the year in ears (2014 edition)

Ten years on is high time to resuscitate a fine tradition at House of Zoka: engaging in three-day knife fights about which live shows of the past year were the most rewarding to experience. Let it be said all live music is rewarding to experience. No I mean that. It’s a time-based art form that transcends ordinary reality with such consistent effectiveness, that the idea of ranking individual instances, even when one or two of them go horribly wrong, seems to indicate one might be missing the point.

However, I grew up in a tradition of negative analysis. There you have it. And here you have this: a top ten of 2014 with no fewer than 14 entries.

  1. Best Show to See After You Just Played an 8-hour Show With a Shamanic Korean Performance Artist
  2. Best Show You Did Not Expect But You Deserved
  3. Best Cover Band
  4. (5. and 6.) Best Investigations of Sound and Vision
  5. (and 8.) Best Downtown Shows In One’s Own Backyard
  6. Best Backyard Show in One’s (Burning) Downtown
  7. Best Front Yard Show At The End of One’s Backroad
  8. (and 12.) Best Drones
  9. Best Double Act of Relentless Churning To Completely Different Effects
  10. Biggest God Damn Surprise

the mailbox cinema

After a string of monumental episodes lighting up facades, city blocks, parking lots, corners filled with detritus and puddles filled with water, I’m thinking of going small. The idea comes from a refrigerator I opened at Art Rattan, a mid-90’s live-work space in the Fruitvale that would give itself over to complex, multi-layered performance. In the back of the middle shelf, there was a boom box playing a John Cage piece on cassette. Simple.

I opened and closed that fridge a dozen times.

I think everyone in that particular space was eventually thrown out for being too real.

So (and by that I do mean, As a result), I’m refurbishing a mailbox so it can be experienced as a miniature movie theater when opened. Modified with an embedded projection and audio system in the back, The Mailbox Cinema will be installed in public as kind of a sculpture, yet also, really an installation, while perhaps in my enteric nervous system I will continue to conceive of it as a musical instrument that appears, disappears, and reappears with small stories of place: the Key Route, the Bonanza, the Hacienda, Calvin Simmons and The Calvin Simmons, and things with the name Chabot on them from the water to the hills.

Front Burnering

the mailbox cinema, before heat turned onI proposed The Mailbox Cinema to to the next Oakland Stock, the delicious artist micro-funding event that’s part of the Sunday Soup network, supporting artists’ projects one bowl of soup at a time. Diners pay a dinner fee of $10, feast on a gourmet meal, and listen to artists propose new projects that need funding. The diners vote on their favorite project to support and the winning artist takes the money to use for her/his work. In my case it’d go directly to my coursework fees over at TechShop San Francisco for all that badass Arduino foo that I’m sure is at the heart of every successful mailbox cinema.

Lexa Walsh just let me know The Mailbox Cinema will be in the mix at the next Oakland Stock on Sunday, January 26, 6pm at Ratto’s RSVP to attend (that event posting in fB may not be sufficient) and let’s see how it stacks up against Oakland’s creative genius.

 

put a fork in it

Meridian Music presents a new work for processed percussion using nothing but plates, cups, bowls, forks, spoons, serving utensils, graters, beaters, ricers, whisks, colanders, flour sifters, and one droning, not burning, can opener. No knives. Some electronics.

Put A Fork In It” is percussionist Suki O’Kane’s first and last composition for kitchen, meant to magnetize some of the Bay Area’s most inventive percussionists and electronicists in contemplation of ordinary objects and their musical properties. Suki is joined by Moe! Staiano and Anna Wray on percussion. Lance Grabmiller, Gretchen Jude and Zachary James Watkins on electronics.

Wednesday, January 9, 2012
Meridian Gallery: Composers in Performance
535 Powell Street, San Francisco
7:30pm
$10 general | $8 student/seniors

About the Performers

Lance Grabmiller is an electronic artist (shudder, Tiny Owl, &Friends, The Abstractions, Nanaqui, HSoA, Stars Like Fleas, C17H19NO3 and Paved in Skin), music publisher (Praemedia) and impresario.

 

Gretchen Jude is a performing artist blending a variety of performance practices for voice, improvisation, traditional Japanese music and Urasenke tea ceremony, electronic and computer music (Candy Acid, Glou-glou and Gestaltish).

 

Moe! Staiano is a percussionist (Vacuum Tree Head, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), band leader (Surplus 1980, Mute Socialite), and composer (Moe!kestra!).

