Rushes Soho Shorts Festival
July 31-August 6th

Skirting a thinnish line between indie cool and marketing ho-ha, Rushes Soho Shorts (tagline: we want your shorts) hits London cafes this month, with continuous screenings of short films in venues all over Soho.

On the plus side, it's free, and you can go walk-about in Soho to catch new work by emerging directors, in several categories: animation, drama, comedy, and arthouse music video. Old Compton Street/Shaftesbury Avenue area is fest central.

The festival wraps with a party at "Sound" in Leicester Square.

Shortlisted films in competition:

"JoJo in the Stars"
In a world without color -- a story of love, self-sacrifice and jealously set against a nightmarish and hauntingly beautiful world in black and white.

"Little Things"
Sketches of a dysfunctional world in which everybody has their favorite foibles. And neurotic habits. When a cataclysmic event shakes things up, do we adapt, or are we just too set in our ways to give a damn?

"The Brick"
Black comedy about a lazy demon who’s become delusional, thinking he'll be able to take over the world with a magic brick.

"After Dolly"
Reflections on the future of cloning.

"Ten Minute Movie"
All Sam wants is a shot at fame. But sometimes fame shoots back. Sam's got just ten minutes to get the girl and stop the plot from spiraling out of control.

A boy goes through hell when he witnesses something terrible but fails to act to stop it.

"Terrible Kisses"
A woman's gift to her lover - lipstick kisses all over his body - turns into an indelible nightmare when the kisses won't wash off.

Find it: Too many venues to list. Heres a venue/screening info/metro map.
Get info: 020-7935-3337, 020-7734-2255

[Shown: "JoJo in the Stars"]

Find more film fest previews in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

July 30, 31, 7pm

Actress/poet/musician Caridad De La Luz, a.k.a. "La Bruja" ('the witch') returns to the Nuyorican Poets Café, the landmark venue where she got her start and her stage name, to perform "Brujalicious".

The program adds live music to her unique blend of poetry and theater. De La Luz revisits the characters of her one-woman-show "Boogie Rican Blvd." and kicks rhymes with singer Dimitri Minucci and hip-hop duo from El Salvador, Reyes Del Bajo Mundo. The 90-minute program will feature an as-yet-unannounced tribute event, in honor of late salsa queen Celia Cruz.

La Bruja: "Theater can save people from the realities of our community. I try to show them characters, some reality, through theater, to force them to think about life from a more objective viewpoint. So, sure, you could fall in love with your first and end up pregnant and alone -- but why would you want to do that?...I'm on a mission to show this hip-hop generation that it's not uncool to care about people, do right by your kids, to be responsible to those around you."

Find it: Nuyorican Poets Café
236 East 3rd Street (btwn Avenues B/C), NYC
Get info:(212) 505-8183

Find other dance/theatre events in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


FILM/Festivals/San Diego
Comic-Con Independent Film Festival
July 22-25

Along with the rest of the anime-graphic novel-sff novel-comix-daytime cosplay/nighttime masquerading-author and actor signings-art shows/auctions and film/TV pilot screenings at this year's Comic-Con -- an indie film festival dedicated to just about all of the above.

Way too much going on to cover here: check the official site for other events, including signings and/or talks by China Miéville, Neil Gaiman, young sprout Christopher Paolini, Ray Bradbury, artist Roger Dean, Geoff Johns and Serena Valentino, or check out coverage elsewhere.

In the meantime, here's a fly-by of what's screening at the indie film
fest this weekend:


Friday, July 23: Amazing Animation

11:50-12:10 “Manimal!”
Dir: Jeremy Wabiszczewicz
“Manimal!” is a science fiction/hip-hop musical about a slumbering beast awakened by a world in peril. Forced to take on danger and evil, Manimal has no choice but to rap his way out of it.

12:10-12:30 “Reflection”
Dir: Patricia Satjawatcharaphong
Director and animatrice Patricia Satjawatcharaphong captures the full story
of the snake-headed creature known as Medusa. In the guise of a hideous monster lies a spirit cursed and alone. “Reflection” brings the Medusa myth to life in a story where there is no good or evil, only sorrow.

2:00-2:20 “Grime-Shoed Diaries” and “Shards of Death 5: Now Hiring”
Dir: Mike Wellins
“Grime Shoed Diaries,” a 7-minute 2/D 3/D comedy, is a gritty noir detective story; sort of. Panama Taft is a down on his luck detective, flat broke and walking the streets of a faceless city. He desperately needs a paying case, but when the possibility of a job arrives, things get...complicated.

In the second film, “Shards of Death 5: Now Hiring,” a job interview for a video game, conducted by a hideous yet sympathetic monster, starts out poorly and only gets worse.

4:00-4:20 “Dandelion”
Dir: Hal Forsstrom
In this hand-drawn animated nightmare blending “All Quiet On The Western Front” with the spirit of Moebius and Miyazaki, a soldier escapes the wasteland of a battlefield, only to discover that the horrors of war pursue him to the furthest reaches of the world -- and his mind.

Saturday, July 24: Superheroes and Satire

11:30-1:00 "1st Person Shooter"
Dir: Sean Rourke
Shot in mockumentary style, 1PS follows a group of struggling video game designers as they try desperately to finish their game in the face of impending doom - the official release date.

The Video Game itself pits five femmes fatals against the manifold minions of evil. Vampires, zombies, demons and werewolves wait around every turn, mucking up the plans of our heroines to save the world from ever-lasting darkness.

Obsessive play-testers, prima-donna artistes, clueless executives, and overly-harsh critics stymie the designers at every turn; even if they finish the game, will it even be any good?

2:50-3:20 "Sockbaby"
Dir: Doug TenNapel
Sequence of sci-fi-kung-fu-comedy shorts. No, socks. Well, one. Sockbaby. Behold kung-fu artist Ronnie Cordova as he protects a sock-shaped messianic figure from another dimension. Features the last act of the "Sockbaby" trilogy. Director Doug TenNapel will be on hand (but not the sock).

4:15-4:45 "Chasing Kevin"
Scott Kramer's drive to become the next Kevin Smith drives him over the edge and puts him on a collision course with Kevin, Jason "Jay" Mewes, documentarian Ed Lippman and the citizens of Red Bank, NJ. What price will a young man pay to make his dreams come true?

5:10-5:30 "Agent 15"
Dir: Augusta
Brand new episodes of the perennial Comic-Con favorite, featuring the kind of heroine James Bond might have been, had he only had the luck to be born female... Screening: "Unleashed on the World" and "Rook Four," starring Jimmy Dore, Paul F. Tompkins, Ann Magnuson and Paget Brewster as Agent 15. Director Augusta will be on hand to discuss the making of the films.

[Shown: "Finding the Future"]

Sunday, July 25: Doco Day

11:30-12:50 "InkSwell"
Dir: Jeff Cioletti
"InkSwell" probes some of the creative minds responsible for indie comic books' subversive edge; features interviews with Evan Dorkin ("Milk and Cheese", "Dork"), Bob Burden ("Flaming Carrot", "Mystery Men") and James Kochalka ("Monkey vs. Robot"), and captures the conception, creation, publication and promotion of an issue of Gabagool, created by writer Chris Radtke and artist Mike Dawson.

12:50-2:15 "Otaku Unite!"
"Otaku Unite!" explores the history of Japanese animation fandom in the U.S., early pioneers who organized fandom in the late 70s, and the new cosplay generation. The documentary includes footage from the first anime convention wedding, the first anime con friar's roast, the 20+ member cosplay troupe Sailor Jamboree, and a behind-the-scenes look at Kaiju Big Battel. Co-cinematographers Charles Smith and Kelli Cain will be on hand to discuss the documentary.

2:15-2:45 "No Need for Cosplay"
Dir: Rhianne Paz Bergado
"No Need for Cosplay" documents the cosplay phenomenon in America and features some of today's most visible cosplayers including Adella, G-Chan, Hi-Chan, Ziggy, Lord Masamune and filmmaker Peggy Wang. The piece features an original music score by Sketchbook Café.

2:45-4:30 "Finding the Future: A Science Fiction Conversation"
Dir: Casey Moore
For over a century, science fiction writers and readers have speculated about where humanity is heading. Now we're living in a world taken straight from the pages of their futuristic fantasies: a world of wearable computers, cell phones, and the Internet.

