|RE/SEARCH Newsletter #29, March 2004|
|HERE’S THE NEWS FROM SAN FRANCISCO….
**Dear Friends: Please note that our email address has changed to:
MEET V. Vale, founder of RE/SEARCH! The 9th annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair is Sat, March 13, 10-6pm, at the San Francisco County Fair Building (Golden Gate Park near Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way). Admission is free. RE/SEARCH will have a table there, as will 60 other groups and alternative publishers from around the country. There will also be films, talks, panel discussions, exhibits, and cheap vegetarian food. Attendance is 2000-3000+ of the wildest demographic in America. Call 415-362-1465 for more information.
1. 25th Anniversary SURVIVAL RESEARCH LABORATORIES Celebration at The Lab, 2948 16th St at Capp (1/2 block from 16th St/Mission St BART Station), San Francisco, Fri April 9, 7pm-midnight (See www.srl.org for updated details, or call The Lab at 864-8855 or RE/Search at 415-362-1465.)
Prophets are rarely celebrated in their own town, but finally San Francisco is hosting a 25th Anniversary Survival Research Laboratories Celebration, sponsored by RE/Search and The Lab. This is the first comprehensive Survival Research Laboratories historical retrospective. That’s right–art on the walls. 2500 linear feet of enormous, beautiful, photographic blowups, plus SRL poster art, will showcase the “best” photographic documentation of every SRL performance to date, all over the world. This in itself promises to be an amazing sight. Videos will play, there will be a panel with Q and A, the room promises to be filled with SRL crew members to meet (a few mobile machines have been promised), and the entire evening will be a testament to the havoc wreaked upon “officialdom consciousness” by SRL in America, Europe and Japan over the past two and a half decades. And lastly, there may even be a “surprise event” from SRL…
For the uninitiated, about 25 years ago here in San Francisco, around the beginning of the “Punk Rock Cultural Revolution,” Survival Research Laboratories pioneered violent, uncensored, large-scale machine performances (long before “Robot Wars”), providing a full-frontal, surround-sound, multi-media assault on the audience. Actually, a complex genre which might be termed “machine opera” was envisioned and invented, at the very beginning almost single-handedly, by Mark Pauline, with help from his then-girlfriend Gail Straubing and friends Mark and Janice Sangerman. (The next major partners were Matt Heckert, of the S.F. Art Institute-originated band Pink Section, and Eric Werner–both lived at the SRL shop for almost 10 years, until approximately 1990.) Nowadays some 50 or more SRL crew members, many with advanced technical backgrounds and academic degrees, collaborate, co-invent, and co-operate to produce the massive live shows staged whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.
Now, opera is perhaps the most complex “live” performance art form today, involving both the construction and the operation of heavy stage machinery (to move sets and staging), the construction of the stage set production, actors and actresses (with their own “maintenance” crew), the administration of lighting and sound, plus the production of graphics, posters, costumes, iconography, and doubtless myriad other details invisible to the average audience. Not to mention the the invention of the plots and plot arcs, the publicity campaign, and the feeding and housing of the humans involved, plus the all-important website (in SRL’s case, maintained by wunderkind Karen Marcelo). An SRL live performance is very similar to an opera, except that one-of-a-kind machines are substituted for human performers. And yes, some of the “icons” are garbed in custom, hand-sewn costumes, just as in an opera.
This scale and dimensionality of “art making” is sufficiently complex to deserve the term “genre.” It’s our contention that SRL has invented its own genre: violent machine performance art, or Machine Opera. If there is a coherent historical predecessor, please inform us!
We have said this before: An SRL show taxes the limits of the human senses (including that underrated human sense: smell–gasoline, oil, metal particles, et al–in a way as yet unduplicated by any other sound/visual reproduction technology. The largest human organ: the skin, may be subjected to baptism by random liquids or mists. Explosions may challenge the ability of human eyes to handle sudden extremes of light and darkness.