Zachary James Watkins is a composer (Beam, sfsound, Microscores,  Seattle Chamber Players), multimedia performer and sound artist (Country Western, part of  Meridian Gallery’s Composers in Performance, movable, long commutes between loved ones, music for motors and resonant strings, Positively Right On), and Lecturer of Music at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Anna Wray is a percussionist (William Winant Percussion Group) at Mills College, where she is a Provost Scholar and recipient of the Carroll Donner Commemorative Scholarship.

About the Composer

Suki O’Kane is a classically trained mallet percussionist, a media ecologist, and a composer working with artists from an encyclopedic range of musical genres. One of the founding members of the lo-fi sampling ensemble The Noodles (with Michael Zelner), plays percussion with Moe! Staiano’s Moe!kestra!, Dan Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle, Big City Orchestra, Tiny Owl and is an ensemble member of Thingamajigs Performance Group performing new works by Edward Schocker, Dylan Bolles and Zachary Watkins.

Suki has performed live and recorded with She Mob and the side projects of its co-founder Joy (Sue Hutchinson): mad folk duo Junior Showmanship and it’s alter-ego speed metal Winner’s Bitch. She has performed in realizations of Jon Brumit’s Vendetta Retreat; with Lucio Menegon in his Split Lip, Soundtrack Instumentals and Strangelet projects; and with Dohee Lee in realizations of the multidisciplinary performance and installation piece Mago.

Her compositions for theater include three commissions for Theatre of Yugen with playwright Erik Ehn: Frankenstein (2003), The Cycle Plays (2007) and Cordelia (2011), part of Ehn’s Soulographie project.  She teamed with Jason Ditzian to compose for Inkboat’s Line Between (2011). She is directing the development of music for What A Stranger May Know, Ehn’s 32-play cycle remembering the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre while developing new site-specific work for the Illuminated Corridor, a nomadic public art project that creates streetscapes of live experimental music and performative projection in Oakland (2013), San Francisco (2014), West Marin (2014).

daniel popsicle vs brooklyn

It’s important to have the facts, first:

Wed 8/17 9:00 PM
$5-10 sliding scale
Subterranean Arthouse
[2179 Bancroft Way between Shattuck and Fulton Berkeley]
Daniel Popsicle vs Brooklyn
A night of banter-based musical performance, narrative and opera-in-progress when composer’s collective ThingNY violinist Jeffrey Young and cellist Valerie Kuehne come to town accompanied by her band DreamZoo.
Daniel Popsicle hosts, and plays, and, with any luck, recites banter composed for the band by Dan Plonsey, who has an amazing ear for turning overheard comments idly thrown into the universe of a rehearsal into not simply absurd, but touching, and, yes, sometimes searing portraits of humanity secretly concerned with identifying planes from their wing shapes, Wire Magazine, surviving the inevitable hurt of making art that garners no regard, and Norton-esque proclamations.

About the Artists

Valerie Kuehne is an electrically charged virtuoso of all purpose cello. Dynamic performer, fearless improviser, songwriter, vocalist, and classically trained connoisseur of Bach and Britten, Valerie can be found playing incessant shows in NYC, where she devotes formidable heart, intellect, creativity, and time to cross-pollinating sundry genres. Armed with finesse, Valerie is impressively present on stage, rendering poignant punctuations of changeable emotional weather. In any setting, her instrument aches with human implications and fiendish alien fuel. -Lizzy McDaniel (poet, phrenologist)
Read about her most recent brainchild, Dream Zoo discussed in an interview

Jeffrey Young is a composer and violinist from Brooklyn, NY who specializes in experimental classical music and rock music. Jeffrey’s recent accomplishments include the December 2010 premiere of Travels with Fascists and Pure-Hearted Souls, a piece written for his ensemble thingNY with himself as soloist. He has worked with Pierre Boulez during two summers at the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland (to which he will return in summer 2011) and with Steve Reich and Julia Wolfe at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in North Adams, MA. He has toured the U.S. and Canada with experimental chamber music/performance art group thingNY, psychedelic folk band Manson Family Picnic, indie rock band Food Will Win the War, minimalist chamber-rock band Slow Six, Pogues cover band Streams of Whiskey, and experimental singer/songwriter/cellist Valerie Kuehne’s Dream Zoo project. With the Oberlin Orchestra and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jeffrey has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall and Cleveland’s Severance Hall, as well as in China. He has been a featured blues soloist with the National Repertory Orchestra. In addition, Jeffrey is a first place winner of the 2003 Berkshire Lyric Theatre’s Emma Blafield Instrumental Award, and he has been elected into the National Music Honor Society, Pi Kappa Lambda. Jeffrey performs throughout New York City, with around 100 appearances per year at venues such as The Highline Ballroom, B.B. King’s, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mercury Lounge, Galapagos, The Bitter End, The Tank, and The Stone. He has been featured on albums of classical music, indie rock, prog rock, hip-hop, kids songs, and more. He has also appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, FOX’s Fearless Music, and Bravo’s The Fashion Show. He graduated with a B.M. in violin and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2007.

