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RE/SEARCH eNEWSLETTER #12

eNewsletter #12, December 2000

WELCOME TO RE/SEARCH eNEWSLETTER #12! HERE’S THE NEWS FROM SAN FRANCISCO…

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KENNETH ANGER AND MATTHEW BARNEY AT THE S.F. ART INSTITUTEKenneth Anger arrived early to sell scarce books, videos and memorabilia at a table outside, gave a substantial talk and showed films. Anger was definitely the first to use rock’n’roll songs as twisted social commentary in his groundbreaking homophilic “Scorpio Rising” biker film. Unafraid to be kitsch or low-culture, Anger has always expressed his obsessions and lusts, lacing them with “occult” symbolism. He will be revisiting the San Francisco in spring of 2001.

As for the ultrachic Matthew Barney, all we can say is: he’s a master of surface shock value, glitz, speed and genderf__k. He knows how to milk our fears while packaging memorable images and theatre in plotless, lengthy, high-gloss advertisements for himself. There’s definitely a twisted sense of high-tech humor there, albeit narcissistic. People who like Barney probably like Jeff Koons’ huge outdoor dog sculpture, Bill Viola’s one-trick-pony video “art,” and the formaldehyde-Freud-Bacon works of Damien Hirst and his fellow Brit-Art Pack. The art $uperstar (scion of Barneys, almost the most expensive men’s clothing store in NYC) did not show to collect his $7000 in person, too busy on his next Cremaster episode to make the trip.

COMING UP

December is the last month you can savor the architecture of the original DE YOUNG MUSEUM in Golden Gate Park (Wed, Dec 6 is FREE). I recall the great Tutankhamen exhibit during the punk ’70s, the exceptional “primitive” pieces from New Ireland in the Oceanic art section, the great 19th century American landscape and naive art paintings (“Susannah and the Elders” a favorite). For political $ reasons the building is being destroyed–too bad for San Francisco! See it and then it’ll be gone…why wasn’t it declared a landmark?!

Dec 9-10 KPFA Crafts Fair, Concourse 8th & Brannan Sts, SF. $6. Christian Parenti (“Two million Americans are in jail now”), Victor Martinez, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Starhawk and Alexander Cockburn will be present.

Dec 11, Lawrence Ferlinghetti appears at the Italian-American Athletic Club, Stockton St in San Francisco. ***What is he doing and for what??***

Dec 28, Psychotronic Film Show at The Parkway, Oakland. 510-814-2400 or www.picturepubpizza.com. The only Bay Area movie theater where you can eat dinner, drink beer/wine and sit on sofas! Plus, win free gifts!

Nightclubbing returns to San Francisco! In January 2001, the Yerba Buena Center is again showing the ’70s punk documentaries called “Nightclubbing: New York Punk and New Wave, 1975-1980,” by Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong. A number of our readers complained they went there and couldn’t get in when they showed a few months ago. Hopefully, this time you will succeed (reserve or buy in advance). The dates are Jan. 12, 19, and 20 (three different shows) and the videographers will be there in person! The show will also travel to Seattle (Experience Music Project – January 17, Little Theater Jan. 18, 19, 20) and on to Minneapolis and Denver (no details know by us.)

DOT-CON DOWNTURN DOLDRUMS DECONSTRUCTED

We had some concerned feedback regarding the somewhat acidulous observations contained in our last newsletter (November 2000) regarding the plague of cultureless dot-con locusts inundating the Bay Area, tripling rents in the past two years (a one-bedroom goes for $2,500 now?!) and evicting artists. It turns out that two of our former intern/employees, practically fresh out of college, both got jobs at a dot-con we targeted, iVillage. Or rather, they got jobs at astrology.com, which was bought by iVillage.

