Get the Queen What She Wants!

Jackie and her children, Orlando, Florida ©Lauren Greenfield 2011/INSTITUTE

Jackie and her children, Orlando, Florida
©Lauren Greenfield 2011/INSTITUTE

Schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. One can’t seem to escape this feeling about the Siegel family when watching the documentary The Queen of Versailles. The film was supposed to be about conspicuous consumption, and what it’s like to be able to build the palace of your dreams, but instead the film began as a portrait of a timeshare billionaire, his ditzy wife, and their grotesque quest to build the largest house in the United States of America; The 90,000 square foot “Versailles” imitation — “kitsch” is perhaps the best descriptor. It ended as perhaps the single best film on what happens when those pleasures are taken away from you in an instant.

In 2008, the Siegel family was at the top of the heap with the wealthy and politically influential David Siegel running the successful Westgate Resorts timeshare business. The documentarians wanted to see what kind of people would build such an unnecessarily large house so they embedded themselves into the Siegel family. That’s when things took a turn for the unthinkable (at that time); the financial crisis hit, credit dried up, Siegel’s business began to flounder, Versailles fell into disrepair and the family began to crack. “This is almost like a riches-to-rags story,” Siegel tells the camera. For this overprivileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values.

As in any good documentary, the players do all the heavy satirical lifting, in this case Jackie redefines white trash and the much older David clarifies the role men play who indulge their wives as long as they are hot and attentive. “Foolish old man” is an apt cliché for a decent guy who was smart enough to make billions, but not smart enough to avoid an indulgent wife. As the documentary glides to its conclusion, we are left with the impression of a decent man who couldn’t control his appetites and an optimistic wife who couldn’t control her spending.

An exterior view of construction of the Versailles mansion being built by Westgate Resorts founder & CEO David Siegel and his wife Jackie Siegel, photographed during an exclusive Orlando Sentinel interview Monday, August 26, 2013. The Siegels starred in the 2012 documentary 'Queen of Versailles,' The famous Versailles mansion they are building, when completed, will be the largest house in America at 90,000 square feet. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) B583090129Z.1

An exterior view of construction of the Versailles mansion being built by Westgate Resorts founder & CEO David Siegel and his wife Jackie Siegel, photographed during an exclusive Orlando Sentinel interview Monday, August 26, 2013. The Siegels starred in the 2012 documentary ‘Queen of Versailles,’ The famous Versailles mansion they are building, when completed, will be the largest house in America at 90,000 square feet. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Other than the Michael Moore type of documentaries which have a stated agenda, filmmakers are thought to be neutral arbiters. One of the best qualities of this film is how non-judgmental it is. They film the action, interview the subjects, and edit it in a way fair to all the players. However, no matter how one edits the footage, the Siegels are going to come off looking like some horrible people. It is in the best documentary tradition: truth will out. David is 30 years Jackie’s senior and now that their funds are rapidly dwindling away, he is starting to get tired of his third wife. He hides in his office (a couch in front of a flat screen surrounded by papers and food scraps) to enjoy being away from the chaos which his house has become. It shows its characters being both thoughtless and thoughtful and it gives them a chance to represent themselves to the camera; it’s a movie that has no interest in being a hatchet job. At the same time, it juxtaposes their problems with those of one of their nanny’s, whose situation is far sadder; it also has no interest in being a whitewash.

These folks are poster children for the worst extremes of our materialistic, narcissistic culture. Their values are money, ostentation, self-aggrandizement, acquisition and mindless hedonism. They are venomous leeches on society. Yet, I felt pity for them as well, particularly Jackie. She’s something of an enigma. She boasts about getting an engineering degree so she wouldn’t have to work as someone’s assistant, yet she mostly devotes herself to keeping herself young-looking and voluptuous (those breasts of hers deserve some sort of special effects award) so she can snag and keep a rich hubby. As her world starts to fall apart around her, she begins to have some insights about what life is really about (hint: not building the world’s biggest house), yet still can’t abandon her out-of-control shopping sprees or tortuous visits to the beauty clinic. The children, seem to be far more aware than their parents of the emptiness and ridiculousness of their lifestyle.

