Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Same To You Tripled

The great science fiction writer Robert Sheckley has died, so sayeth the New York Times today (lit crit Roger Shattuck also; his tome on fin de siecle French avant-gardists on the cusp of the Great War, "The Banquet Years", comes highly recommended by this reader).

Wiseass Sheckley lived down Greenwich Street from me and Ling in the early 80's ( Ling's my ex-wife; we co-managed Beefheart together in the early 80's, and she now is the manageress of the very hot Chinese movie star Ziyi Zhang, who's just out now starring in "Memoirs of a Geisha"--a film by the way which is garnering decidedly mixed reviews, particularly in Asia, for, amongst other things, casting Chinese divas--including the superb Gong Li -- in the role of what are essentially Japanese comfort women. Quel scandale! Here of course the nuances of such a gestural casting insult no doubt escaped the producer and director, or were merely shrugged off on the order of "hey, they all look alike over there anyway" as justification for a marketing ploy, there being not a whole hell of alot of Japanese actresses around with the same international name recognition as these divas at this point in time. As Ziyi's flack, spinmeister and roving constant companion/interpreter--despite classes at Columbia, Ziyi apparently still doesn't speaka-da-English too well-- Ling no doubt has her hands full right now...oh, but that is too bad!)

Robert Sheckley was one of the great black humorists in the SF canon and can be viewed alongside Philip K. Dick as one of the radical post-war thinkers and stylists who helped drag a fairly moribund genre out of meat and potatos militaristic (read fascist) Robert Heinlein-land into cooler, smarter, funnier territory. His short story " The Seventh Victim" (not to be confused with the Val Lewton film of the same name), about a futuristic society where big game hunting of humans by humans is codified as a media sport (kinda what goes on now in a way, by golly) was adapted into one of the greatest 60's black comedies ever: Elio Petri's "The Tenth Victim" starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress with her amazing Smith and Wesson bra. I got my Dad to drag me to this flick back in my high school days as it was categorized as not suitable for children without an accompanying adult, and apres le screening left the Westcott Theater in Syracuse besotted with Ursula (my friend Harry Hamelin ironically scored bigtime by bagging Ursula on the set of "Clash of the Titans"--or was it the other way round?--and actually realizing a significant collective male masturbatory fantasy of that epoch. Triggered off as well by La Andress's spectacular half-naked entrance as Honey Ryder in "Doctor No" about the same time). I also left the cinema humming the bubbly bright jazz-tinged theme by Piero Piccioni, as sung by the fabulous Italian vocalist Mina (I played this track on Charlie Gillett's Radio Pingpong segment on his Sounds of the World show on the BBC last year, to general apathy all around. Oh well).

Anyway Sheckley was a card and a kibbitzer and a wander-the-world boho from Brooklyn who traded me his very own prized vinyl copy of the (at the time) extremely rare soundtrack to "Juliet of the Spirits" for a bag of very expensive weed, which he claimed to need for inspirational writerly purposes...this was back in my stoner days...and as this album is still in my possession, I think I got the better of the deal, in retrospect.

In any case, Sheckley is sorely missed, and before there is a fire sale on Alibris of Sheckley-ana (right) you could do no worse than acquire a copy of his very cool short story collection "The Same To You Doubled" and his novel "The Game of X". Actually, according to Amazon, that title is currently in print and available there, so pointeth and clicketh and goest thou forward and read one of America's supreme black humorists and far-out wigs and wags, not that far afield from Terry Southern (and for sure, there wouldn't be a Douglas Adams without Sheckley's example).

I ran into the great documentary film maker/cinematographer Albert Maysles at the Museum of Modern Art here on Wednesday night at a screening of the incredibly affecting "Lalee's Kin", which Al photographed and for which I was honored to be asked to provide the music for. It was originally shown on HBO and later nominated for an Academy Award. Director Susan Froemke and editor Deborah Dickson were there as well, and we had a very moving reunion, having worked closely on this project together back in 2001. Deborah has been working hard on a new documentary about today's Navy funded by Mel "Three-in-One Without No Oil" Gibson, and Susan is flourishing at HBO. Al is wrapping up a documentary on Christo, and looked great. He is one of America's treasures ("Gimme Shelter", "Grey Gardens", and "Salesman" are essential viewing for any students of documentary film history). The next night I was up at Makor to see award-winning Polish documentary maker Slawomir Grunberg's heart-wrenching documentary "The Legacy of Jedwabne", for which I also provided the music (and am actually interviewed in, as a participant in the memorial ceremonies held in Poland in 2001 in which the Polish government officially apologized to the Jewish surviving family members--of which I am one--for the hideous pogrom which took place in this little Polish town in 1941). Slawomir is a lovely and charismatic man who coaxed me to play my acoustic guitar after the memorial ceremony in the old Jedwabne graveyard, not far from where 2000 Jews were incinerated in a barn. It was cold and raining and I stumbled through the haunted landscape playing with tears in my was a very heavy, emotionally draining day. To see his film on the big screen brought tears to my eyes again... and I do not cry very easily.