Then there is arguably the most important human organ: the brain. At their best, SRL shows display a war of ideas involving the challenging of cliches, outmoded perceptions and beliefs. Oftentimes the pre-show and after-show music is “challenging” to the so-called hipster sensibility. Lastly, that (possibly) most important sense of all: the sense of humor, may definitely be broadened, expanded, and reinvigorated. One frequently leaves an SRL show in a state of laughter, euphoria, mild shock…and with one’s head spinning…
One of our favorite aspects of SRL shows involve the thematic imagery and provocative phrases which are often on the large-size posters advertising/documenting the events. The rarely-mentioned “noir/poetic” dimension of SRL creativity is exemplified by past performance titles such as “A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief.” Other iconography (often site-specific) in the form of large-scale dazzling graphic images, hand-crafted sculptures and other “props,” may be burned to death, shot, ripped apart by claws, or otherwise “critiqued.”
For the SRL 25th Anniversary celebration, and in the tradition of Andy Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls,” a very special “live” video presentation is planned, featuring **two** video projections (by Scott Beale, and Marian Wallace) simultaneously displayed side-by-side, each from a different viewpoint, of the recent, amazing U.C. Berkeley Art Museum Outdoor Performance (Nov 12, 2003). This dual-video projection will be debuted live, at this event. Watch as over a hundred art museum curators from all over the world get “flamed” by Kevin Binkert’s “Flame Tornado,” and then “baptized” by a sudden hurricane of water!
The 25th Anniversary Survival Research Laboratories Celebration will feature art exhibits, panel discussions, video, machines, and chaotic socialization. This is a rare opportunity to engage with SRL pioneer Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL) along with many other “crew” members. Don’t be afraid to go up and ask about their “war” stories; probably every co-creator can tell an amusing anecdote about a live show.
Additionally, plans are still being “hatched” to make this 25th Anniversary Survival Research Laboratories Celebration even more special. Just prior to this April 9 event we will send out a reminder newsletter with updated information.
Admission includes a $5 discount coupon good toward the purchase of a RE/Search PRANKS! book, which contains a lengthy interview with SRL founder Mark Pauline. So if you buy a book, you get in free!
2. SRL at Vegas: A Short and Sweet Trip
While we at RE/Search were saddened that the much-anticipated SRL AT VEGAS (scheduled for Feb 7) performance was cancelled at the last minute, due to impossible peremptory demands by local authorities, nevertheless, we journeyed to The City Way Out West That Never Sleeps to see the UNLV (University of Nevada at Las Vegas) SRL Art Show which was curated by Susan Joyce. It turned out to be a classic gallery exhibition, with plenty of white space around each graphic/provocation. On the second floor we witnessed SRL video history, via the clearest, sharpest video projection we have yet seen; this had to have been state-of-the-art, up-to-the-minute equipment. Two grizzled SRL war veteran machines graced the polished hardwood floors, in mute testimony to past battles and tribulations. Food and drink were provided free, as befitting the hospitality commensurate with a well-funded academic institution. (A few photos from this show are at www.srl.org.)
What follows is a synopsis of our 30-hours-in-Vegas mini-vacation: (optional reading)
Our plane departed three hours later than scheduled, with the result that we arrived in Las Vegas about 3 A.M. Since we had already arrived 3 hours early in accordance with the new Homeland Security recommendations, we had ample time (6 hours total) to read almost every magazine and newspaper at the Oakland, California Airport’s only news outlet. Of special interest was an article on the blue-laser DVD players (or are they recorders, too?) now being sold in Japan–apparently the players can also play the red-laser DVD which Americans have recently embraced. However, the blue-laser DVD holds 5 times more information on the same size disc. We look forward to the day, about two years from now, when we’ll all junk our current DVD player in favor of the new format which will then be affordable–right now the cost is around $3000, for early adopters only.
We also noted the L.A. Times’ feature on BALDASARE FORESTIERE‘s underground gardens in Fresno, California–would Chicken John please organize a bus trip there?! Decades ago, an Sicilian immigrant (soul brother, or cousin at least, to the creator of the Watts Towers, Simon Rodia) came to America and built a naive art masterpiece/environment–in Forestiere’s case, for a bride who refused to live in it. (5021 W. Shaw Ave, 2 blocks east of 99. During the winter, tours at noon and 2 PM Sat and Sun, $9. (559-271-0734. The same article mentioned Grandma Prisbrey‘s Bottle Village, 4595 Cochran St in Simi Valley — ww.bottlevillage.com, or write POB 1412, Simi Valley CA 93062. Additionally, there was an article on Richard Metzger’s Disinfo.Com enterprise–a modern day success story having to do with riding the razor’s edge of whatever is cutting right now, and coming up with extremely “catchy” book titles, like “You Are Being Lied To.”