 

strangelet + brale.co at ata

It’s important to have the facts, first:

Tue 8/16 8:00 PM $6-10
Artists’ Television Access [992 Valencia Street @21st SF]

Strangelet + Grale
Improvised sound and 16mm film from
Lucio Menegon‘s Strangelet [with Valerie Kuehne, Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young (NY), Suki O’Kane and Michael Zelner with films by Alfonso Alvarez]
and
Brale.co [Bruce Anderson, Dale Sophiea, Gregory Hagan and Nico Sophiea with films by Lorin Murphy]

And then the story behind them:

Local filmmakers and musicians convene at ATA to welcome Lucio Menegon, King of Tone, back to town and with a gaggle of NY artists in tow:  Valerie Kuehne, Brooklyn-based cellist and impresarioPaul Pinto and Jeffrey Young of the performing composers collective thingNY. They are joined by inveterate performative projectionists and improvisers Alfonso Alvarez, Lorin Murphy, Bruce Anderson, Dale Sophiea (MX-80, O-Type), Gregory Hagan (Pale Reverse, Common Eider King Eider), Nico Sophiea, Suki O’Kane and Michael Zelner, who continue to conspire and inspire sound and vision throughout the Bay Area in likely and unlikely spaces, and in most recently in collaboration with the Oakland Underground Film Festival, the Illuminated Corridor, and the now-defunct Ivy Room Experimental Noise Improv Hootenanny & Social Club (founded by Menegon).

About the Artists

Valerie Kuehne is an electrically charged virtuoso of all purpose cello. Dynamic performer, fearless improviser, songwriter, vocalist, and classically trained connoisseur of Bach and Britten, Valerie can be found playing incessant shows in NYC, where she devotes formidable heart, intellect, creativity, and time to cross-pollinating sundry genres. Armed with finesse, Valerie is impressively present on stage, rendering poignant punctuations of changeable emotional weather. In any setting, her instrument aches with human implications and fiendish alien fuel. -Lizzy McDaniel (poet, phrenologist)
Read about her most recent brainchild, Dream Zoo discussed in an interview

Lucio Menegon is a guitarist, composer and sonic artist with over 25 years of performing experience and many more recorded releases and credits. His music ranges from intense free-improvisation to ethereal soundscape to more traditional, melodic song structure & composition. He performs solo, in collaboration with interested artists, bands and self directed projects – often in tandem with projected image and film. Currently based in NYC, he was an active member of the SF Bay Area music scene for 15 years, a founding member of The Bodice Rippers, Ramona the Pest, Zebu and curated the Ivy Room Hootenanny Creative Music series. His project Strangelet has involved over 25 artists across the North American continent, convening with and without him to realize the conversion of the universe into a hot, large lump of strange matter.

Paul Pinto is a composer, vocalist and founding artistic director of the thingNY. As a multi-instrumental and vocal improviser, Paul has lent his talents to collaborative projects in theatre and film. His music has been performed in the International Istanbul Film Festival, Glasgow’s Shakespeare in the City Festival and by ensembles and performers around the world, including Pauline Oliveros, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Ensemble loadbang, The Royal Scottish Academy Chamber Chorus, the Carnegie Mellon Concert Chorus, the ai Ensemble and IKTUS Percussion Quartet. Paul has studied composition at Carnegie Mellon with Leonardo Balada and Nancy Galbraith and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with John Maxwell Geddes. Paul is also a conductor and advocate of underrepresented experimentalists in classical music. At the helm of thingNY (called an “inventive new music cabal” by Time Out New York) Paul has premiered hundreds of works from emerging composers in thingNY’s five year existance. Paul has also led premieres of more established composers like Pauline Oliveros, Paul Burnell, Art Jarvinen, Kyle Gann and Gerard Grisey. In addition to thingNY’s experimental opera ADDDDDDDDD, scenes from his ballet, Miseke are available on DVD and CD through the educational UK label, Learning and Teaching Scotland. Paul has also released three solo albums: The Gentlemen (2009), a suite for vocals and electronics, and Every Note on the Piano (2010) and For Stefanos Tsigrimanis (2011) an elegy for turntables, voice, guitar and electronics.

