Friday, March 06, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Drugging of our Children

 In the absence of any objective medical tests to determine who has ADD or ADHD, doctors rely in part on standardized assessments and the impressions of teachers and guardians, leaving little room for other causes or aggravating factors, such as diet, or environment. Hence, diagnosing a child or adolescent with ADD or ADHD is often the outcome, although no organic basis for either disease has yet to be clinically proven.

Psychiatrists may then prescribe psychotropic drugs for the children without first without making it clear to parents that these medications can have severe side-effects including insomnia, loss of appetite, headaches, psychotic symptoms and even potentially fatal adverse reactions, such as cardiac arrhythmia. And yet, despite these dangers, many school systems actually work with government agencies to force parents to drug their children, threatening those who refuse with the prospect of having their children taken from the home unless they cooperate.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I've been recommending this resource to students and colleagues for about a year now, and was wondering why it wasn't more widely acknowledged.

The website features two of my favorite films:

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet

Horror Hotel

Saturday, May 05, 2007

An[other] new art form?

Last week,
while working on my laptop,
I peripherally watched/listened...
to Napoleon Dynamite.

Although the film did not have...
my full attention,
I did notice a short piece of obscure dialogue...
that lingered in my mind.

I did a search on YouTube...
to see if anyone had posted the scene.
I couldn't find it.

But I did find this...

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Man Who Found God On The Moon

Periodically, I find myself revisiting an obscure recording from 1974 entitled, The Man Who Found God On The Moon. The song was a collaboration between Paul McCartney and his brother, Mike McGear and appears on the latter's solo album.

The genesis of the song reportedly comes from McCartney's chance encounter with a young Hare Krishna named Anette who approached him on his way into the studio and attempted to sell him some prayer books. He was so moved by the experience that it inspired him to write this song. Interestingly, the work also incorporates elements of astronaut Buzz Aldrin's moon-landing transmissions, and is bracketed with an account of man's interest in travel throughout the ages.

The Man Who Found God On The Moon was included on a cassette that was given to me by a good friend named Jav back in 1992. He was one of those people who come into your life seemingly able to engage in conversation on any subject imaginable. He'd moved out of the area in the late 1980s, but we stayed in touch by phone or letter for the next few years.

In early 1995, we had a brief falling out over a tape collection he'd been expecting me to send him through the mail. A week after sending him the tape, I received a rather nasty voice mail in which he claimed that I had forgotten all about him and evidently no longer wanted to continue the friendship. A few minutes later, he left another message in which he sheepishly apologized for the previous call saying that he had just gone out to his mailbox and found the tape.

Several weeks later, Jav called again and asked what I was up to. I mentioned that I was re-listening to Paul McCartney's RAM album, and posed a rather esoteric question regarding that particular recording. Without missing a beat, he launched into a lengthy and detailed discourse on McCartney's process during that period in his career. At that moment, I was struck by the fact that there were not many people I knew who would be able to engage in such a conversation. Three days later, I received a phone call from his wife who told me that Jav had died suddenly the previous night.

I drove with our mutual friend Jimmy to attend the wake in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. On the way, we reminisced about Jav and listened to cassette tapes of his home recordings. At the wake, I was struck by the number and variety of the people present. Particularly noticeable was a group of his son's friends who were all members of the baseball team that Jav coached. In tears, they filed slowly passed the casket, seemingly unable to grasp how someone who'd had such an impact on their lives could be taken so suddenly.

Regarding the tape Jav had given me back in '92, I listened to most of it but didn't get to The Man Who Found God On The Moon until a year after he died. I was driving back from a gig one night when I stumbled upon it at the end of side two. I replayed the song again and again, as if attempting to decipher a coded message. In the early morning stillness, it seemed clear that the conversation which had ended so abruptly the previous year was still in progress.