We finally arrived at the cavernous, empty, giant multi-media-paneled Las Vegas Airport interior, made our way to the deserted Hertz Rent-a-Car counter, then took a bus to the outlying Hertz rental center where a robotic worker attempted to talk us into a more expensive model car, insurance we didn’t need, extra driver privilege (they charge extra if your wife is going to drive, too), etc. It took about 35 minutes to find our destination, the home of our lawyer, Dave Kahn, who relocated to Las Vegas in search of gainful employment a couple of years ago. In Vegas you can buy a huge house with yard for the price of an outhouse in San Francisco. Dave got up and fed us some much-needed bananas, cereal, chips and salsa, and even screened some very early SRL ’80s videos he had bought years ago–the ones made by Jon Reiss.
The next morning we managed to awake by noon and meet for lunch GRAEME REVELL with his charming wife, the painter SINAN. Graeme was the founder of SPK, a legendary industrial music/provocation entity featured in the RE/Search #6/7 Industrial Culture Handbook (still available from us at www.http://www.researchpubs.com). Sinan was also in SPK’s later incarnation. Sometime in the late ’80s Graeme, by a quirk of fate and chance, got the opportunity to bluff his way into creating the soundtrack for the hit independent feature DEAD CALM, and the rest is history. To date Graeme has created some 60 feature film soundtracks, and is currently providing sound/music for the TV show C.S.I. Miami.
We had lunch with Graeme and Sinan at an out-of-the-way restaurant mostly patronized by retired couples (no ‘tude, thankfully) and then Graeme/Sinan gave us a personal tour of what is probably Vegas’s premiere entertainment mall, the Venetian. We had already read MIKE DAVIS‘S essay on Las Vegas in DEAD CITIES, which J.G. Ballard had highly recommended to us, and seeing the gondoliers steering the gondolas while singing light opera (reportedly, over a thousand people auditioned for the jobs of gondolier/opera singer)–just imagine all that water in the “canals” piped in from a thousand miles away (Colorado and New Mexico), under a cloud-strewn sky that is permanently daylight, even at 4 A.M. Truly the Venetian in Vegas personifies “the simulacra,” as Graeme observed (Cf. Baudrillard). Then we had dinner at an “outdoor” Italian restaurant under the self-same pseudo-cloudscape–Is this what life in the future will be like, after the air has become too polluted to breathe, and the sea has transmogrified into mercury laced with heavy metal salts…where the lucky (and rich) survivors live in Virtual Reality “bubbles” under a painted plastic dome?…Anyway, the dinner (delicious) was protracted, and the service even more protracted still, no doubt in the Old World Venetian manner.
We were late. We had flown to Vegas for the Closing Party of the SRL ART SHOW at UNLV (University of Nevada at Las Vegas), which was scheduled from 7-9 PM, and that dinner had taken too long. We didn’t pull into the UNLV parking lot until 8:30 PM–at the exact moment Mark Pauline (with his recent bride, Amy Critchett) was disembarking from a taxicab! It turned out that the cockpit of their plane, which was supposed to arrive in Vegas around 2 PM, had been hit by a bird. Apparently it took five hours to repair the plane, and the folks assigned to pick them up at the airport had long since given up waiting. After Graeme and Mark had a reunion chat (they hadn’t seen each other in twenty years), we helped ferry their luggage to the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, which we finally found in the darkness after a false steer or two.
After the opening, our friend Dave Kahn directed us to “The Hookah” a block away. It seems Vegas has no smoking regulations; consequently we entered the Middle Eastern/Casbah-like bar and found young people sitting at round tables puffing away at tubing connected, octopus-style, to each table’s large round, beautifully-decorated hookah pipe. The air was blue, to quote Damon Runyon. At our table was Mark (Amy had to depart early for the hotel; future motherhood has its privileges), SRL crew members “Steve Lassovszky” (sp?, who had recently moved to L.A. from S.F.; he sported a cowboy hat) and “David Thirion from Phoenix” (a manic artist in his own right, with his lovely traveling companion), and ourselves (Dave Kahn, Yoshi from Japan, Marian Wallace, and V. Vale). We sat there until 1:30 AM while (at our part of the table, at least) David Thirion regaled us with tales of life in Phoenix–he lives and works in a 35,000 square foot warehouse–try finding that in San Francisco!, and his recent trip to India, where among other adventures he spent a day and night on the banks of the Ganges river watching the “untouchables” expediting burial rituals there.
