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Preview: Intangible Arts

Intangible Arts

Photojournal from a Washington DC-based magazine Art Director on the verge of a nervous breakthrough.

Updated: 2017-10-04T07:16:54.693-04:00


Strut yer mutt, Civil-War style


Local nonprofit Cultural Tourism DC has been busy...

Their latest effort is the Brightwood Heritage Trail, which will be unveiled in a public ceremony at 10am tomorrow. Following that will be the inaugural stroll, with some entertaining pitstops along the way: Civil War re-enactors will be on hand to answer questions and maybe terrorize people with muskets (it turns out Brightwood was the site of DC's one Civil War battle), there will also be live jazz at Emory United Methodist Church (Quackenbos & Georgia, 11am), restaurants and businesses will provide free drinks & discounts, etc. It sounds like a fine time, and a great way to pick up on the stories behind our familiar streets.

Brightwood is a wee bit north of typical Intangible stomping-grounds, but it's close. (WONDER CHICKEN needs to do up some t-shirts...their sign and logo is friggin' sacred). The weather should be phenomenal: cooler, less humid. No excuses.

ALSO: We must not forget the MUTT STRUT. Starting at noon in front of Little Rascals at Georgia and Missouri, dogs (and their owners) are encouraged to do a bit of the stroll, after which Little Rascals will provide water & treats for the beasts.

The Brightwood Heritage Trail includes 18 illustrated signposts in a winding route from 14th and Kennedy to Georgia Avenue and Peabody Street. Cultural Tourism DC's project director informs me that Columbia Heights is due for a Heritage Trail as well; we'll have to wait about a year for that one. A total of seventeen such trails are planned, the next one being Deanwood.

So stay tuned, intrepid local history buffs. In the meantime, check CTDC for details on Saturday's festivities here.

[photo: a much younger Gomez, totally refusing to 'strut' down 18th street after getting the Cold Thermometer treatment at the vet.]

Sonic Circuits benefit II


The Sonic Circuits festival of experimental music looms ever closer. Hear that rumbling in the distance? It's the sound of unique, artful, compelling, unexpected music. The perfect antidote to formula entertainment.

As reported earlier, a series of benefit shows has been launched to help defray the cost of this mighty thing. The second benefit is coming up soon, at the Pyramid Atlantic art space in Silver Spring. Click the flyer for larger version. Further details below, courtesy of the festival curator:


Sunday, August 24
Doors 6:30pm Music 7:00pm SHARP
admission: $5.00 at the door

8230 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring MD 20910
located three blocks south of the silver spring metro station (red line)

Arthur Harrison is the president and CEO of Harrison Instruments, Inc., a Maryland-based company that designs and manufactures electronics for a wide range of applications, including electronic musical instruments. Arthur has over 30 years of experience with electronic music, and has performed on theremin for a decade. His work appears on numerous audio recordings and sound tracks, and he is considered one of the world's technical authorities on the theremin, with his circuit designs implemented by electronic music enthusiasts, world-over.

barsky / allison
From Insect Factory & Kohoutek on guitar and custom electronics

Analog sound generations with struck bowls, rainsticks, wind instruments and guitars processed through racks of loopers/fx -- an otherworldly ambience that's difficult to describe; once heard, difficult to forget. ( Think: music from a temple in an extraterrestrial dream, emanating from the aether and enveloping you in some indescribable way.

[flyer design IntangibleArts]

WASA Big Idea? Part 4


Get the backstory: Part One here, Part Two here. Part Three here.

This could be the final installment in the gripping WASA saga unless something INSANE happens. But for now, just a post-op report.

It's been a couple of weeks since WASA's Plumbing Berserker perforated a bowel and caused much yelling en español (see part three for details). Since then, nothing has exploded, we haven't died from lead poisoning, and everything seems wonderful. Our tap water doesn't taste like the distilled tears of Heaven's purest angels or anything, but then, we'd have to move to Juneau to get that.

(Alaska Tourist Bureau, that'll be $500 please)

One good thing about WASA's finish is the full re-patch in the sidewalk (photo above), where they had chipped away the cement to access the public water meter. Some similar WASA action must have happened years ago, since that area of sidewalk was broken away and infested with weeds and ugliness when we moved in. It's good to see the lads cleaning up after themselves this time.

As previously reported, they are laying new grass seed in front yards where the test-pits were dug. They're also seeding the turf on the public side around the meter (note the odd protective blondie-fiber wig thing in top photo). So by summer's end, the street might actually look decent.

And there's real actual living grass popping up. Hooray for the little green people.

Early on, there was some concern about our retaining walls but as far as I can tell, no damage was done. Several of our neighbors' walls have been leaning and bulging precariously for years. Ours is no worse than before.

