Swans are playing Brooklyn tonight, and I'm not there! But I'll certainly blog about another one of my influences, percussionist Thor Harris. He embodies the creative resourcefulness I aspire to.
Harris is a survivor of depression, which I am not, but I am deeply moved by this video from the Mental Health Network in which he describes coming out on the other side. "The secrecy is so potentially lethal," he says, regarding going public about his mental health issues. His keys to survival: exercise, accepting love, and creative expression, in particular, "making things." This guy invented the freak flag and flies it all the time. And there are dogs everywhere, so he had me at hello.
He is a proponent of keeping down the overhead, like all my favorite creatives. Check out his advice for living like a king, with pragmatic morsels like "7. Learn to fix things. Tons of great books and youtube vids on fixing anything. Or ask an old dude. People used to fix things. No shit."
How can you not love this dude, especially when he says his key to success has been cold-calling the musicians he likes and asking if he can play drums for them. Amanda Palmer, and Bill Callahan (aka Smog), and of course Swans, among others. What a diverse list!
And of course, the music itself. Here's a morsel of Swans. It's religious.
Artists, writers, everyone who just wants their minds blown today--the key is the right state of mind. Try reciting this poem, "Electric Magistrate," by the amazing Emily XYZ. Stand up. Sometimes I recite this poem to myself while I walk the dogs. It's pure courage.
Emily has been a big influence on me since I first heard her perform with Myers Bartlett in a little gallery in SoHo, sometime in the early 1990's. She writes about money. Until I heard the poem below, "Matt Kahn's Email," which still gives me the chills, I hadn't realized how poetic (and important!) a meditation on money can be. Now it is one of my favorite subjects. And not because "more is better than less."
And while we're on the subject of money poems, here's a classic, "Cash." Enjoy!
My new novella, The Beginning of the End of the Beginning, has a scene in an artist's studio at the top of the Twin Towers, and some have asked me if they really had artist spaces up there. They did. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council had two residency programs in unused office spaces.
One of my inspirations was Stephen Vitiello, a sound artist whose work I found on the web. He used contact mics on the windows of his 91st floor studio to record the vibrations of the building and the wind. I found it easy to picture him, at night, next to his windows, in solitude, looking down at the small buildings, listening to the big one. Here is a sample, from a 2011 Studio 360 broadcast:
I will speak more on WTC artists in future posts.
My preference is to turn off the sound and listen to something symphonic.
For your inspiration. Two of my favorite souls interview each other for the BBC.
Patti Smith: "What's more horrifying than normalcy?"
David Lynch: "I would like to bite my paintings."
What I love about both artists is their focus, their independence, and their originality, which seems to emerge from a shamanistic approach to art. Says wise Patti, "We don't want any answers. We don't need them. We just need to do our work."
People, have you, like me, discovered the Youtube genre that surpasses captioned cats and dogs? It's GOATS! They're playful, they're vocal, they're weird, and of course cute! Plus they look like some people I know. They have crept into my fiction and they're creeping into my new blog. Or, should I say, hopping?
Since the rest of my website seems to think it is all about me, the blog is going to be about everybody else: the books, recordings, podcasts, videos, music, and works of art by others that inspire me and make me love the world.
Ever feel like you need to choose between writing/reading and exercise? I'm not big on reading books on the treadmill, so I go with audiobooks and walking outdoors. Also great for subway rides (no need to don my reading glasses!) , long drives, plane rides (no motion sickness!), gardening, and housework.
Lately I have been listening to writers reading their own works, and found a handful of real beauties. I hereby recommend:
Bark, by Lorrie Moore. Her speaking voice has a honey quality that you don't quite get on the page, and adds a vulnerability to her wit. It's worth a listen even if you have already read this classic collection. I love how her narrative voice has matured. The wit is more than a trick. It pokes deep.
Tenth of December, by George Saunders. I can't get enough of that Great Lakes accent. This book is an historic event, and it's great to hear the words in his voice, with the tonal nuance of the author. The voicey voicey Saunders touches--missing articles, equals signs, etc.--sound completely natural. My favorite story: "Escape from Spiderhead." Yours?
Townie, by Andre Dubus III. Dude is famous for the empathy he has for his fictional characters, so what happens when he turns that empathy on himself? It's a remarkable feat in memoir. A meditation on violence unlike any I've seen. And the voices! New England and Old England accents included. He's a performer.
Queen of America, by Luis Alberto Urrea. Talk about performers! This audiobook is the next best thing to hearing him read (or, more likely recite) his fiction live. All the mysticism and feisty dialogue you would expect. Any other actor would be a cheap imitation.
Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. If you're a fan of his TV shows, here's a great place to hear where it all started, with weird childhood European cuisine experiences, entry level kitchen jobs, and all the bravado you would expect. Excellent road trip listen; makes the miles fly by.