At the other end of the table, we overheard Steve (who was also in town for the mobile helicopter demonstration the next morning) explain his sure-fire scheme for winning against Vegas gambling odds–apparently his system works, and just as apparently it would be highly indiscreet to reveal any further details of the conversation. Suffice it to say that some very intelligent, ingenious, rebellious and interesting people come together to co-create, co-operate, and co-produce today’s SRL shows. You get the feeling that if anyone could survive a Mad Max-style apocalypse, these individuals could. They’re like the Merry Pranksters from the Sixties, except with updated, cutting-edge computer science and technology…
BTW, a short but thrilling video of the SRL V-1 at the Pranks Festival can be found on www.srl.org. And, see Karen Marcelo’s photos from the RE/Search Pranks Festival, Dec 6, at http://www.srl.org/shows/events/pranks/
3. JOHN LAW/CHRISTINA HARBRIDGE’s WILD WEDDING WEEKEND Feb 27-29
The moral of this past weekend is: If you don’t like the society you’re given, then create your own!
There are weddings, and then there are weddings. The most amazing wedding we’ve ever attended just happened. The first inkling that it would be “unusual” came when we opened the invitation, which came in a gold tube–upon carefully slicing it open we were inundated with gold dust! The gorgeous, letterpress announcement informed us that the wedding itself would take place at a secret location at an unheard-of time: 5:30 AM! A wedding at sunrise?! How often does that happen? (Try “Never.”) Theme colors for the gathering were to be gold and red (everyone was supposed to wear them), and presents were REFUSED (“We already have everything we need”) in lieu of champagne and sparkling apple cider.
This weekend of February 27-29 reminded a few hundred Bay Area residents how impoverished our society is RE: Meaningful Rituals. Almost all of our our rituals (except Labor Day) are tied-and-branded to some form of consumerism or Macy’s Sale. Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Father’s Day, President’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas…And the best holiday of the year, Halloween, which gives everyone permission to shed their tired old identity and become a kind of mythological, larger-than-life being, isn’t even honored by a day off work.<br
This past weekend, however, seemingly granted all of the above that is missing in a social get-together, including a tiny bit of taboo-breaking. Scott Beale, Squidlist founder, served a vital role as Minister of Information in getting several hundred people (including many out-of-towners) together for John Law’s Friday Night Bachelor Party, and the John Law/Christina Harbridge Wedding on Sunday, Feb 29–yes, in the spirit of pranksterism and confounding of cliches, that date was chosen deliberately, on account of its rarity.
7 PM Friday Night, several hundred “bachelors” (this being San Francisco, the attendees included a few select women with penciled-on mustaches) gathered at the colorful, jammed-with-machinery warehouse of KAL SPELLETICH, former SRL apprentice who now performs asTHE SEEMEN–a great installation of Kal’s amusingly-interactive small machines just finished up at the Jack Hanley Gallery on Valencia/15th St. At the nearby corner of Cesar Chavez (Army St) and 3rd St, we couldn’t help admiring a huge billboard allegedly promoting the Homeland Security Act, featuring a sleeping man and the legend, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” Like, What–? This was the perfect example of a prank that remains partially indecipherable, and puzzling–our favorite kind.
For the Bachelor Party, everyone was urged to dress in all-black to mourn the death of John Law’s status as “eligible single male.” A full-service BBQ, along with liberal quantities of alcohol, served to fire up and fuel the guests–out of the corner of our eye we saw a sudden wrestling match, but it quickly was resolved. We also caught a quick glimpse of an UZI, but assumed it was a mere plastic prop replica. In fact, during the entire evening only one person had to be “asked to leave.”
