Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coffee Bar in Bay Ridge

Here is a slice of down-home-town americana
no trendy types here
ex-servicemen and their wives
fried breakfasts
talking 'bout the movies
eggs and sausages sizzle...

"never saw Sam that man."


"They caught him in the act."

"This is not an asylum."

"Are you sure?"

"They're gonna give you a number
You gotta write the number down."

"Sad about Tommy wasn't it?"


"Y'know, he used to come in here three or so times a week,
have his omelete, read the newspaper..."


"In fact he always sat just where you are sitting."

"I'd better move then."

"Ha ha!"

"No, you're ok. It doesn't matter where you're sittin'.
When your time is up, you gonna go."

"He he"


SoundWave @ Death By Audio

Space run as feminist collective. Living accomodation and adjacent performance venue in post industrial landscape (could miss the doorway hidden as it is among many doors of the same appearance). They maintain a full calendar of events including poetry readings, theatre, live music productions and art events almost every night of the week.

Inside, the walls are covered with bright coloured murals cartoon aesthetic and photocopy posterizing, flying angel mice with heart shaped faces play harps, while gruesome slime beasts smile appealingly. Painterly conversion into psychedelic grotto cake sale, zine/information stand beer stall art intervention. The venue is organised and manned by a dedicated new wave of young feminist activists of all genders seeking to continue the work of previous generations. Who, from their own experiences percieve that much still needs to be done to overcome prejudice and abuse.

Poets are up first exhibiting different styles; one speaks of failed relationships and victim abuse – highly personal accounts of pillowtalk and acts you may not be aware of; the second delivers hard hitting blows conscious experience of being both abused and abuser, appealing to our sense that the world changes with an awareness and ability to change oneself.

Live bands featured include a ukulele playing songstress and a well rehearsed poppy combo. The highlight for this participant was noon:30; a young black female three piece outfit who begin amongst sparse guitar and fluctuating frequency feedback modulations, incoming deep fuzz bass drives simple rhythm space chimes then from nowhere an angelic voice seeps into and over the sound and lifts the drone into another dimension. Sharp sonic blasts of cut and stitched tv radio broadcasts pierce ears carried by enduring trance state. The tempo is up and we are dancing and out comes the megaphone and she’s screaming her passion, commitment, defiance jumping into the audience this is now rockin drum driven guitar chandeliers.

A great night, and more power.

Images: Poster graffiti, Bedford Avenue

SoundWave activity @ Death by Audio

noon:30 megaphone and noon:30 Space Call

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dim Sum &
The Chinese New Year of The Rabbit

Meeting with friends at the House of The Golden Unicorn, I have to squeeze my way through crowded hallway all heaving with chatter and anticipation. Chinatown ways, we hold our number 25 and listen for the call to Dim Sum. When our turn arrives we ascend the stairs and enter in a large banqueting room filled with round tables where groups are talking over steaming plates. We are ushered by men in suits to a table which we share with others. Chinese women with trolleys in constant circulation offer and distribute tea and dumplings, noodles and black mushrooms, bock choi and rice communal portions lively chopstick rituals start a golden day.

Interestingly the parade in Chinatown begins with Americana spectacle of 1940's glamour girls riding in tow of open top car. They are dressed in bright coloured military uniforms kitsch nostalgic theatrical throwback a gloss red lipstick liberating force. As the main procession approaches from in the distance thousands wait popping occasional firecrackers launching confetti into the sky ringing the ears and myriad paper strips curl twist in winter sunlight street plumes glittering clouds sign the parade's progress

speak sparks of gold red black
fur lined silver threaded
writhing turning loop careering
martial art movements
balance lift hold
snaking dragons
lingering lions
elate the crowd in tinsel showers
popping and sparking
firework cracking
gold coin rain
parachuting prayers
gifts of good fortune
children jump to catch
other out-stretched hands
in silent camera clicking
intermittent interruption
in the flow of our perception

