May 14, 2009

Once you've begun to think like a gun
The days of the year have already gone



Tod Papageorge, Central Park, 1978

* Profile of John Cale as he prepares to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale. excerpt:

"Cale's first language is Welsh, even though his father, a miner, was exclusively English-speaking. The family home was dominated by his grandmother, who enforced a Welsh-only rule. He learned English at school and wasn't able to speak to his father until he was seven. He grew up among the sounds of a musical nation, and on the film's soundtrack he includes a rugby crowd roaring the national anthem: this is played over film of him being tortured by waterboarding, a scene that suggests some ambivalence towards his homeland.

"The image of a house ruled by the grandmother - the 'nain' - is troubling, but typical of a Wales where the older generation have a particular kind of authority. In the 1980s, my own escape from this was to listen to Heroin; Cale's was a lot less vicarious.

"His musical brilliance got him to New York and there, in 1963, aged 21, he performed in an eight-hour piano marathon of Erik Satie's Vexations, organised by avant-garde composer John Cage. He then joined La Monte Young's band, which was experimenting with 'drone' - the sustaining of the same note for a very long time. The point of drone, for Cale, is sensory deprivation - 'but what I was really hoping for was something that could reach into the subconscious. I though we could do that with the Velvet Underground.' The difference between John Cale playing one note and other, later punks playing one note is that he could play all the others, too - if he wanted. The reason he didn't was because, at the time, he evidently didn't want to be the good Welsh boy, deep as his patriotism is.

"It is not surprising that Cale has now turned to art, for he owes so much to an artist: Andy Warhol produced the Velvets' first album and designed its banana peel cover. No figure in modern culture is more misunderstood than the Velvets' manager, and nobody speaks up for Warhol more eloquently than Cale. He won't hear a word against Andy. The Factory, he insists, was a true underground - "it was outrageously creative and vital" - and Warhol cared about, and properly curated, the Velvets. A rare bit of footage Warhol shot in the Factory shows Cale fiddling with the amplifier, while Reed strums and drummer Maureen Tucker knocks out her steady, dry beat. Warhol listened carefully, and remembered it all. 'He was the one who'd remind us of an idea we'd forgotten.'"

* A New York Post reader did the math and determined that for about $2000 less than seeing a game from the best seats in new Yankee Stadium, you can fly to Seattle and see two games from the best seats in that park:

"Option 1: Two tickets to Tuesday night, June 30, Mariners at Yanks, cost for just the tickets, $5,000.

"Option 2: Two round-trip airline tickets to Seattle, Friday, Aug. 14, return Sunday the 16th, rental car for three days, two-night double occupancy stay in four-star hotel, two top tickets to both the Saturday and Sunday Yanks-Mariners games, two best-restaurant-in-town dinners for two. Total cost, $2,800. Plus-frequent flyer miles."

* "If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." -- Sir Francis Bacon

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