Monday, March 10, 2014
A Brief History of The Universe: The Not So Basics of Ken Russell Complete Works Updated 2014
Here is to my best knowledge the majority of Ken Russell's work. I'm sure I will be adding to it shortly. Thanks to Iain Fisher for his great research which helped me immensely in starting this project.
Ken Russell's world is very beautiful and remember...
He's not perverted. YOU are!
Fledging films, photography and student projects:
Teddy Girl photographs
Knights on Bikes (1957)
Ken Russell's Lost London Rediscovered: 1951–1957
Amelia and the Angel
Knights on Bikes 1957
BBC Monitor short films
Poets London 1956
Gordon Jacob 1959
Guitar Crazy (also called From Spain to Streatham) 1959
Variations on a Mechanical Theme 1959
Two Painters 1959
Portrait of a Goon 1959
Marie Rambert Remembers 1960
Architecture of Entertainment/Journey into a Lost World 1960
Cranks at Work 1960
The Miners' Picnic 1960
Shelagh Delaney's Salford 1960
A House in Bayswater/ Mrs Stirling of Old Battersea House 1960
The Light Fantastic 1960
Antonio Gaudi 1961
London Moods 1961
Lotte Lenya Sings Kurt Weill 1962
BBC Monitor long form films
Portrait of a Soviet composer 1961
Pop goes the Easel 1962
Preservation Man 1962
Mr Chesher's Traction Engines 1962
Watch the Birdie 1963
Lonely Shore 1964
The Dotty World of James Lloyd 1964
Diary of a Nobody 1964
Major works for film and television
Elgar (1962, TV) included as it is widely considered Ken's first important film.
French Dressing (1963)
The Debussy Film (1965, TV)
Always On Sunday (1965, TV)
Isadora Duncan, The Biggest Dancer In The World (1966, TV)
Dante's Inferno (1967, TV)
Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
Song of Summer (1968, TV)
Women in Love (1969)
The Dance of the Seven Veils (1970, TV)
The Music Lovers (1971)
The Devils (1971)
The Boy Friend (1971)
Savage Messiah (1972)
William and Dorothy (1976)
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1978)
Altered States (1980)
The Planets (1983)
Crimes of Passion (1984)
Gothic (1986) ·
Aria (1987, segment "Nessun Dorma")
ABC of British Music, A British Picture (1987)
Salome's Last Dance (1988)
The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
The Rainbow (1989)
Prisoner of Honor (1991, TV)
The Secret Life of Arnold Bax (1992, TV)
The Mystery of Dr. Martinu (1993, TV)
Lady Chatterley (1993, TV)
Mindbender (1995, TV)
Dogboys (1998, TV)
Later independent films, television and indie
The Lion's Mouth (2000)
Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002)
Brothers of the Head (2006)
Colour Me Kubrick (2006)
Celebrity Big Brother 5 (2007)
A Kitten For Hitler (2007)
(coming out a train, scene cut)
(in a wheelchair before "Welcome")
(the last scene on the boat)
Salome's Last Dance
The Girl with the Golden Breasts
Opera and theatre
The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky)
Madame Butterfly (Puccini)
The Italian Girl in Algiers (Rossini)
La Boheme (Puccini)
Die Soldaten (Zimmerman) 1985
Faust (Gounod) 1985
Mefistofoles (Boite) 1989
Princess Ida (Gilbert and Sullivan) 1992
Salome (Richard Strauss) 1993
Weill and Lenya (Paris and Russell) 2000
Mindgame (Anthony Horowitz) 2008
Acting roles, playing himself and interviews
The Secret Life of Sir Arnold Bax
(starring as Bax)
The Fall of the Louse of Usher
Hot Pants Trilogy
The ABC of British Music
A British Picture
Don't Shoot the Composer: Vaughan Williams
In Search of the English Folk Song
Elgar 2 Portrait of a composer on his bicycle
Mr. Nice (scene cut)
Brothers of The Head
Marple: The Moving Finger
Oliver Reed Wild Thing Documentary
Edmund Dane 2005
Colour me Kubrick 2004
Waking the Dead: Final Cut 2003
Felicity Kendal: A Passage from India 2001
Turning Points 2000
Carry on Darkly 1998
Great Composers 1997
A History of British Art 1996
(An educational series for Channel 4.)
Empire of the Censors 1995
Music for the Movies: Georges Delerue 1994
Citizen Kane: a Critical Analysis 1991
The Russia House 1990
(Ken's only real acting role outside his own work)
The Kids are Alright 1979
Films unfinished, declined or planned but never made
Maria Callas Bio Pic
Alice in Wonderland
Tesla Bio Pic (thwarted by Edison's descendants)
Books By Ken Russell:
A British Picture (1989; published in the US as Altered States: The Autobiography of Ken Russell, 1991)
Fire Over England (1993; published in the US as The Lion Roars)
Brahms Gets Laid
Elgar: The Erotic Variations
Delius: A Moment with Venus
Mike and Gaby's Space Gospel
Biographies and Film Criticism about Ken Russell:
An Appalling Talent: Ken Russell, John Baxter (1973)
Ken Russell: The Adaptor as Creator, Gomez, Joseph A. (1976)
Ken Russell (Monarch film studies), Thomas R., ed Atkins (1976)
Ken Russell: A guide to references and resources Diane Rosenfeldt (1978)
Ken Russell. Phillips, Gene D. (1979).