The Siegels aren’t an object of envy and even though they still have more money than you do, you would never switch places with them. The film shows laughable yet slightly shocking scenes of people who equate things with happiness and excess with success. “Versailles” is never finished (the house plays a bit part in the movie) but the home they live in is ridiculous in its own way: It’s luxurious, but also filthy.

There’s no good news in this film, it ends before the recession does. “The Queen of Versailles” is unremittingly gloomy probably because a part of us all is hidden amongst that greed. Everyone is susceptible to covetousness and an inflated sense of self. This film shows what happens when that proceeds unchecked and fueled by obscene wealth. Jobs come and go, physical beauty fades, markets rise and fall. Even close relationships can end, but true happiness lasts a lifetime.

HUE: Fuzzy Wuzzy

Color conducts emotion. We feel blue, we see red, and we turn green with envy. We’re tickled pink and when we’re overwhelmed by joy, some call the experience “fuzzy wuzzy,” but not because it reminds us a of reddish-brown.

. .

Or does it remind us of The Isabella Tiger Moth that dwells in the arctic?

. .

It’s abundantly fuzzy progeny is appropriately called The Woolly Bear larva and it emerges from the egg in the fall.

. .

If fuzzy wuzzy had a temperature it would be about 26.666 degrees Celsius — not here, not now. During the arctic winters the Woolly Bear survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues.

. .

In my mind, cold and fuzzy wuzzy could never be in the same sentence (unless of course I’m talking about how they can’t be in the same sentence).

. .

The Woolly Bear larva feels fuzzy wuzzy because of the cryoprotectant, not because of it’s fuzz.

. .

In most temperate climates, caterpillars become moths within months of hatching, but in the Arctic the summer period for vegetative growth – and hence feeding – is so short that the Woolly Bear must feed for several summers, freezing again each winter before finally pupating. Some are known to live through as many as 14 winters.

. .

The thought of winter weather during the summer or summer weather during the winter. Fuzzy wuzzy is a feeling.

. .

Let’s not forget where ‘fuzzy wuzzy’ was first used.

. .

Before people felt all fuzzy wuzzy, or saw something that was fuzzy wuzzy. It was a plant.

. .

Kalanchoe tomentosa, also known by it’s common name, fuzzy wuzzy. A succulent.

. .

Succulent fuzzy wuzzy. Yes.

. .

A native of Madagascar, it is a popular houseplant on account of its small size, ease of care, and dark-red rimmed foliage. It’s a pleasure to have.

. .

Pleasure and fuzzy wuzzy. Yes.

. .

Hadendoa is the name of a nomadic subdivision of the Beja people. The area inhabited by the Hadendoa which is today parts of Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea.

. .

“Fuzzy-Wuzzy” was used by British soldiers in the 19th century as a name for Hadendoa warriors referring to their elaborate hairstyles during the Mahdist War.

. .

Osman Digna was a Mahdist general who led the Hadendoa to break a British infantry square in the Battle of Tamai, although he ultimately lost the battle itself. Wonder if he felt fuzzy wuzzy then.

. .

The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels was the name given by Australian troops to a group of Papua New Guinean people who, during World War II, assisted and escorted injured Australian troops down the Kokoda trail.

. .

Ephemeral, But Not Meaningless

It turns out that when you ask someone about love, they may feel compelled to tell you a story about heartbreak. When you read stories about success, you read about overcoming great adversity. Human beings seek experiences that elicit enjoyment or pleasure, whether those experiences be good or bad. It’s stimulation in the brain that carries meaning; that tells us we’re alive. The writer who faces the blank document may not find pleasure in that moment, but through a painstaking process of planting their butt and exposing themselves, they eventually flip the pain of starting into the pleasure of being read. The photographer who has chosen a new environment may have difficulty finding the right lighting, but through this trial he or she may capture something timelessly breathtaking. Of course there are simple pleasures with no prerequisite for any pain, like a dog looking up at you, its body shaking uncontrollably, begging for you to pet it. Or buying new shoes, although this kind of pleasure is fleeting and quickly demands replenishment.

Perhaps the most rewarding of them all are the ones that require discomfort, because now we’re emotionally invested and being challenged.

And yet, for most of our lives we numb pain and avoid it altogether. We avoid the pain of telling the truth, of looking people in the eyes, of facing ourselves—a strange painful pleasure in its own unique way. This, however, is simply part of human nature. We gravitate towards the positive experiences that promise it will happen again, and avoid the unpromising ones like a bad meal at a restaurant.