Shot against the backdrop of major science fiction conventions, "Finding the Future" examines the phenomenon of science fiction through the thoughtful commentary of authors such as Catherine Asaro, Ben Bova, David Brin, Robert Silverberg, and many others. It explores the culture of science fiction and the passion of its fans, and considers the effect of science fiction on society, as these sci-fi aficionados muse on what lies ahead.

[Shown/post header image: "Agent 15]

View: Comic-con main schedule
Find it: San Diego Convention Center
111 Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
Get info: (619) 491-2475

Find more film festivals in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"Xtreme Houses"
Through August 1st

We are all architects. We might not have studied architecture, or taken a degree in architectural engineering.

Nevertheless, we all need shelter; we arrange our environments to best suit our needs. But what is a "house"? And what is "home"?

The "Xtreme Houses" exhibit examines artitecture from numerous angles, but from a single starting point: what's out there, beyond the standard four walls and a roof?

The houses shown in this exhibition, are 'extreme' because they challenge traditional civil engineering and homogenized construction, present new ways of utilizing space, solve problems related to overcrowding, or adapt rudimentary tools to provide emergency shelter.

Many of the pieces selected for this exhibit originate from solutions found at the very edge of the society, where housing is arranged to meet extreme environmental situations with any materials which are readily available.

The exhibit also asks us to think about the natural evolution of housing in response to hyper-mobility, skyrocketing real estate costs, responses to natural catastrophes or war, mass migrations, and homelessness.

Many of the houses selected for the exhibit make use of either exclusively new design, such as the rotating sleeping/eating/working wheel "Turn On," or in discarded materials which can be repurposed to maximum effect with a little ingenuity; "Dome," for instance, is literally just that - a spacious dome constructed of triangular panels sliced from discarded cardboard.

What about hyper-mobility? With GPS able to pinpoint location precisely, is there any real reason to stay put at a single geophysical location?

Rather than take ourselves to our home, can we take our home with us, wherever we happen to be? Sure, says Valeska Peschke, in her contribution to the exhibit: "Inflatable House".

Another issue to think about: given a limited area of terra firma available for building, are there other solutions? Maybe. If we consider housing that can float on water, or reclaim square footage underground.

Environmental concerns are addressed by the use of DIY solar panels, in "Future Shack," by Sean Godsell Architects, and Michael Hönes' "Dosenhaus," a cottage created out of hundreds of soda cans.

Each of the houses included in the exhibit was created as an answer to an urgent need, or as a solution to a problem. The exhibitors consider economic viability, spatial efficiency, and the most intangible factor of all - creating a 'home'.

A mixture of designs, photographs, small-scale models and life-sized prototypes, the "Xtreme Houses" exhibit delivers some intriguing answers to the problem of habitat.

[Shown: "Turn On", (2000), Alles Wird Gut]

Find it: Lothringer Dreizehn (13)
Lothringer Strasse 13
Munich, Germany
Get there: S-Bahn: Rosenheimer Platz, Ostbahnhof
Get info: +49-89-448-69-61

Find more art exhibits worldwide in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

Gamers Nite Groove
July 27

They've got game -- the latest Gamers Nite Groove is on.
The theme this time around: gaming as contemporary art form.

The event showcases games "weighing in heavily on style, art, and creativity,
as opposed to cheap thrills and uninspired ideas," according to New York-Tokyo major domo Job Stauffer. Damn. No cheap thrills?

"Game developers are always faced with the challenge of incorporating new and engaging features into games," Stauffer says, "but rarely do [final cuts of the] games contain such things. Much like cult movies, there are many games that have attempted such risks, and as a result, may not have sold well commercially, but remain admired by niche gamers."

Lock and load: games on hand for the night include futuristic shooter "Rez," fusing music and gaming to create a surreal trapped-in-the-music experience, and "Viewtiful Joe," an homage to old-school platform games that captures the look and feel of comic books and old b-movie science fiction films.

Other options included "Ico," the tale of a ghostly damsel in distress that calls for patience and puzzle-solving ingenuity as the player journeys through a lesson in digital impressionism. Finally, "Vib-Ribbon," the music-based bunny-hop on a single vector in space takes its minimalist visuals to the sonic and frenetic extreme.

There's also a behind-the-scenes look at exclusive artwork connected to the development of action/role-playing game (RPG) "Sudeki".

GNG regular DJ Prozac lays down tracks for the night. Also warping the speakers with their unique live sets, GNG regulars Bit Shifter and Nullsleep, known for their inspired manipulation of GameBoys to create infectious, multi-layered electronic beats.

Lastly, designer Jonah Warren treats gamers to some body-as-joystick performance art. His interactive installation uses a camera, projector, and a computer, allowing players to choose from three different games, using their body as the controller.

About Eyebeam: Founded in 1996 by indie filmmaker John S. Johnson, Eyebeam is dedicated to exposing diverse audiences to new technologies and media arts, while simultaneously establishing new media as a significant artistic/culturally groundbreaking genre.

About New York-Tokyo (NYT): Best known for Anime Festival and Music Festival, NYT currently runs two monthly meets: GNG (Gamers Nite Groove) and MDS (Monthly Director Series), and two annual Festivals : Tokyo Robotics and WiFi-event eNerGy.

Find it: Eyebeam
540 West 21st Street (btwn 10th /11th Aves.)
Get info: (718) 222-3982

Find more pop-sci/tech news and events in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

SCI/TECH/Sound Engineering
"Flower Powered"

Singing flowers, anyone? A Japanese company claims they've developed an audio technology that turns plants and flowers into loudspeakers.

The "Flower Speaker Amplifiers" system was designed by Let's Corporation, a telecom device manufacturer based in Okayama, Japan; the company works with companies like Sony, Panasonic, Canon, NEC, NTT and Docomo.

Making the most of flower power, the system mimics the way traditional audio speakers work - it just uses the surface of flowers to generate sound waves, instead of the more conventional cone made of plastic, metal or paper.

Let's stop and hear the flowers...
[Shown: Flower Speaker Amplifiers prototype, Let's Corporation.]

From "New Scientist": Flowers are inserted into an acrylic "vase" containing a magnetic coil and an oscillating component. Applying an alternating electrical current causes the tube, and the flowers, to vibrate at high speed, producing audible sound.

The company plans to develop versions that include a self-contained FM radio and power source. No word on whether you get Miracle-Gro with that...

On the downside, some skeptics voice doubts that the system would work out.
"New Scientist" interviewed Stanley Lipshitz, an audio researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada; he says speakers normally vibrate rigid material -- using something flexible like a plant would be far less than effective.

So don't get ready for monster rock in the poppy fields just yet.
Not this summer, anyway.

For additional free kicks, sample the Let's Corporation project history list:

Let's develop part of JVC's karaoke system, "Songoku".
Let's develop a tel/fax auto changer and start an OEM business for Panasonic and Canon sales.
Let's develop a satellite FAX system for disaster operations for NEC.

Yes, let's!

[Source: Reuters newswire, New Scientist]

Read more offbeat sci/tech news in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


LIVES Mini-view: Andrea Semple, comic novelist
"Life is nothing like a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump was wrong."

Getting started: I'm not someone who goes out and sits in coffee shops scribbling observations about people.

I think the inspiration to write comes from inside, not outside, but it's impossible to be more specific. There's certainly no magic inspiration cupboard you can open up and grab new ideas from.

The length of time needed to complete a novel is also pretty nebulous. It depends. I completed my first novel, "The Ex-Factor," in about three months (writing for about nine hours a day).

I was surprised that my mum liked it. Given all the sex scenes, I thought she'd disown me.

My second novel, "The Make-Up Girl," took longer - almost a year.

Quirks: I write everything down on paper before typing it up. Don't ask me why.
I just find that ideas come faster with a pen in my hand than when I'm staring at the keyboard.

Cities I dream about: Paris, without a doubt. In fact, the next place I move is definitely going to be there, I've already been looking at apartments.

Oh, sure, it's an arrogant city, but it's earnt its rights. Walking around the Latin Quarter in evening light is close to heaven.

My favorite downtime reads, for news and book stuff - "The Guardian"
For a laugh - my boyfriend's site.

Fave authors: Emily Brontë, Arundhati Roy, Matt Haig (he's my boyfriend, but he's still very good), Jonathan Franzen, Nick Hornby, Charles Dickens.

Historical fiction faves: My favorite is a line from "Jane Eyre": 'Reader, I married him' - because it is the simplest, most intimate connection between the writer and the reader in literature. And that's what writing is all about - connecting.