BUT, one huge fix remains: Our block is now riddled with about a dozen exposed concrete pits in the street, where the steel plates had been. It makes driving that block something of an ugly obstacle course. If the job is truly done, could we please have a fresh skin of asphalt? Pleeeez? WASA? DOT? Dept. of Public Works? Somebody?

Admittedly, part of me wants them to keep the pitted street as-is: it's done a great job of slowing down the speed-freaks (I'm looking at you, bastard-faced Maryland licence plates heading out to PG County during afternoon rush at about fifteen million miles per hour).

Anyway: Now, the war-zone has moved on and WASA is busy turning the 700 block of Irving Street NW into a noisy cloud of dust. Good luck, neighbors. All is not lost. Just watch them suckers if they need to do the job in your basement. Have towels handy.

SpaceTime Continuum no.2


(object) (embed)
Malcolm X Park (Meridian Hill), Washington DC
Sunday 3aug08, 4:10pm. 90 seconds.

Truth in advertising


I was blown away by this little bit of decorating a while ago; just now getting around to documenting it.

So here we have a detail scene inside our friendly neighborhood boozer Wonderland, with their gorgeous new addition to the decor.

That old wedge of neon spent ages commanding the corner of 11th and Park like a proud figurehead on the prow of a rum-soaked viking ship. The old liquor store has been dead for a long time and is set for demolition as part of the whole Bi-Rite market rehab.

As reference, this was it six months ago:

And now it joins the rest of the goodies in the Wonderland. They've got a great collection of DC relics in there; signs from long-dead shops and countless bits of random weirdness. I would have loved to witness them trying to mount that sucker on the ceiling.

Always a fan of the old signage. Glad to see it will outlive its old home...

Drool, Britannia!


When the missus turned forty, we celebrated with a cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage (See the reportage here, from the earliest days of this tired old blog). We had a magnificent time breathing clean air, feasting on real salmon, and punting bald eagles like footballs off the rocky coast of Sitka...Her challenge to me was: When my own 40th birthday comes, I should have a trip in mind: She gets one, I get one. Fair enough, and the choice was simple.So despite our plummeting economy, our worthless American dollar, and the insane cost of oil/gas and air travel, it's still London calling.I've been fascinated by England ever since I was a pup, for a variety of reasons. There was the infectious enthusiasm of my dad's preaching about family pride and English heritage, for one thing. "Family Pride"!?!? Never mind the genetic side-trip that the family took into Maryland Native American bloodlines, and it wasn't that long ago. Was it really a dark family secret, or just long forgotten? Because it was quite a meaningful thing to discover. Eastern Woodlands indigenous blood understands the world like caucasian blood never will (read Maurice Kenny's poetry for evidence). And it explained a lot about the look of his side of the family, and of my grandfather's uncanny sense of reality. Behind his stoic face, the man just KNEW what the hell was going on, down to the freaking MOLECULES. But anyway:So there was the Heritage head-trip, but WETA was also working on my psyche during childhood: It was my mother's Zenith TV with its late-'60s ivory and turquoise-colored plastic and the knobs that pulled off easily and if memory serves, it only got Channel 26 (WETA, DC's public TV station), which meant that most of my viewing consisted of Sesame Street and BBC reruns. Thus, I spent many days sitting on the floor in front of that glass eyeball, absorbing the culture of England from a small apartment on Viers Mill Road in Rockville, Maryland...Then later on, there was that dreadfully awesome, unrequited obsession with Diana Rigg's Emma Peel character in The Avengers... Holy Bouncing Hell, I thought, I simply MUST visit this island nation which gifted us with this leather-clad, karate-chopping goddess...Fast-forward to 2008. The old Zenith is history and Diana Rigg never returned any of my (unreal) phone calls. Side note: Rigg turned 70 last week, and is still kicking, according to wiki, on the theater stages of England. Bravo.And we still have this 40th birthday trip of mine to figure out.Truly, if it wasn't for our friend and his London-based fiancee offering us their good company and a place to sleep, we'd never afford this. Therefore I can say with ironic glee that I, for one, WILL be spending my "economic stimulus package" -- just not the way the President intended.Yep. Me and my "stimulus package" are gonna go "stimulate" a foreign economy. Seriously, Dubya: if you wanted the money to be SPENT (not stashed away in savings), and spent domestically, you should have handed out Best Buy coupons or something.No matter!We'll happily do a few tourist things (ICA, Tate Modern, Tower of London, the Eye) but my big interest is in the true, everyday urban reality of London. I'm sure this is due to living in DC, another capital city where we're fond of complaining about slow-moving, mouth-breathing tourists clogging the Metro and making life generally miserable. Only some of that tourist-bashing is fair, I'll admit. But it means I've become acutely aware of my own potential tourist-ness and will strive to remain blissfully invisible.So like, any suggestions? I'm making lists of the alleged BEST PUBS, RECORD STORES, and CURRY HOUSES in London. That would be the Intangible Arts Holy Trinity of any travel destination: pubs, vinyl, and curry. There will be side-trips to Newcastle and Edinburgh, so the Trinity Search also applies there. As far as record stores go, it seems London's West End favorite Sister Ray is poss[...]

