Yesterday's weekly comic shop visit netted the new issue of "American Splendor". I have every issue of Harvey Pekar's production, which he began in 1976 (but I didn't catch on until #8, in 1984). His tales of mundane life in Cleveland are an inspiration for my own journal. This time he does something new - his own story frames the introductory work of a guest writer/artist - a mildly autistic British guy named Colin Warneford. Vague elements of Colin's social inabilities resemble my own (though of course my struggle is trivial in comparison to his).
I understand that the sense of smell has the greatest potential for triggering memories, but today it was vision for me: just a shade of the color green. I went to see "The Truman Show" again, and there's several scenes where the night-time Truman is being monitored with IR cameras, which produce only monochrome images tinted green. Those big green screens took me back to 1974, when I was first exposed to the laser installations created by Rockne Krebs. David took me downtown to the Kennedy Center one night that summer, to make this scene. Up on the rooftop terrace there where all these people, theatergoers mostly - it was cosmopolitan, yet surreal. Two very powerful argon lasers had been mounted high up in Rosslyn buildings on the opposite (Virginia) side of the Potomac. One was split at the origin, so two green beams vee'd across the river, terminating in bright spots glowing on either side of the topmost vertical marble slabs covering the KC's boxlike exterior. Another laser was diverged (through a concave lens) so its slightly conical, tapered ray created a large green circle right in the center, between the two green spots. The wild thing about this circle was it wasn't static, but alive with horizontal movement, like currents. I've heard this effect described as "scintillation", but I've never seen it except this one time. The appearance of laser light on a surface is weird; if you've ever really scrutinized it you know what I mean - it's like something that's impossible to focus upon. Later that year Rockne set up another installation at my own university - an argon laser was sent through a prism, separating out its component frequencies so an array of green-to-blue laser spots splashed across the Administration building façade. One of the deepest blues hit a window, and one night we got into its room, stood up on a chair and were able to thrust our hands up into the monochromatic light. From down on the sidewalk below someone shouted out a line which entered our group vocabulary for a long while: "Don't look down the beam!" Both of these installations were only in place a few weeks. Later I learned that D had been among the art department student-volunteers who were tasked with the laser operation, at the other end of the mall in the library building. (I didn't meet her until a few years later). I was envious. The next year I did my own Rockne down at the beach, one night shining my puny Helium-Neon laser from our cottage way up on to the side of Jockey's Ridge (the tallest dune on the East Coast; people hang glide from it). L still speaks admiringly of this stunt. We all climbed up and gathered around the pale red spot it created, tossing sand into the beam.
Ten years ago I saw the follow-up to "Koyaanisqatsi" called "Powaqqatsi". It didn't make near the impression on me as its predecessor, yet now I find that I really like some of its music, reused in "The Truman Show". I think the reason the music wasn't memorable then may be I find some other of the film's music rather annoying, so they canceled each other out. After today's film I went over to the Los Altos Library <1> in hopes of finding a recording of the soundtrack; instead I'm creating one myself right now. The library had a Powaqqatsi videotape, which I'm viewing (with audio tape deck running) through the green filter of my monochrome monitor.
Around dinner time I moseyed up to Palo Alto for the O-Bon at the Buddhist temple there. It is thought that the spirits of the dead come back to visit their families during the Bon season, hence the annual summertime Japanese festival. Last year I attended those held in San Jose and Mountain View, like this year all I really wanted to see was the Bon Odori dance, where the (mostly) women in their colorful kimono do simple group dances to traditional music. The band generates a rather pop sound, with the warbling vocals in what I rather ignorantly call the sushi-bar-music style. Unlike the other two, there was less uniformity in the kimono, and many Occidental faces among the dancers. (My guess is they're members of the temple's congregation.) I sampled the food available, had a corn cob and a tasty teriyaki chicken leg whose meat practically fell off the bone, to melt in my mouth. In Japan they dance on in to the evening, under the illuminated paper lanterns, and everyone joins in. (I haven't stuck around long enough at any I've yet attended, so I can't verify that that happens here.) Among other amazing things, you can see these dances in a film called "Sans Soleil" (available in your more esoteric video store).
IR - Infra Red
KC - John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, located next to the Watergate in Washington, DC
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<1> Where I
met the Swiss Miss.