They’re both happy as clams, getting paid the first “real” money in their lives (about $32,000 a year salary, plus benefits–they consider that an enormous sum) to sit at computers and write, write, write. (Or edit, edit, edit.) They’re “content producers” now; the New Economy has implemented its own New Vocabulary. And yes, they occasionally work long hours without overtime compensation, depending on the urgent deadline of the day or week. But, never having enjoyed union benefits, they basically think that the dot-con “thing” was great for them. Besides waitressing jobs, one had previously worked at Publishers Group West–after the initial excitement at scoring the job “in publishing” had subsided, she realized she was basically spending all day sending promotional faxes all over the planet. (Think: No Future.) Therefore, she was happy to get a job actually writing text which would be posted on the company website–at least she was honing her literary skills. Ditto for the other employee.

All generalizations are dangerous, and as humans we still are all linked together on this planet (the “Gaia” theory, that the earth and everything on it are one unified pulsating organism, still rules around here), and that when dealing with other humans, compassion (as well as self-protection) are the twin poles of interaction. Allen Ginsberg gave the advice, “Be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” While we’re still angry at how the dot-con tidal wave devastated our local neighborhoods, wiping out nightclubs, idiosyncratic businesses and artistic enterprises right and left, we had forgotten that some of the lower-echelon employees such as our ex-text assistants had, again, tasted their first “real” money… and that taste was sweet indeed – in fact, positively addicting.

Wannabe-artists who’ve most profited by the “Internet Revolution” mostly constitute a single class: the aforementioned “content providers” or “content generators.” The “lifestyle profile” of these folk was pretty devastatingly nailed in a recent, rather humorous book, “Field Guide to the Yettie.” These young upstart hipsters, who in decades past would have been front-runner beatniks, hippies or punks, are now… dot-commers! They went to college and studied English or Philosophy, put out a zine, thought about working on a novel or screenplay, graduated (or not) and then realized where the hip money was.

Yes, money can buy lots of things, including free time to do one’s art, the ability to travel, the ability to buy “gear” (synthesizers, digital recording studios, mini-DV cameras and editing set-ups). Money gets wasted on: new cars, high rents, furniture, “cool” clothes, and fine wining-and-dining. We like pleasure as much as anybody, but at what price? The best advice is to take the money and run, retire or travel. Alas, many got sucked into working long hours for worthless stock options. But, they had a “great experience”! As our friend Chris Trela emailed us: 31,000 unemployed and counting!

THE CRASH OF FEBRUARY 2001

Over a month ago our friend Mary Jesus, an Oakland performance artist/poet, gave us her prediction that the stock market would collapse February, 2001. We shall see. For the record, we should remind readers that in the summer of 1999, Douglas Rushkoff correctly predicted the spring 2000 stock market bloodbath. As far as I know, nobody else predicted it! And as of now, nobody else seems to have celebrated Rushkoff’s prescience. .�.

BERLIN

Steve Mass of New York’s Mudd Club (80’s) fame has launched the Mudd Club in Berlin, and it’s tough going but rewarding. His most encouraging news concerned Germany’s NO LOGO MOVEMENT. (Of course, Germany is a bit ahead of us in that their Green Party has long been a potent political power… Yes, if Gore had had any smarts, he would have seduced Nader into being his running-mate.) At a recent gig starring Rage Against the Machine there were no logos in sight! We fervently hope this NO LOGO movement can spread like wildfire in Amerikkkaland. Also, the prevailing styles among the young German uberhip are not Prada, Fubu or other “rebellious” designers, but just no-logo thriftstore clothes. Our friend Paul Spinrad came over last month and helped us cover all visible corporate logos with white, pristine 1″ wide Post-It tape, and immediately the room felt “quieter,” less “noisy.” Try it! Personally, I never could understand how people could pay good money to purchase clothing promoting some corporation, then wear it with pride. It does not compute.