Jeffrey Young is a composer and violinist from Brooklyn, NY who specializes in experimental classical music and rock music. Jeffrey’s recent accomplishments include the December 2010 premiere of Travels with Fascists and Pure-Hearted Souls, a piece written for his ensemble thingNY with himself as soloist. He has worked with Pierre Boulez during two summers at the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland (to which he will return in summer 2011) and with Steve Reich and Julia Wolfe at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in North Adams, MA. He has toured the U.S. and Canada with experimental chamber music/performance art group thingNY, psychedelic folk band Manson Family Picnic, indie rock band Food Will Win the War, minimalist chamber-rock band Slow Six, Pogues cover band Streams of Whiskey, and experimental singer/songwriter/cellist Valerie Kuehne’s Dream Zoo project. With the Oberlin Orchestra and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jeffrey has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall and Cleveland’s Severance Hall, as well as in China. He has been a featured blues soloist with the National Repertory Orchestra. In addition, Jeffrey is a first place winner of the 2003 Berkshire Lyric Theatre’s Emma Blafield Instrumental Award, and he has been elected into the National Music Honor Society, Pi Kappa Lambda. Jeffrey performs throughout New York City, with around 100 appearances per year at venues such as The Highline Ballroom, B.B. King’s, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mercury Lounge, Galapagos, The Bitter End, The Tank, and The Stone. He has been featured on albums of classical music, indie rock, prog rock, hip-hop, kids songs, and more. He has also appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, FOX’s Fearless Music, and Bravo’s The Fashion Show. He graduated with a B.M. in violin and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2007.

 

popsicle vs. dandelion

Subterranean Arthouse is hosting a summer of Third Wednesday performances that look at m(d)usic, d(m)ance, flocks, pods and monsters with two of the Bay Area’s performing art collectives: Dandelion Dancetheater and Daniel Popsicle. These scheduled collisions of movement and music ensembles will surface their common interests, contrast their anxieties, and forge more ideas about dismantling the distinction between artist and ordinary person.

Convening

  • Wednesday, July 20
  • Wednesday, August 17 with special guests Lucio Menegon and artists from ThingNY
  • Wednesday, September 21

All shows begin at 9pm. Admission is $6-$10 sliding scale.

About the Artists

Dan Plonsey
Since 1978, Dan has written more than 200 works for large and small ensembles. Recent commissions have come from Real Time Opera (New Hampshire), the Bang on a Can People’s Commissioning Fund (New York), Theatre of Yugen (San Francisco), the Museum of Children’s Art (Oakland), Milkbar International Film Festival (Oakland), the Berkeley Symphony Children’s Concert Series, and New Music Works (Santa Cruz). Plonsey was awarded “Meet the Composer” grants to accompany the Bang on a Can and Milkbar commissions; he was awarded an American Composers Forum “Subito” grant for the work with Theatre Yugen. From the mid-90’s on, Plonsey’s largest body of work has been written for Daniel Popsicle, his 10-20-person
ensemble of unfixed instrumentation. Plonsey has also written many pieces for ensembles of multiple (3-13) saxophones; and for chamber opera. He recently began a series of concerti for “guitar and strange ensemble,” the first of which being What Leave Behind for Fred Frith and Toychestra. He recently finished an opera with libretto by Harvey Pekar (of American Splendor
fame), which premiered at Oberlin College, January 2009. In December, 2009, he also received the prestigious Broad Fellow Award.

Eric Kupers
Eric has directed, choreographed, and performed with Dandelion Dancetheater since its inception, creating numerous works that have been presented throughout California, nationally and internationally. He has spent the last decade focused on creating and developing a physically and disciplinary diverse performance ensemble within Dandelion, that is passionately
collaborative. He is deeply influenced by his work as a performer in the companies of Della Davidson and Margaret Jenkins. Eric is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Cal State University East Bay and is heading up the development of an Inclusive Dance Program at the university. Eric has created commissioned works for AXIS Dance Company (supported by a Princess Grace
Award for Choreography), Big Moves, Cal State University East Bay, California Choreographers Festival, Dancing in the Streets/NYC, and choreography for projects by John Killacky, California Shakespeare Festival, and Highland Summer Theatre. He has been a resident artist at ODC Theater, Jon Sims Center for the Arts and CELLspace.

dandelion dancetheatreDandelion Dancetheater
Through dance, collided with experimental theater, video, writing, music, and image, Dandelion Dancetheater aims a kinesthetic microscope at the ever-changing intricacies of the human heart. Its work is emotionally driven and grounded in a fascination with the intersections of bold risk-taking and public accessibility. The company, which was founded in 1996, is committed to the
individual and combined artistic visions of Kimiko Guthrie and Eric Kupers. It views the bodily exploration of human vulnerability, strength and paradox as a potent means for personal and collective growth, and through teaching and creating with people of diverse sizes, shapes, ages, cultures and abilities, Dandelion Dancetheater allow viewers of all walks of life to find
themselves reflected in its work.