Ken Russell's Films by Ken Hanke (Oct 1, 1984)
Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films (Cappella Books) by Joseph Lanza
Sunday, February 02, 2014
England: Winter 2013-2014
(From above down: Ion Square Gardens, Hackney City Farm garden store and vegey pick up boxes, Winston at Frizzante , the view up Goldsmith's Row onto Hackney Road, Adventure Playground Weaver's Field, Weaver's Field towards WhiteChapel and Swirly fun, Charles Dickens House Estate, E2 Church and Frizzante Garden seating)
Monday, December 09, 2013
Get ready for a LIBERACE CELEBRATION!! COMING SOON!
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Saturday, November 02, 2013
Review: WHO I AM by Pete Townshend
(It took me a year and a fortnight but I finished it!)
Pete Townshend writes in his autobiography that as an up and coming rock star in the early 1960s England he was approached by a group of peers (then teenagers) who asked him to write lyrics about the things they were experiencing. Telling him pointedly that they wanted him to speak for them through his song writing, essentially requesting that he make sure that The Who, not lose the connection to Mod street level culture.
A decade later, a music industry and alcohol addled Townshend finds himself being assured by a younger more radical group of young people (this time Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols) that he's still relevant.
If that sounds less like a Rock memoir and more like the plot of a British football film, with pub goers in wollen jumpers raising pints of ale and debating about the social codes of English life and chortling on about how "Geez was a visionary, he stood for what we believe in..." than a music biography then you're not far off. Much of what makes Townshend's biography work so well are his vivid reminisces of Great Britain in the late 40s, 50s and of course the 1960s. There are many sentient, Post War British moments in Who I Am with the audience being both territorial and loyal towards his music music. Home grown music much like football, drives Britain (especially London) to this day. And no bands personified it better in their heyday than The Who, who like their great contemporaries, The Kinks, stayed in Britain and sang about Britain.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Disciples of Shirley Russell Alert: Bernie Dexter The Low Life Libelling Plagiarist
(I prefer to keep my business relationships and day job off of any public forum but I feel I should say something given the fact I was libelled yesterday on Bernie Dexter's Facebook page. The events that precipitated this occurred five months ago and I've said nothing about them until now.)
Though it hasn't been mentioned here on my blog, Facebook fan page or even my fashion posts, since Summer 2012 I've been selling Bernie Dexter dresses and other vintage repro both on Ebay and privately. Despite my business being a success I have chosen not to cross promote it with my blog and Pinup ventures. Tonight PST on Facebook and on her Twitter page, Bernie Dexter libelled me, falsely claiming I was "selling counterfeit dresses" on Ebay. She even spelled '"beware" as "be ware" and "consent" as "content" which just tops it off. She later caved in and deleted the entire post because she lacks the audacity to own up to her words within a public forum. Screen grab is above.
Bernie Dexter is a Pinup model whom I believe is known solely for being a blatant Bettie Page imitator and for designing dresses which are made from mostly commercial produced Michael Miller, Alexander Henry and Robert Kaufman quilting fabrics which are found at fabrics stores across the globe and online.
Like most in vintage reproduction, Bernie Dexter's patterns are unoriginal (see last photo) and 99% of the fabrics she uses are commercially available to the public and non exclusive to her label. Nonetheless she offers a decent factory sewn, non custom product made in the USA. This was the primary reason why selling her items appealed to me and why, in the past year I'd spent well into the lower five figures on stock including many discontinued plus size items (more on this later). Most of what I made I reinvested right back into Bernie's business by buying more dresses and building up stock. And of my own volition, without being compensated, I praised, referenced and promoted her clothing line whenever I could because I sincerely believed in her as an inspirational, talented and decent individual.
At the end of May 2013 after a nearly year of a very clean, trouble free business relationship, out of the blue, with no warning, whatsoever, I received the following email from Bernie Dexter:
Labels: Bat Shit Insane, Bernie Dexter, Bernie Dexter Lying Scum, Bernie Dexter Plus Size, Bettina Scarlett Presents: The Mid Century Christmas Market, CMG, Confederate Flag, Copy Paste, Ebay, Levi Dexter, Libel
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Banned 2007 Big Brother with Ken Russell!!
As many of you may be aware, Ken Russell's appearance on Big Brother in 2007 is the only good thing that has ever been shown on television outside of his work. Watch this to see what being joyful is!