Writer’s Block: I think it's more accurately called writer's fear because writer's block is really just the fear of writing stuff you'd later be ashamed of. The trick is to not be afraid, by realizing you can edit out the crap later.

The Myth: The biggest myth about writing is that everything which comes out of your mouth is going to be wise or witty or interesting. Most of the time I speak a load of crap.

If I wasn't a writer, I'd be: a synchronized swimmer (see answer above).

Things I wish I'd known:

Writing life - Don't spend the money before the cheque is in the bank.
Personal life - Getting 'romantic' in the shower can result in serious injury.

Life is: nothing like a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump was wrong.

Author bio: Andrea Semple is the author of "The Ex-Factor" (Piatkus) and "The Make-Up Girl" (Piatkus, July 2004).

She's also worked as a freelance journalist, completing lifestyle features for "The Guardian", "The Independent" and "Eve" magazine. She publishes a monthly email newsletter for writers. Before her writing career took off, Semple worked as a nightclub manager in Ibiza. Semple lives in Leeds (UK), with partner Matt Haig, who recently published his first book, "The Last Family in England". Read the first chapter of "The Make-Up Girl" here.

Catch more Books/Writers features in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

SCI/TECH: Physics: Black Hole as Studio Apartment

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said today that black holes, the hypothetical vortexes formed from collapsed stars, don't destroy everything they consume but instead eventually fire out matter and energy "in a mangled form."

Hawking ("A Brief History of Time") presented his re-view at the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland, in response to a core paradox in current scientific thinking that's been keeping scientists awake at night for ages (or at least the last 200 years):

How can black holes destroy all traces of consumed matter and energy,
when subatomic theory postulates that energy can't be created or destroyed?

Hawking's answer: black holes capture and retain their contents for eons, but eventually disintegrate. The transformed contents of the black hole reappear, in mangled form.

From the abstract: "The information paradox for black holes"

The Euclidean path integral over all topologically trivial metrics can be done by time slicing and so is unitary when analytically continued to the Lorentzian. On the other hand, the path integral over all topologically non-trivial metrics is asymptotically independent of the initial state. Thus the total path integral is unitary and information is not lost in the formation and evaporation of black holes. The way the information gets out seems to be that a true event horizon never forms, just an apparent horizon.

Previously, Hawking argued for the possibility that matter travels through the black hole to a new parallel universe (a familiar concept in science fiction).

"I'm sorry to disappoint science fiction fans, but if information is preserved, there is no possibility of using black holes to travel to other universes," he said. "If you jump into a black hole, your mass energy will be returned to our universe, but in a mangled form, which contains the information about what you were like, but in an unrecognizable state."

Sort of like the morning after a very large party at a very small studio apartment. Especially in Paris or New York.

[Material from AP newswire used as the primary source for this post. Abstract from official site, GR17.]


LIVES: Joanna McMeikan, singer/songwriter

"I used to dream in blacks and indigos/Like a murder of crows/In Van Gogh's dark horizons..."

Songs are journeys through ideas, workings-through of ideas, and ideas are everywhere. And nowhere, for that matter - sometimes ideas seem to pop into my head out of the ether.

Inspiration comes from everywhere. It really can be anything; a painting that moves me, a film that makes me think, a poem, a memorable moment in my life, a feeling I'm working through, a face I see on the street, pain, joy, confusion...anything that jumps out and grabs my attention.

I'm forever getting lyric and melody snippets while I'm driving or talking or walking or just going about my daily routine thinking about something else entirely.

After years of lost material, I finally learned to keep a cell phone in my car and now I call my answering machine whenever I have a song idea and hum or dictate it for myself so that I have it on record someplace.


That element varies wildly. The fastest it ever happened was with a song called "Goodbye"(not on this album), which came to me in a blinding flash, and almost wrote itself, as if it were being dictated to me from somewhere else. I think it took about 20 minutes.

The longest period I can think of between concept and completion was a song called
"Past Unconditional" (track 6 on "Breaking the Habit"):

From: "Past Unconditional":

A hole in the clouds and I fall through
Another life another time another me another you

A cave underground that I crawl through
Another life another time another me another you

Lost on the edge again,
you taste the earth
And wonder how to begin
Smoke your cheap cigarettes,
take your cynical brushes
And color my skin

And when our dark eyes meet, time freezes
Oxygen burns
Back in the bloodstream again, the only addiction
That always returns

And what makes a love?
Is history enough?
What makes a love?
Is poetry enough?
What makes a love?
Is chemistry enough?
What makes a love?
Is honesty enough?...

And when I look in your eyes
I see lives behind lives
beyond truth beyond space
beyond time...

I wrote the lyrics for this very quickly after an inspiring day with a friend at an art exhibit of Lee Krasner's work (Krasner was Jackson Pollock's wife).

We'd been discussing reincarnation, creativity, karma and TS Eliot, among other things.

I knew the song would be largely spoken, and I had an overview of how the parts would fit together, but I just couldn't quite make it work.

So it sat in my half-written songs folder for three or four years.

I'd think of it from time to time, have an idea for it, forget about it; then suddenly one morning, when I was halfway through working on "Breaking the Habit" and not thinking about this song at all, I woke up and knew I could crack it.

I can't explain it any other way, I just knew it was ready to be born, and it wanted to be part of the album. So I sat down at the keyboard and a few hours later had the outline for much of the recording you hear on the CD.

I write differently every time - sometimes music first, sometimes lyrics, sometimes melodic or rhythmic ideas that the song gets built around; sometimes an idea comes to me in the car like a gift, sometimes I sit down at the piano and go hunting for inspiration.

It's all very haphazard. I know this is different for everyone - but for me, songs that matter to me artistically (writing on commission is something else entirely because less of your soul is invested) are born however and whenever they want to be born, there's no incantation or ritual that's going to bring one along when it's not ready to occur.


Talent is absolutely necessary at the higher levels of playing music. You can't train that spark into someone who hasn't got it. You can train them to be competent -- but never brilliant. Then again, if you have the talent but don't train it, it's worse than useless. So, both are necessary.


Every song I have ever written has its basis in something that happened to me or to someone I know, or to someone or something in an artwork that I relate to in some way.

This is not to say that every song is a literal and true depiction of my life; I often take poetic license and add fictional elements and exaggerate the parts that seem most interesting in order to explore whatever feeling or issue I am trying to explore.

All of the songs on "Breaking the Habit" have some piece of my experience in them, sometimes exactly as I tell it, sometimes quite far removed and sideways.

Know what, though, I don't think there's much difference at all between fiction and real life; both are essentially stories, adventures, comedies, tragedies that get made up as we go along.

If there's a difference, I suppose it's that we have less control over our real life, and the ends are seldom neatly tied-up. The ink goes down on the page but much of the process is largely beyond our control or understanding.

And because we're unavoidably embroiled in it, in a temporal sense, living from moment to moment, I think the question of whether real life is as predetermined, as set in stone as a completed work of fiction, becomes largely irrelevant - since we have to experience it as choice either way. So then the most important lesson becomes learning to let go.


The most insightful thing anyone ever said to me was: "It's all about expectation."
To be honest I'm not sure who said it - it may have been my friend Cheryl, or it may have come from a Buddhist text of some sort.

Wherever it came from, it was a life-changing lesson for me. I think almost all unhappiness comes from deflated expectation. We're all forever painting pictures in our minds of how things are going to be, how we expect things to go, and then we freeze-frame our idea of things and invest so much in the frozen image that when the actuality happens and is not exactly what we decided we wanted, we feel cheated somehow.

Even worse, when this happens to people who are not living in awareness of themselves and their emotions, they can often go into a place of great fear and start striking out blindly.

You can see a macrocosm of this process any time there's a war. It's all rooted in fear. We'd all be so much better off just floating, untethered to expectation, free to navigate the ebb and flow of the river and negotiate the bends as they come -- which is not to say we can't plan things or hope for things, just that we shouldn't get so invested in specific outcomes that we can't appreciate the surprising realities that often pop up, and the unexpected rewards and lessons they can bring.

I make a conscious effort to remember that, and practice it a tiny bit more every day. It's going to take me a lot more than a lifetime to get good at it.


For the title of my first album -- I actually went looking for it. I gathered together the songs I wanted, and looked at what they had in common, at what had defined that period of my life.

What I found was a number of songs about obsession, addiction and trying to break out of damaging patterns of behavior - in a few different ways, but most conspicuously in the relationship arena. So, "Breaking the Habit" it was.

