The funeral procession started at 4:00 in the morning. Buzz and Maude had been up since 3:00. There was a long shot up a cobbled street into a palace. All the channels were carrying it, commentators stumbling through the silence. A church bell tolled every minute. Mounted horses appeared and then, on a gun carriage, the coffin covered in white flowers. The pace of the cortege was squashed in the zoomed image, the tolling of the bell and the horses’ hooves clip-clopping, somehow all the more beautiful. A woman screamed, “Diana! Oh, Diana!” Flowers and bouquets were tossed at the coffin, toppling off and falling short. The streets were packed, many standing, others running alongside the barricades. There was only the bell and the hooves. Maude was asleep on his chest. He was transfixed by this slow play, simple, the glamorous reduced to such a quiet and regretful scene. The cortege approached Buckingham Palace. The royal family were waiting at the gates. The queen bowed purposefully. Five men followed the coffin: the king, the prince, Diana’s brother and two sons. “Oh, look at them,” Megan cried. “The poor boys.” The cortege came to Westminster. Six Royal Guardsmen struggled to bring their coffin to the shoulders and then carry it inside. It was a long service with hymns and readings. Buzz dozed. When he awoke, Elton John was singing a pop sing. And then there was a final hymn, and again the Guardsmen with the coffin and at the great front doors where they waited in silence. Megan sighed. Early morning light trickled into the living room. A peal of bells poured out of the church as the Guardsmen carried the coffin to the hearse. It eased into the crowded streets, flowers raining down, single roses and gargantuan bouquets. The windshield wipers swung back and forth to clear the windscreen. The crowds grew. Buzz dozed again and awoke to see the car, thick in flowers, slip through the gates of a country estate and vanish from sight. Megan was asleep.* Extract from Buzz (1999)
I visited a gallery in Chelsea two years ago and saw a collection of costumes designed by Nick Cave. I had no idea that Nick Cave was such a Renaissance Man until that moment. I only knew that he was a singer, something I initially learned from his performance in the 1987 film, Wings of Desire. I listened sporadically to his music over the years after that and saw him on Thursday night at the Beacon Theater where he was most animated, cavorting across the stage, and yelling out the words. I was also impressed at his humility. Not once did he mention his other show, Heard, a new art installation on display at Grand Central Station throughout the week. I attended the event the next day and delighted – yes, delighted – as the performers paraded and danced to the drum and harp. (Click the video to see.)It really was amazing how different this work was from his music on stage. And then I did a little research and found out that there are in fact two Nick Caves. I then recalled the saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Indeed what if I had mixed up Nick Cave with Nick Drake or Nick Cage? What kinds of assumptions would have I made then?
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is pretty awful, little more than a terrible rap video with loops of meaningless dialogue, sensational imagery and an off-key – even insulting – reference to the imprisoned Russian group Pussy Riot. Not that any of this surprises – excepting the purple unicorn balaclavas. What’s remarkable is the critical response. Spring Breakers has been called “the year’s loopiest bit of fun” (Time Out), “positively raging with affect” (New Yorker), and an “outrageously funny party that takes a while to appreciate.” (The New York Times) With no characters, dialogue, nor even a narrative, it’s none of the above, but rather a bland statement about the simmering violence in pretty little things, all of it trite and overly done. The only entertaining thing was the drama in the theater – teenagers sneaking in, chased out by ushers – which seemed to approximate the politics of the affair.
I’m a bit down today. I dreamt of dying dogs – although not Biba – and keep expecting her to come around the corner…and remember her lying on the brown blanket at the veterinarian’s, her body relaxing after the needle, her mouth sagging and tongue lolling out. I’m stuck on that at the moment. I should have made her stop smoking as a puppy.
Biba didn’t eat all of her cancer, although she did try. Being a dog, she liked her walks almost as much as eating and sleeping. She died this morning at 13 years, 4 months. She will be missed.
Crystal reflects on the New York subways (Click on the images below for the video experience): You know when you’re on the subway, and there’s another one there, another train in the tunnel right beside you, another one full of people, the light of the car and all the people and the pillars in between, everyone watching. You know, at 33rd on the 4 or 5, and the 6 right there, everyone in that bright car, everyone going with you, going the same way, standing there in the light just like you are for them. Someone looks back. And you look the same way to her, and it’s like it will stay forever, those pillars, just standing there, staring back. That’s what New York can be. That’s what it’s supposed to be. (Excerpted from my bad side.)
What is a critic’s opinion worth? How much money in real dollars? What is a star out of five? What is it per vitriolic word?I understand that these idle gadabouts don’t actually create anything and that they are bitter and dissatisfied because they just, well, criticize, but there’s a number in there somewhere. The recent ballyhoo about Michael Cimino’s work, Heaven’s Gate, has given me pause. While the film is much like his masterwork The Deer Hunter in its majestic landscapes, focus on hypnotic ceremony, retributive violence, characters lost in a foreign land, love triangles and touching score, Heaven’s Gate was derided and Cimino vilified.
The film has been resurrected and re-screened as of late, and now has many on its side including Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, celebrating the “complex choreography and cinematography (as) seductive, at times stunning”, while others stick to the poo-poo trail like Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) calling it, oddly, an “inert disaster”. The truth is that it doesn’t matter so much what Joshua and Co. say now. It’s 30 years ago that mattered. I would love to have seen Heaven’s Gate in its initial release in 1980, but I didn’t because the film only lasted a week…due to devastating critical opinion.
I have come to realize that this is not only a frustrating fact, but a crime. Having seen the film just now in the theater, I know that, like The Deer Hunter, it would have been a great boon to my developing psyche. And so back to my original question: What is a critic’s opinion worth? There’s a dollar figure in there somewhere. Whatever it is, I want my collateral damage.
There is a stillness today, Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, died at 82 years. The thing about Mr. Achebe’s noted work is not necessarily what a great story it is, but what it taught us. He showed us the cyclical nature of the oral tradition in storytelling and what happens when that world meets the linear narrative of the Western traditions.
Indeed we may even come to understand that things need not have to be in a line and perhaps might be better if they are not.