The guests included John’s friends, ranging from numerous Burning Man alumni, SRL compatriots, select members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, associates of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, Gary Warren’s Suicide Club, the Billboard Liberation Front, the Extra Action Marching Band, and almost every other hell-raising, anti-status-quo art enterprise in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, we missed the spectacular entrance of John Law delivered in a sealed coffin via vintage hearse, unloaded by eight pallbearers and hand-carried to Kal’s inner sanctum. (Sometimes, you must never be late.) As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by “cyber-punk” author John Shirley, who years ago had moved to Pinole (near Sacramento) where houses were still affordable. (BTW, John Shirley’s “John Cutter” action hero paperback series were much enjoyed by yours truly during the Eighties.) SRL’s Mark Pauline, Kevin Binkert, Eric Paulos and David Thirion; John Gilmore(Electronic Frontier Foundation executive), and too many more to mention were busy eating, drinking and “catching up.” All too soon the CycleCide schoolbus (whose roof was covered with rusty old bicycles) that was to carry everyone to the next destination tooted its horn, and everybody headed deep into Hunter’s Point.
The next location, which shall remain secret, was utterly amazing. Not only did we admire a castle-like facade with an ancient tree-shaded front yard and European al fresco art studio/courtyard, but we were summoned down a small flight of stairs into a large, man-made underground cavern (circa 1871?), ominously dripping water. A long line of dim light bulbs provided illumination; the cement groundfloor was pooled with water. At the far end was a very long and chilly three-foot-deep pool whose restraining wall was waist-high. To our left was another long, wet cavern. At the junction of these three “tunnels,” a large candelabra provided light, and this is where the blindfolded John was to undergo a “transition ritual.”
All of us were instructed to line the entry cavern (not enough room in front), put on tall white Doggie Diner hats (with black floppy ears) and black-bulb rubber clown noses, and kneel while singing a Gregorian-sounding chant in unison: “There is nothing finer/Than a Doggie Diner.” Even though “giving orders” to this crowd is like trying to herd cats, eventually most of the bachelors knelt in two lines forming a corridor, while John, blindfolded, was finally led to the pool. A gorgeous tattooed dominatrix in a shiny vinyl outfit appeared with four scantily and provatively-cladbelles dames sans merci. In deference to John’s bride (who may be reading this) we leave it to your imagination to guess what happened next. Yes, we saw a genuine ritual, conducted by the very Rev. Hal, appropriate to leaving one’s bachelorhood behind: “Say goodbye to all the other women you have known…from now on you are in partnership with the one you have chosen.” At the climax of the ritual, highlighted by a loud disciplinary whipping with cat-o-nine-tails, John was brave enough to plunge naked into the freezing pool, where several naiads gamely plunged in and raucously expedited his rite of passage. There are some occasions–this was one–in which libations of alcohol are probably de rigueur. This was an amazing event, visually in the spirit of Sixties sexploitation “Satanic” films, punctuated by a sudden M-80 explosion which threatened to collapse the entire cavern–please, whoever did that, never do that again! (In fact, if anything threatened to collapse the evening, it was the occasional and sporadic detonation of fireworks.) SRL’s Kimric Smythe and Dr. Hal did their best to preserve order, and keep people “down in front” so a degree of visibility and audibility could prevail. Afterward, the collective reaction was, “I never knew such a place existed in San Francisco!” And secondly, “What an amazing ritual!” Silke Tudor, by the way, was one of the women who engineered the “Bachelor Rite-of-Passage,” along with Katy Bell and other stars (reportedly) from the Extra Action Marching Band.
Then the bus carried us to the final rendezvous at the Dogpatch Saloon, on Third Street at 22nd St, a beautiful old-time bar with a black grand piano in the rear. A pianist and percussionist were present, and San Francisco’s Mr. Lucky passed out lyric sheets. When John Law finally showed up (passed along on the shoulders of the entire crowd), Mr. Lucky led the celebrants in a song specially written for the occasion, “Get Me to the Bridge On Time” (sung to the tune of “Get Me to the Church On Time”). After eating bowlsful of fresh free popcorn (Thanks, bartender) and downing cranberry sodas, we went outside for air (and to our regret, missed the stripper show especially rehearsed just for John Law). However, we greeted members of Savage Republic (who had just played a show elsewhere) as well as the legendary Erik ZOE who designed, invented and hand-made the very first (ZOE brand) bicycle messenger bags–and has suffered a million corporate imitations, none of whom paid any royalties, of course. Still, Erik’s are the best…we own one from nine years ago, and it still looks brand new! Contact us if you’d like to obtain the Original Bike Messenger Bag, made by the person who pioneered it.
