Saturday, March 03, 2007


Sorry to those of you who have been dropping by. I've been working on a rather long article about Patti Smith's recent work and haven't posted anything else to help you while away the empty hours in between. Hopefully, that will give you something to look forward to. I can’t promise, but it should be a bit better than chuckling’s usual nonsense.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you about something I saw today. It’s nothing of great importance, I just thought I’d share it to pass the time until my Patti Smith article writes itself.

I often walk down Flatbush Avenue between the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Church Ave. A lot of stores along that stretch sell clothes in the style of what the local folk refer to as “ghetto fabulous.” If the words “ghetto fabulous” do not immediately bring a picture to your mind of a large black woman wearing bright pink boots, tight jeans, and a pink tank top with back-fat spilling out around the bra strap and the words “baby luv” emblazoned across massive breasts, or something along those lines, then it is safe to say that you are not a Brooklynite. You may live in Park Slope or “the heights,” but that does not necessarily count.

Of course I mean no disrespect to my sisters in the ghetto. Is there anything more non-sensical than fashion? In the near future, today’s couture, both haute and prêt-à-porter, will likely look ridiculous. Still, the mannequins in these stores are interesting on several sociological levels. Unlike the mannequins in Soho, or pretty much anywhere else I’ve ever noticed mannequins, the ones along Flatbush Avenue have what local folk refer to as “big fat asses.” Now before you think ill of poor chuckling for pointing that out, realize that my wife shot me an evil look the first time I mentioned it. What’s wrong with women with big fat asses you big fat ass? Nothing, I say. Nothing at all. It’s a good thing that mannequins in these parts represent what people really look like. The world would be a better place if the human mannequins in Cosmo would learn a thing or two about real women from the plastic mannequins in Flatbush.

But I mention it today because I noticed something else. Many of the fat-assed mannequins were wearing low cut jeans and the ass crack was showing. I had always thought that the ass crack on display was a result of poor design, or real women trying to fit into pants that only a Soho model could wear. It had never occurred to me that the ass crack was an actual fashion choice. I found that reassuring. It kind of strengthened my faith in humanity.

This all reminded me of an interesting conversation about the Trilogy of Alienation by Michelangelo Antonioni that took place a few days ago in comments over at Alicublog. For those of you not up on classic avant-garde Italian cinema, L’Aventura, La Notte, and L’Eclisse are stylistically incredible, but their narrative structure is not what most people would call compelling. Many would describe them as films in which nothing happens to a bunch of bored, boring people who do pretty much nothing througout the film. Although the running time may be no more than 90 minutes in objective time, they can last for days in subjective time. Very long days.

Paul K and Grant, redoubtable commenters over at Alicublog, as well as the proprietor himself, discuss these films at a depth beyond the capabilities of poor chuckling, but something that one of them said did spark thoughts in my poor, battered brain. The idea that Antonioni’s films functioned as non-judgemental recordings of people’s lives in all their random meaninglessness rather than stories with anything remotely like a traditional narrative, and that this was a good thing, kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong. If you, or anyone else likes that kind of thing, I’m happy for you, but chuckling spends a lot of time observing the random narratives of people on many different streets and a wide variety of social situations, and I find this endlessly fascinating, but I just do not need to watch a movie to appreciate that experience. I can enjoy the cinematography, but when it comes to the mundane, the cinema is a poor facsimile of real life. It doesn’t even smell, unless you have the misfortune to sit next to someone eating “buttered” popcorn. But I don't want to smell popcorn. I want to smell flop sweat, and flowers, and vomit, and perfume, and the perfume of wet pussy. And I wouldn't mind touching some of those things, too. There is nothing tactile about images on the screen. Story can be another matter.

My little walk down Flatbush illustrated those points. I could conceivably film it in a way that captures its beauty and depth, and perhaps even communicate the perspective from which I see the fat-assed mannequins, but without some kind of story to ground the scene, I wouldn’t find it interesting. For the most part, we are a people who appreciate purposeful narrative. Some of us can appreciate the immediate meaninglessness of day-to-day life, the random snatches of conversation, the sounds and passing smells of an everyday situation from a detached, artistic perspective, but what’s the purpose of going to the cinema to see it represented when we can walk out the door and get the real thing. I agree with Paul K’s contention that a director should fucking direct, otherwise his or her title might as well be “recorder.”

All that’s not to say that I don’t like Antonioni’s Alienation Trilogy, but putting cinematography aside and focusing on the here/now, I can get the more better 3D getto fabulous version on Flatbush.