Neil Young – Neil Young (1968)

“On his songs for Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young had demonstrated an eclecticism that ranged from the rock of ‘Mr. Soul’ to the complicated, multi-part arrangement of ‘Broken Arrow.’ On his debut solo album, he continued to work with composer/arranger Jack Nitzsche, with whom he had made ‘Expecting to Fly’ on the Buffalo Springfield Again album, and together the two recorded a restrained effort on which the folk-rock instrumentation, most of which was by Young, overdubbing himself, was augmented by discreet string parts. The country & western elements that had tinged the Springfield‘s sound were also present, notably on the leadoff track, ‘The Emperor of Wyoming,’ an instrumental that recalled the Springfield song ‘A Child’s Claim to Fame.’ Still unsure of his voice, Young sang in a becalmed high tenor that could be haunting as often as it was listless and whining. He was at his least appealing on the nine-and-a-half-minute closing track, ‘The Last Trip to Tulsa,’ on which he accompanied himself with acoustic guitar, singing an impressionistic set of lyrics seemingly derived from Bob Dylan‘s Highway 61 Revisited. But double-tracking and the addition of a female backup chorus improved the singing elsewhere, and on ‘The Loner,’ the album’s most memorable track, Young displayed some of the noisy electric guitar work that would characterize his recordings with Crazy Horse and reminded listeners of his ability to turn a phrase. Still, Neil Young made for an uneven, low-key introduction to Young‘s solo career, and when released it was a commercial flop, his only album not to make the charts. (Several months after the album’s release, Young remixed it to bring out his vocals more and added some overdubs. This second version replaced the first in the U.S. from then on, though the original mix remained available overseas.)”
allmusic (Audio)
YouTube: Neil Young – Full Album 10 videos

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The Futurological Congress – Stanislaw Lem (1971)

“Polish writer Stanislaw Lem published a stimulating dystopia where feelings of human beings will be manipulated in the future. The book The Futurological Congress (1971) depicts a scenario in the throes of a massive population explosion that results in an excess of papers and presenters too numerous to allow for full presentations in the congress. The congress features demonstrations, riots and social violence against the government while introducing a flying building consisting of eight hundred flats with maternity wards, kindergartens, schools, shops, museums, zoos, theatres, cinemas, crematoriums and, of course, forty TV channels. The population explosion drives humankind into ‘discouraging persuasively and policely, full-scale deeroticization, compulsory celibacy, onanism…’. One of the presents comes to suggest that the following stage of civilization would be cannibalism. Reading the work by Stanislaw Lem The Futurological Congress (1971) is a journey into the possibility of seeing our future as if we were speakers in a congress of futurology. The first thing that we can enthusiastically state is that we are a few years away from spending our holidays in space, a satellite or spaceship spinning around planet Earth. Some architects will suggest, mirroring the Chicago’s town council, the creation of balanced town development based on bacteria control. Videogames have established themselves as 3-D parallel realities, as currently suggested by experts. Medicine will sketch out a future where our life expectancy will increase from the current Spanish average of 82.5 years to 120. Futurologists would begin such congress heralding a better world, light years away from Lem’s catastrophic outlook. Such futurologists could be described as techno-optimistic, due to their view of a contradiction-free future. At the opposite end, a numerous group of techno-pessimistics will outline a future, drifting from one technology to another that will deteriorate the human condition. The doomsayers, reluctant to not only changes but also unleashed and unsupervised technological euphoria, will point out to problems in an ageing European population, unable to care for the elderly, immersed in low democratic values that will impact negatively on freedom of expression and circulation of people. They would denounce the vulnerable position of citizens before the big communication corporations that will trade personal data, present and past. Robotics, sensors, drones and tracking technology via mobile phones will be seen as limits to our freedom rather than security enhancements. …”
The Futurological Congress, a new outlook under way
The Paris Review: The Future According to Stanisław Lem
Buddhism, Paul Tillich, & Cybernetics: Stanislaw Lem’s The Futurological Congress & The Star Diaries
Stanisław Lem’s Futurological Congress
W – The Futurological Congress, amazon
[PDF] The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy

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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets

A group photo containing some members of the New York School poets. John Ashbery (standing right), Frank O’Hara (seated left), Kenneth Koch (seated right). Frank O’Hara’s loft, 1964.