Plato once observed that all things are created by nature, chance, or art; the first two being the most great and beautiful, and the last being the most imperfect. But when you look at any kind of art—a book that changes the way you think, a painting that stirs emotions, or even the kind of customer service that is seemingly rare—it’s easy to only appreciate the end result, not the long trail of anxiety, fear, and effort that it necessitates. We gawk at newfound overnight successes but fail to appreciate or even acknowledge the decade of adversity prior.

How, then, do we learn to view pain as something temporary, something that actually functions as a profound source for pleasure? The Stoics believed that pain and pleasure, success and failure, life and death, were simply just part of human life, therefore they were neither good nor bad. What make our negative emotions so destructive aren’t the emotions themselves but the judgments that shape them. But how difficult this mindset is to keep when we’ve been cheated, lied to, undervalued or misunderstood! We react emotionally, all the while fueling our escape, when in fact we should be embracing this pain and transmuting it into something worthwhile—a lesson, a story, a piece of art. Look at anything you deeply admire, and you may see the connection: the creation was not made in the avoidance of pain but rather because of it.

If there is one underlying principle about human nature that deeply influences the way we lead our lives, it’s our innate desire for connection. To be understood and ultimately missed. Which is why stories about pleasure, or any of the synonyms associated with it, always contain elements of pain, frustration, or adversity. Hence, it’s vital in our careers and lives to understand that pain and pleasure are ephemeral but not meaningless. We get to decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.

Sure, watching your house burn down is painful, and the hopelessness associated with such an event is justifiable. But it isn’t helpful. Running a marathon produces pains in the body, but crossing the finish line yields a feeling of ecstasy. It’s easy to spend our lives selling ourselves short and opting for the kind of pleasures that can be bought, however fleeting they may be. It’s easy to lie, to not give the advice that your friend needs to hear. But a life avoiding pain can inadvertently deny us from feeling any kind of memorable pleasure. In most cases the two need each other; they compliment one another. When you are vulnerable with someone, it may be painful to share what you’ve been hiding, but the potential for a deeper connection may ensue. When you write, dance, draw, sing, or create, you may be misunderstood or criticized, but the opportunity to find the right people who appreciate your work and are moved by it? Such pleasures are worth pursuing indeed.

In The Middle Of Nowhere, Good Times Are Happening

Oakland, NJ- “The first couple of bands haven’t shown up yet, so Victor is going to play a couple of songs on his guitar.” Not the most promising of beginnings for any concert or festival, but in the case of ‘Lawndry Fest,’ it’s almost a consecration of this obscure gathering’s care-free atmosphere.

“Fest” seems a bit strong to describe the event — backyard summer show is more fitting. The best outdoor furniture was reserved for the occasion. A few rows of lawn chairs give their back to a small trail of scattered woods, where a few people are in the distance. On a table in the corner, a box is placed selling a few cassettes made by some of the bands, and in the center, an improvised stage protected by a picnic gazebo showcases the artistic expression of young souls stuck in the boondock’s of New Jersey.

“It was so much bigger last year,” you hear a few people say, “they had to use that whole lot across the street, and it was packed with people.” Funds apparently ran short this year, because it ended up finding a venue behind someone’s house.

Among the crowd are mostly local college students at home for the summer. Looks and glances abound, as people examine their former classmates in a sort of early high school reunion. But there’s no adolescent drama resurging; everyone seems to be with friends here. And so, as the the first group take to the stage, Lawndry Fest kicks off sending the vibes of a day dedicated to music, summer, and taking it easy.

Perhaps a bit too easy. “The first couple of bands aren’t as strong, they just play for fun. We have bands later on that actually do shows and record,” says one of the event’s organizers and performers.

As the first band takes to the stage, a pleasantly nostalgic fit of indulgence takes over of memories of those awkward high school days. The elements are all there to send the audience spiraling down memory lane, from the carefully selected, department store clearance attire to the nervous stares at the ground– and of course, the material selected. A Nirvana cover? Sure, why not two? And why not follow it with some Hendrix? Ah, to be young. Not exactly the kind of set that lands a record deal.

