Monday, February 29, 2016

This Other Half Week In Not Surfing

1. The Italian twins have asked Jeremy over for dinner to which he responds by bringing dinner. One twin cancels, leaving another Italian in her place along with her English husband. They are all artists. The replacement Italian comes from a Milanese family. She is currently working feverishly to produce a line of new scents for the family business of which she is fast becoming the creative face. One half the original Italian, a painter, is just returning to her work from having to do someone else's work. She complains about commissions. But only so much. The Englishman starts dour, hunkered in the corner staring at a computer screen, but evolves into entertaining stories about trapeze classes. I shuck kale and sauté garlic, jobs I am grateful for but also fill me with anxiety. Sautéing garlic in an Italian's home. Nothing could be more terrifying.

2. A consistent item on the menu of dinner conversations the world over is a bubbling stew called "Tales of Altered States, Homeopathic Remedies and the Upending of Expectation." The recipe rarely loses steam, offers anecdotal hilarity and allows for a soap box moment for every participant.

3. I witness the isolation of the displaced professional athlete. I witness the adulation of fans and the misplacement of hopes. I take four train rides. Up and back. Up and back. The English countryside looks identical three times. The fourth is at night.

4. I buy two books about Italian football. I eat at an Italian restaurant which isn't any good. I finish half my meal, half my glass of wine, pay, and go next door to another Italian restaurant and order a similar dish. I finish half that meal and glass of wine, pay and leave. Afterward I have a stomach ache.

5. I try to read one of the Italian books, an anecdotal history about great Italian soccer players, but it is awful. I have read many great books about the history of soccer, the utterly brilliant Soccer in the Sun and Shadow being my nearest hope for this flaccid drone. But, alas.

6. I travel to two Premier League soccer games on back to back days. The two teams are currently battling it out at the top of the table. Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. In both cases I find the palpable excitement of gameday offset by that peculiar English a) overt misery in the case of Spurs and b) blunt resignation in the case of the Foxes. But the cheering, the chanting, the singing and general grandiose chummy appreciation on display in both stadiums make me resigned and miserable to the right degree in the end.

7. At St. Pancras I spill my coffee. At St. Pancras they unpack both my enormous bags completely at the security line. I had expected to travel to India after Paris for another couple weeks of work but the job fell through and my bags have far more gear and varied clothing than I'd ever need for a couple weeks work in dour European winter weather. The security lady cannot understand why I have so many bags within bags full little cables. But I smile at her and she smiles at me and I repack my bags slowly.

8. All the attendants on the train to Paris are tall. The men are tall, the women are tall. The women are very pretty and wear blue uniforms that make them even prettier. The driver who picks me up in Paris was born in Israel and has two children. They are six, three and 11 months. He has a quick gait, wears a long beige trench coat on a sunny day with cool black Ray Bans and is very bad at maths.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This Half Week In Not Surfing

1. Five harried travelers ahead of me in the security line one of the greatest right fullbacks in the history of soccer removes his shoes. My heart quickens as I am sure no one around me realizes this. My heart quickens at the thought of nicking a selfie with him. If I can just catch up. If this stupid line can go faster. That oaf hasn't got his laptop out yet. Yes! You have to take your watch off. Yes! The laptop goes in a bin by itself. Somehow, some way I nearly bump into the great player at the top of the escalator. He is fiddling with his phone. It is a moment of real conundrum for me. I take what I believe is the path of pride. The path of respect. "Excuse me. Thank you, thank you for everything you've done." I shake his hand. He smiles warmly, I imagine because he is grateful too. Grateful that I did not ask for a selfie. Will he be grateful if he catches the walking pneumonia I seem to be carrying around with me?

 2. The lady besides me has black leggings. She is tall, from Manchester, covers herself completely with the red courtesy blanket and pulls her beanie over her whole face. When her chrysalis blossoms near the end of the flight, she explains she is heading to the Canary Islands to finish filming a sci-fi T.V. show about the end of the world.

3. I am shut out of a sauna and a banya. The banya has no room. The sauna is on women's day. I visit Isabel who has just made a surfy film with Jamie. We walk and talk from Shoreditch back to Clerkenwell. I tell her about a movie I like. She tells me about a movie she likes. I have included their surfy film here.

4. Five movies I like : Father Goose. Tampopo. The Castle. Of Time and The City. The Great Beauty. I tell Chris these movies are like jigsaw puzzle pieces inside my heart. Along with my children, my wife, the dogs I have owned, my friends, my anguish, my insecurity, my misconceptions and my memories, these films remind me of who I am. At dinner, over food curried from beneath heat lamps in a section of the restaurant grandly titled "The Carvary," I list this list to Chris.