Sonic Circuits 2008: a teaser


DC is about to host one of the most crucial celebrations of experimental music in the country. Again. We are truly blessed.

This year's Sonic Circuits festival is stirring in the womb and the contractions have started already, with a series of benefit concerts at the Pyramid Atlantic art space in Silver Spring. The first of these was held on July 13th with TL0741, Pinko Communoids, and a Violet + BLK w/Bear collaboration. A second benefit has been set for August 24th (performers TBA).

The flyer above is just a teaser (another classic by IntangibleArts, click it for mo' bigga). The full schedule is still being worked out, but we do have the span of dates and the names of some of the heavy-hitters in the lineup. There will be many more added to the list in the weeks to come, not the least of which is IntangibleArts' own BLUE SAUSAGE INFANT, scheduled for the fest's opening night at the Velvet Lounge.

Watch this space or the festival homepage [here] for updates. In the meantime, get cranked for a week of unexplainable, unpredictable, and irreproduceable music in early October. And go to the benefit on August 24th. Abandon all expectations and embrace raw adventure with your malleus, your incus, and yes, even your stapes.

To whet the appetite, a brief slice of the July 13 benefit at the Pyramid Atlantic: A bit of turntable collaboration between Violet and BLK w/BEAR:

SpaceTime Continuum no.1


(object) (embed)
19th Street at Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC.
Tuesday 29july08 3:10pm. 90 seconds.

WASA Big Idea? Part 3


Possible subtitle: On The Rag with the DC Water and Sewer AuthorityGet the backstory: Part One here, Part Two here. In Part 2, it was revealed that we did have lead pipe in the feed from the street to the house: In the photo above is the test-pit WASA dug in the front yard to discover this. So we scheduled with WASA's contractor to replace the offending metal. Awesome. The missus and I took the day off to supervise. And at precisely 8am, they came: Mercenaries of doom with their implements of destruction, heading down to the basement to do great things.First of all, I admit... our basement is a work in progress. I've been turning it into a double studio (graphic design and music recording) as well as a groovy lounge area... a true DUDE's room. It reeks of nag champa and good music and books and funky awesome vibes down there. But it's a work in progress. Lots of STUFF still to organize. Papers and boxes and cables and books and all manner of things.It was quite a task to move all that STUFF away from the street-side wall of the basement to give WASA room to do their work. But I was able to clear out a full one-third of the total floorspace. I gave them much more room than they needed, not to be NICE, mind you: just being paranoid about my STUFF getting covered in dust, getting stepped on, etc.Good move. The brick-drilling device was insanely loud and raised an unholy cloud of red dust which billowed around, lighter than air. A lot of my sensitive equipment was protected under sheets, so it seemed everything was going to be JUST FINE.I had carved a path through my pile of STUFF to the Mac at the other end of the basement, so I could keep half an eye on the guys and do some work at the same time. I was even getting used to the ear-splitting noise of the machines. And then a new sound: Crazed shouting (en español) out the basement window to some other worker. He sounded both panicked and angry. Now, my spanish isn't just rusty, it's completely dissolved. I took 2 years of Spanish in high school but of course, it's long since fallen out of my brain. Today, my Spanish consists of, maybe, the days of the week and, on a good day, I can ask to be directed to a bathroom. Or a beer. Depends on the priorities of the moment.So I looked towards the shouting just in time to see a giant wave of red soil-water flowing through the hole in the brick wall, covering the floor like a rushing tide, towards my sacred pile of STUFF.Holy shit, señor.It would seem that their "mole" (that would be the Porta-Mole, an earth-boring machine) had punctured the bit of pipe behind the closed valve, causing a full-force leak of city water to flood the new hole and thus, the basement. The best comparison would be getting a perforated bowel during a colonoscopy procedure... oopsie!The water keeps coming. Worker guy runs back to the basement window and shouts more words in hyperspeed Spanish, sounding more panicked, more angry. Eventually the flow stops. Meanwhile, I've grabbed all absorbent items I can find; towels, blankets, etc., and have fashioned a barrier which saturates with the filthy stuff instantly.Back to the window, more shouting. A pair of hands appears from outside, shoving in a bucket and some rags. Another guy comes in, and all three of us enjoy a silent half hour of bonding over a floor. And a bucket. And a pile of rags.Luckily, I was able to build my mountain of STUFF without anything valuable on the bottom. So, miraculously, nothing critical was destroyed. From the beginning, I've designed this basement with the expectation that it WILL flood some day. Doesn't every basement eventually have a flood?If anything had been damaged, I'd certainly be all over the foreman and working out a cut (or total waiver) of the cost of this operation. Anyway; on with the show.The shiny new pipe was threaded, welded, sealed, whatever, and a[...]