Dandelion has received numerous awards and grants, including a Dancemaker grant from Dance USA/Irvine Foundation, a Gerbode Foundation Choreography Commission, a Rockefeller MAP Fund grant, an award from the Grants for the Arts non-recurring events fund, a grant from the Wattis Foundation, and repeated funding from the Zellerbach Family Fund, the Theatre Bay Area CA$H Program, San Francisco Arts Commission, an anonymous foundation and many individual supporters. Dandelion has received a Creative Work Fund grant with AXIS Dance Company to create the physically integrated dance piece “Dislocation Express” in 2011.

Daniel Popsicle
photo by Myles Boisen

Daniel Popsicle
was founded by Dan Plonsey in September 1999. As he tells it:

Sometime shortly before lunch in the mid-to-late 90’s, I had the opportunity to reconnect briefly with my teacher: composer, writer, artist, multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. We, the Great Circle Saxophone Quartet, were passing through Middletown Connecticut. Among much warm and welcome encouragement, Professor Braxton urged each of us to write “music for the next millennium.” At that moment, a vision of the ensemble now called Daniel Popsicle came alive in my head.

It would include both western instruments and a motley assortment of mismatched instruments from around the world: emblems of a science fiction future that’s at least as much past: a smaller world, perhaps apocalyptically decimated. Only one saxophone — the rest having been melted down for unimaginablee future-to-the-ancient machinery. It would include women and men, good readers and bad, friends who would come to rehearsal by car, by train, or on foot from a house five houses away.

We cleared aside the minimum clutter necessary from the garage, then I wrote 15 pieces (each of which is represented entirely on one page of 16-staff manuscript paper), baked a couple pies, and Daniel Popsicle was formed.

Plonsey took Braxton’s call for “Music for a new millenium” to mean that it was time overdue for a paradigm shift in the musical world: that existing forms would be no longer sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the new world-to-be. Daniel Popsicle therefore strives to evoke and bring into being a world less cynical, less troubled and less cluttered, in which art can be as simple as it wants to be, and in which everyone can participate. A world more in tune with our nature as animals, but striving beyond equity (a noble goal) to true generosity.

The music played by Daniel Popsicle is not classical, jazz, rock, or any established genre; rather it is simply Music of El Cerrito: music which is happening here, wherever that largely imaginary, ideal, idealistic here is for us, and for you too. The music is simple: emerging from whatever Plonsey was humming that day, which might have something to do with music he heard last week or as a kid growing up in Cleveland Heights. The music is there to sweep you along, down a creek in an innertube. The music is there to provide color for your art and imagery for your blackberry pie-making. (We hope that you have a bush nearby.)

 

How to Chill a Bottle of Beer

Got to see the legendary reaction of Washington DC residents to a snow storm this week, and pile my own on it.

One:
It was hard to relax about the snow that started falling around 3pm because people were running for their lives before darkness fell. These people know their snow and wish to completely avoid it, Supermen talking of cryptonite. One flake falls and a rush of recollection of all the other flakes they had experienced, or had mightily inconvenienced them, cascades ceaselessly. There was escalation in reported outcomes:

It took me two hours to go a mile.
I abandoned my car and walked home.
I couldn’t get out of the parking lot and got a room in a hotel.
I slept in the office because the hotels were all booked.

I wanted to top that last one by saying:

I’ve been awake since the snow storm of last year.

Two:
By 5, as we hiked across the corporate campus to the bar in the opposing mall, it had fallen very quiet. Then again there was never anyone really here to begin with, it being Crystal City, the land of sleek buildings boasting defense contractor tenants who are, due to advanced technologies, invisible. I climbed over the slush and stood in the street to wait for the crossing light, shocking my east coast companions. They gently informed me I was now a target for spray from passing cars. How so, I said? A car went by. I leapt out of the way of its spray. Ah.

Three:
We ordered one, then two, rounds so I could listen to them talk about the hair trigger shutdowns of public transportation, which was my lifeline back to the Cathedral district in DC. Night had fallen and as much as I wanted to continue doubting the infrastructure, I felt I had to use it or die, so I hiked back to the metro stop using the byzantine underground pedestrian tunnels that criss-cross Crystal City. Retail, barbershops, notably no dry cleaners, but a theater promising an extreme experience stretched for a city block, it’s entrance guarded by a woman in a booth selling tickets to presumably no one.

Four:
The red line had been single-tracking all day, so I had plenty of time to consider the barrel vaulting of the metro station before one arrived in Chinatown. The whole system thrives on a dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four vision of the future soaking in dim sepia lighting and unforgiving grids machined from natural materials. Granted, none of them are as natural as a nasturtium, but that’s the role of the flashing red lights in the floor, blinking the arrival of trains we would never be allowed to board. A woman sat down next to me and informed me of her struggle to arrive at this spot. When I realized she was on the wrong platform, and was about to travel in the opposite direction of where she was trying to go, I tried to interject. Failed, because there were additional details she had to relate. My train arrived, and I saw her looking at it, frozen in indecision, as I boarded.