We didn’t get home until 2:30 AM, and barely recovered for the wedding 27 hours later which took place Sunday morning at a staggeringly early hour: the aforementioned 5:30 AM. Celebrants including Mark Pauline and many SRL crew members, various folk in their sixties, and every good friend of John and Christina’s. All who showed up at the meeting point (at least a hundred intrepid souls) enjoyed a rare sunrise stroll across the Golden Gate bridge, ultimately descending to terra firma where the wedding ceremony actually took place (this was about a 2-mile walk in all). Chicken John of the Odeon thoughtfully provided his Green Tortoise bus, and all the attendees were thus enabled to reach their next destination, which was…
9:30 AM, Empress of China ballroom, 5th floor, Grant Avenue between Washington and Clay Streets. The Empress of China is not normally attended by yours truly–we prefer the economy-gourmet fare of Peter and Lily Fang’s House of Nanking–but The Empress is a sure sign that San Francisco once entertained aspirations of being the Paris of the West. The theme for the wedding was “red” and “gold” — and most of the 300 attendees wore just that. The morning started out with seemingly unlimited flutes of champagne–we chose the sparkling Martinelli’s apple cider. As the ballroom itself featured dazzlingly detailed red and gold decor (reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles) and wait-staff dressed in red, the party seemed overwhelming, splendiforous, over-the-top–MAD, really.
Who says environment doesn’t affect behavior?! The atmosphere was wild and passionate; the predominant emotion was: laughing-with-amazement-and-abandon. There wasn’t enough time to marvel at all the ingenious costumes and jewelry. Some of the most beautiful non-designer outfits were to be seen, scavenged from thrift stores and Chinatown dress shops–many of them amazingly intricate and tantalizing as they revealed large body tattoos in normally hidden places. Men in elaborate Chinese embroidered coats, smoking jackets and other attire and accessories (mostly red and gold) lit up the ballroom with ironic chutzpah and assertiveness. Looking around, it felt like were all in a different country and different century. Then some of the most aggressive dancing ever seen (by us) was immediately triggered by the bass-heavy Seventies disco music played to inagurate the Reception. And that was just the beginning…
This simply was the most amazing wedding reception ever attended by us. The Empress of China has enormous picture windows which reveal 360 degrees of seldom-seen San Francisco views, from an empyrean height. The lunch was first-class; absolutely delicious. The room was filled with several hundred cultural radicals from the Bay Area and beyond. The “entertainment” was non-stop, including tributes to John Law from his92-year-old former employer; poems read by earnest divas; songs from vocalists including a woman with an amazing hairdo, halfway betweenDivine and those Good-Luck Children of Chinatown; Mr. Lucky, who can fly an audience to the moon and back; the first reunion in decades of the original Suicide Club; a huge custom-made pinata resembling a Doggy Diner head, which was destroyed by the bride and groom; and let us not forget the amazing silent-movie spoof, made in advance, of John & Christina’s wedding–this was a helluva lot of work, totally professionally done, with great music, cinematography and acting. If this was done in their spare time, what do the film cast and crew do for their “real jobs”?! They should start a film company right away in the tradition of the original studios–does anyone recall that the first American cinema started in Oakland in the silent film days, before it got derailed down south to Hollywood?
Possibly the most efficient man in San Francisco, Scott Beale has already posted over a hundred digital photos from this legendary Wild Wedding Weekend on his website. We truly wish everybody who reads this newsletter could have been there…events like this give a glimpse ofwhat could be. This fantastic, other-worldly weekend, from the Satanic bachelor party to the Dawn Wedding March to the Top-of-the-World Fantasy Banquet/Reception, showed us that truly imagination remakes the world. Reality itself is such a sorry substitute for the unfettered, uncensored Imagination. Anybody satisfied with middle-class “good taste” and “restraint” deserves the stifling mediocrity they desire…just kidding! We do, however, believe that the world will always need a good and regular dose of pranksterism, surrealism, and black humor…which is what John Law has given the Bay Area since approximately 1976, when he moved here. We wish John and Christina our fondest surrealist blessings…
4. NAKED LUNCH on DVD
Our friend Gary Chong from L.A. writes: “‘Naked Lunch’ – Criterion DVD, can be found online for around $25.00. It’s a double DVD released last year that includes the film as well as an additional disc, ‘Naked Making Lunch’ a documentary of the film produced by London Weekend TV in 1991, directed by Chris Rodley. It includes the scene footage with Burroughs on the set as well as Barry Miles speaking about the book. Also includes rare footage of Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Antony Balch, as well as Burroughs’ short films.