I've been listening ever since.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mr. Arkadin: Identity, and the Fixation on Fixation

Recently, Criterion Films released a DVD set which focuses on Orson Welles' ill-fated 1956 film, Mr Arkadin (aka Confidential Report). It's the story of an investigation into the life of a mysterious self-made man named Gregory Arkadin whose past exploits are seen to be increasingly sordid as the plot unfolds. The twist here is that the man who has requested the investigation is Arkadin himself, who claims that he has no memory of his life before 1927 and wishes to know who he really is.

Five alternate versions of the film have been available over the years.
This DVD set presents three:

1) The Corinth Version - The latest extant version over which Welles had a significant level of control

2) Confidential Report - The original European release completed by the film's producer, Louis Dolivet which alters the original flashback structure in favor of a more linear plotline

3) The Comprehensive Version - A compendium created by film historians that utilizes various elements unique to each of the existing versions

Interestingly, since Welles was never allowed to complete the editing to his satisfaction, no "director's cut" of Mr. Arkadin will ever exist. For that reason, the film was often derogated by critics (and Welles himself) as being tragically incomplete, and thus not worthy of serious consideration. Now however, it can be viewed in a new light.

The disjointed structure of Arkadin, a reflection of the main character himself, seems positively contemporary in that it portends the deliberately non-linear plotlines of films like Pulp Fiction (1994), Abre los ojos (1997), and Memento (2000). Here, Welles presents a Borgesian vision of post-war European culture which consistently challenges the audience's expectation for classical narrative structure.

Further, the DVD release of Mr. Arkadin raises serious questions concerning the Western notion of the finished work. Welles's notoriously slow pace in the editing room is worth reconsidering, since his detractors often described it as a fundamental inability to bring a project to its completion. Increasingly however, contemporary artists have come to view "the work" as something that exists in continuous motion, and completion itself as one of the most arbitrary and questionable constructs of the human mind.

And so, fifty years following its initial release, Mr. Arkadin is still a work-in-progress, one that continues to inspire compelling questions into the shifting definition of artistic creation.

To be continued...

il ritorno

On a Saturday afternoon not long ago, I strolled to my local coffee shop to purchase a green tea shake. It was one of the first warm days of the year, so I felt obliged to make the best of it.

While walking home, I realized that the route I was following was the same one I had taken every day to school some 40 years before. Troubled that it might seem as if I hadn't "gone anywhere" in life, I began to sense a mild depression coming on. Suddenly, I was struck by a peculiar notion regarding the nature of space and time.

Arriving home, I asked my son if the solar system was in motion.

"Yes," he said, "the planets are moving around the sun."
"I know," I replied, "but is the solar system itself moving?"

Not satisfied with his response, I decided to research the question online and discovered that in point of fact our solar system is moving, and that it completes one revolution around our galaxy every 226 million years!

Therefore, even as I walk the same streets I walked in my youth, I am definitely not in the same place, and never will be again.

What a relief!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mr. Memory

In Alfred Hitchcock's spy film, The 39 Steps (1935), Wylie Watson portrayed a character named Mr. Memory who had the uncanny ability to specifically answer any detailed question put to him. During the course of the film, he displays this talent on the stages of the English Music Hall to the delight of inquisitive audiences who marvel at his encyclopedic knowledge. In the film's final reel, he blurts out classified information at the behest of the main character, and as a result pays the ultimate price for his gift.

The following audio-visual work is offered in his honor...

Mr. Memory
"Go over that, and start again." (Sarah MacFarlane - 1974)

"I left you far behind
The ruins of my mind
I haven't time for "Let's pretend"
Forget your foolish dreams
It's not the way it seems
I'll never be the one you bend
But when I see you on the street
I'm knowing what could be mine"

Pray for Mr. Memory
Cause he is blind and will not see
Won't you say a prayer for
Mr. Memory

"Why should I care at all
You never even call
Or send a letter meant for me
I'll never eat my pride
Although I'm on your side
I think you'd probably disagree
But when I see you on the street
I'm knowing what could be mine"

Pray for Mr. Memory
Cause he is blind and will not see
Won't you say a prayer for
Mr. Memory


"I put my life on hold
Just to find you cold
Without a smidgen of conceit
And so I drive around
The places you'd be found
So we can "accidentally" meet
But when I see you on the street
I'm knowing what could be mine"

Pray for Mr. Memory
Cause he is blind and will not see
Won't you say a prayer for Mr. Memory

"It's goin' round and round..."