In this album, I was working through ideas of obsessive, compulsive, addictive behaviors.

Also, generally, ideas about living a conscious life and letting go of expectations and obsessions, ideas about reincarnation, about distorted reality perception, about love and anger, about youth and age, about that kind of bittersweet starlit universal sadness that can seep in under your skin on lonely evenings.

I used different sides of the experience of being in love as one way to explore the idea of obsession. And of course there is an endless amount to comment on in the love arena, and so much we don't understand about it.

That's why artists never stop exploring the topic - and why so few of us ever really get relationships quite right.


Music is the ultimate universal language. It speaks directly to the soul. It crosses boundaries of country, belief, gender, race and sexuality.

It's one of the only things I can think of in this mundane, harsh, confusing world that actually is magical. It soothes, it feeds, it inspires -- what could be more necessary than that?


I'm trying to be more Zen, to be calmer and more accepting in life...but until I succeed, here's a short list of stuff that really irritates me:

- Los Angeles traffic jams
- People who eat noisily and smack their lips together (my friend and I call this "groinking")
- George Bush
- People who spit in the street
- Physical violence, particularly the strong attacking the weak. One of my big personal peeves is the way people treat animals, as if their lives were somehow not worthy of respect and care.
- Chewing gum/bubble gum
- Prejudice/racism/sexism/homophobia/fitness and diet Nazis/religious zealots/anything with a clique or an "I know better than you do and I'm going to tell you all about it" type of mentality behind it
- Getting sick when I have things to do

Something that puzzles me: All of the above.


All my life I've been fascinated by reality perception. How do we create the bubble we each call reality and why do we have a tendency to assume our bubble is the 'real' bubble?

Is 'insanity' simply what happens when you create a reality that not enough other people in a particular society are willing to corroborate?

When we very clearly do not have the whole picture (as to why we are here, if there is a reason, what happens next, what are we doing and so on), isn't it somewhat insane for anyone to assume they know anything at all?

I'm not sure that there are answers available to us here. Just more questions, layers of onion, deeper and deeper. But I've certainly delved a long way into the question and continue to do so.

"When you've seen through the mirror, how can you unlearn?"


Songwriting is an incredibly cathartic process for me. If I'm thinking about an aspect of my experience or life in general, chewing it over in my mind, or if I'm suffering in some way, it will inevitably end up scribbled down in song lines on a piece of paper somewhere, and because songwriting is such a process of condensation, it's the perfect means to work through something and come to a place of peace with it.

You really don't have much time to say anything in a song -- you have to express yourself in a couple of verses and a chorus - you have to boil your story down to its essential elements, and that unavoidably leads to a greater understanding of the core, the center, of what you're trying to get at. The truth of whatever you're feeling.

Writer's block? Oh, God, yes! It exists. Sometimes, the well is just dry, dry, dry.
When that happens, I think it's best to walk away and go do something else for a while.


I absolutely love Joni Mitchell as a songwriter, I think she's just an amazingly talented poet and musician.

Lines like: "You are in my blood like holy wine/you taste so bitter/and so sweet/Oh I could drink a case of you/And still be on my feet" just blow me away.

And her albums are packed with lyrics as good as that one, and music of equal caliber. Kate Bush is also a favorite of mine, she's so individual and unafraid, such a creative trailblazer. Other artists I listen to a lot would be Sting, Tori, Alanis, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Beck, and many others.

Songs I wish I'd written: There are so many!

A few I can think of offhand would be: "A Case of You" by Joni Mitchell, "Shape of my Heart" by Sting, Sheryl Crow's "Weather Channel", Aimee Mann's "Wise Up", Billy Joel "And So It Goes", Tori Amos' "God", Beck's "Paper Tiger"...but I could go on and on.

On a related subject, the performance I wish I'd sung, or the performance that affects me the most strongly, is Eva Cassidy's rendition of "Over the Rainbow" on the "Songbird" CD.

I have to listen to it sparingly, since I can't get all the way through it without crying. I think Eva had an absolutely unparalleled genius for heartfelt vocal performance.

As for books - I studied English Language and Literature at college, so I've read far more than I ever wanted to and I'm sure most of it has influenced me one way or another.

A few writers I especially love, though, are poets Sylvia Plath, Shelley, Blake, TS Eliot, Yeats and Philip Larkin, psychologist James Hillman, sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, and Virginia Woolf.

Other things that interest me: Psychology and philosophy - particularly the areas where the two coincide, such as reality perception, the line between 'madness' and 'sanity'.

If I wasn't a singer/composer, I'd definitely be either a poet or a psychologist/psychiatrist/ psychological researcher in reality perception.

Or both.


What I'm reading right now: "Birthday Letters" by Ted Hughes, a collection of poems written just before he died, about his relationship with Sylvia Plath - almost a response, decades later, to her posthumous volume "Ariel".

I'm also halfway through "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche, which grounds me when I start losing it in the Los Angeles madworld.

Also love fine art, poetry and movies, and anything absurd or unusual. My favorite comedian is Eddie Izzard. If you haven't seen "Dressed to Kill," you're missing out.


I'm not a great believer in telling anyone my idea of what my songs mean, simply because I think one of the most beautiful things about a song, or any work of art, is how much it changes, metamorphoses, depending upon the eyes and the soul of the person who's viewing it.

So I'll just take the last song on the CD,"Today", and tell you the story behind the writing of it:


She walks every night
In a world without air
And there's blood on her hands
There's death in her hair
Watch her crawl
To the surfacing world
It ripples and shimmers
In the eyes of a girl

When you've seen through the mirror,
how can you unlearn?
Or make a return to straight lines?
Well, they say that in time we'll be saved -
It's a lie
All we have is today

They tore her away
From the place she was born
Now she spends all her days
Just trying to get home
And the answer she seeks
Drifts like foam on the seas
And the pain in her chest
Brings her down to her knees

When you've seen through the mirror,
how can you unlearn?
Or make a return to straight lines?
Well, they say that in time we'll be saved -
It's a lie
All we have is today.

Ah -
Soon I'll be under the earth
In dreams again...

I wrote "Today" as a poem, originally.  It was a little different from the song lyric as it now stands, it started something like:

"How do you come back from that place without air
When there's blood on your hands
When there's death in your hair..."

The poem was inspired by, of all things, a rerun of the final episode of "MASH", where all the doctors and nurses are finally going home. It got me thinking about servicemen and women who return from wars, and how jarring and surreal and beyond awful it must be to have to try to wrench yourself back into the workaday world after the hellish, inconceivable experiences of war.

Once I'd finished the poem, it touched me, and it seemed like it wanted to be a song. So I sat down at the piano. I knew it was going to be eerie and intensely intimate, so I chose F minor (my favorite key) and kept it minimal, leaving a lot of space to say what the words don't. Music and melody flowed along fairly easily.

For the chorus, I adapted some lines from the poem's second verse, which went something like this:

"When you've seen through the mirror, how then to unlearn?
Or make a return to the straightening line?
The eye of the storm in its spiral and gyre
Cries 'Time. Only time. Only time. Only time.'"

Somehow, though, once I'd reached "or make a return to straight lines", the song itself took over and refused to accept the idea of the poem, which was that time can at least go some way toward healing.

The song didn't want to be so simplistic, I guess, and the melody and lyrics:

"Well, they say that in time/we'll be saved/It's a lie/All we have is today" appeared in their entirety out of the ether. Or maybe out of the music.

I'm never quite sure how that happens, all I know is those lyrics were not part of my intention. But they settled into the song, and that was that.

I wrote the second verse in the usual way, and once that was done, the whole song seemed to have another facet to it somehow.

It now seemed to contain an additional story about being ripped away from the place we came from and forced to live out these lives, never knowing how or why...and so the closing lines came into being, tying up both the element of dreamscape and the element of life/death that were now running through the song alongside everything else.

My favorite thing about "Today" is that I think it's wide open for interpretation. I think it will mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people, and that makes me happy.

Artist bio: Joanna McMeikan's songwriting has been described as "pathological", "unforgettably original" and "hauntingly beautiful"; her memorable vocal style as "Loreena McKennit meets Natalie Merchant, with a little Tori Amos thrown in for good measure".

Joanna was born in England and trained in classical piano. She focused on her other passion - writing - during her college years, studying English Language and Literature at Oxford University; but she sang in choirs and musicals, a cappella groups and bands along the way.