“Also included on the DVD is Burroughs reading ‘Naked Lunch’ (spoken word). There’s also a production stills gallery as well as the marketing campaign for the film (pretty interesting–the producers got an actor to portray Burroughs’ voice!).
“There’s also storyboards of Balch’s idea for filming ‘Naked Lunch’ in the Sixties. It’s a well-done disc.” Yes, somebody please send us a promotional copy!
5. The World is [Still] Controlled by Corporate Marketing Campaigns…
We’re now looking for Marshall McLuhan‘s 1970 book “Culture Is Our Business” (or, “Business is Our Culture”–that’s a joke, sort of). Local San Francisco advertising guru Howard Gossage (sadly, deceased; we once knew his daugher, Amy) described McLuhan as “an Archimedes who has given the ad industry levers to move the world.” Not an understatement RE the power of the ad business now. To quote McLuhan for Beginners, “In this book McLuhan waxes poetical on modern-day television ads, calling them “the cave art of the twentieth century” (1) because they are not intended to be examined in detail but to create an effect, and (2) because they express not private thoughts but rather corporate aims.” The book is made up of hundreds of ads, juxtaposed with questions, provocations, and quotations from the likes of James Joyce, Ashley Montagu and T.S. Eliot.
Let us recap another McLuhan observation: “It is the bad news–reports of sexual scandal, natural disaters, and violent death–that sells the good news–that is, the advertisements.” And BTW, did anyone make the effort to find 9.99 yet (expose of the advertising industry, available for about $12 on abebooks.com)? It’s so easy to be lazy, ain’t it?
6. What We’re Reading, Seeing, Listening To…
We’ve been trying to finish our next book, which consists of interviews and quotations from J.G. BALLARD, titled PROVOCATIONS. It is brilliant–enough said. A few limited signed hardbacks may be available; contact us to reserve one. Did anyone notice that J.G.B. refused the C.B.E. (Commander of the British Empire) award, refusing to be addressed as Sir James Ballard, and calling the whole award hoopla “preposterous”! Is that integrity, or what? We note that Mick Jagger insouciantly accepted this badge of puffery, and was roundly critized by bandmate Keith Richards for doing so.
At the recent APE Show (Alternative Press Expo, Feb 21-22) in San Francisco, we were given an extremely provocative VHS videocassette featuring local artist KaosmiKitty–definitely, absolutely not for bourgeois consumers. Well, if you feel you absolutely must have a copy, try emailing Kaosmikitty@yahoo.com… Local legendary photographer Charles Gatewood presented us with his newest book, PHOTOGRAPHY FOR PERVERTS–we turned immediately to the chapter on “legal questions.” Hmmm. Some very beautiful photos in this book, alongside extremely practical, usable, and even positively inspiring text!… We were also given a very funny/honest chapbook, “Naked Young Women Come To Me,” from John Trubee, who was featured in our PRANKS! book. John also gave us a CD of his recent live performance at KIMO’s in San Francisco. Trubee’s book and CD may possibly be obtained; write email@example.com… We also hereby give notice of the newest book from our favorite twins, Stacy and Amber, at www.eviltwinpublications.com… Young publisher Neil Martinson gifted us with a copy of his eclectic magazine, PROOF (No. 2), available from City Lights Bookstore. The artwork on the back cover is worth the price of the magazine alone; it’s an instant classic… Lastly, we note the very funny/highly recommended first publication from our friend Meri Brin: DECEASE #1 (all about death). If you really want it, email us and we’ll tell you how to get your own copy. It is the best independent publication we’ve read recently…which may tell you something about us.
At the recent SF Independent Film Festival, we saw three documentaries, all at the Women’s Building. Our favorite experience was a short film from Sweden — hilarious — (sorry, can’t recall the title, but we hear this film is mentioned on their website) which showed a group of young people breaking into an apartment in a high-rise, then making music out of “found objects” in the bathroom, bedroom, and living room. Truly amazing, great “music,” and proof that you don’t even need musical instruments to create very compelling, exciting “music.”