From the crowd’s response however, no one seems to care because at Lawndry Fest, if you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re missing the point. Every band steps down with applause, every song is a reason to dance, skank around in a circle, and enjoy the splendor of the summer together with people you’ve known for years. Frisbees are thrown, group pictures are taken, people continuously greet and embrace someone they haven’t seen in a while.

As later groups step up with a much more impressive set, no one seems to be focused on rating this or that band, and the bands least of all. Even the most experienced band gets to the stage with the same laid-back attitude, goofing around before plowing into frenetic performances.

At Lawndry Fest, there’s no room for critics or elitists. Even though quality musicianship is not lacking, it is not a prerogative, and those who possess it are only concerned with using it to have fun with others. Somewhere between one band finishing up and the next one going through a quick soundcheck, music ceases to be a business, an unnecessarily complex effort to impress or a way to convey self-righteous messages, but instead reverts to one of its deepest and most primal states– the soundtrack to a good time.

*

We Might Call It Reality

Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, are filled with a longing desire to discover, learn, and live in the moment. This wild and innate urge is often referred to as wanderlust, our best attempt as humans at trying to encapsulate this force that pulls at us. However appreciated, this cannot sum up or explain the call. In her photography, Sydney Krantz attempts to further capture and explain this phenomenon, in hopes of providing us with a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to find your gratifying place in the universe, even if only for a moment. While many suppress and try to distract themselves from the call until the lust has quieted, Sydney boldly answers, and rather than silence her desire to explore life, she faces it head on, and shares some of her experiences with us here.

Fameless Quarterly : When did you first realize that photography was something you were passionate about?
SK: It wasn’t until Junior year of high school. It was more of a hobby for my dad and his brother, so it was always around, but I never really became interested in it until I got a camera for Hanukkah or some holiday and started messing around with it. I ended up taking some photo classes in high school and learned about the history, the process, the dark room… it really just took off from there.

So it’s safe to say that while photography seems to run in your family, you took it a step further in making it something more than just a hobby?
I definitely took it a step further. They kept it as an interest, but I was the first person in my family that wanted to go to school for and pursue that as a career. To be honest, they weren’t very supportive in the beginning; a lot of “What kind of job can you get with photography?” and all that, but I think now they’re just a little jealous that I’m still doing it [and loving every minute].

You’re showin’ ‘em how it’s done! It’s not uncommon for loved ones to be apprehensive about pursuing the life of a creative. Of course it’s always in our best interest, wanting something that’s more secure and structured. Fortunately, we live in a time where more than ever, artists have the opportunity to not only make a name for themselves, but do so quite comfortably. You seem to be doing very well, all in all. Way to break the mold!
Thanks!

What is the intended message that you hope to convey in your work, and do you feel you’re able to do that successfully?
If I get any type of reaction, whether it’s positive or not, it’s a good thing. I don’t have any preconceived intentions for how I want others to feel about it; I just have an idea of how I want a photo to look, and work hard at making sure the shot comes out how I imagine it. Of course sometimes it can be a surprise too, because it’s all on film and I can never be certain about the outcome. I mean, the whole idea is to have that moment mean something important to each person, whether they question reality or feel a certain type of way. In the end, the goal is just to have the viewer tap into their imaginations and look at things from alternative perspectives. I try to focus on things that are constants in everyday life. Color is a big part of that in my work; it allows me to take that constant and make it into something more surreal.

Your work can definitely be described as dreamlike. It seems to play on that border between what is real and what is just beyond. Your play on the colors, exposures, lighting, and your use of multiple exposures certainly adds to that effect. What is pleasure to you? Do you feel your work represents that theme? 
Pleasure is broad; it can mean being at home for a few days or eating a good meal, but at the same time, it goes much deeper. Pleasure isn’t always so easily connected under the surface as it is above it .With my work now especially, I try to replicate moments that I find to be blissful. It’s about the little unexpected moments; anything that would be ignored and giving it a second look. Looking from a different set of eyes can change everything.

What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers?
Read a lot, especially photo books; do a lot of research online and get familiar with the work of other artists. Talking about my work is one of my most difficult and daunting tasks, so it helps to keep up with interviews and hearing how other artists talk about their work. Also, listen to your instincts. If you see something you want to take a photograph of, do it. Regardless of what teachers or friends or fellow artists might say, listen to your gut, and don’t lose sight of why you started.