Arriving in Los Angeles in 1996, Joanna found day jobs on the TV shows "Frasier" and "Star Trek", did session work for Vitamin Records and the Animal Planet channel, and formed the band DragonEye in 1999.

She had a moment of epiphany when she realized she could combine her two great passions by penning the band's original material as well as performing it. She has been writing songs like a crazed thing ever since, pausing only to compose a couple of film scores (including the award-winning short "The Picnic").

Her solo debut "Breaking the Habit" was released in February 2004. The album was co-produced by McMeikan and Mario Maisonnave. She will be playing live in Los Angeles very soon. Find out more about this artist, and download track #1 "Again" for free, at her official site.



Fantasy Filmfest
July 21 - August 18

Boom-sha-la-la-la, it's the magickal horror/fantasy tour.

Starting out in Munich, and cutting a creepy swathe through Stuttgart, Cologne and Frankfurt, to a final weeklong blow-out in Berlin, the Fantasy Filmfest dishes everything from haute horreur to gore-n-splatter.

The festival kicks off with black comedy/fantasy "Kontroll". The film centers on a group of ticket inspectors and a killer having a field day on the Budapest metro.

Also in the 'recurring horror theme/cautionary tale' category, "Perfect Strangers", in which the protagonist learns that her dark prince charming is, in effect, not. He's played by Sam Neill, who has this penchant for playing quiet, bug-eyed lunatics.

Then there's first-time director Greg Page's ghost-horror film "The Locals," which tells the story of friends Grant and Paul, who hit the road for a weekend of surfing and booze, etcetera. Instead, they meet...The Locals. Mouha-ha-ha.

Urban legend springs to life in "Koma," a psychological thriller that kicks off with that 'wakes up missing a kidney' scenario.

Directed by Lo Chi-Leung, "Koma" unites Hong Kong horror queens Lee Sinje ("The Eye") and Karena Lam ("Inner Sense"), in a game where the victim and the victimizer can no longer keep their identities separate.

For folks who get a kick out of luxuriating in paranoia, there's "Freeze Frame", "The Machinist" and "Hanging Offense". They're all various takes on the theory that if you believe they're out to get you, one day you just might be right.

In the blood-as-impressionist-art category, try "Dead and Breakfast", featuring six friends who get stranded in Lovelock, featuring David Carradine as a Buddhist innkeeper, and, of course, The Locals.

A creepier gore option: "The Ordeal". Which, like the title "Funny Games," kinda tells the story right there.

Full-on action in several wire-fu/thriller/fantasy hybrids: "Dead End Run", "The Twins Effect/Chin Gei Bin", or "Sword in the Moon".

Swordplay epic "Azumi", features kick-ass swordswoman Azumi, trained since birth as a master assassin.

Another option: "Arahan," which starts off with the premise that the guardians of galactic peace are actually rumpled, ordinary folks:

"Arahan": 2004 A.D. -- In the midst of Seoul, where high-res camera phones, MP3s and iPods capture the attention of the young...window-cleaners calmly carry on their job, dangling thousands of feet above the ground. Wrinkled grannies on the street handle heavy satchels as if they were air-filled balloons. What if these are the masters of the secret disciplines of the East, preserving the peace of our world without our knowledge?

Next off, the satanic-possession-film-batch, headed up by the world premiere of "Strandvaskeren/The Drowning Ghost"; middling storyline about weird doings at an all-girl school, but some creepy visuals. In "Evil Words", a horror novelist seems to be the catalyst for a horrific killing spree.

Moving on to the more esoteric, there's "Nothing," a surrealistic comedy by the same director who popped up with sci-fi/thriller oddity "Cube" in 1997.

This time around, the protags know each other - but that doesn't help them any. Best friends Dave and Andrew wish they could escape from their dead-end jobs and boring lives.

They get what they wished for - sort of. They open the door to the outside world to find that nothing exists beyond a white void of non-being.

What they've got: Themselves. Their house. And nothing. Are they dead? Is life just on 'pause'? Can they write anything on their blank slate?

Questioning their existence, Andrew and Dave ultimately reject these hypotheses: after all, they still have cable...

[Shown: "Immortel (Ad Vitam)"]

Next up, anime meets live action in "Immortel (Ad Vitam)".

Visually mind-blowing, but skimpy on plot, "Immortel" is the dark sci-fi/cyberpunk brainchild of comics-artist-turned-director, Enki Bilal.

It's New York City, 2095 A.D. or thereabouts; eugenics is getting a bad rep, mysterious messages appear around the city, signed by the 'spirit of Nikopol', the ancient Egyptian gods gang up on Horus in their pyramid, which is busy floating in mid-air over the post-apocalyptic gloom of New York City. As this is (still) New York City, no one notices.

Horus is looking for a one night stand with a girl who is, inexplicably, blue. Mystery man Nikopol finally puts in an appearance and loses a leg, Horus ropes him into tracking down the girl with the blue tears, further incomprehensibility ensues.

A doctor and a serial killer show up, and, incidentally, there's an election going on.

Keep your eye on the blue girl. The movie's about her.

The meandering storyline is drawn from two of Bilal's graphic novels: "La Foire aux Immortels/Carnival of Immortals" and "La Femme Piège/The Woman Trap" in his Nikopol Trilogy (the last volume is "Froid Équateur").

Lastly, for everyone who saw "The Ring" and got the jeebies about TV screens - here comes a brand-new way to scare yourself.

It's "Ringu" all over again, only this time it's all about the creepyhaha dial tone, in "One Missed Call".

What goes down: Yumi Nakamura is out drinking with her friend Yoko, when Yoko receives a call on her cell phone.

The ring tone is completely new to her - the display reads 'One Missed Call'. When she checks the message, it seems to have originated from her own phone.

Even weirder, there are screams that sound like her own on the message, but the timestamp on the message is dated three days into the future. Hmmm.

Three days later, at the exact time of the call and with the same piercing scream, Yoko plunges to her death from a railway bridge.

Kenji, another friend of Yumi's, receives the same sort of call. Poof. Gone.

One more victim. Same ol' creepy ring. Everybody is still hanging around with Yumi, but why, we don't know, because it's not like she's bringing them any good news, if you catch our drift.

This time, Yumi's best friend, Natsumi receives the call of doom, but the message is a little different. Video footage on the phone's display shows someone sneaking up behind her own terror-stricken self.

Natsumi knows she is doomed and starts to lose it. Ignoring Yumi's pleas, she agrees to go on TV live and undergo an exorcism at the hour she is predicted to die.

Meanhile, Yumi, who's understandably freaked at her new role as incidental slingshot-of-doom, teams up with oddball funeral director, Hiroshi Yamashita (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whose sister was killed by the same horrifying curse.

The two of them follow the trail of deaths, trying to make sense of it all. As do we all.

Natsumi's moment of truth approaches. At the forecasted moment, live on national TV, she dies a horrifying death, which makes for some killer ratings.

As bad-luck-babe Yumi and funereal cutie Yamashita gaze down on Natsumi's twisted corpse...Yumi's phone begins to ring.

(Is anybody else wondering what would've happened if they'd just...picked up? Death gets caught out on the other end making a crank call, and has to cover: "Er, sorry, wrong number"?)

Director Takashi Miike had a blast shooting the film, saying he even scared himself. 'Course, we can wait for the new "One Missed Call" ringtone to start surfacing any day, now. Brrr-ing.

NB: Yes, there really is a street called Nymphenburger. Quit bugging us to say it sounds rather rude. Genau. Blame it on those mad Bavarians.

Find it:
MUNICH July 21-28
Cinema, Nymphenburgerstrasse, 31
Get info: 089-55-52-55
City, Sonnenstrasse, 12
Get info: 089-59-1983

BERLIN August 11-18
Cinemaxx, Potsdamerstrasse,5
Get info: 01805-246-36-299

Tour schedule:
Munich, July 21-28
Stuttgart, July 28 - August 4th
Frankfurt, August 4th-11th
Cologne, August 4th-11th
Hamburg, August 11th-18th
Berlin, August 11th-18th

Get pre-fest previews for other offbeat film festivals, in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".



"Fantastic Fiction" Reading
July 21

James Blaylock, "Thirteen Phantasms"
Steven Popkes,"Winters are Hard"
The Fantastic Fiction series, curated by Ellen Datlow and Gavin J. Grant,
is on the third Wednesday of every month at 7pm at KGB. Come early.