Sunday, August 25, 2013
How do you get an hourglass figure? Hourglass Figure Workout
UPDATE September 29th 2012: Hello Hourglass fitness enthusiasts! This past summer I've been working with almost a dozen clients and I have a new trainer (she's mind boggling fit, educated, beautiful puts me in pain!) have some important new guidelines after receiving invaluable feedback. I'm now advising against 85% of Pilates if you are trying to create an hourglass figure. I'd still do split board, foot openers, ankles, parakeet and anything that isolates the legs without making the abs a central focus but that's it. Clients are going to Pilates even twice a week and seeing a wider waist the next day. On an already fit or very hourglassy body the Pilates abs hypertrophy won't be that noticeable but those who have a stomach to re-sculpt and weight to lose off their abs need to stick with my basic but very effective waist sculpting moves (available exclusively from me following a consultation) , Gyrotonics, Gyrokinesis, basic weight training combines effective cardio, dance and or and lots of twisting and lateral movement. My recommendations for Calanetics has new guidelines also. OMIT the pelvic scoop aka Legs #1 and the 400 contractions for the hips and behind (Behind and Hips #1 and 2) and skip ahead to the stretch. When Callan Pickney says "you get the hips down to where they look like they've disappeared" she was not kidding, but we WANT hips in this programme. We do not want "childlike behind and hips" as she advocates in her best selling book. The two Hips and Behind exercises create a muscle pull in that breaks up the hip lines visually and creates an indentation that looks too modern, masculine and linear for this system. The standing pelvic wave creates a very flat butt via the tip up into the flat back posture.
There is a way to access the abs, floating ribs, pelvic floor and the obliques to wrap and pull the waist in by doing a similar standing posture but it is very subtle and does not include gripping and flattening the glutes into a board posture. Women did this hundreds off times a session in Jazzercise and stretch and tone classes during the 70s to the mid 90s usually lifting their butt off of the floor into a lower back irritating bridge repeated dozens and dozens of times rapidly. Ending up smaller and thinner yet with flat butts from overuse of the muscles, too much cardio and not releasing, resculpting and lifting the muscles instead. Once again for those who are simply fit or already hourglasses there may not be too much concern but others who are sculpting should consider the above.
To learn more about how this programme can benefit your specific figure, please contact me. For a 30.00 USD Pay Pal donation I can provide you with an indepth figure analysis and guide to getting started on your way to a smaller waist and shapelier hip ratio Pin Up figure. No matter what weight, body type or fitness level you are currently at you can achieve a feminine hour-glassier silhouette. This rate will never be lower and includes specific exercises for your individual body type and goals. You'll be asked to fill out an indpeth questionnaire, E-sign a standard liability waiver and then have me at your disposal for all your hourglass fitness questions and concerns. As with any exercise programme you should consult your doctor before starting.
Thanks so much and keep checking back. Let's get and keep the bodies we want and make all the effort pay off without buying into impossible media standards and masculine "one size fits all" forms of exercise.
My original and work all of it authored solely by me. For a one time 30.00 dollar Pay Pal donation you can read more about HOW TO GET AN HOURGLASS FIGURE via the most googled and effective text article six running.
I've updated and added over 1000 words regarding different body types who want to look more hourglassy and answers to fitness questions heretofore unavailable anywhere. I have been getting hundreds of emails and this is here to address many of the questions women and girls around the world have been asking me. Guidelines must be personalized as a woman who is larger framed should follow a different workout than a woman of the the same height who is smaller boned and a physique who tends towards muscular legs should follow different regimen then a physique who's legs tend to be weak and so on and so forth.
Read and find out how to implement the huge volumes of research and simple common sense regarding getting and keeping weight off of your waist and not having a larger stomach, especially after having children and especially over 30. Teens will also want to avoid what I call "Perma-Muffin." A small waist is the key to better health not simply an aesthetically pleasing dividend.
Why no one body type is better than another
How to determine your body's symmetry
How to embark on a major weight loss and exercise programme and still keep your curves.
How to keep your boobs and not burn through your bust as you reduce
Get the truth about Pilates and core work myths and why the majority of the Pilates method is taught incorrectly and builds up the abs square of the waist to hip ratio.
Find out why Waist Training and Gyrtonics is superior to Pilates for a smaller waist
Rating you Pilates and personal trainer instructor.
C sections, pregnancies and hourglass figures.
The ideal cardio fitness systems and sports for an hourglass figure
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Why clothing is a CRUCIAL part of getting a smaller waist.
Decoding the media hype and celebrity body lies regarding The Hourglass Figure "stats"
Corset Training and shapewear for an hourglass figures.
The above original work is subject to copyright and cannot be reprinted without permission from SuperAmandaProductions.
Copyright 2004,2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE: HOW TO GET OR AN HOURGLASS FIGURE
(EVEN IF YOU WEREN'T BORN WITH ONE) HOURGLASS WORKOUT, WORKOUT FOR A TINY WAIST, PIN UP WORK OUT, HOW TO GET A 1950s PIN UP FIGURE, HOW TO GET A SUPER CURVY BODY, HOW TO BUILD AND ADD SIZE TO THE GLUTES, BOOTY
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
A Transplant's Folly: The Failure of Racial and Cultural Profiling in Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue (not a Film By Ken Russell)
(Oh my where does time go?! My beautiful husband and I are planning a third honeymoon/vow renewal ceremony and are nearing our 1/2 decade anniversary alongside other romantic and wonderful things which are happening, including on Facebook where I just hit 43,000 likes a few days ago. Very exciting!