Would you be able to recommend a book or some photography books?
Robert Adams – Why People Photograph

Stephen Shore – The Nature of Photographs 

Is there anyone you’ve met or worked with that has influenced you or that you hold especially significant in your journey as photographer thus far?
David Hilliard, one of my professors in college. My style was very unconventional compared to my peers, and he was very supportive of my work and my vision throughout my last semester. I certainly could not have come as far as I have if it were not for his encouragement. Also the work of Brian Graf and James Welling was definitely a game changer for me, and it wasn’t until I saw their work that I challenged my then, very traditional and uncertain style.

What kind of film do you shoot, and why have you chosen that format?
I loved film from the very beginning and then I received my first DSLR. I certainly used both, but shooting with film simply satisfied me more. It took a lot more thought and concentration and it seemed more of an art form/craft than my digital camera. In my first photography class in college, we learned how to shoot with large format (4×5) cameras and how to develop our own film (b&w). It was extremely challenging, but as soon as I got the hang of it, I was hooked. Bought my own camera and everything. I moved onto color 4×5 which is unfortunate because I love it so much, but it’s getting more and more expensive to buy and develop it. I then decided to buy a Mamiya 67 (medium format) because I enjoyed being able to work a little bit faster (medium format has 10 shots as opposed to shooting one at a time with the 4×5). It was also a better option for my wallet because it allowed me to experiment without worrying so much about ruining shots. Film will always be my first love, but as an artist, I have to adapt to the current technologies which led me to investing in the Sony A7r, (a mirror-less digital camera) Such an impressive little camera, I never thought I’d be this excited about digital!

In your experience, what has been your favorite camera to shoot with?
Definitely my 4×5. I’m using it less and less these days, but each time I whip it out, it’s as magical and fulfilling as the next.

Sydney Krantz is based in the NJ/NY area


FQ’s Guide to Northside Festival

Photography courtesy of Northside Media Group

 

On June 8th, the Northside Festival will kick off in Williamsburg, promising a week of art, music, film and innovation. The excitement is R E A L.

Featuring 450 bands, more than 150 speakers, and over 50 film screenings, it’ll be difficult to manage your time at Northside. With all these events to go to, we know that it can get a little overwhelming, but don’t worry! We’ve written up this practical guide to give you a hand.

 

FILM

Northside has expanded this year’s competition exploring new territory by adding music videos and episodics (web series and pilots) to the lineup of features and shorts the festival usually hosts. This years festival includes a handful of talented, and fresh, filmmakers like Sophia Takal, an actress most recently seen in Wild Canaries and writer/director who took home 2011’s Chicken and Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director prize at SXSW for her big screen debut, Green; Crystal Moselle is the director behind The Wolfpack which debuted at Sundance this year; Alex Ross Perry is the director of Impolex, The Color Wheel (named the best undistributed film of 2011 by Indiewire and Village Voice) and last year’s Listen Up Philip.

Here are three indie features you should be sure to keep an eye (or both, preferably) on:

Eden
An affecting trip into the ’90s Parisian electronic dance movement through the eyes of the DJ credited with inventing French house music, and whose friends, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, went on to become Daft Punk. Complete with sex, drugs, and a killer soundtrack.

 

 

Aspie Seeks Love
Heartwarming doc about artist David Matthews, who has spent the past 20 years posting quirky personal ad-fliers to telephone poles in an attempt to find love. The twist: Matthews finds out at age 41 that he has Asperger’s, the diagnosis of which changes his entire life.

MUSIC

Northside is known for its celebration of music discovery, creativity and culture, and this year they’ve added over 150 bands to the lineup. Attendees will have access to 400 of the hottest and emerging bands, curated to provide a unique festival experience for the avid music fan.

Consequently, Northside is about the BK experience. It spreads across 20 local music venues and three outdoor spaces within a walkable radius: McCarren Park, an annual staple of the festival for its free shows; Brooklyn Live at the Inlet, at 50 Kent Avenue; and a pop-up stage on main drag, Bedford Avenue. This year, Northside is expanding free programming at McCarren Park to all four days of Northside Music.

Entry to all McCarren shows is guaranteed with a Music or Premium festival badge. Non badge-holders must RSVP. Admission is first-come, first-served. Free RSVPs for select McCarren show is open via northsidefestival.com.