"Thirteen Phantasms": The first short story collection from Philip K. Dick Award-winning author James Blaylock features sixteen thought-provoking forays into the fantastic - from a tale of alien influence on an ordinary neighborhood to the story of one man's self-destructive obsession with a dragon.

"Winters are Hard": In the tradition of most writers, Steven Popkes’ job has been what comes immediately to hand: house restorer to morgue tech to software engineer to white water rafting guide. He's the author of "Caliban Landing" and "Slow Lightning".

He shares his birthday with John Lennon and was married on the ten-year anniversary of his death. Both were coincidences and discovered after the fact.

Excerpt, "Winters are Hard", by Steven Popkes:

I let the silence go on for a bit. "I wasn't sure you would see me."

He shrugged. "Why not? What could you do to me now?"

I ignored that. "You're not a wolf anymore."
"I was never a wolf."
"Yes you were."

He looked at me.

I spread my hands. "Not in shape, of course. But you had left people behind. You didn't start coming back to civilization until I threatened you. Until you had something to lose."

He watched me a moment, then looked back outside. "Autumn's coming."

"It does that."

He grunted and didn't speak.

Finally, I asked: "Why did you do it?"

"Kill Bernard."

Jack held up his hands. "What else could I do? He killed Raksha's pup. Raksha would have killed him if I hadn't killed him first. Then, she would have been destroyed. Better me than her." He turned back to the window.

"You could have gotten off completely," I said. "Did you know that?"

He shrugged.

"Was it Warburg's idea?" I looked around the room, the antiseptic white and beige of the walls. Outside were the guards and the exercise field and the cells. "You can appeal. You can say you were given inadequate counsel. You were given inadequate counsel. That's absolutely true. She should never have taken the deal. You could have been on your way back to Beck-Lewis that afternoon."

"It wasn't Warburg's idea," he said softly. "It was mine. All of this was my fault." He looked up at me for a long time, shook his head and turned away.

And I understood.

I looked out the window. The weather had become clear and the late summer light had changed character and taken on the soft golden glow of approaching autumn. The air looked cool, a sheath of velvet pleasantly covering a cold knife.

Jack looked outside. In one of those rare and perfect telepathic moments between human beings, I knew what he was seeing.

Through one of the many cams that hovered over the pack, or through the eyes of a tourist, or a naturalist or just somebody who wanted to touch her, was Raksha. Now the center of a hungry and ever growing crowd, the elk gone, the grass trampled, playing as best she can with the now almost grown pups, then joining with the rest of the pack, howling against the coming snow.

"Winters," Jack said at last. "Winters are hard."
© Steven Popkes and SciFi.com

Find it: 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Get info: (212) 505-3360 

Get advance notice of other upcoming events, in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

TRAVEL/Road Trips: "The Road is My Home"
by Sasha Mullins

The road is her home: the woman rider is a nomad, an adventurer, a discoverer.

She is curious. She is both leader and guide on the journey of life for herself, her friends, and family.

She is an explorer and a pioneer discovering layers of wisdom and talent hidden in the dull recesses of everyday life.

Motorcycle riding piques awareness in the highest state. Rain sounds like an orchestra tumbling notes as drops strike metal, plastic, and rubber.

The sky morphs into a storyboard of cloudy tales. The terrain communicates with your inner territory to address the empty barren wasteland of a personal canvas awaiting color from the brush of self-renewal.

The urban tangle becomes a mental foray into harnessing one's focus. The mountain top becomes something not to conquer but to achieve.

The wistful prairie mimics the hypnotic rolling sound of rubber humming along highway. And the asphalt ribbon never ends, leading to whatever, whenever because you are present to the beauty of each moment.

The motorcycle offers an intensifying voyage into joy.

Sexy, powerful, and free describes the woman who rides a motorcycle whether she drives it, passengers, or races. The female gender is powerful in its own right, in its own design and instinct.

The female biker is in control because she is aware of her personality, her needs, her womanhood, and especially aware of all that surrounds her.

Often the road that she follows to finally take hold of her destiny is filled with endless potholes, gravel, and uphill climbs, and the motorcycle rides her away from the same old pitted, dark trail and onto her light-filled purposeful path.

The bikerlady is a woman free to be herself, a woman who is sexy because she allows the seduction of the road to awaken all of her senses full throttle. She lives on the edge of her own personality and grabs hold of chance opportunity.

She embraces whatever the winds of change offer that will completely expose and reveal her inner radiance, even if it may tear her apart, because that will shed her old self.

Let’s talk about "sexy". Sexy is all your senses fully engaged and alive...It is an awareness that unites your bodily senses, mind, and soul in an orgasmic celebration of spirit.

It is sexy because we begin to love and accept ourselves, warts and all. Engaged in the passion of windy freedom on the road, we experience confidence. That is SEXY. That is power.

The motorcycle. Chrome, steel, rubber. A machine. But it is more than just a two-wheeled form of transportation.

Everyone who rides has her own reason to love motorcycles, but the seduction of the winding road and motorcycles cannot be explained.

Harley-Davidson coined the phrase, "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand."

Riding a motorcycle takes us away from space and time into a silent abyss of oneself; the spirit is free to be and the mind can't help but release that which holds it prisoner, be it time constraints, responsibility, adversity, perceptions of others, whatever life experiences keep us from freedom and joy.

Time doesn't exist. Space is boundless.

Motorcycling allows us to connect with all that surrounds us because we are so vulnerable and completely exposed to our journeys.

We are available to become a character in our own road story. Whatever happens, happens and we both welcome the adventure and become it.

The motorcycle smashes down any barrier dictating what we can and cannot do. It crushes boundaries that cage our identity from free expression and breaks through glass ceilings that keep us from soaring and realizing our dreams.

But why the motorcycle? Why not a car or a bicycle? The reason is that while those vehicles can also produce a free feeling, it’s nothing like being on a motorcycle.

A motorcycle is raw and exposed -- it is a panoramic experience and perspective on life.

It can gallop into a small town, a large city or a gas station and invite camaraderie, human interest, and communication. Hey, roll down all the car windows, but you’ll never escape that steel cocoon or even come close to the rush of wind and freedom you feel when galloping down the road on your steel horse.

On a motorcycle, you glide deep into uphill twists and turns. You’ll never break the same sweat you would pedaling a bicycle, but the unity of flesh and steel at breakneck speed, dipping and soaring, is life transforming.

You get a workout most health and fitness magazines wouldn’t feature: that of the body, mind, and soul united with a chrome horse to simulate a feeling of flying. Flesh and steel become one. On this journey, one cannot go forth without the other.

Riding for hundreds of miles facing the unpredictable environmental conditions provides somewhat of a physical workout -- but the mind, the heart, and soul get the greatest workout. To cruise the endless ribbons of highway completely exposed to nature’s mood swings; it’s fun, it's power, it's sexy, it's freedom.

Free will. Free to be. And what results from freedom is a banquet of gratitude that emanates from the absolute core of our souls: We are in awe of the riding experience, so we thank God, the sky, the earth, the journey, our motorcycles, like an endless highway mantra...

Riding my motorcycle, I move as fast as I can away from the weight of the world and feel every sorrow, worry, insecurity, fear, regret, and shame rip away, like shedding an old skin.

The real me is set free. Nothing remains the same, change is constant and inviting - the motorcycle is an old friend, familiar with my every move and thought. The motorcycle completes me. It finishes my sentences and answers my questions.

The road introduces us to uncommon experiences that are life transforming. When we ride, we meet people who change our lives.

Riding makes you release judgment and suddenly you think, "to each her own." There are different types of riders in the motorcycle lifestyle, indeed.

The culture is about the freedom to be who you are; I respect all riders and wish them well on their journeys.

Motorcycle riding helps us focus on our dreams and goals because it clears our minds and fills us with youthful enthusiasm.

Riding takes us back to childhood. We smell like the outdoors, just like when we were children, running free with our hair all wild and laughing at simply nothing at all.

We didn't care if our faces were dirty then and we don't care if they're dirty from miles of road dust. All of this - the freedom, the play, the wonder, the power of controlling our own - is the magic of riding a motorcycle.

Oh, the danger of it all. Oftentimes folks will only admire motorcycles from a distance because the machines are vulnerable to highway speeds, to dopey drivers and hapless animals.

But we love that vulnerability! We love the wild road. We love exposing ourselves to the panoramic experience of life on two wheels. Life ain’t a safe warm blanket.