Thank you to all my fans all over the world, you make it happen. We've come so far in seven years and I'm still not selling any ad space and spamming you with my panties for sale on Ebay or anywhere! I had time for some summer reading and the following is an extended version of my GoodReads review for Michael Chabon's Fall 2012 novel 'Telegraph Avenue '.
I find the book to be a glaring race fail and I am not the only one.
For starters Chabon comes off as a truly lovely person and all my friends love his earlier work. As a yummy mum myself, I enjoy his wife Aylet's ebullient maternal and eco-conscious based writing. As Chabon has many enviable qualities this book was an even bigger let down for me, as his celebrity and fortunes preceded him. I'm very disappointed but not giving up and going on to read "Summerland " next. At the end of this review I explore what might have done with Michael Chabon's "Telegraph Avenue" if it were a film by Ken Russell. As harsh as the following review is, please don't get me wrong here-the man is a writing God-I'm just looking at this book and Chabon's style from a different angle than what is out there. From what I could see, apart from Michiko Kakutani and Attica Locke, 100% of upper tier of the msm and literary world who reviewed this book are white and barely acknowledged or confronted the graphic racial content in the book. Why?
Update August 2nd 2013: I recently found a oped piece that Chabon penned for the historically racist New York Times about what inspired Telegraph Avenue. Alongside photos that attempt to brainwash the reader into believing that Chabon grew up in a mostly working class black/mixed progressive community (he did not, Columbia MD was a white created middle/upper middle class city purposefully integrated but not based on the reality outside its borders) there are some honest and authentic assertions about his own perceptions regarding the OJ verdict, race etc. And while he's patronizing (a NYT reader Rachel aptly wrote: "This essay strikes me as odd, partly because it assumes a monolithic response to the OJ verdict in the black community, and because it in fact assumes a monolithic idea of "understanding black people" in general." ) the overriding belief that Chabon has regarding racial understanding feels genuine and heartfelt.
Why then is Telegraph Avenue such an atrocious fail when it comes to race and class?!!
Those interested in joining the multi-racial and generational Telegraph Avenue online reading group I'm putting together to do an extended look at the book please contact me. I'm hoping to have a Bay Area native progressive Jewish geologist , a secular Jewish/practicing Catholic/Joyce expert expat living in Poland, a Black music historian, a dominatrix/visual artist, a Marin born super mom/grandma, a Santa Rosa born Oakland social worker/musician (he loves and lives for birds and as TA has a great bird character he's going to be in the "Chabon can do no wrong camp" for sure) and a few others join. You just know they are going to love the book and find absolutely no faults and drive me bat guano! This book has been above reproach by default and fawned over for too long. We've simply got to get real here! Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!)
TELEGRAPH AVENUE by Michael Chabon. A Review by Super Amanda
Viewed as a complete satire and a send up, Telegraph Avenue might actually work but as a piece of American social lit (however whimsical) it is a huge yerba mate goji-berry infused dud littered with an appalling number of racial stereotypes and odd attempts at James Joyce style free-flow. The names are all so similar (they change and shift sometimes in the same paragraph) that the book should have ideally come with a list of characters. Chabon is a wordsmith par excellence, overly micro managed and prone to using academic anatomy vocabulary but he still delights-just not with the over all concept of Telegraph Avenue. I held high hopes for this, my first Chabon book, and was let down. I grew up in the East Bay from birth (pre dot com), was on Telegraph every weekend as a kid/tween, moved away in tears at 14, visiting often. I eventually commuted for four years and then returned full time from 2002-2006 . In 2004 (the time period that TA is primarily set in) I lived right off of Telegraph at Alcatraz and later 42nd. I have a great deal of emotional attachment, formative memories and life experience first hand on this very road throughout much of my life.
When Oakland Was Fun. '"Telegraph Avenue" I replied "but you can't tell from the cover, can you?!")
And truthfully? I love the title and was shocked and impressed that someone thought of it first! Since about 2003, I've often seen myself on the cover of an imaginary album/CD called "Telegraph Avenue". The photo blurry and pensive. All rock star wannabes like me dream up album concepts (real rock stars do this as well, this I can verify) this would be the "departure disc" and "nothing like my previous hard arena rock and dark sarcastic lyrics.'" '"Telegraph Avenue" aka Super Amanda Mach 2 with songs and vocals that recall Tom Waits, Gram Parsons, Willy DeVille, Bill Withers, Martha Davis, Lennon's primal therapy album and the soundtrack to William Friedkin's "Cruising." Sparse songs of dark reflection, space funk and soulful 3:00 am lyrics that describe how Prop 13, Reagan, the dot coms and various states of flux and social dissonance altered and permanently damaged my beloved SF/East Bay. Maudlin acoustic numbers about how I'll never get over having to move away when I was 14. Chabon's publishers have kitted the book cover out with a dizzying array of acid dipped hipster incarnations aka imitation Flying Eyeball style Fillmore Art. In less than a year the book has seen more variations in packaging than 'A Tale of Two Cities' has in the last fifty. Blaxploitation comic homages, album style art and merchandising mock ups of "TA" characters add a very bold camp factor, making the whole concept akin to a record or film release with Michael Chabon as the rock star he truly is. So at least great minds think up PR alike!