The Truck Stops Here


A random scene: P Street NW, Washington DC: looking west from 14th. A summer evening. Hotter 'n hell, as the painted lads used to sing...

Day-job deadlines have ruled the days (and nights) for a while, hence things have been pretty quiet around here. But the clouds have parted and updates will follow. The magazine is out the door as of 7pm today, winging its way to the printer.

Breathe. Breathe.

Yes. Updates will follow, not the least of which will be the conclusion of the gripping WASA saga, with the lead-pipe replacement project as reported earlier.

And oh yes, it's a gripping saga alright.

Much is planned for the near future here at the Intangible Arts Ashram, Bodega, and Sleep Deprivation Chamber, so stay tuned goddammit.

Your humble narrator will not abandon you.

Boxer vs. Boxer


(object) (embed)

Of these two warriors, IntangibleArts' own GOMEZ is the slightly smaller one. Motley has the white patch on the back of the neck...It's a tender ballet of joy, as performed by a pair of spastic knuckleheads.

Sonic Circuits benefit this sunday


AN EVENT NOT TO BE MISSED! This will be a special gig to benefit this year's Sonic Circuits festival of experimental music. As you can imagine, putting on these festivals is an expensive affair, with securing the venues and taking care of performers traveling from distant lands... So yes, it's a benefit. And a blitz of crucial music it shall be as well.

More on the actual festival as it approaches (late sept to early oct), but for now, the goods on Sunday's show:

PINKO COMMUNOIDS create a dynamic improvised sound between its three members, using everything from guitars and accordions to found items and bent electronics. The result is an unpredictable bath of sound which covers a wide dynamic range: everything from tickled silence to drones soaked in warm feedback. It's curious music, full of brain vitamins.

TL0741 is the solo electronic project of Pat Gillis. His sound offers a satisfying mix of the playful, the surreal, and the harsh; it never stays still for long. Over a substrate of bubbling sonic ooze (robotic magma?) you might find blasts of static, high-pitched synthetic wind, capsules of vertigo, croaking strangeness... billowing sheets of sound with an edge of menace. Good stuff.

VLT_BLK is a live collaboration between VIOLET and BLK w/ BEAR. The music of VIOLET is often harsh yet precise and delicate, using unusual items (dry ice, autoharp, turntables, aluminum foil) to build layers of monumental and very satisfying noise. Meanwhile, BLK w/ BEAR uses turntables, cello, bass, and effects to create deep drones and heavy trances that can be beautiful or saturated with paranoia. Or ideally, both.

It seems that the VLT_BLK collaboration might be a duelling-turntables situation, which could be pretty devastating.

So get yourself to the Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring on Sunday night. Support the future of Sonic Circuits and get a taste of what you'll be in for, when the festival is unleashed later this year. Check the artists' links for audio samples. Other details on the flyer.

Speaking of which, flyer design by IntangibleArts. Click the image for higher-resolution version (or here for an even higher-higher-res version), and distribute at will.

The Wake's Progress


You may recall: I wrote a rather scathing assessment of the new National Harbor complex recently (evidence here). There was really nothing "wrong" with the place; my skin naturally crawls with paranoid terror when faced with glitzy "place-making" developments like that. Instant city-center: poof! Now be happy and go shopping... It's a matter of taste. To me, the place stank of artificial life; of manufactured opulence and cufflinks and hair-plugs and expense accounts. Classless and gaudy and overdone, like a child's sci-fi exaggerated vision of corporate success. Perhaps I've read too many J.G. Ballard novels (Super-Cannes for instance).Then, Mr. T posted a comment which reminded me that The Awakening had been moved out to the new Harbor complex. Aahh, I must have missed it when I was out there looking at the conference halls. For the unaware: The Awakening is a sculpture of a bearded man, some 100 feet in length, partially embedded in the earth as if he's crawling up from a premature burial; a foot, a leg, pair of arms, and a tremendous head with nostrils flaring and mouth gaping in what could be a yawn. Or a scream. It was originally installed at the end of Hains Point in Washington DC's East Potomac Park, and was to be a temporary fixture there. My mother took me to see it in 1980 when it was brand new (uh, that would make me.... twelve years old at the time). And it was awesome. The vision of that sculpture stayed with me throughout my years of living in New York, Arizona, and Maine, and when I finally returned to DC, it was one of my top five places to re-visit.And it seems many folks my age had a similar relationship with that silver psychotic dude in the ground. He was like a pagan deity; raw and intense and he ignited a child's imagination simply by being there. After reading Mr. T's comment, I had to return to the National Harbor and this time, go directly to the harbor itself. Avoid all that conference-hall insanity at the Gaylord and visit the Old Silver Man in his new digs on the wrong side of the Potomac. And being the sentimental fool I am, I didn't approve of what I saw. Of course the Hains Point site was temporary, but we were rather used to seeing him where he was. He was mighty like a grandfather oak tree, a witness to the creation of the world. Seeing him plopped in the middle of this wretched Disneyland of corporate hotels and cafes was like a violation of nature. For those of us who grew up around here in the '70s and '80s, The Awakening was almost a rite of passage; EVERY 12 year-old boy had to go crawling around the dude's mouth.Look at him. He's clearly unhappy about it and just wants to get back to sleep. I'm turning forty in a few weeks, which gives me the right (nay, the imperative!) to be a sentimental dweeb about these things. And dweeb I shall.[...]

