Amoeblog

francEyE 1922 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, June 24, 2009 05:01am | Post a Comment

Frances Dean Smith
, the prolific Santa Monica poet known as francEyE died earlier this month in San Rafael of complications from a broken hip. She was 87.
 
She was inspired by Charles Bukowski, whom she met in 1963. They began a relationship and soon after moved in together. Their daughter, Marina Louise Bukowski, was born the following year. But her legacy is so much more than being the mother of Bukowski’s child.

She was a winner of the Allen J. Freedman Poetry Prize, and was a frequent contributor to a variety of presses, large and small, like the Saturday Review, Chiron Review, Comet, and Blue Satellite. francEyE also published several collections of her work including Snaggletooth in Ocean Park (Sacred Beverage Press, 1996), Amber Spider (Pearl, 2004), Grandma Stories (Conflux Press, 2008) and Call (Rose of Sharon Press, 2008). Smith can be seen in the film Bukowski: Born Into This (2004), GV6 The Odyssey: Poets Passion & Poetry (2006), and other documentaries about the LA poetry scene.
 
francEyE was affectionately called the Bearded Witch of Ocean Park (a Santa Monica neighborhood where she had lived since the early 1970’s) because of the wispy gray strands of hair flowing from her chin. Bukowski fondly referred to her in one of his poems as Old Snaggle-Tooth. Here is some of her poetry:
 
(UNTITLED) "I WANNA KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO DIE ..."
I wanna know what it's like to die.
Will I see Skye? Will I really
fly? Will I never be able to taste tiramisu again
and are there pleasures after death greater than taste? Soon I'll find
out,
of course, but I'd like to know about it while I'm still
alive. This little pain in the middle of my chest
annoys me; is it trying to tell me not to worry? Well, really,
worried I'm not; I'm inquisitive. No
answers in sight, I believe, so I think I'll lie down and
close my mind to all that, think about
Leonard Cohen.
(Thursday, March 26, 2009)
 
SO LONG, WHOEVER YOU ARE
Today's the day I saw you die. It's
the day Obama won, so now I'll always remember,
Oh yes, I remember when Obama won, it was the day
I saw that woman die. We were sitting in the hall
across from each other in our walkers, resting. We
made eye contact, peaceful in the sort of eventless
afternoon when it seemed the only thing
happening was on
TV. Obama was winning, we were resting, our heads supported by
the backs of our chairs. Then yours wasn't, it fell forward til your
face
hit your chest; I gave a yelp; nurses came. Here, and then not here,
just like that. Mystery woman, I'll remember you, and honor you every
year on the day Obama won, 4th
day of November, 2008, his
victory day and your
yahrzeit.
(Tuesday, November 4, 2008)
 
FOR MY BIRTHDAY SOME DAY
to N.H.B. Sahoo

please,
make me a book
of pictures of dragons,
pictures of all the dragons that you know.
I would like to see a picture of the dragon of sunrise,
and I would like to see a picture of the dragon defender of all frogs and toads
and I would like to see a picture of the dragon of mercy
and one of the dragon of no mercy, too,
and above all I need a picture of
The Dragon of Everything and if there is a Dragon of Nothing
I need that one,
and then to end the book I think there should be a picture
of a dragon of excellent birthday parties and
one of
sweet sleep. Especially yes, I want to see with my own eyes
a picture of the dragon of sweet
sleep.
(Tuesday, August 15, 2006)
 

John Joseph Houghtaling 1916 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, June 22, 2009 11:39am | Post a Comment
Put in a quarter
Turn out the light
Magic Fingers
Makes you feel alright.
- Steve Goodman from “This Hotel Room”

Maybe it wasn’t quite up there with jet packs and flying cars as what the future might hold but in the 1960’s the vibrating Magic Fingers bed was a sign that the future was here. And it felt kind of weirdly good.
 
John Houghtaling, inventor of the vibrating Magic Fingers bed, died this past week in Fort Pierce, Fla., of a brain hemorrhage after a fall. He was 92.
 
Probably the first significant hotel room amenity after the TV was the Magic Fingers bed, and in its time it was a veritable goldmine. The vibration system offered fifteen minutes of mild massage to the weary traveler for only a quarter. At the height of their popularity 250,000 machines were in service across the United States. With the average revenue of just $2 a week per machine, they generated approximately $2 million a month.
 
In 1958 Houghtaling had been hired to design a combination mattress and box spring with a pre-installed vibrating mechanism. Neither the beds, nor the concept, sold well. But later as he worked in his New Jersey basement he devised a small motor that attached directly to the existing box springs.Magic Fingers relaxation service! The brilliance of the idea was not in the motor itself, but the idea to install this simple mechanism in hotel beds across the country for a newly mobile culture.
 
Magic Fingers have become a popular reference point in American culture, frequently appearing in movies and television like National Lampoons Vacation, Planes, Trains and Automobiles -- which features a can of beer exploding on a vibrating bed, and an episode of The X-Files where Agent Dana Scully is seen dropping quarters into a Magic Fingers in her hotel.

