THE MOUNTAIN VERSES

Oakland's Obi Kaufmann takes his painting work into the wild

Obi Kaufmann

My first encounter with Obi Kaufmann‘s stuff was at Surf Club. It was the first time I had set foot in the gallery, and I was greeted by Obi’s “Athena Portfolio,” a gorgeous series of paintings of classical, mythological figures from antiquity, slathered across plywood and found objects. The juxtaposition was crazy, and ever since, I’ve been watching Obi’s output from afar.

The Oakland-based artist’s latest showcase puts his “Mountain Verses” on display, a selection of “trail paintings,” handpainted on various trails spread across the California wilderness. In the paintings, watercolor abstractions, strange creatures, and symbols come accompanied by “verses,” short poetic musings on nature. A few selections here, but you can check out the “Mountain Verses” in its entirety over at Coyote & Thunder. Below, Obi offers up a little insight on the collection:

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IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

Michel Gondry's latest film illustrates a conversation with Noam Chomsky

Is the Man Who is Tall Happy

In what feels like an insanely dope Interview magazine-type scenario, Michel Gondry’s latest film is centered around a long conversation with the legendary linguistic theorist/philosopher/towering pop intellectual Noam Chomsky. In between shooting more Hollywood-centric fare, the visionary director behind Eternal Sunshine and classic videos from Daft Punk and Beck found some time to explore the vast troves of wisdom and insight that live between Mr. Chomsky’s ears.

Listen to Chomsky explore different ideas is all well and good, but Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy goes a little beyond that. For the film, Gondry’s chats with Chomsky are set to retro-inspired, neon animations, like something you might see in a trippy ’70s education film or science textbook. I can’t even say I know what the core of their talks are about, but the prospect of being visually dazzled while these two chop it up is enticing to say the least. Peep the trailer below, and read an interview with Mr. Gondry about the project here, from the actual Interview magazine.

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FAR FUCKIN’ OUT

FAR FUCKIN’ OUT

Isis Aquarius remembers her days inside the early 70's spiritual commune known as The Source Family

The year was 1970. The chaos, freedom, turmoil and liberation of the ‘60s had yet to subside, seeping into a new decade that had yet to be defined. In the midst of war abroad and the struggle for civil rights at home, American society was in flux, with many left searching for answers.

Out of this landscape, The Source Family was born. Founded on a synthesis of spiritual beliefs and ancient religions, the Family was the brainchild of one man; his name was Jim Baker. A World War II veteran, turned martial arts expert, turned restaurant entrepreneur, Jim Baker the man was both famous and infamous. After being acquitted of murder for killing a man with his bare hands after an altercation with a neighbor turned physical, the onetime bodybuilding champion turned to health food, establishing one of Los Angeles’ premier organic, vegetarian dining destinations in the form of The Source Family Restaurant. From the health-conscious ethos that characterized Baker’s eatery, The Source Family was spawned.

Embarking upon a spiritual quest that consumed him for years, Jim Baker immersed himself in the metaphysical world, studying the teachings of any and every known Western and Eastern tradition, secret society, or metaphysical source he could find. After numerous encounters with the known spiritual leader Yogi Bhajan, Jim Baker found a new pursuit that would not only consume him, but transform him forever, into what many considered to be a spiritually enlightened being in human form. Following this transformation, Jim Baker was no more, and in his place was Father Yod. Birthing The Source Family soon after his transformation, he would go on to create his own self-sustaining commune; wholly spiritual, unwaveringly loving, and unimaginably wealthy.

The Source Family grew quickly, attracting those searching for answers while garnering widespread acclaim for their forward thinking restaurant and idiosyncratic leader. One woman at the center of the family was Charlene Peters, better known as Isis Aquarius, who served as the family’s chief historian and archivist. Collecting numerous artifacts from the family’s archives, she remains one of the prevailing individuals still preserving The Source Family’s legacy. As one of Father Yod’s 13 wives, she was intimate with the leader, digesting much of his guidance and teachings. On the heels of the release of The Source Family’s feature length documentary, we spoke with Isis about her experience in the family, shedding light on one of the ’70s most legendary spiritual communes.

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IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS

IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS

Conceptual performance artist Bas Jan Ader left behind a limited but iconic oeuvre, then disappeared at sea forever

Bas Jan Ader

Somewhere between Cape Cod and the Western shore of Ireland, Bas Jan Ader was most likely swallowed up by the sea. His final art piece, In Search of the Miraculous, would consist of a botched journey across the Atlantic in a twelve-foot sailboat, the smallest vessel ever to make its way across that vast stretch of ocean. When the boat washed up on shore, Ader’s body was nowhere to be found, and though even his friends and family thought his death to be an elaborate hoax, his disappearance has remained an enigma ever since.

Over the course of the previous decade, Ader had amassed a small collection of masterpieces, each of them notable for their utter simplicity. It would be hard to imagine another artist so mythologized, based on such a limited body of output. But the works most often cited in connection with Bas Jan Ader’s name, including, perhaps most notably, his final voyage, carry with them an eerie sense of purpose, and a minimal aesthetic geared for undeniable communicative power. Many of his most famous works are short, performance-based films of Ader himself, some of them featuring short but unforgettable messages, penned by hand. In the years since his 1975 disappearance, Ader has become something of a cult figure in the contemporary art world, with creatives of every stripe developing their own romanticized notions about who the artist was, and the mystery surrounding his death. Among other things, the 2007 feature-length documentary, Here Is Always Somewhere Else, explores his life and final days in great detail. I suppose I’m only the latest to be pulled into the orbit a story like his creates.