5. The hotel room in the small Midlands city smells of exhaled smoke and the faint odor of human waste. The paint is chipping. The sheets are stale. There is mold. There is a gap between one wall and the other. Inside the gap is dark. I do not take my clothes off when I sleep. I wish deeply I still smoked so I can light up a cigarette and join in the air.

6. Dev shows us around Leicester. He shows us the house of the rich girl who, after dancing late into the night, would take him and his friends home to play snooker around her father's 12 foot table. He points out the bar where his buddy got hustled by a lady pool shark. He takes us to a Naan joint that is so devoid of any decoration it seems abandoned at first until three middle eastern men pop their heads out of the back room almost simultaneously. He tells us how the first letters of the names of the streets in one part of town spells out the name of the architect who designed the brick tenement housing. He shows us where he met his wife. He tells us about the love song he'd written her. He had studied engineering. He had built pools in France.

7. My trip to India is cancelled. The client balked at our numbers. I have never been to India and was looking forward to going to India. But between the lingering walking pneumonia, the nausea induced by the hotel room odor and the odd responses the goat naan has already produced in my stomach, I find plenty of reason to ignore the disappointment. A good month away from my family might have been a good break for us all. Maybe all of us except the children. And the dog.

8. When Chris cuts our stay at the hotel one night short, the man in the polyester vest asks him why. Chris runs down the litany of reasons. He does not hold back. When he is finished, the blinking man offers an apology to which Chris replies in genuinely the nicest way possible, " Oh you don't need to apologize. This place is awful."

Dictation Pidgin on a Wednesday Night in the Tub

Did you given moment at each given moment at each given moment I had multiple moments at multiple moments you are shamed. The inequities pile up. The small sandpaper the small grit the small the fine grit sandpaper her that his life chafingand chafing running away at your insecurities not rubbing them away button flaming them. Everything feels like a slight everything feels like it wasn't meant like it was meant and and even if it weren't similarities to great he cannot overcome them indignities that we Conger that one conjures that he conjures himself herself. Because in each corner at each step around each corner through that door crawling through that window always looking for the window because who wants to go through the front door that would entail too much honesty. There is no difference between the small things and the big things fine grit and the larger nubbly ones is all sandpaper sometimes it is a flame smoke burns the eyes the smell of burning hairof which he can only smell she can only smellThe indignities the first world problems the indignities The small aching pains the sharp poignant ones like when you stretch out your foot and becomes taught painful unresponsive tight stiff excruciating for a moment and then you please wait and then you place weight on it wait W EEI GH T on it and the pain subsides under the pressure of your body. They are first world problems the pain in the thought that spasm that rigor mortis the first world problem and you live and she lives and he lives in the first world so the problem is a problem. Ending Denny's in dignities our problem made he makes she makes he makes observed observed like a right right R I T E that kind of right. And observance and observance and AN observance they have it but you'll have been Chewalla ritual of the jewel habit habit habit habit she will have a bit she will have the jewel habitual yes habit habit habit. And addiction and AN addiction the small things pinpricks uncomfortable elbows bad bad bad bad Bad bad bad bad bed bed thank you. A bad BDBEDBEDB space East space D space. It is the small things and they heard not because they hurt but because you're experiencing because she experiences them because he experiences them because it is experienced as such pain suffering inconsequential ignored unappreciated besieged guilty very guilty and also terribly unrealistic festively unrealistic fast studious Festus Festus F a D a I ST a I DO US F a STE I DE I O US Festus Festus fast idiots Festivus fast it is fast idiots fast if ES fast odious fast if yes. Fast if yes fasted this. Pain is relative she knows she knows pain is contextual contextual and he experiences it hourly. On purpose with purpose without purpose not on purpose except for the day he decided that he wasn't worth it that no one thought he was worth it though not him early suddenly that no one thought he was worth it and he's never believed it since and he looks across the table at her and sees it in her two together her to TOL TOL TOL 02 they are not worth it he sees it a mirror of himself a mirror that says we are not worth it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Abbreviated EBNY Review : The Reef

Above is a picture, and a link if you click on it, to the NY Times review of Mick Sowry's "The Reef" which played at the 92nd Street Y on February 18th.