Our second favorite experience was seeing a trailer for “GOZU” by Takashi Miike. This was the funniest black-humor vignette I’ve seen in years, and the only satire of Japan’s Yakuza we’ve heard about, although we hardly claim to be film buffs. If you’re like William S. Burroughs and don’t care much for dogs, this trailer will split your sides with laughter! This is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history, and it probably cost (almost) nothing to film! You simply don’t need a huge budget to create amazing cinema — just your imagination and an utter contempt for “good” taste.
We liked the documentary Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson, even though it was a bit repetitive, and really wanted to like the documentary titled “Bruce Haack: King of Techno,” but were not “amused” by all the inarticulate interviews with contemporary/ironic “hipsters” babbling incoherently about “The King”…personally, we would much rather have seen all the historical footage of Bruce Haack himself, from all those old Mr Rogers shows and other TV interviews reclaimed from the Museum of Video. He seemed like a genuine extremist and eccentric. Nevertheless, it is a good thing to publicize forgotten musical innovators…
The third documentary we saw, Echelon: The Secret Power just confirmed our view of politics and history: no matter how much you investigate, read, and research, you will never, ever, know it all. And yes, we’ve lost our privacy. So live in a glass house! Yes, we’re all living inside a giant surveillance machine. We can all be “framed” for something we never did…
In the mystery-reading department, we have most recently been captivated by Janwillem van de Wetering (his series features no less than three leading characters, each one a genuine “character”–my favorite is the old man about to retire, the commissaris, who occasionally erupts into an act of feral genius) and are determined to read all of his books–at least all of his mysteries. Last night we finished THE JAPANESE CORPSE, and not only is it an amusing illumination of the yakuza, but of Japanese culture and philosophy in general. Our friend Dennis McMillan, who publishes limited-edition mystery hardbacks (www.dennismcmillan.com) and seemingly knows all there is to know about the world of contemporary mystery writing, published a book by him. Peter M. told us that City Lights hosted a reading by van de Wetering a few years ago. If only we had known….
WEBSITES: And lastly, in the website department, our valuable intern/friend Joe Donohoe has his own website now, with lots of his writing/interviews on it, including one with v. vale: www.speciousspecies.com. Our valuable photographer/friend Steven Gray has his own website of great radical photography: www.telepoetic.com. Please check these websites out and send Joe and Steven appreciative feedback!
7. WRITING ABOUT US AND OUR BOOKS: This month we’re again skipping the self-promotion…but warn you that if you want a copy of theIndustrial Culture Handbook, Incredibly Strange Music Vol Two, or Search & Destroy Vol One, order ’em soon! It’s very hard now to keep books in print, and RE/Searches are not quite suited for the new print-on-demand technology yet. Yes, to support us, please go to our website and, we hope you’ll find something you haven’t read yet, or a gift for someone else, at
8. The RE/Search Mission Statement
In 1977 V. Vale was the sole founder of SEARCH & DESTROY (focus: the original punk rock cultural revolution). Then in 1980 Vale solely founded its reincarnation, RE/SEARCH (which is dedicated to investigating the meaning of “freedom” and “liberty”). All of his publications are inspired by Surrealism, Situationism, the entire history of radical cultural strivings in general, and Andy Warhol’s early Interview magazine in particular, which printed uncensored, illustrated interviews with cutting-edge creative individuals, regardless whether they were famous. Vale’s editorial policy focuses on radical ideas, black humor and creativity rather than biography.
The RE/SEARCH project encourages “D-I-Y” (Doing It Yourself), work against hierarchy and the status quo, and aims to demystify the “Control Process” that, more than ever, thwarts our creativity and exercise of freedom. RE/Search is engaged in a long-term cultural remapping toward the chimeric goal of “total liberation of the mind and body.” We also aim to bring you the “best” out of the information overload engulfing us. Our roots are Black Humor, Dada, Surrealism, Situationism, Outsider Art, and The Eternal Underground, including The Occult. Our direct mentors are William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Philip Lamantia, plus everybody we’ve interviewed! Please feel free to contribute to this project–and say how you wish to be credited.
March 2004 RE/Search eNewsletter written by V. Vale.
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