Here are five acts you should carve some time out of your summer schedule for — individual show tickets are available, but if you’re planning on catching a few, you might want to grab a badge:

Run the Jewels
This heart-stopping combo of NYC producer El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike deliver aggressive bars like a modern-day Rage Against the Machine (which is why Zach de la Rocha came out from hiding to guest on their latest LP).
Sunday, June 14th
50 Kent Ave.

 

Rhye 
When Rhye released the appropriately named Woman, it was hard to imagine that the vocalist, Milosh, is a dude. But he, alongside his musical partner Robin Hannibal, have crafted an R&B debut masterpiece with an agenda, appropriately titled Woman. This duo is way too “smoove.”
Friday, June 12th
50 Kent Ave.

 

Against Me!
From self aware folk-punks to wary arena rockers (opening for the likes of Silversun Pickups and Foo Fighters) to their current, best state: as rockers who deliver scorching sing-along anthems that unite more than divide. You will clap along and start class warfare.
Saturday, June 13th
McCarren Park

 

Best Coast
Singer Bethany Cosentino spends most of her new album exploring the dark side of Los Angeles, but filling her dourness with hooky pop and huge guitars straight out of the alt-rock ’90s playbook.
Saturday, June 13th
50 Kent Ave.

 

Ryan Hemsworth
Is it hip-hop? Electro? House? These are questions you will ask yourself — in vain — while listening to Hemsworth, who has remixed everyone from Cat Power to Frank Ocean. Heed not concerns over genre, but rather your feet, which will move instinctively and with great vigor for the duration of his bass-heavy set.
Friday, June 12th
Palisades
906 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY

 

Also, in keeping with Northside tradition of shining light on Brooklyn-bred talent, they’ve added acts like Beach Fossils, Frankie Cosmos, Nude Beach, YVETTE, Beverly, and Sannhet.

Grab your tickets as soon as you can.

 

On The Road: An Interview With John Gold

John Gold, Florida native, has been making music since he was 17. Though a California-based counterpart of his has seen more “mainstream” successes, he’s persisted to become a very notable folk artist, in spite of trials, tribulations, and the weight that comes with believing your dreams can happen. As a touring musician, he’s seen much of North America and England, and has developed an intimate and personal connection with his fans.  The two “rivals” are actually good friends, and reflect two sides of the same coin; great stories and moving tunes that define individuals and set a soundtrack for the lives of young people. What’s important to them, what inspires and drives them, are different on an individual basis. So we sat down with the Floridian to talk about what that means to him.

 

Fameless Quarterly: There are two really deep tracks that I found astoundingly personal – “Completely At Ease,” and “Thirty Kids A Year For Life.” Were those real stories from your life, or just something metaphorical to play on with the central theme?

John Gold: One evening in early 2011, I surprised my friends who were having a party a few miles from my house with a laptop and a USB mic. I cornered a few of them and asked them to speak about their most life changing realizations. I was not prepared for what they had to say. The entire album is a work that I hope individuals will feel extremely personal about– that is the reason I requested that they introduce themselves as John Gold. I wanted to make it clear to those who listen to this album that they have the full right to make themselves the main character; these are your songs, and your ideas, this is your album, and your pathway to follow.

 

FQ: Over the course of listening to this album, I felt like you have a real connection to young people, and that drive to inspire isn’t uncommon among musicians, but if there was one important thing you could tell your audience that they would take away from the whole span of your career, what would it be?  

JG: You just have to keep going if you ever want to arrive at your destination, and some of the furthest points are often the most desirable to be at. You’re going to get overwhelmed though, I was freaking out about my career tonight, but my father gave me wise words. He told me that Amazon was founded in 1995 and remained in the red for eight years before they began to turn a profit.  This really spoke to me, because as of this year I have been performing and working towards my dreams for seven years. I am going to walk this path with all of the strength and vigor I posses, and it will be worth all the time and effort I have put into it, if just one person’s life is changed irreparably for the better in the process. In the end, you must be satisfied with your life. Often you will by necessity have to take a detour, but perhaps it will lead you to an even better vantage point.  Believe that you will receive it, and you will. It’s just that simple.

 

FQ: For the sake of argument, you could say you’re in the realm of folk music. That culture of road worn life is sort of inherent with that genre, would you say touring is a big part of what you do?  