Hugh Hopper 1945 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, June 10, 2009 07:09pm | Post a Comment
 
When I was about 13 years old I became a regular customer at Platypus Records on Hollywood Blvd about a half a block east of Vermont in Hollywood. It was all about their inexpensive used records. I still spent a small fortune from money I earned the old fashioned way; recycling cans and bottles, mowing lawns and stealing money from my mom’s purse. I found great records for pennies. And one that left an indelible mark on my rookie ears was the Soft Machine album, Volume Two, released in 1969 and featuring Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, Mike Ratledge on piano and Hammond organ, Brian Hopper on saxophone and Hugh Hopper on bass and guitars. I think I paid 99 cents for the album.
 
When I bought that record all I knew about Soft Machine was that they were part of some mysterious and legendary English Canterbury music scene, they hung out with Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and once toured the US as an opening act for Jimi Hendrix. Volume Two is still one of my all time favorite records. Over the years I’ve worn out more than a few copies.
 
This past Monday, idiosyncratic composer, art-rock bassist extraordinaire, veteran of some two dozen diverse solo albums and Soft Machine member, Hugh Hopper, succumbed to his year long battle with leukemia. He was 64.
 
In his years before Soft Machine, Hugh Colin Hopper, born April 29, 1945 in Canterbury, Kent, found himself immersed in the burgeoning Canterbury scene and emerging bands like Gong, Hatfield and the North and Henry Cow. In the mid sixties he was working with Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt in the Daevid Allen Trio. That band evolved into the Wilde Flowers, an almost mythic pop and soul band consisting of his brother Brian, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Richard Sinclair that spun off into two influential progressive rock groups, Caravan and Soft Machine.
 
Hopper joined Soft Machine in 1968 after their tour with Hendrix, contributed two compositions to their first self titled album, recorded in New York. Their sophomore release saw Hopper not only adding his virtuoso bass work to the mix but also composing half the tracks. He would remain with Soft Machine through 1973 and the album entitled 6. About the time Soft Machine was moving from a psychedelic, progressive rock sound into more of a jazz/fusion outfit, Hopper departed, recording his classic solo record 1984 at about the same time. His first effort was a decidedly non-commercial adventure filled with avant-garde soundscapes, tape loops, and free improvisation.
 
After his stint with Soft Machine, and in between his own solo projects, Hopper worked with some of the most original musicians of the last thirty years; Carla Bley, Keith Tippett, Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Pip Pyle, Stomu Yamashta, Phil Miller, Lol Coxhill, Allan Holdsworth, Chris Cutler, Yumi Hara Cawkwell and bands like Gilgamesh, Isotope and Soft Heap. In 2002 Hopper began a new association with several former Soft Machine members. Originally named Soft Works, they later renamed the reunion Soft Machine Legacy; besides touring extensively throughout Europe and Asia, they’ve also released four CD’s, two studio and two live recordings.
 
After his diagnoses last summer with leukemia, a benefit concert was held for him at London's 100 Club in December, featuring friends and many of his legendary musical collaborators from all phases of his career.
 
Just two days before his death he married his longtime companion Christine.




Hugh Van Es 1941 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, May 16, 2009 11:15am | Post a Comment
Hugh Van Es, a Dutch photojournalist who covered the Vietnam War, capturing some of the most enduring images of the era, has died. Last week he suffered a brain hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. He died on Friday at the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong. Van Es was 67.

One of his most famous photos is that of the fall of Saigon in 1975, showing evacuees scaling a ladder onto a helicopter from a rooftop. The image, in no subtle way, became a metaphor for the United States’ profound policy failures in Vietnam.

Van Es arrived in Hong Kong as a freelance photographer in 1967, joining the South China Morning Post. After a stretch as a photographer for the Associated Press from 1969 to 1972, he covered the last three years of the Vietnam war for United Press International. His first celebrated photo was of a wounded soldier with a tiny cross gleaming against his dark silhouette taken in May of 1969 during the battle of Hamburger Hill.
 
But Van Es’ most lasting image was taken on the final day of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam on April 29, 1975. Van Es was in the Saigon UPI bureau offices when he saw a few dozen Americans climbing a ladder trying to board  one of the CIA’s own Air American helicopters on a rooftop just a few blocks away at 22 Gia Long Street, which sat about a half a mile from the embassy. From his vantage point on the UPI balcony, Van Es captured the scene with a 300mm lens, the longest one he had. The building in the picture was an apartment that housed C.I.A. officials and families and not Saigon’s American Embassy as has been erroneously believed over the years.

Remembering Photographer Helen Levitt

Posted by Whitmore, April 28, 2009 09:14pm | Post a Comment
Earlier this month the legendary photographer Helen Levitt died at the age of 95. In the 1930’s she pioneered the art of street photography, most often documenting the neighborhoods and the people of her hometown, New York City. Her influence is undeniable. With the help of an inconspicuous Leica camera she captured small, everyday events, exceptional moments and quiet dramas. Someone once noted that Helen Levitt was "the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time." Here is some of her work.
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