Sequoia National Park photo contest

So this surprised me this morning.

I haven’t been in a contest or competition or vied for an award for pretty much my entire adult life. It’s not my thing. In high school, my teachers entered paintings I did in school district contests without even asking (which is indirectly related to how I got accepted in to college, what with my uninspiring academic performance). I was nominated best artist in my senior year, or something like that. My main art teacher wisely vetoed the win that most people seemed to agree was mine to have, and gave it to the school paper cartoonist instead. To teach me a lesson.

It worked.

Thank you Jerry Citrin for that. Sincerely, I thank this wonderful, inspiring man many days of my life for teaching me that lesson.

On a lark, a few weeks ago, I saw the SEKI announcement about the photo contest, and figured, what the hell, throw a couple photos in the ring, and forget about it.

For a change, that’s what I did.

A friend asked what the prize is. I don’t know. I didn’t look, and I’m not concerned. I’m sure it’s cool, whatever it is.

Mainly, I’m glad to give a little something back to SEKI NPS, a place that holds some of the universe’s most beautiful secrets. Some are easy to find. Others take work and knowledge and skill, and sometimes just a touch of fearlessness. The place that yielded this photo is unseen by probably 95% of all the parks’ visitors. Simply getting there is half the photograph.

But as with all of the secrets of the mountains and forests and deserts, the getting there is its own reward, and as long as the trees will ever stand and the water will ever move, that reward precedes, and then follows, any mere photograph we might ever take.

Morton Feldman: piano music

Pre-orders of Another Timbre’s new 5 CD set of almost all of Feldman’s piano music shipped today. I’m so excited!

I’m listening to Philip Thomas’ performance of “Triadic Memories” right now. It is wonderful.

If you ordered already, access to an uninterrupted .flac of the 90 minute piece is provided. Hence, this preview.

Buy it today, directly from Another Timbre.

Powerviolence, cuteness, hardcore

So when I speak of punk here, I mean a particular type of hopelessness, one that is an affective response to a bleak reality: running oneself into the ground or otherwise spasmodically squirming under the pressure; being loud as hell and being certain that it ultimately amounts to little noise. What I’m getting at here is hardcore as it relates to a sadomasochistic use of the term, an autoerotic impulse to step on yourself, to get in your own way, to treat yourself like trash. It’s in Henry Rollins’ and Darby Crash’s self-loathing. It was there in Iggy Pop’s and Alan Vega’s proto-punk self-immolation. It was there from the start but lost as delusions of success (and sometimes, frankly, delusions of political agency) developed. What I’m talking about is hardcore as a tool for the enunciation of panic and disillusionment. It couldn’t last long. It didn’t. But in the cracks of its short run (Reagan’s first term, 1981-1984) were a handful of records that exemplified the genre’s potential and preempted darker styles to come.

This essay by Ben Levinson offers a remarkably fresh and perceptive take on some of the more theoretical implications of a particular time, centered in the 1980s, in the evolution of punk, hardcore, thrash, metal, and other related forms of expression.

It also happens to connect quite deeply with my own experience as a teenager in the early 80s. I saw many of these bands many times. I shared stages with some of them, with bands I was in. I was friends with them. I contributed photographs to zines and album covers; wrote reviews, designed flyers, recorded demos…I was fully committed. While bands like Siege and Infest appeared at a time when I’d already mostly drifted away from hardcore, the culture surrounding their antecedents was everything to me; the stuff that buoyed me through high school. In September, 1985, I moved to San Francisco to go to college (in the back of a touring van of a band no less; I slept in there for a few days). Then the world broke open in a hundred other new ways, much as the first time I heard Black Flag, in junior high, was its owns supernova, before that. There was no looking back.

As if it’s not obvious to the people who really know me, the values and conceptual filters and assumptions on which a lot of my thinking is based today were developed and adopted in this time, and it’s gratifying to discover a younger generation reading this rather hermetic culture so perceptively.


Relating to the previous subject:

I am often suspicious of songs which too readily seek out the tonic, but there are certain exceptions I make.

Sleep point to the apotheosis of the tonic. Indeed, “Dopesmoker” is a vast, glorious paean to the hallowed joy of the tonic.

It’s a one hour journey everyone should take every now and then, as a tonic, as it were.