JG: The reason that I usually identify myself as a folk artist is because the definition of folk is as follows: ‘of or relating to the traditional art or culture of a community or nation.’ To me, my community or my nation is essentially just myself.  Folk music is the songs of my heart, in my native tongue, brought about by my experiences.  If I could place a genre unto myself I think I’d go with “nonfiction,” because that is what folk music is to me– truthful, raw, straightforward and expressive music. Last year I toured for 140 days covering both coasts, including over 20 states and two Canadian provinces. I traveled alone the entire time, and I can say that it was the most defining experience of my entire life.  It felt like something I had been waiting to do since my birth.  I decided to do the whole thing by myself, and when you are alone for hours and days, often not speaking to anyone for extended periods of time you begin to understand who you really are.

 

FQ: Having seen all you’ve seen since you started playing and touring, how do you feel about where the music industry, and by extension the bands who make up both the mainstream and the underground, are heading and how they’ve been faring?

JG: I would love to secure a record deal. Being able to provide for myself and my family through music has always been my goal, and I have nothing against those who have tried to do the same and have accomplished more than me. I do not however enjoy a lot of the mainstream music I hear because it propagates a mindset and lifestyle that is frankly detrimental to anyone who abides by it. These people are exalted and all they do with their power and influence is convince people to focus on and emulate all the things in life that don’t matter. It’s a shame.

 

FQ: What would you say, if you had to pick one, would be your favorite song off this album?

JG: “Bluebird (~670–610 THz)!”  Arthur Unknown was recorded in two parts between May-November 2011 and May-November 2012, and is a piece about birth and death within a life.  Each half of the record details a way of life in and of itself.  “Bluebird” recounts much of what caused my old life to cease to exist, in the perspective of hindsight. I’m overall very pleased with how genuine and dynamically diverse the piece is. Also, it’s seven minutes long, and I’m sucker for taking my time.

 

FQ: Did the amount of energy and intensity you give on each track come easy to you, or was it something you sort of had to develop as time went on from your first album to this one?

JG: I’m glad you asked!  Over the past couple of years my life has changed drastically, and I am no longer burdened by so many things that I once was.  I used to be very discouraged, but as I eliminated the fear out of my life, my burden became lighter. I think that’s the chief reason for my energy and intensity. I’m not weighed down by this world any more, and I am so thankful for the life I live today that I will expend every amount of strength and vigor I posses for what gave it to me, you dig?

 

We dig, John. You can check out more of John Gold’s music at johngoldflorida.bigcartel.com, johngoldflorida.bandcamp.com, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johngoldflorida. Or follow him on instagram and twitter: @johngoldflorida

 

Wine and Bred

Nell Stone, the ingenious young anthropologist at the center of Lily King’s Euphoria, explains to her colleague, Andrew Bankson, that the Tam people of New Guinea believe love grows in the belly: “‘You are in my stomach’ was their most intimate expression of love.”  The notion of being in one’s stomach implies a love that grows like a child, and a love that is consumed like food. This seemingly contradictory conception of love and human relationships permeates the book, consistently returning to the question: is the pleasure of love in possessing or in growing?

Euphoria is loosely based on the biographical details of Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and Reo Fortune, who embarked on a joint exploration of what was called the Territory of New Guinea in the 1930s. At its most basic, the book describes a love triangle between three anthropologists—Nell Stone, her husband Schuyler Fenwick, and their acquaintance Andrew Bankson, who narrates much of the book. While a conventional love triangle deals with the desires of each of the three individuals to possess one of the other two, Euphoria presents each of the three as needing the others in order to fulfill some aspect of love, either possessive or enlightening. Nell, specifically, is acutely aware of her desire to love without possessing. In a telling conversation, she asks Bankson, “Do you think it’s natural, the desire to possess another person?” before quoting from the Amy Lowell poem “Decade” about wine and bread: “wine is sort of thrilling and sensual, and bread is familiar and essential.” As they talk, she mentions that “people are always wine to me, never bread” to which he responds, “maybe that’s why you don’t want to possess them.” Nell wants a relationship that will send her into the elation of drunkenness, not a relationship that she can consume to sustain herself at the expense of the other person. Her husband, Fen, takes a different style, which becomes clear in their approaches to their research.