Thus, in this mostly negative review (offered in detail to add balance to the gushing and overwhelmingly fawning reviews which greeted this book in the MSM literary world) I have not forgotten the man's undeniable talent-few could. He's a wonderful writer. However it is dangerous and very naive to believe, as the reviewers who lionized Chabon for this book and it's overlying theme, that the aftermath ('broken pieces' according to lead character Archy Stallings) of a death or loss of community businesses in a low income area is somehow liberating and "very beautiful indeed" (LA review of books) for the reader to enjoy. Urban blight, murder, being low income etc are diseases that cut short lives, destroy families and kill dreams, they not a serendipitous 'gift' that leads to the neo-hippie concept of "community as phoenix" (my words). People mistakenly have compared this book to "White Teeth" and "NW" by Zadie Smith. However, Smith was actually raised in the London area that she writes of while Chabon is not from the Bay Area, arriving very late in the game during the dot com boom. I'm certain Zadie Smith would vociferously defend TA but frankly having lived in both urban areas for almost equal amounts of time, I can say with authority that the experience of a black, non white or multicultural person or even a white person in London bears no resemblance to an upbringing in the Bay Area. London is decades in front of even the most liberal parts of the states in terms of race relations and somethings are simply not universal. For all of Chabon's dazzling talent and love of his new homeland, by anointing it a racial panacea of sorts he displays scant insight into what the real Telegraph Avenue was and is.
Towards the middle part of the book, the structure of the already tricky conversations gets unbearable when a community meeting and then a related conversation become nearly unreadable in prose. And in an attempt to describe every nuance (at this point from the perspective of a wonderful African parrot named "58"), Chabon OVER reaches and one is yearning for a James Joyce/Quantum Physics Sf State NEXA class taught in Krakow Poland for some structural simplicity. That is at least when the obvious attempts to write like and audition for Quentin Tarantino are not making you roll your eyes. Speaking of Tarantino, "Django Unchained" which was released a few months after this book, smashes many of the stereotypes that Chabon seems to accept about Black culture. My personal belief is that if Chabon had seen Django prior to the final edit of Telegraph Avenue, the book would have been much different. For all the cultural free flow and urban speak, Telegraph Avenue reads like a white liberal's unintentional self congratulatory parody of the multi-cultural Bay Area or to paraphrase my GoodReads friend Stephanie "inner city tourism". The bizarre tourist trade at Harlem's Sunday church services that Slate Magazine and others have covered seems an apt cultural companion to this book, which also borders on the white upper middle class racially fetishistic well meaning auto-pilot of what Jello Biafra termed "bragging that you know how the n******* feel cold, and the slums got so much soul". I know this all sounds harsh but this style of art is actually encouraged by the both the liberal and conservative msm. I don't think a major publisher would touch anything else.
So yes, without a doubt, the saddest part of TA is Michael Chabon's attempt to write from a Black person's perspective. It reads like a huge unintentionally patronizing fail, not unlike "The Confessions of Nat Turner" by William Styron which was to paraphrase Paul Robeson, Jr., "a white liberal's distortion". A reader on Slate called 'Criminal Black Man' responding to the well written but 'Chabon biased' piece by Tanner Colby put it this way:
"Michael Chabon and other white boys who think it is somehow unfair they don't get to talk dumbly about race is not a lack of sense, but of sensibility. They have sense enough to know, in a literary world largely oriented toward a white, female, middle-class readership, any book by a white person with a "racial" element will generate its own buzz." and "One thing White Supremacists have learned and taught the rest of us is that when push comes to shove, Blacks and Browns have an easier time fighting among themselves than fighting against the white power structure... Colby mentions Richard Price and George Pelecanos like they're the gay uncles who raised him and Chabon to be race-busting white literary heroes. Price and Pelecanos had a different relationship with Black people than just seeing them on the playground, or eating at their house that time. Price and Pelecanos actually lived with and more importantly, conflicted with, Black people in a real-world, real consequences social space."
I don't care for addressing anyone as "white boys" but nonetheless , despite being harsh, the words are succinct, applicable, honest and they speak about the very issues that thwart Chabon's racist utopia from coming true.