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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Out From Under

Gary unleashed in the Australian Outback, Earthcore Global Carnival, 11/26/05

GL onstage with Amorphous Androgynous, Earthcore Global Carnival

GL and Dave onstage, Earthcore Gobal Carnival

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Just back from Down Under, wotta cool country, my first time evah, great trip, several smoking shows with the Amorphous Androgynous crewe (the brainchild of Future Sound of London's Gaz Cobain), we rocked the Aussie fans' collective billabongs off at several massive outdoor rave festivals held outside Melbourne and Brisbane way-out in the Outback (so far out a train don't go there, in fact), and also played an incandescent set at the Prince Bandroom in the heart of Melbourne's swinging Fitzroy Street beach scene. Out there on the perimeter, vivid primeval skies mad with a million blazing stars arched o'er us in the deep country twilight, especially Saturday night, our last gig of 3, as we made our way by caravan on pitted dirt roads to arrive at a lush promontory with sweeping views of the surrounding volcanic foothills, a verdant plateau bedecked with medieval food and drink and tchotchke stalls (very Camden Townish, very Glastonbury) over which exotic purple birds and flocks of giant bats with huge pterodactyl-like wings zoomed out of the trees as night came on strong, monstrous electric green toads with glowing gold eyes were sighted hopping and frolicking in the public bogs, and fuzzy spiders with the leg span of an open hand crept up somebody's jacket...

and we set up our gear on the main Pyramid Stage (also very Glastonbury) with multimedia screens flanking us on both sides and above and behind us and began blasting a set of state of the art psychodelicate selections from the band's new album "Alice in Ultra-Land" and our last disc "The Isness", strings in the earth and air began to shimmer and vibrate as me and Stewart Rowe set off a firestorm of electronic guitar pyrotechnics, Baluji Shrivastav flashed his scimitar-sitar, Dave Sanderson let loose with unearthly ululations, Virgil Howe set up a thumping great tribal beat, and Gaz conducted the whole affair from behind his nest of synths, samplers and laptops, as the great god Pan chased Aphrodite down a rabbit hole while Dionysus looked on in amusement--and the neo-hippies and children-of-the-gospel-rave and rainbow-chasing warriors, dread-locked sun worshippers and blissed-out surfer boys and girls were smote as one by our electronic sonic barrage and multi-screen light show and yea verily begin to shake and undulate rhythmically. We were hurtling headlong into the heart of the early summer madness in a majestic rush of music, o the summertime is comin' and the leaves are sweetly turnin', and the endless summah down undah hits you right between the eyes and ears...

and guitarist Steve Hillage (Gong, Rachid Taha, the great "Arabesque" series) was there with his lovely French partner and newSystem 7 project, and Porno for Pyros/Jane's Addiction/Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell (one of Jeff Buckley's and my own favorite musicians) was there doing his DJ Peretz thing, and I ran into Ben Watkins, the former lead singer of the UK band The Hitmen (remember their great "Bates Motel" single? Ben's now a psy-trance shaman with his electro-band Juno Reactor) who recalled a conversation we had about Beefheart up at Black Rock (CBS Records) 25 years ago-- and I had a nice reunion with Daevid Allen, international zig-zag wanderer, charter Soft Machinist, Gong founder and actual native Australian now living in bucolic Byron Bay, who I first met at Kramer's Jersey studio in 1992 and had last laid eyes on when we both played at the Next Festival in Tel Aviv about 7-8 years was some swell party in the woods on Saturday night!

Big Thanks to Danielle and Spiro and JD and Devaj and Jason and Clay and Mariella and Zack and all the folks of the Earthcore organisation who set the whole thing in motion. Please, do yourself a favor and visit Australia, you won't regret it...warm friendly good-hearted people, warm friendly country. Back now in freezing snowy Manhattan, dreaming of the Earthcore witchwoods...

meanwhile please take a look at my homepage at, where you'll find details on the 4th annual auction for People For the American Way--the auction is now in full swing, and you have only a week to bid on Ebay for my tour Chapeau circa summer 2003, plus sundry other goodies from folks like Patti Smith et al.--the money raised will go to a very worthy cause indeed, 'nuff said.

And, lastly, to get a very reasoned and well-thought out take on present-day political realities in these United States, check out Howie Klein's impassioned and informative blog, Down With Tyranny, at Not to be missed.




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