The anthropologists’ interactions with the indigenous people function as stand-ins for their search for human connection. Riding in a boat down the Sepik river, Nell laments passing indigenous villages, worried that she will miss the one perfectly compatible group with whom she will be able to forge a genuine connection, “a people whose genius she would unlock, and who would unlock hers, a people who had a way of life that made sense to her.” In pursuing her research, Nell longs for this mutual elevation of ‘genius unlocked.’ Fen, on the other hand, seeks a different kind of satisfaction, which he reveals when discussing a ceremonial flute shown to him by the Mumbanyo people; “We could sell it to the museum for a right heap of cash. And then there are books to be written about it. Books that would blow past Children of the Kirakira [Nell’s extremely successful book]. It would fix us up for life, Bankson.” In studying the indigenous population, Fen wants to appropriate their culture. Financial gain is the easiest marker of possession (selling an object implies ownership of it), but more than that, Fen desires respect. He explicitly links his pursuit of the ceremonial object to being more successful than his wife. In contrast to Nell’s desire for mutual elevation, Fen conceives of a relationship as a struggle for the upper hand—he wants to make bread (pun intended) out of his anthropological studies as well as his wife.

Nell is thus mainly another possession for him, and even as she pursues her own desires, she recognizes how restricted she is by the possessive conception of love. She writes that “it is freedom I search for in my work… to find a group of people who give each other the room to be.” She is searching for a group of people who are able to establish a community without becoming oppressive. Certainly her position in relation to her culture is not one that allows her this “room to be.” In marrying Fen, Nell is forced to abandon a relationship with a female colleague, something she describes as “the conventional choice, the easy way for my work, my reputation, and of course for a child.” But in her longing for a love free of possession, Nell objects to being forced to choose.

Fen gives voice to these feelings, and accuses Nell of supporting polygamy. “It’s what her set calls free love… multiple partners. You go in for that too, Bankson?” Since Fen’s idea of love is based exclusively in possession, the idea of “free love” is incomprehensible and threatening. The question directed to Bankson expresses these feelings in equal measure—Fen seeks Bankson’s agreement, while simultaneously seeking assurance that Bankson is not a threat to Fen’s ownership of Nell.

This question posed to Bankson is in many ways crucial, for he is the one caught between the two conceptions of love. He desires to possess Nell but knows that she is married, that he cannot have a monogamous relationship with her. While he would like nothing more than for Nell to leave her husband, he discovers the mutual elevation that does not require exclusivity: “I felt in some ways we’d had some sort of sex, sex of the mind, sex of ideas, sex of words, hundreds and thousands of words.” When all three collaborate on an anthropological breakthrough, Bankson describes the connection he feels to her: “I wasn’t sure if I was having my own thoughts or hers.” This type of kinship is the opposite of ownership, as the connection to Nell is so intimate that he is no longer in complete possession of even his own thoughts.

Bankson’s kinship with Nell allows him to experience a human relationship that is a meeting of minds as opposed to a pursuit. In a sense, this connection of minds goes beyond Western logic; Fen even references it in regards to a Tam ceremony: “if you just let go of your brain you find another brain, the group brain, the collective brain, and that it is an exhilarating form of human connection that we have lost in our embrace of the individual except when we go to war.” Bankson, who has lost an older brother in World War I, knows how destructive such collectives are when based on domination of someone else. The question is whether such a unity of minds can be achieved without the object being domination.

Bankson experiences this unity briefly when he is working alongside Nell, contributing to a scientific understanding of the world that is infinitely bigger than both of them. The titular word appears only three times in the book, always to describe a breakthrough of understanding about the indigenous people. As Nell puts it: “it’s a delusion… and it’s followed by the complete despair of ever understanding anything. But at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.” This is the conundrum faced by the characters of Lily King’s Euphoria, especially Nell and Bankson—the capacity to understand another person, to feel who they are as if from inside is the only way they can ever be truly, “entirely yours.” However, there is always the terrifying knowledge that this understanding might just be a projection. But this is another way to understand “you are in my stomach”—a confirmation that one has understood well, that one has gotten under the skin and permeated one’s lover. With this reciprocated recognition, mutual understanding becomes the essence of fulfilled love, something much deeper than a feeling of ownership based on a misplaced projection.