As riders, we love to open our souls to the powerful experience of riding a motorcycle and anticipating the unknown outcome of a journey.

When we return from a trip, whether short or long, we have come from visiting that secret place in the wind where self meets soul...


I'm in the mood. The rising sun and blue heaven outside are inviting me to enjoy an adventure.

But I have work to do. I have errands and chores that have been abandoned all week in favor of more important duties like career, family needs, and miscellaneous urgent matters screaming for my immediate attention.

So much to do. I even set my alarm for a ridiculously early hour on a Saturday morning to get a jump start on the day, but where do I begin?

Deep breath. Let me start by realigning my priorities. I decide to wear my leather chaps to ward off the early chill and take my rain gear just in case.

I need to get the hell out of town.

With my dark Rapunzel-length hair still tousled into a bed head mess, I skip over to the parking garage a few blocks away to get one of my motorcycles. A silly smile rises as I mull over which route to take into the unknown.

I love magical mystery style jaunts, but planning is essential, too. The urban jungle of New York City's Upper West Side is home for me. In my neighborhood, I'm affectionately known as "the motorcycle lady" or "bikerlady."

I gun the throttle to let traffic know that I'm cutting in and roar away; pure elation seems to lift the machine right off the ground and I feel like I'm hydroplaning from excitement.

An unplanned, free-wheeling jaunt is outrageous fun and a tasty break from an over scheduled lifestyle, but preparation builds confidence and fosters awareness. Preparation gives us freedom to discover and experience with reduced fear.

Whenever I ride, there are basic essentials that I always carry just in case the wanderlust in my gypsy soul decides to extend the day trip into two days or more, and also in case the bike has her moment.

In the left saddlebag is TLC riding stuff for me: rain gear, Ziploc baggies (to keep stuff dry) containing extra panties, socks, lady moon (feminine) supplies, a first aid kit, Wetnaps, travel-size toiletries, sun block, Advil, moisturizer, a little camera, bandannas, a sweatshirt, flip-flops, cut-off shorts, and a black silver scripted baseball cap with"It's All Good" inscribed on the front and"Biker Chick" on the back.

In the right bag is TLC stuff for the bike: a small tool kit; extra spark plugs, fuses, and bulbs, a tire gauge and patch kit; clear eye glasses; hundred-mile-an-hour tape (a.k.a. duct tape) and electrical tape; bungee cords; a flashlight; extra leather gloves; medical gloves; sandwich baggies (for water leaks in boots or gloves); maps; bike locks; rags; cleaner; and the bike’s mini owner manual.

In my waist satchel: bubble gum, a Swiss army knife, matches, antibacterial hand gel, lipstick, a mirror, earplugs, scented body oil, tissues, super glue, my wallet with ID and bike papers, vitamins, and a cell phone loaded with essential numbers.

It’s both risky and risqué to ride. To be a true free spirit requires a bit of risk management, too. So the maternal instinct springs forth to offer tender loving pre-ride care.

Bikers use the "T-Clock" inspection method to check the mechanical functions: Tires, Controls, Lights and electrics, Oils and fluids, Chassis and chain, Kickstand.

On a Harley, it's a known fact that you've got to check for loose nuts and bolts every time you go for a ride and throughout the day.

After I finish my pre-ride inspection, I run upstairs to my apartment to wash away the grease from under my perfectly manicured nails.

I finish my make-up and braid my long, brown hair into one rope laced with colorful bands. Silver Native American jewelry decorates my wrist and fingers.

Then it’s a last-minute check to be sure that I have all I need for today’s great escape.

My two favorite leathers (a jacket and a shirt style)  get layered atop each other to ward off sunrise chill -- now it's time to head out on the highway and discover today's escapade.

The northbound West Side Highway delivers me bumping and shimmying all the way along its deeply worn grooves of well-traveled pavement to the George Washington Bridge.

Traffic is light and the sun has now stretched its golden rays over the skyline.

Just over the George Washington Bridge, instead of heading southbound to the beach, I swing onto the Palisades Parkway for a gorgeous ride along the Hudson River.

It’s hard to imagine that a few miles north of New York City are daring cliffs that resemble the sheer drops along the Pacific coastline.

Only twenty miles from the bridge and I'm in true suburbia, sailing through the air crisply scented with bouquets of roadside flora.

The canopy overhead is a lush late spring green and bursts of yellow, white, orange, and red wildflowers dot the meridian and sway along to the morning breeze.

As I cruise along the Palisades, I also notice lots of mowed-down fur. The dirty gym sock smell of fresh road kill that pierces through the otherwise perfumed atmosphere is so rancid that I breathe outward so I don't get nauseous.

A few months prior, I'd hit a deer on my motorcycle, but I managed to keep the bike upright.
It was a dewy, pretty morning and I was on my way back to the city.

I rounded a blind turn on a winding country road and there stood the animal. It dove right into my path.

Oh, I handled the whole thing with sheer grace. I screamed and swerved slightly away, slamming the frightened animal back onto the side of the road. Animal parts splashed my chaps and bike.

In horror, I rode to the nearest gas station to wash off. Bewildered folks with their powder-dusted donut mouths, sipping coffees, watched as I hosed off my chaps and the bike. My body shook from the flight-or-fight serum that pulsed through my veins.

Truth is, anything can try to take you down, on the road and in life. The key is to be prepared and aware.

A quick merge onto I-87 and I'm feeling so carefree that I break into singing Sheryl Crow's "Everyday is a Winding Road.'

There's no room for guilt at leaving behind the 'have to' chores. Those chores are always going to be there, no matter what; even if I get them all done, they'll reappear.

Time to fuel up and change the chewing gum, which has hardened into the consistency of cardboard.

I pull into a full-service rest stop and over to the gas station, lean over with my cash card, punch up the numbers, and feed my hog while fishing for some fresh bubble gum.

Another biker, nicknamed "Fuzz" because he's a cop, spots me and strolls over to say hi.
It turns out he's on a HOG (Harley Owners Group)  run with eighty other riders and I'm invited to join in.

I usually allow myself to be open to the day's opportunities but I decline, explaining that I'm on my own little journey today and thanking him for the invite.

At the next exit I cut off onto Route 32, a winding road through the Hudson Valley farmlands that will lead me into the middle of New Paltz.

As I gallop along the asphalt, I feel like an iron Godiva commanding the reins of her steel horse as my gloved hands gently operate the controls of the motorcycle.

The fringe on my chaps and jacket flutter wildly in the wind. My legs are stretched close alongside the rumbling V-Twin engine to keep warm.

As I gain a mile I gain freedom, I gain my sense of true self, I gain awareness, I gain power.

I leave behind the intense everyday rigors and structure necessary to keep it all together in a demanding lifestyle.

Each mile can tear away at another dutiful label placed upon us -- identities adopted so that we can interact accordingly in the various worlds that define our roles in life. The wind’s easy elimination process is a reminder of just how lightweight the sticking power of those labels really are.

The winding roads stimulate my creativity as a singer/songwriter. New verses to songs seem to compose themselves with every new mile. The wind and the ride are poetry in motion.

Sometimes I even pull over and dial up my production team and sing the lyrics over the phone to them, and then appear in the studio to lay down the vocals to the music they have created based upon my roadside phone call compositions.

That kind of creativity is God in the wind, pure and simple. I would have never known the extent of my creativity had it not been for my motorcycle.

It’s just after lunchtime when I arrive in Woodstock. The town is packed with visitors and the sidewalks are lined with motorcycles of all makes and models.

As soon as I park my Tigerlily, she lures people over for an "ooooh" and"ahhh" fest. She really does exemplify sexy, powerful, freedom and feminine prowess. The town is alive with street entertainment, an outdoor art show, and a musical tribute to the 1960s.

While I stroll through town, friendly hellos are shared between fellow motorcyclists as we recognize each other as moto-passionate individuals.

A large biker stuffed into crisp black leathers embossed with the Harley-Davidson logo everywhere taps me on the shoulder.

"So, where you off to today, lil' lady?" he asks, watching me through thick-lensed sunglasses.

Next to him is a round, bleach-blond woman with heavy fuchsia lipstick painted upon smiling lips.

"Just cruisin'. And you?" I reply.

"There's a pig roast over in Saugerties, next town over. It just started. These folks rent out a bunch of cabins and campsites at the KOA. You should come on over with us."