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GOING CLEAR

GOING CLEAR

Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

L. Ron Hubbard

From Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

“I have spent much of my career examining the effects of religious beliefs on people’s lives–historically, a far more profound influence on society and individuals than politics, which is the substance of so much journalism. I was drawn to write this book by the questions that many people have about Scientology: What is it that makes the religion alluring? What do its adherents get out of it? How can seemingly rational people subscribe to beliefs that others find incomprehensible? Why do popular personalities associate themselves with a faith that is likely to create a kind of public relations martyrdom?

These questions are not unique to Scientology, but they certainly underscore the conversation. In attempting to answer them in this book, I hope we can learn something about what might be called the process of belief. Few Scientologists have had a conversion experience–a sudden, radical reorientation of one’s life; more common is a gradual, wholehearted acceptance of propositions that might have been regarded as unacceptable or absurd at the outset, as well as the incremental surrender of will on the part of people who have been promised enhanced power and authority. One can see by this example the motor that propels all great social movements, for good or ill.”

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“THE EDGE” BY HUNTER S. THOMPSON

“THE EDGE” BY HUNTER S. THOMPSON

A brief excerpt from Thompson's Gonzo masterpiece, Hell's Angels

Hunter S. Thompson

From Hell’s Angels: The Strange & Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967)

So it was always at night, like a werewolf, that I would take the thing out for an honest run down the coast. I would start in Golden Gate Park, thinking only to run a few long curves to clear my head….but in a matter of minutes I’d be out at the beach with the sound of the engine in my ears, the surf booming up on the sea wall and a fine empty road stretching all the way down to Santa Cruz…not even a gas station in the whole seventy miles; the only public light along the way is an all-night diner down around Rockaway Beach.

There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves. The momentary freedom of the park was like the one unlucky drink that shoves a wavering alcoholic off the wagon. I would come out of the park near the soccer field and pause for a moment at the stop sign, wondering if I knew anyone parked out there on the midnight humping strip.

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HIROSHI SUGIMOTO’S POLARIZED COLOR

HIROSHI SUGIMOTO’S POLARIZED COLOR

Photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto uses Polaroid film to explore the color spectrum

Hiroshi Sugimoto

At first glance, the images from the Polarized Color series hardly look like photographs at all. The colors seem impossibly vivid and crisp, and it’s hard to discern any particular tangible subject in front of the lens. But for New York-based, Japanese-born photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, the subject of the images is indeed the colors themselves, both on a visual and intellectual level. After delving into the history of color theory, Sugimoto found himself caught between two ways of understanding color. On the one hand was Newton‘s scientific, seven-color spectrum. On the other, Goethe, whose poetic genius led him to believe that color’s effects on the mind might be the kind of the thing that defies systematic, mechanistic explanation.

Sugimoto, like Goethe, set out to find what was lacking in Newton’s system–namely, to capture the vast, nuanced spectrum of color produced by light, to find everything that exists between those supposedly fixed points represented by red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Refracting beams of light off of mirrors, and into dimly lit black space, Sugimoto used Polaroid film to absorb those countless different hues, effectively taking something impermanent and immaterial and capturing it in a tangible, more permanent object. Pretty gorgeous stuff, and since I’m sure I’m not doing his thought process justice, below, accompanying these images, are some words from Sugimoto himself.

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SIDDHARTHA & GOTAMA

SIDDHARTHA & GOTAMA

A passage from Hermann Hesse's seminal 1922 novel Siddhartha

Siddhartha

Siddhartha wandered through the grove deep in thought.

There he met Gotama, the Illustrious One, and as he greeted him respectfully and the Buddha’s expression was so full of goodness and peace, the young man plucked up courage and asked the Illustrious One’s permission to speak to him. Silently the Illustrious One nodded his permission.

Siddhartha said: “Yesterday, O Illustrious One, I had the pleasure of hearing your wonderful teachings. I came from afar with my friend to hear you, and now my friend will remain with you; he has sworn allegiance to you. I however, am continuing my pilgrimage anew.”

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TEN THINGS TO REMEMBER FROM BERTRAND RUSSELL

TEN THINGS TO REMEMBER FROM BERTRAND RUSSELL

Bertrand Russell

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

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IMAGINE: HOW CREATIVITY WORKS

Pablo Picasso

An excerpt from Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works

The search for emotion shapes the way the virtuoso classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma approaches every concert. He doesn’t begin by analysing his part or by glancing at what the violins are supposed to play. Instead, he reviews the complete score, searching for the larger story. “I always look at a piece of music like a detective novel,” Ma says. “Maybe the novel is about a murder. Well, who committed the murder? Why did he do it? My job is to retrace the story so that the audience feels the suspense. So that when the climax comes, they’re right there with me. It’s all about making people care about what happens next.”

Ma’s unusual musical approach – one that has made him as famous for his recordings of Bach’s cello suites as the swing of American bluegrass – is apparent as I watch him rehearsing a new score in a dimly lit theatre in New York. I see it first in his body, which begins to subtly sway. The movement then spreads to his right arm, so that the bow starts to trace wider and wider arcs in the air. Ma’s slight shifts of interpretation – hushing a pianissimo even more, speeding up a melodic riff, exaggerating a crescendo – turn a work of intricate tonal patterns into a passionate narrative. These shifts are not in the score, and yet they reveal what the score is trying to say. Most of the time, Ma can’t explain what inspired these changes. But that doesn’t matter: he has learnt to trust himself, to follow his instincts. To let himself go.

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