Five:
It seemed a very good idea to get out at Dupont Circle, find that restaurant that had caught my eye last time, eat an expensive dinner and then hail a cab up the three miles to the Cathedral. When I exited the station it was moving in slow-motion, cars drifting into curbs, snow blowing sideways, people losing their balance and breaking their hips as younger versions of themselves sprinted between awnings. The snow had already accumulated on all the signs, so I took my best guess and headed out.

Six:
This is where the beer comes in. About 20 minutes into my hike I realized I had picked the wrong avenue and turned around to retrace my now-hidden steps. Wearing about an inch of snow, I went into the liquor store in Dupont Circle to join the party of shoppers, television news crews, and the proprietor, who was making a killing. All of the good beers were inexplicably unchilled, so I wandered around looking forlornly at the chilled beer offerings wondering what to do, signaling that loss of mental acuity that accompanies hypothermia. It dawned on me, ever so slowly and only after finding a young couple buying pink champagne adorable (god I was really cold), that if I bought a warm bottle of beer, and hiked up Massachussetts Avenue for three miles in the snow, that it would be cold by the time I arrived in B’s vacant apartment. With a double-bagged bottle of Saison Dupont (the pun, and the selection of a summery farmhouse ale being truly fortifying), I headed out. Again. If I had stayed for 90 more minutes, I would have been able to join the snowball fight.

Seven:
At Sheridan Circle the uselessness of the motor vehicle was being exponentially proven. I tried, as did six or seven others, to get the attention of taxis, but they were being driven by terrified people who were clenching the steering wheel as their passengers screamed at them. A pickup truck pulled up and told me to hop in the back to get a ride to Adams Morgan. When I thanked the women in the cab but told them I was going up to Embassy Row they strongly disagreed that was a place I needed to be. They kinda went on about it, trying to convince me not on woman-vs-nature grounds, but on social grounds, that I was going to the wrong neighborhood. Every sentence they uttered made (a) more snow accumulate on all of us and (b) me wonder why I was not getting in that truck with these incredibly amusing women. Parting was amicable, and their disappearing tail lights transgressive enough to make me feel invincible as I headed up to the bridge over Rock Creek Park.

Eight:
I was wearing a suit, a concession to the hosts of the meeting that had brought me to DC in the first place, which included a pair of black boots (over the ankle) that promised to provide style while protecting from inclement weather. That was lucky. If I had been wearing my usual clothes, really best described as pajamas, I would have been in much worse condition. The coat I had taken out of B’s closet (she was in Michigan with the truly awesome coat no doubt) was holding up very well, but something began to nag at me. Was it the slow progress of this first mile? Could I remember the actual distance? Was it really three miles? Or was it more like two? Should I be concerned about walking in a snow storm when I’m a third of the way there? Or not concerned because I’m halfway there? Is math really the way to look at it? Is there another measure? A philosophical one? Has everyone noticed how quiet it’s getting? I closed my eyes to listen. Someone honked at me.

Nine:
An SUV slowed and rolled its window down, the driver exclaiming “What the hell!” at me. I crossed the sludge and tried his door. Oops it’s still locked I said. He hit the trigger and I climbed in, introducing myself, and holding his hand in gratitude while looking right in his eyes. We climbed the hill carefully finding out that

He was a researcher who worked with incarcerated populations
A total autodidact having dropped out of high school
Recipient of a coveted award from Delancy Street of Honorary Junkie
With a wife who had taken Rock Creek at 5pm and regretted it, suggested he try Mass Ave
And yes this was a beautiful walk during THE SUMMER

He dismissed the poor skills of surrounding drivers while still bestowing universal love upon them, as long as they stayed five feet away in their flailing, and had the post-moral smarts to drive up the opposite side of the street since it had been closed from above, allowing us to spend five minutes passing a line of cars that seemed intent on staying there for hours. After an elegant right on Wisconsin that evaded a fallen tree branch, a squadron of cops and a beached limousine, I pointed out a flat spot where he could slow to the speed I had used to get in the SUV in the first place. We wished each other a very good evening and I headed up Cathedral Avenue.