A JEWISH WEDDING: HEAVEN NOT HELL

For the first time in my earthly existence I attended a modern version of a traditional Jewish wedding. Our writer friend David Pescovitz, definitely one of the most wonderful souls on the planet, married his Cleveland sweetheart/clothing designer Kelly Sparks in a magnificent theatrical performance starring, well – them! They wrote their own speaking roles, abetted by a charming, humorous rabbi, amidst a context of most of the hipster tech writers and cutting-edge techno-arts innovators on the planet – or the West Coast, at least. Our favorite cultural critic, Douglas Rushkoff, had just flown in from St. Petersburg, Russia for the occasion, and Happy Mutant Handbook/Boing Boing author/publisher Mark Frauenfelder was present from L.A. with wife and 4-year-old daughter.

The wedding ritual blended Ancient and Modern words and rites in a remarkably moving ceremony emphasizing the transience and fragility of life, the necessity for love with humor, and the importance of mutual support of each other’s creativity. Small children were running around, flowers were everywhere, artfully arranged, and the theme was red (for passion?). Even the groomsmen had matching red ties!

Near the end an earthy, anarchic touch was provided by the ancient ritual of audience members hoisting the bride and groom up on chairs while dancing around in a circle – I felt I was watching some vertically-elevated mosh pit action. It looked hazardous; I’m glad nobody dropped them! It was strange hearing ritual use of the Hebrew language–how did languages begin, anyway? Definitely, my consciousness of cultural relativism was heightened. Everyone I know and like is some kind of an outsider, anyway!

ARTIST COLLECTIVES (NOT COMMUNES)

Two Saturdays ago our British ethnographer friend Fiona took us to a kind of counterculture arts-and-crafts fair at the basement at 473 Haight St (near Fillmore), site of various underground concerts in the hippie, punk and rockabilly undergrounds. This promises to be a monthly event. Not only did we appreciate the goods by actual artists being offered at not-unreasonable prices (always liked circuit-board jewelry), plus a deejay who artfully mixed together East Indian music with drum-and-bass, we particularly appreciated the large insect sculptures in the back yard welded together out of industrial discards by a sculptor named rainmaker (nic@hotmail.com). He’s the brother of Lizzie Burnham, who with early punk rocker John Dean helped erect an Arthur Cravan webzine as documented in our Zines Vol. Two book.

It’s clear that the only way artists will be able to survive in the Bay Area is by banding together and renting collective-use space, which is what 473 Haight St may become. The real estate situation is so bad that even Mark Pauline is allegedly looking to buy land out in Hunter’s Point now. We’ve heard ideas for “artist’s apartment buildings” and most lately a call for an “alternative city”: hopefully some wealthy person of means will donate land or buildings where artists can live for reasonable fees (why not fantasize?). With rents the way they are now, tenancy-in-common ownership seems the only possible way to buy a building. Either that, or move to Oakland, Oregon (rain 310 days a year) or New Mexico. I mean, why not move to the Gobi Desert – or for that matter, East Berlin – there’s plenty of empty buildings there with low rent, too.

READING:

Douglas Rushkoff’s “Media Virus.” Months ago I read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” but was reminded yesterday that it only takes ONE person spreading the word about a great new affordable restaurant to create a buzz; exponential word-of-mouth moves that fast. With that in mind, __ on Columbus Ave in North Beach seems as yet “undiscovered” for its gourmet, authentic Venetian cuisine and $ – not $$$ – prices. City Lights people discovered it.

Naomi Klein’s “NO LOGO,” her critique of Branding and Marketing. We need a NO LOGO campaign in the Bay Area NOW! (The Billboard Liberation Front website needs more, more more!) “Adbusters” Magazine, always worthwhile–great website, too, of archived articles. “Imperial San Francisco.” Herbert Read: “Poetry and Anarchism.” Michel Houellebecq’s “The Elementary Particles” contains some wicked satire on Esalen New Agers–this book is as funny as the best Henry Miller, like “Astrological Fricasee.” The “Wall Street Journal,” for occasionally alerting one to glee-inspiring reports on dot-con demises, such as “The Coming Financial Collapse of 2001”–most popular topic on the website “Silicon Investor.” The article implies that many of the 90 million “amateur” stock investors in America are selling their tech stocks and putting the money into real estate.

