Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Pawnbroker and Mr. X

One of the most poignant moments in the history of film takes place about three minutes into The Pawnbroker, and coincides with the arrival of X. He shuffles into Cal Nazerman’s shop, extending a tatty lamp towards the pawnbroker. Before he has set it down on the counter, Nazerman has already started the transaction, mechanically going through the motions. With the lamp off his hands, X eagerly yet tentatively shares his thoughts on Herbert Spencer’s Genesis of science with the robot Nazerman. “I particularly like his insistence that science is born of art, not the other way around. To me, this was refreshing, coming from a man who most modern thinkers call old-fashioned.”
Several attempts at response or at least eye-contact fail utterly, and as his speech reaches its Pythagorean climax, Nazerman curtly and silently places his two dollars on the counter. X sees them, but doesn’t want to acknowledge them, knowing that their acceptance will mean the end of this meeting. Then, stuttering, embarrassed at his evidently uninteresting revelation, he confesses “From time to time I like to drop in here, cuz Mr Nazerman, a man gets hungry for talk, good talk...”
“There’s your ticket, and there’s your two dollars,” Nazerman informs him curtly. His short, staccato and precise speech contrasts starkly with X’s laborious, stumbling but empathic voice.
X snaps out of his semi-reverie and mumbles “Naturally, Mr Nazerman, two dollars will be quite alright.”
This last negation of his efforts is too much for the poor man, and his face loses that lively, enthusiastic look. In its place appears a disillusioned, dejected and guilty face. Backing away disappointedly, he says “I, I apologise for, for talking (emphasised with a little throwaway arm movement) so much, Mr Nazerman.”  He is disappointed, but crucially not with the cold and distant Mr Nazerman, but with himself, for having burdened himself on Nazerman. More words come to his mouth, but he is unable to express them. “Forgive me.”
With these words, the sorriest and saddest man I have ever seen hurries out of the Pawnbroker.

Have you ever?

He was walking down the street, in a pensive mood, pondering a line from a song he had heard while passing the open doors of a department store, its melody drifting through the air like smoke from a cigarette, until it finally dissolved into the surrounding bustle of the city. Cars were spluttering, sirens were screaming and thousands of people tramped on the concrete, like a squadron of ants marching to their anthill. The resulting noise was a chaotic cacophony, a composition that never took shape, a tune that was eternally tuneless.

He hated the city. It was not just the noise - he had become accustomed to that after a while. It was the whole atmosphere of the place or, to be more precise, the lack of it that he detested. It was dark and depressing, as if it was enveloped permanently in the shadow of some great unknown. The buildings towered over him as if he was being constantly stalked or observed. The streets were cold and comfortless, filled with people who were impersonal and aloof. He felt claustrophobic being hemmed in on all sides by concrete.

He disliked the underground too: so many people sitting next to one another, people with potentially exciting characters and yet always choosing to conceal their interior from the outside world like drawn venetian blinds in a window. The mood struck him as morose, akin to sitting at a funeral, everyone avoiding each other’s eyes and anxious to suppress any exuberant emotions. Instead, all played the part of silent bystanders, respectful of  those no longer amongst them.

In the city, people were mourning the very absence of soul.

Family, friends and all those who held him dear, we are gathered here today to pay our last respects to The Soul of the City. His passing has robbed us of a much-loved character who can never be replaced. He will be sorely missed by all...

Have you ever been to a place where there’s no love inside?

He certainly had, he was there right now. But despite his revulsion for the Great Gloom (as he called the city) he never thought about leaving. He had been here so long, ever since the day he was enticed in its direction, then ensnared by it, bound to the city like man to fate.

It hadn’t always been this way, he sorrowfully reminisced. He thought back to the time before Here and Now, before he had lost his soul to the Great Gloom. He liked to refer to that time as the Light. In the Light he had known happiness, fulfillment, an oasis of bliss. It seemed like an idyllic Golden Age, a Garden of Eden, the likes of which many could but dream of.

He couldn’t bear to think long about the Light however, and before long nostalgia would tend to be replaced by an oppressive melancholy, which effectively blotted out any last hint of sunshine in his spirit.

Heavy-heartedly he resigned himself to a future as a prisoner of darkness, stuck in his misery like a mouse running endlessly in a tread-mill, whose only choice is to plod on and on. All he longed for was one trivial but unobtainable pleasure: the rosy-fingered touch of the Light on his body and soul.   

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ode to Caribbean beaches

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Photographic Ode to Old San Juan

Thursday, April 20, 2006

This Blogger has gone to the Caribbean

But I leave you with Linton Kwesi Johnson's soothing, bass-heavy, Caribbean-inflected voice rolling over languid dub-reggae grooves. This is the magnificent 2 CD set Independant Intavenshan: The Island Anthology, minus the dub-cuts (the echoes and repetitions tend to get on my nerves).


