Monthly Archives: June 2015

Pictures of America With Captions: A Photo Essay, Part One

(First of a several part photo essay based on the shooting of Plain Songs by Daniel Levine with Brian Spellman. Enjoy.)

In a small town called Salem. Mostly farms. Nearest gas station is 20 minutes away.

In a small town called Salem. Mostly farms. Nearest gas station is 20 minutes away.

Building in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY.

Building in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY.

It was very hard to film in malls because all malls consider themselves to be high risk terrorism targets, even if they only have two or three still functioning storefronts and no anchor. In ten to fifteen years shopping malls will no longer exist.

It was very hard to film in malls because all malls consider themselves to be high risk terrorism threats, even if they only have two or three still functioning storefronts and no anchor. In ten to fifteen years shopping malls will no longer exist.

On the road Brian and I saw a lot of graffiti relating to the recent middle eastern wars on the windows of parked vans and on buildings and in alleyways.

On the road Brian and I saw a lot of graffiti relating to the recent middle eastern wars on the windows of parked vans and on buildings and in alleyways.

The midwest is filled with abandoned mines. The residents often mention that the unfiltered tap water is dangerous to drink. Oddly though in between small towns there will frequently be billboards advertising water parks.

The midwest is filled with abandoned mines. The residents often mention that the unfiltered tap water is dangerous to drink. Oddly though in between small towns there will frequently be billboards advertising water parks.

 

Some towns were mostly abandoned or demolished buildings. This one used to call itself the cotton capital of the United States.

Some towns were mostly abandoned or demolished buildings. This one used to call itself the cotton capital of the United States.

The entire town of Bayou Korne in Louisiana has been evacuated for roughly two years because of an oil drilling accident that created the country's largest sinkhole. People drive through. It's a remarkably well preserved ghost town.

The entire town of Bayou Korne in Louisiana has been evacuated for roughly two years because of an oil drilling accident that created the country’s largest sinkhole. People drive through. It’s a remarkably well preserved ghost town.

Valparaiso used to host the main factory producing Orville Redenbacker microwave popcorn. Though the factory closed three years ago the town stills holds an annual Orville Redenbacker Festival with live music and memorializes him in this bench statue.

Valparaiso used to host the main factory producing Orville Redenbacker microwave popcorn. Though the factory closed three years ago the town stills holds an annual Orville Redenbacker Festival with live music and memorializes him in this bench statue.

The specter of racial tension still lies over Birmingham Alabama but now takes a much more mournful introspective tone. A sculpture garden dedicated to Martin Luther King's march there is in a church nearby the church that was built after the 1953 bombing.

The specter of racial tension still lies over Birmingham Alabama but now takes a much more mournful introspective tone. A sculpture garden dedicated to Martin Luther King’s march there is in a park near the church that was built after the 1953 bombing.

The Mormon culture in Utah represents the most advanced utopian advance of the Weberian Protestant Ethic. The streets are empty by 9pm. A few bars cater mostly to children of Mormons who cut off their parents when they reached adulthood. They dress like people did at ska shows in the 1990s.

The Mormon culture in Utah represents the most advanced utopian advance of the Weberian Protestant Ethic. The streets are empty by 9pm. A few bars cater mostly to children of Mormons who cut off their parents when they reached adulthood. They dress like people did at ska shows in the 1990s.

Notes on Film Revolts

Film moments re: revolt #1:

The moment in Renoir’s “Boudu Saved From Drowning” when the titular Boudu is finally readied for the terminal acclimation to bobo aesthetics, almost arranged marriage, and place in monied society nearly all romantic comedies gravitate toward with the sort of single minded doomed determinism that makes something like Melville’s “Le Samourai” seem loose and easy going by comparison, and decides to reject all of it to go be a hobo with his dog again.

Film moments re: revolt #2:

Godard’s unreluctant willingness to loathe his rural militarist protagonists in “Le Carabiniers”. The singularly unpatriotic tone of the film is most famously summed up in the inverted shots of fireworks. A revolt against the well-meaning lies and sentimentality of earlier war films, even the purportedly anti-war ones.

Film moments re: revolt #3:

Bruce Conner’s montage in “Report” shifting between the Kennedy assassination, a matador killing a bull, and a space age refrigerator commercial. A revolt against the commercial transmigration of the dead. I sometimes fantasize about another universe where Reagan was actually assassinated and Conner made a spiritual sequel. As it was, Reagan died much later, with most of the press up to and including NPR eulogizing him beatifically. Having died of old age I guess he was entirely the refrigerator.

(Guest post by Daniel Levine. His first book “Every Time I Check My Messages Somebody Thinks I’m Dead” is available on Etsy.)

Notes Relating to Herman Melville I Wrote On a Napkin

“Herman Melville’s “The Confidence Man”:

It’s all set on a merchant ship (Melville loves his boats) and in one part two middle class men see a wretched looking black man who is both crippled and lame dancing to get people to throw coins at him so he can catch them in his mouth. One of the middle class men throws a coin and the cripple catches it in his mouth. The middle class men walk off and have a long conversation about the importance of confidence in fellow men and voice their paranoia that the cripple wasn’t actually crippled and had scammed them out of the coin.

I realized the significance of this at a Mexican bakery in Brooklyn with my father once. I realized that the girl behind the counter had misheard my order and undercharged me. I mentioned to my father that this had happened and he said “It makes it taste better, doesn’t it. That feeling you got one over on somebody. That’s the beauty of America,” and then ate several sugar donuts.

(Guest post by Daniel Levine. His first book can be purchased here.)