The colour proceeds against a backdrop that is China. Happy wishes. The year of the Rabbit has meaning for rabbits and we rabbits, we'll look for the positives. Walking back through the milling spectators side streets deep with purple and pink confetti not yet trodden and grim. Amongst the debris I find a red ribbon prayer good luck of a blessing retrieved and received. Just like me finding good fortune among the lost and discarded.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vietnam War Memorial:

Carved out of the land in triangular cut, following downward gradient flat polished black marble panels begin slightly the slow descent, one chiseled name becomes two, becomes three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty-one, thirty-four in exponential growth hundreds, thousands and still increasing. The black marble extends down further into the earth until soon countless columns of names reach over head height and we are down in the ground with the dead, grappling with an incalculable multitude of the fallen. Dizzy with dread looking ahead at the too slowly rising incline longing to escape, footsteps, confusion weary, slowly strain for emergence from an insufficient realisation of the scale of unimaginable suffering and loss. Dull shock affected and gasping for some air of understanding as deceased numbers decrease, one is left with bitter sensations and difficult questions of what has been done with the sacrifice of these so many gone souls?

And what of the opposing dead? What of the civilian men, women and children? Can we quantify the measure of the wake of human anguish and grief?

Small groups of visitors photograph names of lost kin; paper roses, stars and stripes, silent in the symbol of sufferings we may hope never even to imagine.

Squirrels scour and flip dry leaves and Washington memorial pierces the sky.

Images: Peace Vigil @ The Whitehouse

Washington Memorial

Excerpts from Washington DC

Overheard telephone conversations on the street:

“He treated me like one of his students.”

“I can’t really get along with her.”

Office politics and backroom consultations full volume confidential conducted at brisk walking pace on the way to the next public display of perfect manners and restraint

Meanwhile at the National Mall try to guess which of the joggers passing through the manicured scene are military or security, who are executive, diplomatic, secretarial. Atheletic administration in hardcourt prep for upcoming face offs

On a triangle of astro-turf sprouting between avenues, specimen canines and their well groomed owners socialise and pick-up-after in their collective taking of the air sporting around their railing enclosure golf course aesthetic polite collective hygene keeps sidewalks clean


Knowledge is POWER! 'educational' slogan, DC

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bronx Stroll On &
A Jazz Education

An evening walking the streets of the Bronx. High rise apartment blocks, community gardens, shops, delis, under the bridge industrial landscape. There is a smell of petroleum hanging and clinging in the throat, and the toxic perfumed vapours of laundry detergent that permeate the air, wafted by the constant roaring rush of traffic down the Concourse. Medical centres on every street corner built in to housing complexes signal high population density, low incomes and a polluted environment? The winter evening darkness, racing car-tyres slashing slush, piles of blackened snow and ice-entombed garbage accentuate the scene; I imagine spring is more pleasant with children playing in blossoming parks watched over by older generations and a beautiful sun.

Overriding impression today is of being the only white stranger among the many sidewalk inhabitants and commuters. Different languages at every turn, Cuban flags, car body shops, Chinese food, Halal shop live animals wander inside neon glare.

The young woman at the College tells me “Folk from Manhattan don't come here much...”, I guess they don't like traveling abroad, so near yet so far, a city divided.

I moved on down to Harlem later and had coffee in a small deli bar that has pictures of Che, Mandela and other advocates of freedom framed on the walls while water hot dripping leak spatters from the ceiling, “Yeah, we have to get that fixed”.

At the Harlem Jazz Museum we are treated to an up close and intimate performance by Jonathon Baptiste and his band opening up the audience with a hand clapping chorus of chants to “FREE - YOUR - MIND, FREE YOUR MIND, EV’RYBODY!” We are IN the groove. Segued numbers subtle transitions leading through phases, paces and moods. Youth now carrying the past into tomorrow making it their own. Strong talents, strong voices address issues of today urban gospel salvation for the metropolitan faithful. Wandering in and out of abstraction, to outer space and back again, breaking down the sound; rhythm section holding the groove down, brass harmony and piano melody in confident improvisation, playing one off one another adding style and colour, leading the assembled through patterns of sound. It was an education and a pleasure for us all to have learned so much about jazz and how to listen, follow, understand... the classical music of New York.