WASA Big Idea? Part 2


Last month, I began an intense document of DC WASA's project to replace the lead water-service pipes on our block, as an almost tongue-in-cheek service piece for others in the neighborhood. See the first installment here.Since then, I haven't reported on it because WASA's creep down Irving Street has been very slow indeed. As soon as we thought they'd get to us, they switched sides of the street. But now they are upon us. The destructo-hoarde has arrived!The scene above is the view from the porch, taken yesterday morning. While WASA is dealing with the lead pipe on the city's side, homeowners have elected (or not) to allow a selected contractor to handle the private-property side of the feed. This involves having a 5'x5' pit dug in the front yard, where the contractor can check the pipe: if it's lead, they replace it. That involves more digging and a bit of destruction to the basement interior wall, where the feed enters the house. If it's not lead, they fill the hole and move on.So far, it seems many of the homes on our block have not needed the full treatment. And I'm happy to see them seeding new grass after patching the hole. Here's one nice thing (photo): WASA was able to excavate the public-side meter under the sidewalk without destroying the humble wood-frame flowerbox that M put in this year. It was an ugly little patch of grass before; a place for collecting discarded vodka bottles and filthy scraps of street weirdness. But it was much improved with a few shrubs from Home Depot and some scrap wood to frame it. The shrubs haven't fared well with winter and being walked on, but hell, it's something. And with luck, it may survive the WASA project.As I write this, a freaking gigantic truck-sized jackhammer crane thing is pounding the hell out of the street outside the front door. The dog believes The Apocalypse Is Here Now. And who am I to argue?NOTE: Two of the workmen just asked to check the inside, where the water feed enters the basement. They say they've been "missing" the pipe junctions with their 5'x5' test-pits and want to make sure they're digging in the right spot. So if you're looking at this wall of destruction approaching your place, fair warning: they'll likely need to check your basement without advance notice. Wait, that's a knock at the door. Just a minute:DC WATER AND SEWER AUTHORITY, THE ENVELOPE PLEASE.......................Well, it appears that we DO have lead pipe leading into the house. So we'll get the full treatment, including a bit of home invasion next week and a 2'x3' hole cut into the interior drywall to allow them to do whatever surgery needs to be done.The drama continues. Tune in next time, when we puzzle over what the hell to do with the dog while all this chaos is going on. Exciting, innit?[...]

Love in the time of tourism


Here: A little Love for your Tuesday morning, from a wall on 11th Street.

Today is the first day of July, and Old Man Summer still has some knives in his pocket. Don't make eye contact. Protect your face. He means to do us harm!

The swell of tourists is palpable these days, as the National Festival of Blowing Shit Up draws near. More observations on that to come. But I must say: One amusing aspect of tourist season is watching them interact with the uptight lunch crowd downtown.

And that's no slam on the locals, for I AM one of the uptight lunch crowd. But I try to stay mellow and laugh it off. Because it really is a good show.

Places like the Au Bon Pain at Vermont and L Streets are calibrated for high-capacity, high-speed breakfast and lunch business. All the customers are regulars, everybody knows what they want before they walk in, zoom-zoom, pay the cashier, out. Like an out-patient surgical procedure. Zoom-zoom.

Now, add to the mix a random sprinkling of sleepy tourist families (dad invariably in turquoise or margarine-yellow polo shirt: why, dad, why?) after just bumbling out of their hotels and, blinking in the sun, wandering towards the first visible source of muffins and coffee.

And WATCH 'EM, it's precious: None of these cats notice or understand those golden words that keep civilization alive:


That's what caused the fall of the Roman Empire, you know. As soon as the conquered subjects of Caesar stopped heeding the sign at Bon Pain that says LINE FORMS HERE, the monuments toppled, and the whole game was over.

Nevertheless. It's awesome to see the turmoil that a few visitors with faulty internal gyroscopes can cause at lunchtime. We must laugh, lest we cry...and go on some massive killing spree, and I just don't have that kind of energy anymore.

NO! Enough talk of killing! This post is all about the LOVE!

Speaking of all things lovely, head over to Prince of Petworth, where my latest guest-post is up, glorifying the newly-crowned Mrs. District Of Columbia. We had the great fortune to attend the regional pageant to crown that title (and that of Mrs. Maryland, but we shan't speak of that one).

