“The Ballad of Holland Island House”

You know I’m not hip. How many times have I told you that I’m not hip. I’m not hip. That’s why it took six years for me to discover this lovely, soulful animation by Lynn Tomlinson. And you can find more like it at Lynn Tomlinson’s Vimeo channel.

“The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.”

City in a Garden

Photos by Roman.

Given my scattered and fragmentary knowledge of botany, I was wondering what to say about these photos.

dsc04817a
Photo by Roman.

Well, these are street decorations in my neighborhood, probably paid for by either a special service assessment of local businesses or a tax increment financing district. With perky optimism, one could regard it as a way of taking the city slogan (“urbs in horto“) seriously, even if it’s not quite as dramatic as being it being used as a justification for beating up protestors.

What? Oh, sorry. It’s an old grudge. Younger folks won’t remember that Mayor Richard Daley the Elder issued a report justifying the police riots at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention that was titled “What trees do they plant?”

Good question even if it was beside the point.

Marketing on behalf of local businesses, most especially FIRE (Finance Insurance Real Estate), is probably the gardens’ more germane intent.

Whatever. Even though these little gardens sometimes are ruinous and even though more than  a few of the trees they plant hardly survive the year, I’m glad someone makes the effort.

Metnong: Live!

Well, they were at the time. Alive, that is. The time was 1980s experimental jazz in Chicago. At least, I think “experimental” is what one would call it, but I am sure about jazz, Chicago and the 1980s. Metnong: Live! (that is the title, I think, though the cassette cover is remarkably unhelpful) is one of two albums released by Metnong, the other being A Vast Orbital Kiss. You can find a copy of that at the Internet Archive.

Since the cassette cover is remarkably unhelpful, this post will have to serve as its liner notes.

Very well, then. Though I am mostly unsuitable for the task. I am not a musician nor a tribal follower of musicians and music. But I was a friend of the band, having known Steve Owens from years long before Metnong. We had been distant neighbors (same wing, different floor) with an overlapping set of friends in the same university dormitory complex. We both hung out with the Ozone Ranger, for example.

But you won’t find Steve Owens listed on the cassette cover. For Side A, the list is jab weird, steve ivan, harry lenz, and yuri. For Side B, the list is jab weird, steve ivan, and harry lenz. “steve ivan” is my friend Steve Owens. “harry lenz” and “jab weird” were introduced to me as Richard and Julie Kovacs… another pseudonym as the name was actually Theodore. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Why all the pseudonyms? I simply can’t tell you. You see how I fail as a liner notes raconteur? Being secretive might have some entertainment value, but I can’t even offer that: I don’t know.

Neither Richard nor Julie are around to ask. Richard died more than a decade ago and Julie years before that. When asked, Steve vaguely waves and mumbles something about the law but I suspect he’s being both diplomatic and dramatic. Musicians, after all… I mean, some of the places they played may not have had an entertainment license, but really.

Posting these recordings is not a nostalgia trip for me. I think there is work and history worth preserving here. When I spoke to him about posting these recordings, Steve was a bit startled when I told him that I was more into these recordings now than I was at the time. Possibly I’m a bit more inclined to listen now than I was then…

The thing about experimental art is: It’s experimental. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works in unexpected ways. And that is the always unexpected pleasure in just listening. Judge for yourself:

Side A (43:31) recorded at batteries not included february 14, 1988, by fred

Side B (37:21) recorded on mars a week later (time warp over warsaw) by dick teddy

metnongcover
Metnong: Live cassette cover. Photo by Roman.

“LSD a go go”

On one level, this video from Scott Calonico’s Vimeo Channel allows a “drug education” documentary to self-parody to the point of uncontrollable hilarity, but then, by adding stories of the CIA’s involvement with LSD, makes sure that all the laughter has a distinctly uneasy edge:

And, yes, there is more of the above where it came from.

Insurrection

This is an outstanding and thought-provoking piece of work by the New York Times. It deserves to be circulated. Spread it around.

After watching this, I was left uncertain about my reaction to it and what I might want to say about it. So I’ll limit myself to a tangential observation. I’m not a pacifist so I hope I’m not sounding sanctimonious about this, but unless you have some ideological commitment to violent revolution, this is headed in the wrong direction. Whatever else this video is, it is a warning about how violence in politics feeds on itself.

Door Into…?

This door was part of the Hoffmann Tower and Dam complex in Riverside, Illinois. The Desplaines River had been dammed at that location for commercial power back in the 19th Century. My fuzzy recollection is that the Tower (and the smaller building featuring this door) were part of an amusement park (Niagara Park) established by a brewer in the first years of the 20th Century. The park didn’t quite make it through Prohibition. Apparently getting high was an indispensable part of the amusement and the Tower alone did not suffice. Its other claim to fame was that it was among the earliest reinforced concrete structures in Illinois. I don’t know the function of the Tower or this smaller building. You will note, however, an interior door from the modern aluminium exterior door and the doorbell to the right. My visit there was back in 2006. Since then I understand the dam has been removed. You can find more info at the Library of Congress.

2006jul-012
Hoffmann Tower in Riverside, Illinois: an early example of reinforced concrete construction. Photo by Roman.

2006jul-046
Hoffmann Dam in Riverside, Illinois, July, 2006. The 3rd or 4th version of the dam, it has since been removed. Photo by Roman.

The Landlord

The management company decreed that there should be an inspection of all the units in the building, just the safety appliances you understand, just a moment of your time, you need not even be home and truly we’d rather you were not. And so it was that I was home to receive that knock at the door for that brief inspection, truly brief, no longer than a rectal exam but alas even less pleasant…

I exaggerate.*

Yet it did leave me feeling rather venomous toward the company and that brought to mind a long gone poetry ‘zine that I had subscribed to back in the day when I had hallucinatory aspirations to be a poet. I saved it for this poem by the late John Dickson. I saved it for just an occasion like this. I should have saved it with the aspiration to write as well as this:

poetryandlandlord
From “Poetry &”, December 1976, scanned by Roman.

Poetry & was edited by JoAnn Castagna. It was printed on newsprint and folded to letter size, an inexpensive way of printing a larger press run. I can imagine distribution being something more than a chore. In any case, I don’t recall the ‘zine lasting much beyond Volume 1.

VoilĂ . With this post, I’ve had a revenge of sorts, the best kind: mostly imaginary.


* Also, it was as much me as them. Regardless, Dickson’s poem addresses, in a general way, the relations involved.