I was one who stood and cheered and not just for the orchestra, but for the film itself. Both stunning adventures into the heretofore (to me) unknown.

In the case of the music: a serious live application of classical repertoire and skill to a surf film.

In the case of the film itself: a kind of magical peeling back of the often decrepit cliches that govern the genre.

Sowry's (and Jon Frank's) abstract, probing, and at times sublimely alienating imagery and editing, pushed and pulled my expectations (and thereby emotions) twisting me into a state of constant surprise.

In our conversation after the perfomance/projection, Mick called it a sort of endless surf painting I think -or something to that effect- rather than a surf film per se. And while I think it is an apt sort of shrugging (either humble or something more realistic), it doesn't quite do justice to the fact that this film has opened a new door to surf filmmaking.

All odd ends and interesting bits, forward glances and backward thrusts, The Reef somehow breaks down the form and resets the conversation to some disturbingly entrancing elements.

It is not a perfect film, but one that is indelibly an act of evolution. And an inspiring, tantalizing one at that.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


One of the very first surf magazines I ever owned. At that time Brock Little was all over the mags. He was one of the first surf heroes I knew.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


"After huge critical acclaim in 2012 and 2013 in Australia Richard Tognetti and crew have ‘revisited’ the original Reef project adding in exciting, new footage and re-invigorating the original score with new works to create an updated version of The Reef for 2016.

This performance is an illuminating and thrilling celebration of surfing, the ocean, landscape, film and music melded together."

This is a singular event. There will not be something like this happening for a long, long time and you'd best be on your toes to witness. Mick Sowry, Richard Tognetti, Jon Frank et al will be in New York showing this incredible sonic and visual collaboration at the 92nd Street Y on February 18th.

"The Reef is a celebration of surfing, film and live music by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

ACO artistic director and lead violin, Richard Tognetti, collaborated with producer/director Mick Sowry and director of photography Jon Frank, to create an evocation of an epic stretch of coastline in the north west of Western Australia. Using a mythic day to symbolise our lives in all their trials and glory, The Reef music consists of twenty one individual compositions, some original, some amongst the greatest works in the classical tradition.

This preview features Vocalise by Rachmaninov and explores heroic failure - a simple yet beautiful representation of the inescapable part of our lives where all does not go to plan, and the honour in trying again and again.

The ACO performs The Reef (Revisited) in Sydney on 12 February before taking off for an USA tour that includes performances in Los Angeles, New York and Richmond, from 16 to 20 February."

The Surfer's Journal have already plugged it, and it ought to be smack in the middle of your radar. I have three tickets for Wifey, Primero and myself (Segundo gets the baby sitter) and we are returning from our winter holiday the morning of, just to make it to the performance.

If you can't get to the New York performance/screening, get there in L.A. or Richmond.

Because this film matters.

"Later in the day a flight across the dunes. A discovery and a near dream, Hypnosis is a new composition by Richard Tognetti for The Reef, with vocals by Satu Vanska and technical assistance by Joseph Nizetti. In performance the entire Australian Chamber Orchestra will add many layers to this already beautiful piece."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Happening : Katherine Bradford at Canada Gallery

Painting and swimming share immersion and a certain loss of control that is simultaneously wild and structured. The body in nature; we see ourselves situated in relationship to the deep other. In Bradford’s paintings there is often a clear differentiation between swimmer and water, yet one senses she enjoys painting both equally. Bradford’s swimmers are not lit from some external light source but seem to generate their own brightness. The world seems milky and dreamlike. This comes from the act of painting, the painter breathing light and life into her canvasses. Bradford spends months and sometimes years building up the surfaces of her paintings, slowly changing the paintings through repeated application of thinned out acrylic paint or scuffed on thicker stuff. The fact that this gradual activity creates animation and a floating quality is something close to miraculous. The act of moving a figure a little to the left or right then becomes both the history and the surface of the final painting. 

Bradford often refers to the humor in her paintings. In the past the subject matter pointed more obviously in this direction: UFOs with tractor beams, Superman, Skinny boxers with raised gloves and lonesome ocean liners were used to create a self-depreciating painterly pop encyclopedia. The work in “Fear of Waves” is Bradford’s most figurative thus far and holds pathos and humor in equal measure. A signature painting in the show “Fear of Waves” is a huge canvas bisected by an awesome chevron. On the left side there is a crowd of happy swimmers (including a naked Lady) playing happily while the right holds only the froth and fume left by a set of monstrous waves. This painting holds the key, the delicate balance of joy and fear.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016