Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Inverted Fountain

As the Arizona summer settles in and turns the brain to custard, I think on days and nights back in Los Angeles spent sitting in and around the Inverted Fountain at UCLA.

The Inverted Fountain sits on the far east side of the campus.
The fountain's architects/designers (I believe, primarily, Howard Troller of Jere Hazlett)were challenged to come up with a fountain that departed from the usual water-shooting-upward format. Howard Troller was inspired by the potholes and hotsprings in the bubbling waters of Yellowstone Park;
"Unlike traditional fountains, the water of the Inverted Fountain flows inward across a bed of mutli-colored rocks, handpicked by Troller in Claremont, Calif. The current then meets at an off-center well, creating a miniature waterfall plunging into a 12-foot wide, 5-foot deep center that recirculates the water at 10,000 gallons per minute. The water’s movement adds a natural, yet distinct, sound to the south end of campus –that of a flowing mountain stream." (this from

On the periphery of the fountain was an inset area that was perfect for sitting and letting the water wash over you. That fountain was a nourishing source, vivid to this day, that I, and I'm sure countless others can at least return to in their imagination.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Decasia is a creative film montage meticulously and passionately assembled by Bill Morrison from a wide variety of early 20th century silver nitrate films in various states of decay and deterioration. Many of these films are (or were) poised on the brink of an obliteration that, in its final stages, curls them up into a donut-like goo before turning to dust.
Initially, Morrison happened upon old documentary films from the Fox Film company, archived and forgotten in Columbia, South Carolina - but as his project took shape, and film archivists were impressed by his devotion, he gained access to films from the Library of congress and MOMA.

While putting the film together, he found a partner traversing a somewhat parallel path in the music world, composer Michael Gordon. Using deterioration, distortion, de-tuning of sounds together with a variety of ethnic, and even rock directions, in a layered, minimalist fashion Gordon created a soundtrack for Decasia that intensifies Morrison's vision but leaves enough ambiguity to let the listener's imagination and emotions run wild.

Among the images... breaking waves, a hand-driven ferris wheel, dervish dancers, nuns walking through a convent, light comedies (one featuring Pearl White), rocket ship rides at Luna Park in Brooklyn, geishas, boxers, butterflies,
court room scenes, baptisms, parachutists, a man saved from drowning, volcanic craters, newborn babies - all intertwined with the blotches, globs, pustules, explosions, dots like black swarms of insects, melting acid fireworks like bioluminescent sponges from the depths of the sea that are the emblems of the decaying film.
In one scene a boxer is sparring with a shape created by the decay that twists and turns into an amorphous, bubbling, curtain of glitter.

Part of the spell the film casts, is an interplay between the intention and innocence of the original films and the inevitability of decay, dissolution, and death inherent in everything that moves and takes form. Unknown to them, decay dances around the living people, the streets and palaces, never repeating itself in particulars; at times it seems to consciously follow a shoe or a face, it shimmers backward and forward between positive and negative exposure, radiating eerie lights, transforming the springtime frolic of lovers into shadow dancing figures in a haunted masque ballroom.

By all means, go straight to and (on the second page, at the bottom)
select "footage". you can watch and hear two 5 minute clips from the film which runs more than an hour in its entirety.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Stumbled across this Italian word the other day. Its one of those words that are idiosyncratic to a language, ie. panache in French weltanschuung in German and maybe or maybe not quite translatable into English....

"Sprezzatura" (pronounced 'sprehts-ah-TOO-ra') was first used in print by the Renaissance Italian statesman Castiglione, who describes it as a style of behaviour in which every action,"conceals art, and presents what is done and said as if it was done without effort or virtually without thought."
More simply put, i've heard it elsewhere described as "performing something difficult in effortless and nonchalant manner".

The unassuming seamless bravado of Zen Swordsmanship or, in Hollywood terms, Clint Eastwood taking care of business in Wild West.

Come to think of it, there should be a word like "contra-sprezzatura" that defines actions by the likes of Mr.Bean: getting dressed in the morning or taking a civil service exam (or myself trying to
work a VCR/DVD...well, actually this is not acting). In other words, an easy action requiring little skill made to look incredibly complex and difficult. Hmmm...the implications are staggering.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Tops of the Pops

Time for a quick one;
My most-listened-to list for the past month;
Springtime can Kill You (Dig) - Jolie Holland
.....her most dreamlike and weathery in tone, as in the edgier tonalist painters like Inness and Ryder but with a whiskey tinge, in that kind of New Orleans ghostroom Appalachian funky gypsy hobo-beat on the front porch in the mist kinda way she has. Fave-wise it's "Mexican Blue" out in front by a longshot, followed by "Crush In the Ghetto", "Stubborn Beast" head to head, "Springtime Can Kill You" and "Moonshiner" burning up the track not far behind...(On Spike Jones' record it's "Cabbage" by a head...followed by "Bee-eetlebaum!").

Fuchsia Swing Song Sam Rivers
....chord changes but Sam plays with such a free and liberating feel. Thanks Jimmy, for reminding of "Conference of the Birds" again.

Birds of Our Neighborhood - Innocence Mission
....Karen Peris is an angel on this earth. Not my fave album of their's (Glow and Befriended take the cake) but i play 2 songs from it over and over day after day. "Lakes of Canada" and "Snow".

The World of Nat King Cole - you know who
...On the Street Where You Live...gotta hear it every day