Thursday “New York Times” for its “Circuits” section updates on the latest technological breakthroughs. They seem to want to report on impingements on our freedom to be anonymous… And the “New Yorker” has had some excellent features on Dotcon World: James Surowiecki’s “How Mountebanks Became Moguls” (Nov 13; basically, dot-con CEO’s were fast-talking pranksters and con men), and Rodney Rothman’s “My Fake Job” (Nov 27): pretending to be employed at a large Internet start-up–he took over a computer, got listed on the company directory, and “worked” long hours for 17 days – without being caught.

“Fall 2000 Entertainment Weekly Special,” especially the comic “Tales of Ambition” by Ward Sutton, a genius. “Interesting” and cynical reading for anyone trying to break into the movie business.

The current “Micro Times” (available free in San Francisco boxes) is running a series by Jim Warren on “The New Despots: Endangering Us All”–check it out! Yes, we’re down from 50 corporations dominating most mass media (1983) to the current low of a mere half-dozen corporations providing the content for most of the nation’s media. And yes, the big six corporate media companies gave lots of sob-story coverage to the oil companies’ problems with Opec and those pesky cleaner-air rules, while neglecting to mention that oil companies profits were up 58 to 87%! (wonder why your gas costs over $2 a gallon now?)

THE “ELECTION”

Even though some of us hate politics, there are some observations to be made here regarding the recent electoral college stalemate. First of all, Al Gore won the popular vote, the vote of the 50% of eligible people who actually voted. (Obviously, the electoral college needs to be abolished yesterday.) Secondly, George W. Bush (“G.W.”) was a convicted felon in the Savings & Loan scandals (his S&L lost something like $400 million), and supposedly convicted felons aren’t eligible for public office. However, since his father happened to be Vice-President at the time, President Ronald Reagan gave G.W. a pardon! Also, we still wonder about G.W.’s alleged Seventies cocaine bust, which was hushed up and suppressed. Yes, those Texas oil billionaires are still determined to Take Back America from the East Coast Republican establishment. Ralph Nader has apparently suggested flipping a coin, so that no one can say the election was stolen.

CANNABIS: A CANCER CURE?

Recently learned: two scientific studies (one circa 1974, another released earlier this year in Spain) indicate that marijuana use may cure breast cancer, a rare form of viral leukemia, brain cancer, etc. Go to www.jackherer.com for more information.

THE ORIGIN OF AGRICULTURE

An extremely interesting text on the “origin of agriculture” can be found at www.vegan-sraight-edge.org.uk/gw_paper.htm. If you’ve ever wondered how and why we transformed from gaunt, adventuresome hunter-gatherers to sedentary, flabby cereal-and-milk cultivators, check out this URL. (Hint: We are all drug addicts, addicted to the small amounts of opiates in cereals and milk!)

HOW TO BE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER IN ONE LESSON

This year Thanksgiving was a non-turkey day. We had Chinatown take-out with two graphic designers and an Irish family. One of the designers, Joachim (joachim@kamedesign.com) emigrated here from Germany. He gave us a quick lesson in graphic design: “It helps to have a big table and wall space handy, so you have room for all your ‘elements.’ It’s impossible (for me) to design abstractly, so first I make sure I have all the elements I need for the job (logo, text, headlines, pull quotes, etc).

“The secret of design is: freedom to play. You start moving elements around, trying different typefaces, reverse typefaces, and backgrounds, playing with shapes. If you get stuck, take a walk and keep your eyes open, or open up magazines for ideas – I’m always looking for design ideas. At the end, lay out all your different versions, sleep on it, and go to work the next morning. Personally, I like design to communicate the most important information as quickly and clearly as possible – form must always assist content. Above all, the spirit of play is what’s most important.”

NEWSLETTER WRITTEN BY

V. Vale EDITED BY

Marian Wallace

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