Beauty pageants are not my typical scene, so it was plenty weird at times. But it was a blast, rooting for our neighbor and good friend Markette, who was in the contest. No spoilers here. Go read the thing.

Gomez is a hose ho.


AND NAAH, the spray wasn't that hard.

As I suppose anyone knows,
one must protect a hose-ho's nose,
with it being so exposed,
as Gomez the hose-ho's nose is.

But as the summer heat grows
and the garden hose flows,
a hose-ho's nose will strike a pose:
to get the ever-lovin' snot blown out of it.

ah, joy.

Funk the Police


Just one more reason why I love DC as a place to live and work: Here we have a random incident, witnessed during my brief circuit from office to liquor store to bus-stop, after work on Friday.Vermont Avenue: Looked like the youth protest group FUNK THE WAR was holding another march action. A group of maybe fifty young white folk was heading north from the direction of the White House. For a workplace neighborhood, Farragut West beats the hell out of Capitol Hill for these kinds of things.As is my habit when I see stuff like this, I stake a claim on a nearby corner, pull out the camera, and wait. What the hell, something interesting might happen. It looked like the Funkers had been corraled into a very tight group by a team of blueshirt chaperones; DC's Finest.... Presumably this was to keep 'em out of traffic as much as possible. But the group seemed intensely packed-in, practically stumbling over each other's feet. At L Street where I was, the march turned east.And conveniently, here it went a bit wonky. Looked like one of the escorting coppers knocked over a couple of marching folks (middle of the crowd in the shot above).Accident or no? Tensions mount! Aiee! And there followed that deliciously electric pause. Before the shouting began. Some of these kids seemed more experienced than others at such protests and confrontation. Some were reactively timid and pensive, while their seasoned companions launched fists and bellowing madness against the cops for felling one of their own. The cameras came out, held aloft from within the mob. And the barking frenzy got louder.Middle fingers thrust into cops' faces, the crowd hurls verbal abuse at the Blueshirts and chants of SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! as the cops stood, consulting whatever little rule-books they have implanted in their brains: what to do in situations like these...Any War-Funkers out there? What was this scuffle all about? Was it an accident gone weird, or was it the work of some evil bastard with badge and holier-than-thou complex?It was a lively distraction, anyway. Reminded me a bit of my own younger days in this town (insert wobbly flashback effect here). I think Positive Force DC still exists, but what about No Business As Usual? Are them cats still around? The effectiveness of street actions is debatable, but when you're involved, there can be a tremendous sense of importance and passion. I still have fond memories of the "Punk Percussion Protests" against Apartheid, outside the South African embassy in the late '80s. Deadly serious but fun as well. Perhaps it's that tiny splash of "fun" that keeps the "deadly serious" from spilling over into rage and riot. But finding the right balance can be damn near impossible.[...]

Halls of opulent butterscotch vomit


Come the rapture, may I have your credit cards?The two-billion-dollar National Harbor Project received its final nod of funding back in August of 2004, and the big, glass-enclosed hive of marble, steel, and piped-in new-age saccharine hypnosis is nearly complete.I had the opportunity to tour the mammoth Gaylord Resort with some co-workers as we plan an upcoming whoopie-doodle of a trade conference. And being the token Art Director in a group of editors gave me license to bring a camera and snap strange detail photos as we walked through the place. NOTE: "Token Art Directors" will also be the most cynical, unkempt, quick to laughter, and the first to order scotch of any editorial group on field-trips like this. Anyway: This "National Harbor" is a curious thing. It is, quite literally, in the middle of freaking nowhere. Technically it's in Maryland, across the Potomac from Alexandria, VA, and it's an easy drive from DC along 295, but it is eerily isolated. Certainly no public transit available. As you approach it, the place begins to feel like a pre-fabricated, glossy Jonestown: It looks like the work of a cult of corporate/retail executives and paranoid survivalist lunatics who had this compound built to preserve their opulent, credit-card-waving lifestyle after the bombs drop and reduce the rest of us to carbon-stained cockroach kibble.So why this location? What's the big idea? During the tour, I heard something about the developer having the site for some twenty years before launching the project. So perhaps "the big idea" was simply one of financial convenience, coupled with the ugly conceit of modern "place-making." Behold:The approach from the 295 exit takes you along a new, crisp, flawless, manufactured "main street" of highbrow shopping and condos. Along the sidewalks you will see strolling families of fresh-faced Clean Laundry People, all of whom look suspiciously artificial--as if they'd been hired by the developer to wander outside eternally, providing the illusion that PEOPLE EXIST HERE. EVERYONE IS VERY HAPPY. I know it's a matter of personal taste, but these suddenly-manufactured "town center" projects strike me as insanely creepy. The Kentlands in Montgomery County is like this: a nightmare of Stepford-Wives pleasantry, where it seems behind every smiling face is some boiling evil. Behind every WELCOME mat, some horrific violation is going on. Can't trust it. Warning lights and sirens in the brain start going apeshit.Despite its new-ness, the Gaylord hasn't had an easy run so far. Early on, it suffered a well-publicized plague of mice in the hotel, followed by a bit of norovirus contamination in the food, resulting in some rather unhappy guests and employees.Oh, and on top of the mice and food poisoning was the slight problem of death. That can't be good for publicity.But the place is definitely shiny, I'll give it that.[...]