“When John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler (pronounced ‘SKY-luh’) first lived in New York, the Korean War was in progress and McCarthyism was the scourge of freethinking intellectuals. It was the era of Levittown and the ‘silent generation’ when the original Guys and Dolls was on Broadway, suburban flight was in progress, New York had three baseball teams and at least one of them played in the World Series every year. In an age of split-level conformism, the poets of the New York School put their trust in the idea of an artistic vanguard that could sanction their deviations from the norm. The liberating effect of their writing became increasingly evident in the passionate, experimental, taboo-breaking early 1960s, when the nation’s youngest president was in office, men discarded their hats, women started using the Pill, the acceleration in the speed of social change seemed to double overnight, and America finally left the nineteenth century behind. In his book The Banquet Years, Roger Shattuck characterized the avant-garde in Paris in the golden period before World War I as an ‘artistic underground’ dedicated to ‘heterodoxy and opposition.’ The artists maintained “a belligerent attitude toward the world and a genuine sympathy for each other.” They lived and worked ‘in an atmosphere of perpetual collaboration.’ The avant-garde ‘was a way of life, both dedicated and frivolous,’ generating tremendous excitement. Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet, was the ‘impresario of the avant-garde,’ the champion of Cubism and the man who gave Surrealism its name. Apollinaire’s ‘magnetic presence’ and his ‘expansive, volatile nature flowed inexhaustibly on and left behind it poems and lyric texts which seemed to flower effortlessly out of his enthusiasms.’ Substitute Frank O’Hara for Apollinaire and Abstract Expressionism for Cubism, and you get an eerie fit. The poets of the New York School were as heterodox, as belligerent toward the literary establishment and as loyal to each other, as their Parisian predecessors had been. The 1950s and early ’60s in New York were their banquet years. It is as though they translated the avant-garde idiom of ‘perpetual collaboration’ from the argot of turn-of-the-century Paris to the rough-hewn vernacular of the American metropolis at mid-century. …”
Jacket2, amazon: The Last Avant-Garde
Grace Hartigan, Frank O’Hara, and the New York School
The New York School: The First Generation
Guardian – New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight by Jenni Quilter – review, amazon: New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight

Fairfield Porter paints John Ashbery’s portrait.
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Protest Insurrection at Columbia: The Groovy Revolution

May 2, 1968: “You could tell something more than springtime was brewing at Columbia by the crowds around the local Chock Full, jumping and gesturing with more than coffee in their veins. You could sense insurrection in the squads of police surrounding the campus like a Navy picket fence. You could see rebellion in the eyes peering from windows where they didn’t belong. And you knew it was revolution for sure, from the trash. Don’t underestimate the relationship between litter and liberty at Columbia. Until last Thursday, April 23, the university was a clean dorm, where students paid rent, kept the house rules, and took exams. Then the rebels arrived, in an uneasy coalition of hip, black, and leftist militants. They wanted to make Columbia more like home. So they ransacked files, shoved furniture around, plastered walls with paint and placards. They scrawled on blackboards and doodled on desks. They raided the administration’s offices (the psychological equivalent of robbing your mother’s purse) and they claim to have found cigars, sherry, and a dirty book (the psychological equivalent of finding condoms in your father’s wallet). Of course this is a simplification. There were issues involved in the insurrection which paralyzed Columbia this past week. Like the gymnasium in Morningside Park, or the university’s ties to the Institute for Defense Analysis. But beyond these specifics, the radicals were trying to capture the imagination of their campus by giving vent to some of its unique frustrations. In short, they had raised the crucial question of who was to control Columbia? Four buildings had been ‘liberated’ and occupied by students. The traditional quietism that had been the pride of straight Columbia was giving way to a mood of cautious confrontation. The groovy revolution — one part dogma to four parts joy — had been declared. The rebels totaled upward of 900 during peak hours. They were ensconsed behind sofa-barricades. You entered Fayerweather Hall through a ground floor window. Inside, you saw blackboards filled with ‘strike bulletins,’ a kitchen stocked with sandwiches and cauldrons of spaghetti, and a lounge filled with squatters. There was some pot and a little petting in the corridors. But on Friday, the rebellion had the air of a college bar at 2 a.m. In nearby Avery Hall, the top two floors were occupied by architecture students, unaffiliated with SDS, but sympathetic to their demands. …”