Ten:
I thought. The snow, seriously accumulating on street signs, had also accumulated on Cathedral Avenue, bowing the trees down to the ground in a monumental kowtow. I walked up but had to hesitate. A dog barked, playing while a neighbor chatted on a mobile. No cars, but students making their way down from above, skating on cardboard down the middle of the street. I found a street sign and kicked it to reveal the lettering. All its snow fell on my head, which, yes, makes good sense, although a fraction of a second too late for me. But armed with this positive confirmation of location plus gravity, I pressed on, marveling at the tunnels of trees over the sidewalks. I entered, padding quietly through their branches, hearing the walkers in the middle of the street. Why would they do that when they could avoid all the snow and ice by walking in here? A rifle crack ahead and I stopped, taking in the curving branches, their lower-case, analog synth sine wave sounds. With three giant, deliberate, silent, steps, I exited and stood up straight in the middle of the street looking back at that array of tension. Flakes, weighted and weightless, continued to fall.

Eleven:
According to the maps on the interwebs, it’s 2.7 miles. The last 200 feet seemed a bit of an insult. The ceremonial driveway of the apartment building not yet swept meant every footfall poured slush into my boots. I moved slowly through the lobby, soaked, I realized, to the skin and my fingers appearing to be on fire. I rose to the tenth floor, dripping all the way down the hallway to 8E, where I stripped everything off, draping it on any available fixture and marveling at its supersaturation. I removed the wire cage on the Saison Dupont and slowly turned its cork. Once released and brought to my lips, the bottle stung with cold.

I drank it anyway, one swallow after the other from my station on the bath mat, the ice melting from my hair.

Most Of It Came From Here, Sorry To Say

Linz, that is. Austria.

After allowing the festival organizers to presume we needed full press credentials and provide them, MZ and I joined a swarm of people following eToy to the balcony over Linz Hauptplatz where, just like Hitler, we looked out over the crowds below, more or less indifferent to the presence of Ars Electronica opening night proceedings. It’s not like I understood where I was standing immediately, but it’s safe to safe the realization arrived seconds after MZ pointed out the hills to the right where Simon Wiesthenthal had been imprisoned in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.

Good view of the town, I said. MZ’s eyes narrowed.

And we looked down at the platz.

And we looked at the crisp uniforms of the eToy people (orange, way ahead of their time in the orange department).

And we looked at the polyglottish press corps.

And we looked at eachother.

And we left.

My pockets were full of 1″ square stickers that said “The Man Will Burn Without You” in four languages: English, German, French and Japanese. But the Linz we walked through endlessly was such an impeccably clean place: no graffiti, no lightpoles bulging with flyers, no crumbling racks of notices. I simply couldn’t apply one anywhere, even if it would, because it was the only defacing item for blocks, be instantly construed as conceptual art. Instead, I distributed them onto tables in cafes and bars, counters in galleries, more liberally in the lobbies of Ars Electronica venues and I hoped to see them start appearing, or disappearing. They did neither.

So what did it mean that I was recuperating from five years of Burning Man by traveling to Ars Electronica? Which parts of my expectations for arts festivals had been elevated and which had been distorted? Aside from absolutely preferring the plumbing of Linz over Black Rock City, the two seemed to require identical strategies. Go. Look. Branch in One of Two Directions: Go On or Hold Head In Hands Realizing You Will Never Be That Good. Maybe Even Sit Down To Regain Strength To

Go. Look. Branch in One of Two Directions.

So I was there, but was quite dense about what was really happening as a result of being there. Here’s what happened:

KlangPark (the speaker array over the Donau) one night had films projected on the water spray of a fireboat. I just wanted to try it at home is all. Ended up with five years of experimental outdoor cinema and music. Not one fireboat has been employed, leaving me with an inescapable sense of failure.

A Portsmouth Symphonium-style orchestra debasing themselves while (intentionally?) massacring Serge Gainsbourg covers on the ice itself in Donauhalle hockey rink like it was some kinda Peter Greenaway film. Ended up with two years of live soundtracks to pornographic films, interviews with Hustler and Irish morning drive-time radio, and an appearance on a British television show which I think was edited to make me look about as stupid as possible, but I never transferred the episode from PAL to NTSC to find out. I like being the only woman on the planet to have lost money in porn.

At the newly opened Ars Electronica center a digital version of the Torah that displayed in Hebrew and, if you pulled down on the screen, English and, if you pushed up on the screen, a z-axis of floating commentary. Reading on a Z Axis. Reading… on a… Still, you see, this gets me. Ended up morse coding text in plays and rotating it 90 degrees clockwise to create scores that Noh-trained actors could read. Five plays, three years, one day of performance on 07/07/07, and a ritual nostalgia every time I pull down on the iPodTouch screen to refresh tweets. I’m refreshing tweets, but I’m really back in that gallery looking up from the screen, holding my body still, realizing the radical nature of the interface. I heard a cough, looked up and stepped out of the way so other visitors could try. A kid started pounding on the screen.