A summertime reality-check


Gomez rather enjoys the heat and would like me to kindly stop whining about it, please. Oh, and put that goddamned camera down. This tennis ball won't throw itself, jeez...

Going Dutch


A rare treat, two posts in one day. But a brief item here:

Since The Guardian has decreed that all persons of English descent must back Holland in the Euro 2008 contests, my allegiance is certain. And that reader poll would've come up with Holland even if there wasn't any online tampering of the votes by Dutch sneaky types.

So the match against Italy is today, at 8:45pm, in some far-flung time zone, so who knows. It could be happening right now, for all I can tell. Not that it matters: Here in Washington DC, it's too early to abandon the office, hug a pint and shout at a TV bolted to a wall over a row of taps...

Oh, and of course, every post on IntangibleArts must come with a photo. And the shot above is from the DC United home opener against Columbus, so it doesn't really "go" with the story, but it sets the tone. Quit buggin' me. And GO HOLLAND.

UPDATE: As requested, Holland went. And they left Italian bodies everywhere, drowning in a sea of orange jerseys. 3-0. Gotta see a re-broadcast of this one.

WASA Big Idea? Part 1


Blogging encourages a certain level of hyper-local reporting. And starting today, Intangible Arts will beat the SNOT out of the idea, drilling the idea of "hyper-local" down to a single block of Irving Street NW, between Georgia Avenue and Warder Street.The reason is simple: The DC Water and Sewer Authority will be transforming this block into a war-zone for nearly three months, as part of their program to replace lead service pipes. And the photo-ops will be many, since Intangible Arts HQ is right in the middle of it.WASA appears to be doing this in a block-by-block sweep across certain areas affected by lead pipes. And so I figured: maybe someone in the area is still waiting for this to go down on their block, and might dig hearing about it beforehand. Because we certainly had questions. And still do.The idea is, simply, to replace any lead pipes up to the boundary of private property. But WASA has provided access to a contractor to handle the homeowner's side of the pipe. Que convenient! We opted for this as well. The full monty. Bring it on.We were given early notice of this project months ago, with only the vague warning that AT SOME POINT, we'll be given 48 hours' notice before the destruction begins. And that notice arrived last Friday.A trench will be dug (presumably along the public sidewalk) to reveal the main service pipe, and individual 5'x5' test-pits will be dug at each rowhouse unit to determine what sort of pipe is down there. So say goodbye to those day-lilies, hostas, or that festive ragweed garden you've been tending for years... There will be blood.This weekend, the trees along Irving Street were caged in bright orange safety-mesh, and a plague of equally bright orange traffic-cones appeared, ready for action. It seemed amusing, since the city just planted those trees recently. Clearly there's a lack of communication between divisions here.The tone here may sound cynical, but this is actually a good thing. Theoretically, once the service pipes are all lead-free and consist of the same (or similar) metals, our first blast of tap-water in the morning should NO LONGER smell like Satan's own leftover egg salad. And that will be a joyous day in Intangible Land.So, stay tuned: This is merely the introduction to what should be a freakin' fascinating series. If you had fun watching the grass grow, watching paint dry, or meditating on TV static, buddy, you ain't SEEN real fun yet. Updates will follow. Oh yes they will.[...]

AIPAC of wolves in the halls of power


M and 9th Streets NW, Washington DC: Big-head war-criminal Bushie and a Code Pink activist duke it out like champions outside the Washington Convention Center during this morning's bit of the AIPAC conference. As I was strolling past on my way to work, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and House minority leader John Boehner were inside the Convention Center doing.... whatever it was they were doing in there.AIPAC? That's what this was?Living in DC encourages news-junkie behavior, and I'm as guilty as anyone. But I need to detox once in a while, and go into a self-imposed current-events exile. It's like a purification ceremony. Thus, I've been in total news-blackout mode for a while, and I had no idea the big American/Israeli dry-humping fest was going down. All I knew was, for the past three days, there have been an UNGODLY amount of chartered buses traveling in police-escorted convoys across downtown, to and from the Convention Center.I hop off the 79 bus at 9th and M for work, so that puts me in the thick of the action in the morning. Yesterday, I finally looked past the dozen or so idling buses at the fluttering banner and saw it was the annual American/Israel policy conference. Ah. Okay, so that explains it.But still, I don't care who you are: Congress-folk, executive branch, visiting foreign heads of state: Ain't NOBODY important enough to warrant all that noise and gridlock.These are supposed to be the leaders of democratic nations, right? So how the hell can they be expected to sensibly govern the "free world" if they're carted around like emperors? Sends the wrong message, says I.If you're a high-ranking diplomat and you're due to attend or speak at a conference of global importance, just book a room at a decent hotel somewhat close to the venue and get there early, like any of us normal peons would. Jesus Christ, y'all, you'd think there was an air-strike on Capitol Hill or something. And that's another thing: seems like it's wasting the DC Police Department's time, putting too many officers on duty guarding empty buses while they idle outside the convention center.At least Code Pink was there to lighten the mood this morning.[...]



