A 1973 documentary on Eno, twenty-four minutes of our boy in full makeup, making sick drones and talking about “the element of judgment” replacing “the element of skill” while recording Here Comes The Warm Jets. At 4:40, he low-key becomes William Basinski! The footage of his teenage notebooks is amazing, as is his confession that he “didn’t have a single new thought” during a year of touring with Roxy Music.


This is Patti Smith's first performance, recorded on February 10, 1971 at St. Marks Church. I find it wildly moving and I’m basically agnostic on Patti the musician. (I love the writer.) Her stage banter is adorable and reminds me of how effective mythologizing was before the internet. You could paint anybody as a rock ‘n’ roll animal primal beastie shaman if you didn’t have a recording of them giggling nervously and gently tip-toeing into adulthood.


Volume 2 of the Neil Young Archives is 139 tracks that, as far as I can tell, do not falter. I’ve listened to this entire thing three times in one week.