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Fluxus 1

Fluxus 1 is an artists’ book edited and produced by the Lithuanian-American artist George Maciunas, containing works by a series of artists associated with Fluxus, the international collective of avant-garde artists primarily active in the 1960s and 1970s. Originally published in New York, 1964, the contents vary from edition to edition, but usually contain work by Ay-O, George Brecht, Alison Knowles, György Ligeti, Yoko Ono, Robert Watts and La Monte Young amongst many others. The work has become famous as an early example of conceptual art, and as one of the defining products of the Fluxus collective. Maciunas had originally set up the AG Gallery, 925 Madison Avenue, New York City, to exhibit abstract art and to sell ancient musical instruments; upon meeting La Monte Young and Richard Maxfield in late 1960, however, he ‘was suddenly confronted with the most radical ideas in art.’ Overnight, the gallery was transformed into a greenhouse for ‘the germination of Fluxus’, hosting events by Dick Higgins, Jackson Mac Low, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young and others. All of these artists would be included in the forthcoming Fluxus 1; the first known mention of the name Fluxus came on the invitation cards to 3 events held at the gallery, Spring 1961, in which guests were asked to contribute $3 to ‘help publish Fluxus magazine’. The gallery had gone bankrupt by mid 1961; to avoid his creditors, Maciunas took a job working for the US Army as a freelance designer in Wiesbaden, West Germany. He took many of the scores collected by La Monte Young for AN ANTHOLOGY, and whilst working on the design and printing for that, also began work on his own anthology Fluxus 1. … Amongst many other influences, Maciunas was directly inspired by LEF, the communist journal founded by Mayakovsky and Ossip Brik; an artistic organisation aimed at unifying left-wing artists to help build the newly emerging communist state in Russia. Fluxus 1 was Maciunas’ first attempt at creating a coherent collective voice, an attempt to erode the artist’s status as heroic individual & his first attempt to ‘communicate the concept of the self-sufficiency of the audience, an art where anything can substitute for an art work and anyone can produce it.’ …”
art21: Ink | The Birth of the Underground: Fluxus Editions
Art Forum: A Finger In Fluxus
YouTube: The Fluxus Project, Alison Knowles discusses the Fluxkit

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Against Interpretation – Susan Sontag (1966)

Against Interpretation is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag’s best-known works, including ‘On Style,’ and the eponymous essay ‘Against Interpretation.’ In the latter, Sontag argues that in the new approach to aesthetics the spiritual importance of art is being replaced by the emphasis on the intellect. Rather than recognizing great creative works as possible sources of energy, she argues, contemporary critics were all too often taking art’s transcendental power for granted, and focusing instead on their own intellectually constructed abstractions like ‘form’ and ‘content.’ In effect, she wrote, interpretation had become ‘the intellect’s revenge upon art.’ The essay famously finishes with the words, ‘in place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art’. The book was a finalist for the Arts and Letters category of the National Book Award. ‘Against Interpretation’ is Sontag’s influential essay within Against Interpretation and Other Essays that discusses the divisions between two different kinds of art criticism and theory: that of formalist interpretation, and that of content-based interpretation. Sontag is strongly averse to what she considers to be contemporary interpretation, that is, an overabundance of importance placed upon the content or meaning of an artwork rather than being keenly alert to the sensuous aspects of a given work and developing a descriptive vocabulary for how it appears and how it does whatever it does. She believes that interpretation of the modern style has a particular ‘taming’ effect: reducing the freedom of a subjective response and placing limitations or certain rules upon a responder. The modern style of interpretation is particularly despised by Sontag in relation to the previous classical style of interpretation that sought to ‘bring artworks up to date’, to meet modern interests and apply allegorical readings. … Brandon Robshaw of The Independent later observed, ‘This classic collection of essays and criticism from the 1960s flatters the reader’s intelligence without being intimidating.’ He added, ‘…the essays are unfailingly stimulating. Though they bear the stamp of their time, Sontag was remarkably prescient; her project of analysing popular culture as well as high culture, the Doors as well as Dostoevsky, is now common practice throughout the educated world. And the artists and intellectuals she discusses – Nietzsche, Camus, Godard, Barthes etc – demonstrate that she knew which horses to back.’ …”
NY Times: How Susan Sontag Taught Me to Think – A.O. Scott
[PDF] Academia: Against Interpretation

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Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971