When mango ripe, ee muss drop!

Back in June...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Dubuffet and his brutal art

Tapiès' Cloud and Chair atop the Tapiès Museum in Barcelona

Great, another mystery solved!!! Another band's name clarified, another overt reference finally picked up on. After The Cloud Room who named themselves after an Art Deco bar in the Chrysler Building, who is the lucky one this time? Art Brut. Taking their inspiration from an art movement initiated by Jean Dubuffet, they have now staged a marvellous coup d'état, by out-googling their inspirators! What's the deal with the picture at the top? Well, I took it in Barcelona, at the Tapiès museum. And his name was recently linked to the Art Brut movement (in a newspaper article I read) and so, we come full circle again. More serendipity! Grrrrreat (see post 7). But to bring an end to the chain of connected events, here is a non-sequitur. Serge Gainsbourg's collection entitled Initials S.G.


Monday, April 10, 2006

The '97 archives: "Een eenzame stem in de woestijn"

(Love Bug Starsky mixes with Busy Bee and Grand Master Caz 1980 c/o Charlie Ahearn)

“Why Hip Hop sucks in ‘96” legde DJ Shadow uit met het gelijknamige nummer op zijn grensverleggende CD Endtroducing..., uitgebracht bij onafhankelijke platenlabel Mo’ Wax. Slechts 42 seconden heeft hij nodig om zijn standpunt te verkondigen. Over een melancholieke loop voegt hij drie woorden toe: “It’s the money”.

Daar vinden we, in een notendopje, de strijd die Hip Hop tegenwoordig met zichzelf voert en waarmee het zichzelf ten gronde richt. Verdwenen zijn de de lyrical en turntable skills, ervoor in de plaats gekomen zijn niemendalletjes om de massa de laten dansen. Uitzonderingen daargelaten (Common: “I (w)rap like a mummy,/ Not for the money / I could have sampled Diana Ross a long time ago”) worden de principes van Hip Hop op grote schaal overboord gegooid uit eigenbelang en zakkenvullerij.

Het lijkt er soms op dat de trouwe volgelingen van de Hip Hop-voorschriften zullen verdrinken in de inspiratieloze ledigheid om hen heen, maar dan staat er weer een originele ziel op die hen een zwemvest toewerpt in de vorm van een sonisch meesterwerkje. Josh Davis aka DJ Shadow is zo’n bron van inspiratie voor de ware liefhebbers. Hij leerde zijn kunsten door urenlang op zijn zolderkamer te scratchen op één draaitafel, totdat hij genoeg geld had voor een tweede. Toen hij bij een plaatselijke radiostation mocht draaien was zijn toekomst bepaald.

Voor DJ Shadow zijn melodie en ritme de belangrijkste componenten van Hip Hop, vandaar dat in zijn composities rap ontbreekt. Zijn muziekale landschappen vormt hij door een collage te maken van allerlei geluidsfragmenten die naadloos bij elkaar en de sfeer van het geheel aansluiten. Hij neemt je mee op een reis door je innerlijk; omdat iedereen de melodieën verschillend interpreteert, wordt de beluistering een persoonlijke ervaring. Eén ding hebben alle nummers gemeen: ze hebben een unieke panoramische kwaliteit, zodat ze een soort soundtrack vormen van wat er in je hoofd omgaat als je naar de muziek luistert. Nu maar hopen dat alle gemakzuchtige artiesten de strijd met Shadow’s originaliteit aandurven. Slijp de degens en ... keep it real!

Rough English translation: I like DJ Shadow.

Here's a link to Excessive Ephemera, the second CD of the double-disc reissue of classic Endtroducing, as you probably all have the original CD already.


Good bite!

Sup a little Aesop Rock

Most of the time, I don't know what the hell this guy is rapping about, I find many of his beats and musical backgrounds pretty lacklustre and uninspiring, but boy, does he know how to package his shit! I bought his EP Fast cars, danger, fire and knives solely for the artwork of the CD and the beautiful booklet that came with it. I peruse it every now and then, while listening to something completely different like Franz Ferdinand or Vitalic. Sorry Rock. But for all the people who would beg to differ, here's a taster...


Sunday, April 02, 2006


Joost gets his revenge for post number 11/12, although I honestly meant nothing by the (admittedly unhappy) juxtaposition of a smiling Joost and the heartbreaking defeat his football team suffered at the hands of mine... Still, props to Jean and thanks for the contribution!