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Friday, June 10, 2011

Noise Annoys (and Delights)

Maybe it's because it's the dog days of summer, but I'm wading slowly through the letter N. I've found a bevy of nurses and other N images to add to last week's NEWSSTANDS, but I've been slow in scanning them.

But the folder I wasn't expecting to find is the folder for NOISE. It's not really something you can SEE, is it?

My father's birthday is coming up soon, and he was a guy who loved noise. In fact, I still have a few mix tapes he gave me. There was a little box to check on some tapes that said "noise reduction." On one tape, my dad scrawled in "HELL NO!!!!!" next to that box. He liked it loud, and you can read about it in a collection of his work, Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer, which comes out in paperback in September. So in honor of my dad's birthday, I'm going to just load up a few pictures of NOISE, transcendent and annoying here.

Strangely enough, I found an image in this file made by my father's friend David Katzenstein in this folder. It even, inexplicably, had a stamp on it from Tangier, a city they visited together:

This is one of a large group of images about the experience of noises that might make you plug your ears:

There are also a couple of images paired with text about Moms who can't hear themselves think or get their babes to sleep. As a person who's experienced both ends of this, I couldn't resist them:

Cue the Buzzcocks singing," Pretty girls! Pretty boys! have you ever heard your mommy say, 'Noise annoys.'"

There are couple of images about things that block or prevent noise:

But I really love the methods and machines for measuring noise:
labeled as "Noise Analyzer"

This last one is one of my favorites, especially since I've been feeling recently that my mission in life is to make remedial music films for visual people (a.k.a.sonically challenged people like myself).I AM a Synthane Noisometer.


Hopefully I'll get the professional help I need at this year's Flaherty Seminar, appropriately titled "Sonic Truth."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

N is for Newstands: Young Women Going Places & Keeping up with the Times

I've begun looking for images in the letter N, and the first folder I looked at was Newsstands. This young woman was really going places in the 1950s... of course. Nearly twenty years later, the New Yorker ran a cartoon that implied she might have added Ms. Magazine to her newsstand wish list.

Somehow the idea of newsstands takes me back to Alexander Mackendrick's brilliant New York newsworld noir, The Sweet Smell of Success. The film stars Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster (as J.J. Hunsecker, a gossip columnist cookie full of arsenic)."The cat's in the bag," Curtis' character says, "and the bag's in the river." It's all shot in the most beautiful black and white, as if it had been drenched in the newspaper ink that fills J.J. Hunsecker's veins.

Naturally, I found a few older images that evoked that newsprint world, though neither was from New York.
Paris, 1951

Texas, 1920s

And then were a few that surprised me. A beautiful pink newsstand from Ireland, a color newsstand from Fortune Magazine 1948 that looks shockingly contemporary, a  San Francisco Chinatown stand, and Mike's of Harlem - a piece of folk art where you can buy candy or news.

But the image that surprised me the most was another woman at a newsstand, a woman minding her own stall on the street.

This, in turn, reminded me of Hilary Mantel's beautiful 1992 novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. It was the first book which made the characters of Danton, Robespierre, and the fascinating Camille Desmoulins. Both Mantel's book and this image are reminders of how long our world has been defined by media. Harking back to the first image in this entry, this "marchande de journaux" seems to be both definitively "going somewhere" and simultaneously "keeping up with the times." Both of these images of women - as news consumer and news purveyor remind me of a snatch of a poem from the collection Ghost in a Red Hat by Rosanna Warren; a poem that I read earlier this week:

...the mystery was,
not that she walked there, ten
years after her death,

but that she vanished,and let 
twilight take her place  --

I love to see these women emerge "walking" or sitting - in some cases centuries after their deaths - from folders in the Picture Collection. 

Warren wrote the poem for her mother, and one image of an ancient mother has been haunting me. 
She's not as old as the goddess from Chauvet Cave that Werner Herzog captures in The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, but she is described as 5,000 year old tomb statue in the 1960 Columbia Record Distributors booklet her image comes from, which somehow found its way to the MUSIC - ANCIENT EGYPTIAN  folder, part of the amazing archive of the letter M....