“One of the most monumental achievements of the ’60s and early ’70s was Berry Gordy’s empire at Motown Records. Previously an accomplished songwriter for the likes of Jackie Wilson, Gordy started the company with an $800 loan and built a roster of black artists who consistently (if not constantly) crossed over onto the (white) mainstream pop charts. This amazing success story is too long for me to go into detail just how incredible Gordy’s accomplishments were (and his stamp is all over everything that ever happened at Motown), but his single-minded vision produced some of the purest and greatest pop music ever recorded. There were too many magnificent talents under Gordy’s watchful eye to even list here, but a mere handful of his top flight artist arsenal included The Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5, most of whom are represented here by their best songs from that period. You should at least a compilation apiece for all of these wonderful artists, certainly more in the case of Gaye and Wonder, but it’s not like you’re likely to get tired of hearing these songs here, either (they are among the best ever, after all).  … Still, where this collection is really useful is in showcasing classic songs from fondly recalled but less well remembered acts, such as Barrett Strong (‘Money (That’s What I Want)’), The Marvelettes (‘Please Mr. Postman’), The Contours (‘Do You Love Me?’), Mary Wells (‘My Guy’), Junior Walker & The All Stars (‘Shotgun’), Jimmy Ruffin (‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’), Edwin Starr (‘War’), The Undisputed Truth (‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’), and Rare Earth (‘I Just Want To Celebrate’), to cite some examples. … How great was Motown? One of their second tier acts, Martha & the Vandellas, had no less than 3 of the greatest songs of all time (‘Nowhere To Run,’ ‘(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave,’ ‘Dancing In The Street)’. …”
Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 (Motown ’92) Rating: A+
W – Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971
YouTube: Hitsville USA – The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 104 videos, Hitsville USA… 103

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Eric Rohmer – Six Moral Tales (1963-1972)

“At’s a mistake to privilege any one of Eric Rohmer’s ‘Six Moral Tales’ over another, though the temptation exists and is easily indulged, especially if one takes the disparate, yet complementary, viewpoints of this inimitable set of films as entirely representative of its creator’s own personal principles. Strange that auteurism should fail us so completely in the case of one of its founding practitioners, but Rohmer was always an odd man out among his contemporaries, if not in the remove of years (he was a decade older than most of his Nouvelle Vague brethren), then in the deceptive placidity of his art. His revolutions, in other words, were quiet ones, couched in a perpetual remove and observation. Rohmer’s greatest popular success, 1969’s My Night at Maud’s, is frequently misremembered as a nonstop talkfest, as it begins with extended passages of an unnamed Catholic engineer (Jean-Louis Trintignant) silently trailing a woman (Marie-Christine Barrault) who will, by film’s end, become his wife. The devoted Catholic’s brief flirtation with the fetching divorcée Maud (Francoise Fabian) brings about his ultimate ‘moral’ choice, a fascinating psychological mishmash of Catholic liturgy, Pascalian hypothesis, and Hitchcockian blonde/brunette dichotomy that’s all too often mistaken—at least in the West—for Rohmer’s own worldview. … At the heart of this misreading is the word “moral” itself, which is typically defined in collective terms: the conscientious needs of the society at large trumping the various bodies that make it up. These films are more concerned with individual moral codes and how they play off of each other within a given situation, and though the films share a basic narrative structure (a man in love with one woman is tempted by a second, only to return to the first), it’s the specific milieu and, resultantly, the characters who inhabit that space which determine the ultimate outcome. Rohmer puts his trust—his faith—in a sense of place: The bustling Parisian side streets of The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne’s Career beget the stark Catholic trappings of My Night at Maud’s, which lead to the dandified color palette of La Collectionneuse, the deceivingly nostalgic summertime glow of Claire’s Knee, and the theremin-scored, post-1960s fatigue of Love in the Afternoon. …”
Slant – Blu-ray Review: Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales on the Criterion Collection
Roger EbertCriterion Releases Wonderful Box Set of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales
YouTube: AFS Presents: Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales, Series