Images: Jonathon Baptiste and his Band @ The Harlem Jazz Museum 02/02/11

Monday, February 7, 2011

An hour to hang in the corridors of justice

Halls scattered with small ethnic groups talking different languages. Intense discussions, negotiations, calculations, speculations. Lawyers lurk making notes, planning tactics with clients in descending elevators. Game-plans echoing, reverberate at low pitch in over-engineered 1930's opulence; heavy brass, rich wood, smooth marble, in slow methodical curves and long straight runs. Airport style security installations intrude on the architecture, scratched glass dull aluminium, black rubber radar screening, conveyor belts empty contents of pockets confiscating digital devices.

Waiting for the part, waiting for the room, the whiteboard says misdemeanour the charge.
The little kiosk selling coffee and snacks in the foyer stocks a multitude of colourful painkillers and sedatives in plain evidence of the stress. Quick fix measures to get through the day, numb the anxiety, stop the flu cough, keep on top, ease the strain. I purchase a cup of coffee and on closer inspection of the disposable paper cup I am shocked by the subtle irony of the printed graphic: "Walter B. Laws' Law Coffee", wait for it... "Java For Your Journey"(!) Is that in or out? One lump or two? Black or white?

"EXCUSE ME!", "Yes sir?".

Silence returns to chatter. School yard for hard knock days revisited. A man in ragged jeans is traipsing the corridors clutching a tough leather belt looped in his large rough hand, vaguely threatening, oblivious, he passes us all by paying heed to no one. This place is almost verging on an asylum. People here suffering from their station, from their disadvantage, their social background (Theirs? or ours? and who are they? and who are we?). Surely personal pain may never be healed by incarceration? Maybe this is all just in this one hall? Maybe there are other halls with different types of offenders where the scene is less ruined and the people get off easier?

The EXIT sign says "Run, run... run to the light". The doorway beckons "Run to the light... but, forever run. On the run. Forever light. See the light. SEE, the light".

Image: restroom gaffiti, 'Harlem One'

Saturday, February 5, 2011

SHARE audio/visual jam @ ISSUE project room

ongoing assemblage of vital elements in progress
checking setting up everything operating

small random group
participants emerging
distant points in space slowly converging
in time and technology
foot-pedals arrayed
channels tested
computers booted
hot blasted cool heated
organically growing atmosphere
electronic distortion voice articulation
sea of frequency aqueous undulating rhythm
dolphin signals deep pressure tank immersion
sub-sonic congregation flows in waves
soft psychic rock formation punctuating ether
meeting of minds expressed combined
sound emulsions surface in a new light

artists & fleas

An indoor market with stalls selling artist, designer, vintage and vintage inspired jewelry, clothing, artifacts, antiques and collectibles.
Open every weekend in Williamsburg

images: Fredy Churoncalla and jewelry
'Rad TV', Leeds Electric
Vintage stall detail

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shim Sham @ The Kitchen

Roxanne 'Butterfly' eyes wide open and spellbinding feet
tip tap click clack she's stampin' and hoofin'
sounding the origins of the broadway boogie beat
coded history in staccato rhythms
telling motion and emotion
keeping alive the story of the street

each has their own hard won step up to the stage
high speedin' slow slidin' scrapin' sweepin' and drawin'
rippin' heart and soul
writing in sound

a foot flying archive
shoe shine boy roots
a living oracle to pass on down
a youthful future to carry
generations unite in the shim sham shimmy

the foot stomping congregation
blown away by the revelation
Jazz sews the threads
of a true multi-culture

the transaction is love

the story is told

Shim Sham at The Kitchen 29th January