Since I tend to write capsule reviews of experimental music performances in DC, I suppose a recap of Sunday's event is in order, since I'd been hyping it for a few weeks. And not to toot my own (so to speak) but it was an enjoyable return to live performance after some time spent away from the muse... (& thanks to Marian for shootin' it)The venue was a classroom in the basement of GWU's Phillips Hall, and even with acoustic buffers in the ceiling, it was a challenge to do any delicate mixing: The whole thing was mixed based on the reverberating roar of noise bouncing off the back of the room. But the PA seemed plenty loud enough, at least.Mine (Blue Sausage Infant) was a 25-minute improvised set that began with darkly ambient tones and vocals, which mounted into a frenzy of rhythmic self-indulgence. Case in point:It can be quite fun to amplify and distort the shit out of a pink toy guitar and violate it with an electric razor for a while, as a bhangra drum loop, short-wave static, tremolo-distorted harmonica loops, and moog synth waves do their thing on auto-pilot...Eventually, the freakout wound down, and returned to the mellow dreamy stuff, with native american flute layered over breathing loops and meditation instructions... Totally self-indulgent and ripping good fun.Next up was Field Shaman, whose expansive sonic textures filled the room with equal parts sound and silence, sweetness and tension... Using only guitar, cello, vocals, and a b'zillion effect pedals. The effected cello provided a phasing wind for the guitar's rhythmic patterns and whispered words; very heady stuff; zero-gravity music. Calm, menacing, melancholy, and spacious.Closing the show was Violet, with a typically minimal-yet-intense wall of sound, using the trusty turntable-with-aluminum foil (i think), autoharp, effects, and whatever-the-heck else he had hidden behind the podium. It began with a blistering, strong carpet of hairy, throbbing, rolling noise, chopping into quieter passages, building layers of turntable crackles and pops, eventually building a final mountain of roaring tones and piercing frequencies before the whole thing stopped suddenly...A damned fine evening. Many thanks to Jeff Bagato for hosting the event, and for providing an outlet for unique local music. Further Blue Sausage Infant activities will be announced here. And for more info on future Electric Possible events, dig the site here.[...]

Behold the Trash People


Diggit: A temporary exhibit of sculptures by HA Schult, in the courtyard at the National Geographic building on L Street NW in Washington DC. Rows of slightly larger-than-life-size human figures, whose flesh seems oddly familiar...

Schult's "Trash People" was originally installed in 1996 in Germany and included one thousand such human figures, constructed from items retrieved from a dump in Cologne.

The figures will also be visiting Manhattan and Antarctica, where I'm sure they'll disturb and vaguely creep out tourists and penguins, in turn. But they're here in DC until the 8th of June.

It's a fascinating thing to walk slowly between the bodies and dig the details; a crushed tin of meat here, soda-can there, computer motherboard, odd bits of glass... the detritus of humanity, molded to resemble humanity. Bitterly fascinating.

THIS SUNDAY: Bringing the noise


Just a reminder: You have plans this Sunday night in Georgetown.

The Electric Possible's organizer Jeff Bagato tags these events a "mad monthly laboratory for Promethean sound experiments" and that seems accurate.

But this weekend's event is crucial:

Your intangible narrator is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the BLUE SAUSAGE INFANT project, which began in a tiny apartment on 16th Street in 1988, with only a guitar, some aluminum ducts, a toy drum-kit, an open-reel tape machine, and a plastic Casio sampler. The equipment has changed since then, but the mission is still, simply, to build a hypnotic swirl of improvised music, and to have insane fun while doing it.

After several relocations across the country, the INFANT is back home and making hypno-surrealist noise in DC again, using a mix of electronics, weird acoustics, and whatever else I can find...

Also up is VIOLET, who's approach to drone and noise-music has been legendary in the DC area (and elsewhere, via overseas tours) for decades. And FIELD SHAMAN creates vast carpets of ambient soundscapes, using voice, cello, guitar, and ??? -- All highly recommended.

Details on the when-and-what on the flyer above. Click it for a higher-resolution version. And I'll see you at the 'Possible.