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Operation Ranch Hand

Four-plane defoliant run, part of Operation Ranch Hand

Operation Ranch Hand was a U.S. military operation during the Vietnam War, lasting from 1962 until 1971. Largely inspired by the British use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (Agent Orange) during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, it was part of the overall chemical warfare program during the war called ‘Operation Trail Dust’. Ranch Hand involved spraying an estimated 20 million U.S. gallons (76,000 m3) of defoliants and herbicides[1] over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of food and vegetation cover. Areas of Laos and Cambodia were also sprayed to a lesser extent. Nearly 20,000 sorties were flown between 1961 and 1971.  The ‘Ranch Handers’ motto was ‘Only you can prevent a forest’ – a take on the popular U.S. Forest Service poster slogan of Smokey Bear. During the ten years of spraying, over 5 million acres (20,000 km2) of forest and 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) of crops were heavily damaged or destroyed. Around 20% of the forests of South Vietnam were sprayed at least once. The herbicides were sprayed by the U.S. Air Force flying C-123s using the call sign ‘Hades’. The planes were fitted with specially developed spray tanks with a capacity of 1,000 U.S. gallons (4 m3) of herbicides. … Within two to three weeks of spraying, the leaves would drop from the trees, which would remain bare until the next rainy season. In order to defoliate the lower stories of forest cover, one or more follow-up spray runs were needed. About 10 percent of the trees sprayed died from a single spray run. Multiple spraying resulted in increased mortality for the trees, as did following up the herbicide missions with napalm or bombing strikes.The use of herbicides in the Vietnam War was controversial from the beginning, particularly for crop destruction. The scientific community began to protest the use of herbicides in Vietnam as early as 1964, when the Federation of American Scientists objected to the use of defoliants. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a resolution in 1966 calling for a field investigation of the herbicide program in Vietnam. In 1967, seventeen Nobel laureates and 5,000 other scientists signed a petition asking for the immediate end to the use of herbicides in Vietnam. Press coverage of the controversial use of herbicides in Vietnam increased in the late 1960s. …”
[PDF] Ranch Hand in Vietnam (photo essay)
[PDF] The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia 1961-1971
YouTube: What Is Agent Orange? | History

Map of herbicide usage during the Vietnam war.
Posted in Agent Orange, CIA, John Kennedy, Lyn. Johnson, Napalm, R. McNamara, Saigon, Viet Cong, Vietnam War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Genet, Mailer, & the New Paternalism (1961)

“It is easily imagined of Jean Genet that he is one those artists who so adore reality that they are obsessed with the ever-present possibility that it too will betray them. Sitting through the too long evening of ‘The Blacks’ or wending a careful and respect­ful way through the printed texts of ‘Deathwatch’ or ‘The Maids,’ we are overwhelmed by our sense of his distrust of us; his refusal to honor our longings for communion. Presently we understand that he does not seem to believe that is what we do long for and so, now and again, he drops even the remnants of his regard, and flails at us. He encloses the reckless and undefined dozen or so jokes; dismisses what he may consider to be the boundaries of even his own mind. He becomes the threatening soldier who may or may not put bullets in the gun, such being the depth of his contempt for the enemy. Of course, when whimsy does allow him to load and fire, we are shattered. Norman Mailer’s discussion of ‘The Blacks’ (Voice, May 11, May 18) was, therefore, in proper meter. Between the play and Mai­ler’s discernible reaction to it, a duet was indeed sung. The rise and fall of his coherence and incoherence alike strikes a stunning and, I think, significant kinship with the French writer. This is especially so in his lusty acceptance of the romantic racism which need­ed evocation to allow for the conceptualization of ‘The Blacks’ in the first place. For, at this moment, on both sides of the Atlantic, certain of the best of men have sent up a lament which is much concerned with the disorders of a civilization which they do not really believe in their hearts are to be set aright by in­vocation of either fresh ‘frontiers’ or antique ‘grandeur.’ Sensing the source of the disorders to be deeper than any of that, they have will­fully turned to the traditional route of history’s more serious nay-sayers. They have elected the spirit and fraternity of what the balance of society is always pleased to hope are ‘the damned’: pros­titutes, pimps, thieves, and general down-and-outers of whatever persuasion. They are certain, as their antecedents in all ages have been, that if the self-appointed ‘top’ of society is as utterly rotten as it is, then the better side of madness must be the company and deistic celebration of ‘the bottom.’ As far as they are concerned, history has merely inadvertently provided them with a massive set of fra­ternals in ‘the Blacks.’ Among the Negro artists and in­tellectuals whom I know it is a melancholy point of reference. …”
Voice: Norman Mailer on Iran Genet’s “The Blacks”
W – The Blacks (play)
The Blacks by Jean Genet (Translated by Bernard Frechtman, Grove Press, 1960)

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