R.I.P. Milos Foreman

I agree with the nay-sayers about Cuckoo’s Nest in that Nicholson is terrible in the top-hero role (unfortunately, James Dean was dead) and agree with the plus-note people that Louise Fletcher redeems the foul, dated sexism of the concept of Nurse Rached. (Kidz, it was this: stuffy, norm-obsessed, perfectly domesticated women were holding freed spirits and wild men back. Like they had that power.)

So I gotta get on the bus again.

But gotta admit those were interesting times.

 

David Bonetti, Part Three

One of David’s superb characteristics is that he made sure if you hung out with him you would learn art information that was exciting and important to you. During that same St. Louis visit, he ensured we went to what he called the most essential exhibit in the city for me. Turned out to be a small gallery featuring a bunch of early drawings by Jim Nutt (one of the most perfect artist names, ever) including most of the items on this page.

I was captivated and transported. I knew nothing of Nutt (love the phrases that happen spontaneously) barely more about The Hairy Who than they had a super-cool name. Now we’ve got three books about Nutt and the Hairys and a lot more savvy about a major part of early Pop Surrealism. Thanks to David.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #24

Various, Pop Royale (2011)

This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of:  I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.

Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.

The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.

  1. Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
  2. Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
  3. Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
  4. Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
  5. Serengeti, “Long Ears”
  6. Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
  7. Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
  8. Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
  9. Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
  10. Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
  11. Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
  12. Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
  13. Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
  14. The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
  15. James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
  16. Younger Brother, “Shine”
  17. Battles, “Africastle”
  18. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”

A.E. Van Vogt’s “Discord in Scarlet”

A bit of spooky-sci-fi entertainment for Friday night. This story is a landmark: not only is the writing almost eerie-flawless and the tale an even-more-brilliant extension of the author’s groundbreaking “Black Destroyer,” but it’s the clear originator of the “alien monster on a spaceship” concept that would become Alien decades later.

Also, “Xtl” — they knew how to name aliens back then

PS: I should  clarify: certainly “Black Destroyer” is the first “alien monster on a spaceship” fiction. But the problem is that the Black Destroyer looks like a deadly monster and no matter how sweet-puddy-tat he acted, it seems dubious that the crew would get such a creature on board with them. Xtl is a hidden agent, undetectable until he’s on the ship, and therefore much, much more dangerous.

Kronos Quartet/Laurie Anderson/Trio Da Kali

My “Fresh Air” review. Couple points: I meant to review the Trio Da Kali collaboration when it came out last fall, but life got too complicated for a while. Proved to be a good thing, though, because the Landfall pairing is excellent in a quite different way. The triumph of string groups added to diverse modern music is my theme of the year. Carl Craig’s surprise wonder was my first discovery of the series.