I'm white, I'm Italian American with two Southern Italian parents which is a darker shade of pale and has occasionally not translated into what Benjamin Franklin called "lovely white" in the US. I grew up with a father heavily involved in the record and music industry (much of it RnB, Acid Funk and Rock). He was a session engineer on Roy Ayers "Red, Black and Green" as well as the Super group album "GO" among countless other music industry related projects. He also worked at a local cable channel called "Teleprompter" in Oakland alongside low budget community shows like Soul Beat. My stay at home artist mother attended art and sculpture classes at CAL. The area of the East Bay, close to Berkeley where I grew up was then very conservative and openly anti-Black so being bohemians, my anti-racist parents were not active in our immediate community. Our car was a wrecked jalopy, I had few clothes and bills were often paid by selling books and records on Telegraph. Both of my parents were from the East coast and left the 'unmeltable ethnic' side of being second generation Italians behind. I was raised with zero religious indoctrination and all races and beliefs being equal similar to Chabon's racial Utopian ethos. When my parents split, I spent four nightmarish years in a backwards low income rural California area where they lynched two Gay men who founded a local Farmer's Market and there is still Klan who torch synagogues. Many of the school teachers and admins were openly racist, religious fanatics who would have been Daily Mail homepage features circa 2013. The few Black people lived literally on the other side of the railroad tracks in a place called "the hole". I could not get out of that backwards area fast enough, even skipping graduation to head back to the Bay. In the 90s, alongside a multi-racial group of people, I co-founded a Bay Area based non profit 501c3 dedicated to keeping the history of Paul Robeson alive. I also started travelling to the UK yearly becoming an expat in 2008. Recently I've been doing the paperwork process to attain Italian citizenship. My experiences regarding race and class are unique even among the the most unique.
Other than a few aspects of local jazz legend Cochise Jones, NONE of the Black characters in Telegraph Avenue felt authentic to me in fact they were the classic stereotypes designed to make US readers comfortable in their ignorance not only about race but about the Bay Area. Michael Chabon's misappropriation of Black Bay Area culture I found incredibly important in that it shows, even in 2013, that even anti-racist and intelligent progressives are reflexively prone to racial fetishism and mindbogglingly tired stereotypes. This includes, as aptly pointed out by Professor Mark A. Reid in "Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen", ' ...the stereotypical response of blacks in horror films'. Archy becomes confused, irrational, unable to make few intellectual choices (or any at all) under pressure. There is also tardiness, the strong black woman, infidelity, homophobia, insolvency, felony criminal history, inarticulateness, overly ostentatious appearance, the over sexed Black buck, other woman Jezebel, dead beat dads, hair and nail obsession, filthy homes, body odor, animal negligence, speech affectations...pretty much every bad stereotype that exists of Blacks in film and popular culture, apart from "can they swim?" is found in kindly liberal Michael Chabon's book.
It was odd to see educated people like Gwen and Archie acting "street" and unable to make sound, healthy decisions (eg: why would a nearly due pregnant woman abandon her home and comfort to sleep in a dank and dusty Kung Fu studio and leave her cheating husband with everything?) Whereas the white couple, Nate and his wife were very grounded, defiant and confident under stress, Archy and Gwen displayed an embarrassing lack of equanimity. Indolent Archy is intimidated into taking a ride in the big box big wig's luxury Zeppelin while Nate actually lets it go in a crazy act of drunk courage and heroic defiance. Nate stood up to authority while Archy wavered. Gwen displayed rage while Aviva stayed balanced. When Gwen does finally focus and stand up for herself it is justifiably (but predictably) to sue over racist statements made by a white higher up at a local medical center. The decision making on her part takes pages and days.
Julie wanted love while Titus clearly wanted sex and was mostly unable to express emotion. Black Titus augments his sexual experiences with homophobic slurs directed at both Julie and his parents, Nate and Aviva. After being taken in by the Jaffe's , Titus is caught sneaking out at night and after a tense breakfast with Avia he agrees to follow the house rules and curfew. Upon doing so he then turns to Avia and states "Your boy's a little dick sucking faggot. Case you were wondering that ain't no lie." Her response is the accepting "great way to build a foundation". In all his Bay Area reconnaissance and special ops research into candy bars and Star Trek terminology, Chabon forgot to talk to the kind of Bay Area mothers who actually would take a kid in off the street. Homophobic slurs in the breakfast nook over Entenmann's or La Farine would not be addressed with calm liberal adages. The only redeeming feature Titus is given by Chabon (are you ready for this?) is that he's always bathed, manicured, clean and well dressed! White Julie knows where his own personal sexuality falls and whom he is in love with though and the folks in the area know and accept that he's Gay. Yet with Titus' swaggering homophobia and closeted sexual acts with Julie always as the sub, Chabon dangerously implies that poor, at risk Black youth intrinsically lack the ability for self definition (sexually and other wise), confidence, evolved values, and the power to make personal choices beyond being semi-feral. This is a view also shared openly by Far Right, paleoconservative and Neo-Eugenics proponents such as American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor. Chabon of course has the right (and apparently the carte blanche) to create whatever he wants and it is open to interpretation, I'm just shocked that so many people find accuracy in Chabon's prose and that he got it 'documentarily right' (Carolyn Kellog, Los Angeles Times) via the social realism in the book. In a media where saying the nword 45 years ago can bring down your TV show empire, no one in the msm has called Chabon, reputedly America's greatest living writer, on the bold racial nature of this one work. No one! Why?