Radio ORF’s embrace of pirate radio. Disingenuous? No, shockingly, no. Ended up in the former Louboutin shoe store next to the Whitney Museum helping trick it out as Neighborhood Public Radio for the 2008 Biennial. There was a mic pointing out at the street from the front window, hard wire microbroadcasting from the top of the building and streaming from the web. The NPR Collective was decompressing from an arduous interview earlier in the day, devolving into simple trash talk about the interviewer herself. The entire discussion went out over the air, which the interviewer was listening to in her home. She later thanked me for castigating them throughout their rant, also clearly audible, but thought their transgression was brilliant conceptual art. I closed my eyes, imagined a felonious 1″ sticker on a pristine marble embankment, opened them, and said O Yeah. Totally. Later in the run Mick Jagger slowed down to enter, because he needed a new pair of Louboutins, realized it was no longer that, and strolled on. I was coming round the corner from the opposite direction and Lee mouthed very obviously, and pointlessly since I’m not that much of an idiot, “MICK” “JAGGER”. I made eye contact with Mick from behind my big bag of warm Harp lager that cost $13 obscene dollars (o you east side!). Mick’s bodyguard, one pace behind and to the left, intercepted my eye contact, crumpled it with his eyes as if it was a gum wrapper, and slowly shook his head no at me. I lowered my eyes and walked into the station-not-shoe-store. Chorus of disapproval that the beer was warm.

Three days in a city plus ten years of internalization equals 28 projects, 240 collaborating artists and 50,000 dollars of debt. God damn you Linz, and your ignominious power.

Last Chance

I was out the Salinas River Road for a couple months, but since I was in my twenties at the time, it seemed an eternity. I was there because Larkin’s uncle, a citizen scientist, or perhaps a professional one, had a low ranch home with grottos, tiki bars and exhibition galleries for his archeological collection. It had become, since his death, a ruin in the hands of careless tenants.

A few steps had already been taken by Larkin’s mother: evictions, the collection of day laborers to restore the roof and destroy the plumbing, and a draconian legal document with us to pay a market rent on the place while we rehabilitated it, each of us individually responsible for entire lease payments should the occupancy of the house change (yes, it did). The next step addressed the feral cats.

They were legion. They were in the house and the outbuildings, young, old, big, small, utterly wild, and without any of the T.S. Eliot qualities we had all come to expect / hum along to. We placed have-a-heart traps everywhere, collecting daily and dropping at the SPCA 10 miles out Highway 68 (no, not Highway 61, although it sometimes felt like it should be).

Days go by, leading to weeks and while the stupidest cats had long been escorted off the premises, the smartest ones were forcing the game to another level. I banished war metaphors as I drove out the River Road, turning the corner up to the property as a picture of zen equilibrium. Each day I confronted another array of empty traps, a quiet buzzing of insects over their bait, the warm air pouring off the back of Carmel Valley, and the emotionless gaze of about five of them, sunning themselves. Always a different five, alerting me to the futility of this operation.

As i went back to the car I heard a man’s voice commenting on the proceedings. Apparently I had been observed the by the neighbor down the way, who I had only seen once sweeping his dirt driveway with fiery blasts from his welding rig.

Having trouble with those cats? he asked. I couldn’t lie.
O sure, I replied.

and a bit of silence.

Want me to get ’em? he asked.

And I parsed his meaning. Contrast my city ways filled with have-a-hearts and gas guzzling out Highway 68, the dry food, the wet food, the chicken, the fish, the daily visits, the declining effectiveness and the ultimate result: euthanasia with what would likely be an afternoon of amusement for the neighbor, shooting up Larkin’s Uncle’s property. Well, there was only one thing to say:

I’d love for you to do that, I said. See you in a couple days.

I pulled up in between our two properties the next time and, careful not to get too close in case I had to beat it, asked the neighbor how things were going. He thought I’d find things were alright. I thanked him and asked about a nearby tree on his property: what was it, how long had it been there, was that a fort in there, did he have kids, were they grown now, out on hunter-liggett or at ord and allowed myself to be corrected: Fort Ord is where people are, Fort Hunter-Liggett is simply where they train. I noticed that a 25-lb yellow cat, one of the gazers I had chased for four weeks was sitting on his fence.

I recognize him, I said, nodding at the inscrutable animal.

The neighbor looked at the cat for a while, then looked up at the back of Carmel Valley and muttered

Decided to keep him.
You’re kidding, I said, did you name him?
Yes.

and a bit of silence.

What’s his name? I asked.
Last Chance, he said.

I nodded, and heard the tiny gate fall on the have-a-heart trap the neighbor had set for me.