Copyright 2005, all rights reserved

Monday, March 06, 2006


Wheels in rhythm,
the sunlight fades behind purple clouds as we...
enter the tunnel.

Lights in sequence,
rolling quickly past the window as he...
slips into a trance.

Stepping off the train at 33rd and Broadway, he found the Path station crowded with lunchtime commuters. As previously arranged, he began to wait for Pedro, the friend who had agreed to accompany him to the rally. It was difficult to stand in one place for very long. Each time he turned to look at the station’s large white clock, his knapsack would brush up against the person standing next to him. After about 20 minutes of this, he realized that although Pedro had professed sympathy, it was now clear that he probably wasn’t coming. So he stepped through the turnstile, climbed the stairway up to 7th Avenue, and began to make his way towards the UN.

The sky was clear except for some dark clouds that were gathering in the distance. As he approached the Plaza carrying the petitions, he could see that something was wrong. The streets were not crowded with protesters as the news media had predicted. Instead, they were littered with flyers, torn pamphlets and horse manure. A mounted policeman told him that the rally had just ended and the demonstrators had already begun their march to the Chinese Embassy. After several frantic phone calls, he managed to get the address, and proceeded to board an uptown train towards Lincoln Center.

Sitting in the crowded car, he noticed a petite Chinese girl sitting directly across from him. Her short black hair and wire-rimmed glasses gave her an air of confidence that was offset by a somewhat oversized beige raincoat. In front of her stood a large American woman carrying a shopping bag filled with packages. As the train pitched back and forth, the woman repeatedly bumped into her with the bag, seemingly oblivious to the girl’s obvious annoyance. He couldn’t help but be struck by her vulnerability.

As the train reached the 66th Street station, they both got up and headed for the door. Feeling unusually bold, he asked if she was headed for the rally.

“Yes, I am.” she said,
“At the Chinese Embassy?” he asked.
“That’s right.”
“May I come with you?” he said, “I’m afraid I don’t know the way.”
“Sure, let’s go”

Together, they climbed out of the station, and began walking along the street that passes under the middle of Lincoln Center. Along the way, he learned that her name was Grace, and that she was born in Hong Kong. A devout Muslim, she had come here with her parents while still in her early teens. She worked in Manhattan, but lived with her family in Queens. As they spoke, he noticed that she walked with a slight limp.

“Did you injure your leg?” he asked.
“I twisted my ankle, skiing.” she said.
“Oh, so you’re a skier.” he said.
“Not exactly.” she said, “It was my first time.”

She seemed to defy every Asian stereotype he'd been raised to recognize.

He liked her very much.

They turned the corner of the street facing the Chinese Embassy and joined a large crowd that was milling about. A light rain began to fall as they shouldered their way towards an opening on the sidewalk just to the left of the makeshift grandstand. Grace opened the collapsible umbrella she’d been carrying in her purse and offered to share it with him. In front of them stood an elderly Jewish man with a long grey beard.

A Buddhist priest began to recite a traditional prayer of mourning. The cadences of the priest's voice caused him to comment to Grace on the tonal quality of the Chinese language.

“Do you speak Chinese?” she said.
“No, I’m a musician.”
“I see.” she said. “That makes sense. I enjoy classical music very much.”
“Me, too.” he said.

She seemed pleased and began to translate for him.

The rain was falling heavier now. He noticed that the crowd had become a mass of umbrellas whose tops were rapidly filling with water. Each time he or Grace brushed up against someone next to them, a stream would run from an umbrella, straight down the middle of their backs. Within 20 minutes, they were both soaking wet.

When the priest had finished his recitation, a young Asian man stepped up to the microphone and began to recount the events, which led up to the attack on Tiananmen Square.

Grace continued to translate...