Yet it is Chabon himself who acknowledges this within the pages of this very book numerous times!! I feel like I'm late getting to the party and he realized what I did via this book ages ago. Is this an honest, brave move on his part? A way of saying "no more BS and skirting around race in post-Obama America"? At one point towards the end, a Black character says something to the effect "you live a million dreams and they are all created by white people". This is a brilliant line but left unexplored. Or is Chabon's move just "Uriah Heepish" ? "Just an 'umble observer/anthropologist trying to do me best sir, yer right white people, you can feel validated that you were correct all along about the ghetto and I'm humble enough to say we all shared in making this book happen, every color of the rainbow engages in this teachable moment..." Something in between perhaps? I'm not sure. Chabon has a sincere world vision of peace and racial harmony when you read his other works and the fail feels wholly unintentional but is that really excusable given how lionized he has become as a literary figure? This books seems to have pleased the msm/literary critics world which is almost 100% white. The only Black msm review I could find, Attica Locke, summed up the book in The Guardian with: "This is the Chabon I most recognize: writer as humanitarian." Chabon said afterwords to Spin that her "generous review" made him "really relieved." It would have been interesting to read other reviews by Black critics but they do not appear to exist in the msm or even the second tier. The only exception was Troy Patterson reviewing for Slate who sums up my entire review in one sentence, writing that Chabon's "optimism about the human race proves mostly ingratiating and totally unsupportable in light of what we know about real-life humans."
(The Hat. Alice Waters was yet to be a celebrity and stone fired pizza ovens were unknown when Straw Hat Pizza reigned over the East Bay alongside Lake Merritt's "Leaning Tower of Pizza")
Of course when it comes to creating and writing Black characters well few white writers have the intrinsic empathy that Harper Lee (or even Quentin Tarantino) has. Both of the aforementioned artists were not from privilege whereas Chabon grew up from what I can see (regardless of any Bohemian aspects) solidly upper middle class. Ultimately it is Chabon's well off upbringing that by default cuts him off from truly understanding Oakland and the poorer side of Berkeley-not his race. Telegraph is partly "in the ghetto" to Chabon yet to most who grew up in Oakland, lower Elmwood, Rockridge and Temescal were/are the very nice part of flatlands. Those areas are on the gradient away from East Oakland and West Oakland which are areas facing severe generational poverty and violent crime. Speaking of which "Dog Town", "Jingle Town" , "Ghost Town" etc those are all names dropped by transplants and were not in wide usage outside true Oaklanders until very recently. Even Glenview, Temescal, Maxwell Park and Millsmont all were unearthed and mainstreamed when the real estate bubble, Tribe.com and the transplant invasion occurred. "Adam's Point" is now known interchangeably as "Alice Arts" I'm now informed. The names grow more pretentious with each wave of transplants fooling themselves into thinking locals use these designations too. One reader, dbrekke, remarking on the abysmally ignorant New Yorker piece by East Bay transplant Matt Feeny summed up Chabon's class disconnect very clearly:
"Mr. Feeney, it's wonderful you're so taken with Oakland and write so warmly about it. It sounds like you've gotten an eyeful in Temescal and your lake neighborhood. Now, please go out and spend a few weeks hanging out at 82nd and International, and then tell us about the inspired work of God's diversity director. Get off of Lakeshore and Grand avenues and tour the flatland schools affluent Oaklanders shun, and tell us how segregation has been banished. Take a good hard look at where virtually all of the deadly violence that haunts the city is happening and who its victims are, then tell us again what civilization Oakland is ..."
Thus Chabon writing about Berkeley/Oakland is appears to be like that mechanic whom never owned a car.
And while his Telegraph Avenue has been described as "multi-cultural', this is erroneous as Chabon's TA is Black and White, not the very diverse, mixed area which it has been since about the mid 1960s. At about halfway through there is a 98 year old Chinese Martial arts instructor embarrassingly warmed over from a discarded Tarantino script who has appeared but her character like the two Hispanic characters and one Near East Asian Cabbie they are not explored in length. The Gay Julie and the Lesbian Kai are written as whiny submissives while the severely disabled man is viewed in complete contempt, not even given a name other than "Stephen Hawking voice box guy". Chabon's usage of what I'll call "Ebonics-lite" is embarrassing and coupled with his very weak grasp of Bay Area landmarks and history it is a bad combination. The 70s flashbacks are perhaps the most pallid, and incorrect in cultural literacy. He's an amazing when he writes about Jewish/European American culture via the character of Nate Jaffe (a transplant) and Aviva but the race of people East Bay born are beyond Chabon's reach and ability here.
eg: Chabon has a Black home birth midwife yelling at a White doctor Lazar (named for the cult actor John Lazar perhaps?) in "Chimes Hospital" emergency room with a 'purple skittle on his butt' over the fact he thought the Ylang, ylang used in the home birth is "voodoo". Then the same doctor tells the mid wife "this is child birth it is not like conking your hair". A waiting room patient (presumable Black) lets out an "awww shit...." In reality Chimes was an old school community market on College and Keith (a pharmacy bearing the same name still exists a few minutes up the road at Alcatraz) which sat next to "Bizarre Bazaar" , the first and still the best semi-upscale vintage store the East Bay ever saw. Now Cactus Taqueria and Rockridge Flowers occupy the same space. I would put money on the fact that there are few to zero white MDs that know the term "conking your hair" unless they sat through multiple screenings of Spike Lee's Malcolm X.
And given all the loud "ghetto antics", Chabon would have you believe that East Bay Area circa 2004, was an episode of "Good Times" with loud choruses of Black voices shouting in unison "uh oh!" , "damn! she country y'all", and "oh yeah" emanating from unseen speaker boxes strategically placed throughout North Oakland. "Ibex faced" Ethiopian waitresses" administering blow jobs and quickies during the buffet hours was another cringe worthy fetish move as well. Kudos for anticipating the skittle(s) in a faux multi-cultural context though, that was a look into the future (though as the book was released post Trayvon Martin, I'm wondering who came first...) The pop culture outside of the splendid Jazz references feel off as well. Chabon appears to get Grady Tate, the Jazz and schoolhouse rock icon, confused with Grady WILSON, the character from "Sanford and Son" played by the late Whitman Mayo.
The positive sides are that Chabon did get the Bay Area weather, the Emeryville docks, a safe house, the Port Chicago Disaster and even cooking put down on page very well and the musical references are smart though (once again) 95% of the tracks were not hugely popular in Oakland and Berkeley during the time period mentioned outside of jazz snob OCD vinyl purists. Traditionally were no proper Jazz-centric areas of the East Bay and nor was there a jazz scene (Scott Amendola and other musicians making the SF/Bay Area their new home have worked to change all that though in recent years). Eventually towards the last third, the novel's structure steadily improves, you get used to the tired played out racial kitsch and the plot picks up with the music of Carole King's "Too Late"- a classic Bay Area theme if there ever was one. The prose becomes more fluid and the characters are finally fun and not baffling. Though I did have to ask myself if my attitude softened because the end was near.
Finally I believe Ken Russell, having been given this book to create a treatment, would have done a huge evisceration of the tired racial and cultural imagery to create a musical screenplay very similar to his version of The Who's rock opera "Tommy"-that is if he had decided to touch it in the first place. For a screenplay, cutting through the pseudo realism dressed as social criticism in an urban setting with thick prose would be a battle for certain for a artist who felt that there was "simply too much reality about." And, lest we forget, this is a director who gave Tina Turner a sentient cinematic moment as a Black female artist via The Acid Queen in "Tommy" which out does anything the Blaxplotation film stars Luther Stallings or Valetta were given as characters/caricatures by Chabon. Tina Turner, in the middle of "The Sounder 70s" and serious works like Roots, was colour saturated velvet camp and rock goddess incarnate. Exultation not exploitation.
And Ken would have made many people angry by showing the shallowness of romanticizing the ghetto, playing the whole thing as a send up but he also would have created a beautiful, magical view through the parrot and the eyes of teenage boys for certain (few directors have understood and treated with decency GLBT characters like Ken Russell has) and perhaps (sin of sins) swapped the jazz for classical. The talented Cameron Crowe is reportedly slated to helm the film which is worrisome as he's kept his films even more lily white than Woody Allen, with "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" being the most glaring (and once again) unintentional example. After the racial rainbow world of the 1970s, Crowe (along with John Hughes) ushered in the teen film genre into the 'mighty whitey plastic' 80s with a clear message: "teens are now segregated again- even musically. Blacks like soul and are poor. Whites like rock and are middle class." I truly believe as a film, that Telegraph Avenue should only be done as a musical. Ideally with a preview onstage in London's West End , a full book etc first and ideally not directed by Cameron Crowe.
Ken Russell I'm certain would agree that one can be inspired by a work of art by wanting to point out its obvious inaccuracies (in this case about Bay Area race and culture). Ken sought that out via harpooning Richard Strauss, the Catholic Church and the dangerous precedent of romantic hooker movies like 'Pretty Woman." An artist's bio film on Chabon by Ken would have been something to see as well and certainly as interesting as any of his books. Chabon has a great deal to give to the world. And if a book or film inspires outrage instead of indifference then it has at least something important going on and Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon is important. It will be wonderful to do a reading group with other Bay Area natives and some North Bay friends including one pal Cliff whom is not only Black but ran a record store. I hope to come back to this and reread it at some point, perhaps trying to harder to seek out Chabon's optimism which was lost on me.
Again, if this was not lauded as social lit it would be a different case but not one literary reviewer found fault with this work and that is not healthy in a so called post racial media where an attorney general asks for the ability to speak honestly about race. Chabon is an amazing writer but in this book he's all skill and no authenticity (remember there are many opera singers but only one Tom Waits). And I do hope that one day a true Bay Area born native nails a book about the area pre and post.com, letting the literary world truly see what an amazing place it was and in some ways will always be. As long as native Bay Area torch bearers remain stalwart as to ward off erroneous and kitschy assumptions about East Bay history and culture that starry eyed transplants like Michael Chabon tend to bring with them (alongside crippling rents and housing prices) Telegraph Avenue will always stay hella real and on the good foot.