“The students had not received any response from the government representatives in over 24 hours. As the sun set over the square, the demonstration leaders met near the base of the liberty monument that had been erected as a symbol of the democracy movement...

As she spoke, he looked around and noticed that besides the elderly Jewish man standing in front of him, his was the only white face in the crowd.

“...Later that evening, while most of the demonstrators were sleeping in their tents, the soldiers began to come into the Square...

He wondered what he was doing here. Earlier that week, he had visited a group of students on a hunger strike in front of the United Nations Plaza. As he watched from the sidewalk, representatives of the press arrived and stood directly in front of him. One of the students began handing out press kits and gave him one by mistake. At the back of the kit, were petitions asking for sanctions against The People’s Republic of China for numerous human rights violations. Over the next few days, he had secured over 100 signatures. He still didn't know why, or why he had gone to such lengths to stand with a group of strangers in protest of an event that was happening half a world away.

“...the soldiers began firing into the crowd. The tanks rolled over tents containing the helpless students. Many were killed outright. Some lingered pitifully into the early morning hours before succumbing to their terrible wounds..."

Although the young Asian man was still speaking, the translations had begun to trail off. Lost in thought, he continued to gaze across the rain-drenched crowd before turning to see that Grace was now weeping uncontrollably. Startled, he reached into his pocket for some tissues, and handed them to her awkwardly.

“Here.” he said.

She took the Kleenex and began to wipe away the stream of mucous that was trailing from her nose and mouth. He looked away, so as not to embarrass her, and noticed that many people in the crowd were also crying. Their soft whimpers seemed to underscore the continuing accounts of the massacre. Deeply moved, he put his arm around Grace’s shoulders and began to comfort her.

“It’s going to be alright.,” he said.

She nodded and continued crying.

After a few minutes, the rain stopped. The accounts of the massacre had ended and the crowd slowly began to disperse. By now, Grace had regained her composure and he gently began to lead her up the street towards 7th Avenue. Feeling a slight chill, he decided to take off his sopping wet pullover and put on the hooded sweatshirt he had stashed in his knapsack. They stopped in front of an appliance store and he quickly removed the shirt. Grace smiled as he put on the sweatshirt and checked his hair in the store window.

When they reached 7th Avenue, Grace suggested that they visit the record store on the corner.

“I want to see if they’ve finished the renovation.” she said.
“Okay.” he said.

As they stepped through the revolving doors, he was glad he’d removed his wet shirt. The store’s central air conditioning was oppressive. After pausing for a moment in order to get her bearings on the store’s new layout, Grace began to lead him towards the classical music section.

“Do you like Brahms?” she asked.
“Yes, very much.” he said.

He was lying. His aunt had played Brahms for him when he was a child, but his taste had always gravitated towards popular styles. After they had looked through several bins, he tried to lead her towards the contemporary music section at the other end of the store. She didn’t seem that interested so he decided not to push it. They stepped out through the revolving doors and began walking back towards the 66th Street station.

They stood together on the crowded platform, waiting for their respective trains. Hers was going uptown back to Queens, and his was headed downtown, the first leg of his journey back to New Jersey. Since leaving the record store, he’d become conscious of the fact that the closeness they’d experienced at the rally was gradually beginning to wear off. She seemed very much a stranger to him now. As his train pulled in, he knew it was time to say goodbye.

“Well,” he said, “I guess this is it.”
“Yes,” she said, “it was very nice to meet you.”
“Listen, “, he said, “maybe we could...”

She held out a tiny hand.
He paused for a moment and then shook it gently.

“Take care.” she said.
“You, too.” he replied, “Best of luck.”
“Thanks.” he said.

As he held onto the strap for the ride home, he watched the...

lights in sequence,
rolling quickly past the window as he ...
slipped back into a trance.

The City of the World Octet

Copyright 2005, all rights reserved

Saturday, March 04, 2006

In Media Res

This is my first blog -

Fluxus 1

many new ideas and questions to come.
all is in motion, yet all is one....

see you soon...

thom de plume