We make small talk about the riding day and ourselves. It turns out that George is a retired airline pilot and Margie is an environmental attorney. They met at Daytona Bike Week.

And that’s how bikers are, they don’t even know you, but will extend an invitation to join a good time. A definition of how the world ought to be, loving and caring towards one another no matter if you're strangers. I'm game.

So I follow the giant biker and his sweet girlfriend over to the bikes. Margie's Yamaha Road Star is painted completely pink with flowers and butterflies.

The inside of her windshield is taped with plastic-wrapped pictures of her grandkids, "her road angels."

Her leathers are beige with red roses. She is one stylin’ motorcycle mama. George rides an Ultra Touring Classic Harley-Davidson equipped with every modern convenience. They're happily retired from a previously structured existence and are now celebrating life and each other.

We head over to the roast. It’s a five-dollar entry fee. The party is high octane and there's a small band playing country and western tunes. It's great.

Bikers come from all walks of life and bond together because of their love for riding and freedom. Children are dangling from swing sets or playing tag among the leather clad and tattooed bikers. Two little girls are sitting on a motorcycle sidecar rig pretending they're riding.

About a hundred bikes are parked all over the woods. The host is a short fellow dressed in a ragged denim vest covered with ride pins and patches. His nickname is Peanuts.

Peanuts and George carve the roasted pig in front of a cheering, hungry crowd. It's a potluck picnic featuring homemade recipes from several committee bikers that spearhead the party.

I hang around for just three hours and in that short time, meet some really uproarious folks through George and Margie. These two road romantics know most of the people there and warmly introduce me as if I'm an immediate family member. We exchange telephone numbers. Again my riding family expands.

They invite me to George's granddaughter's birthday party next month. "It'll be a biker baby birthday bash," Margie giggles.

Since I want to cruise the back roads toward New York City and get home by nightfall, I say my good-byes and head home.

I love the serenity at dusk. It offers a gentle reflection of the day and serves up excitement for evening festivities.

The evening ride is smooth and peaceful as I glide along the highway now. I feel deliciously relaxed as the night air rushes against my face.

I'm just sweetly drifting in the wind. The road is so romantic that I almost wish I were riding alongside a fabulous chrome cowboy.

The evening also invites a bug fest and my windshield is getting pelted with all flavors. Although it feels exhilarating to ride without a shield, dead insects are better collected on the screen than on my face.

Many of my friends hate running with a shield, and it’s funny to see what they look like when we stop. Their faces are dotted with bug parts. Of course, I'm usually the one offering up the Wetnaps so they can clean the insect graveyards from their skin.

I've put the bandanna that's tied around my neck over my lips so I don't get insect goo inside my mouth. Now I look like some outlaw chick on the run from bugs.

I ride over the George Washington Bridge and witness the energy of Manhattan through her skyline lights.

Today, I leaped off the path of everyday rigors and rode away on the path of least resistance.

Cobwebs are cleared away, I can think clearly now and continue moving forward in my life. In one day and two hundred fifty miles, the ride brought me peace and an adventure. I met a new riding family, experienced the motorcycle magic through the eyes of babes, took control of my personal priorities, and let myself get spellbound with freedom and empowerment united as one with my motorcycle and the rapture of the wind.

Now, back to life.

[Shown: Sasha Mullins]

About this book: "The Road is My Home" is excerpted from the book "Bikerlady: Living and Riding Free" (Citadel Press), © Sasha Mullins. Used with permission.

About Mullins: Sasha Mullins is an author, stunt rider, TV host, motojournalist and singer/songwriter. She is the author of the book "Bikerlady: Living and Riding Free".

Sasha is a popular freelance journalist for several motorcycle publications like "American Iron," "Harley Davidson's HOG Tales," and "Thunder Press". She pulls a spontaneous road trip whenever the mood hits. She has also appeared in several documentaries about biker life. Recent sightings: TLC's "Biker Girls: Born to be Wild," with co-host and professional racer
Vicki Gray, and Discovery Channel's "Motorcycle Women". Mullins is currently at work on her next book.

Find more travel articles in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".



"The Big Nothing"
Through August 1st

On the offchance you've been waiting for it, here it is: a new show about absolutely nothing.

The void, the ineffable, the sublime, nonsense, nihilism, zero - all packed into Philly ICA's "The Big Nothing" exhibit.

Filling two floors and both main gallery spaces, the exhibition at Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art includes painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, video and film. So there's something about nothing for everyone.

In the first floor gallery: a hodge-podge of approaches to the big theme. Works by Andy Warhol and Richard Prince explore pop art's ties to vacuous consumer culture.

A different section approaches nothing from a more metaphysical angle: paintings by Jack Goldstein, for instance, depict "invisible" natural phenomena like heat or star clusters, while Yayoi Kusama's paintings represent the theme of infinity.

Philadelphia artist Thomas Chimes displays a series of nearly all-white paintings of romantic, dreamlike landscapes. His work also references work by nineteenth century writers Alfred Jarry ("Ubu Roi")and Edgar Allan Poe. Both of whom generally wrote stories about people who bopped along thinking nothing was wrong, but aha, there was. Boo.

Walk through the first floor gallery to reach works addressing reduction, refusal and negation. The section includes photographs by Louise Lawler, who takes pictures of empty or de-installed museum spaces.

Also on display, "Black Paintings" by Jutta Koether, their imagery blacked out and painted over by the artist during intense, discordant musical performances.

If that's not enough nothing for you, the ICA serves as the anchor venue for an entire series of exhibits and events in Philly, all about "The Big Nothing".

Take a significant other along. For once, you�ll have a great excuse to argue about nothing:

"It's art."
"No, it isn't."
"True. It isn't. But it's not supposed to be."
"Uhm, well, yeah, it is. Art has to have meaning."
"The meaning is non-meaning."
"Non-meaning means 'no meaning', right?"
"Not in this context."
"Not in this context? Now you're contradicting yourself. Think."
"You're not supposed to think. That's the whole point."
"So now I'm not supposed to think? Why'd we come, then?"

Have fun.

Then, once no one is talking to anyone (in keeping with the spirit of the 'big nothing' theme), park yourselves in the kino for "Entr'acte".

Continuous screenings of the film run from 10am-6pm on July 15th and 16th, in the ICA Auditorium. However, there will be literally no performance, as the eight musicians will be replaced by eight speakers 'playing' the live accompaniment to the film.

Failing that, there's the "Nothing Cabaret" on July 21st, at 7pm on the ICA Terrace.

On the program: A night of Dada celebration including sleight-of-hand, poetry, silence, and a screening of Andy Warhol's short film, "Sleep," which lives up to the title.

"Arte Six" nota bene to show co-sponsor Pew Charitable Trusts: We will be glad to contribute the remake of "Sleep", ("Sleep 2: The Big Sleep"), wherein that's what we'll do, for days on end, if you will kindly forward a whopping big grant and a fluffy pillow.

And if we rope Spencer Tunik into the whole deal, we will have NAKED sleeping people all over the streets of - everywhere.

While this will not improve traffic congestion, it will give everyone something to discuss on the morning commute.

Thanks so much.

Highlights elsewhere:

"Erasure" at Vox Populi
Through August 1st

From politics to personal concerns, the exhibition focuses on the act of destruction, what remains after the destruction, and the concept of memory or nostalgia for the destroyed object, idea or person.

"Strike" at Basekamp
July 9-August 20

"Strike" is a large-scale exhibition of artistic responses to a single question: How does/could/would the withdrawal of art affect the world?

Find it: Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
University of Pennsylvania
118 S. 36th St. Philadelphia, PA 19104-3289
Get info: (215) 898-5911

Find it: Vox Populi
41315 Cherry Street, 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Get info: (215) 568-5513

Find it: Basekamp
723 Chestnut Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Get info: (215) 206-8176

[Shown: "Bombhead", (2002)
Pigmented ink jet, acrylic paint on paper,
38 3/8 x 31 1/8
Bruce Conner
Courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery]

Find more art events in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

July 13, 8pm

This month's RES screening series features new short films from Suk & Koch,
Brett Simon and Cheryl Dunn, who presents the world premiere of "Come Mute."

Also screening: new music videos for Armand van Helden, Supergrass, Los Amigos Invisibles and Colder. Lastly, special guest Geoff McFetridge, who shares a retrospective of his graphic arts design and video work.

Highlights: Short films

"Come Mute"
Directed by Cheryl Dunn
The stultifying effects of office work take their toll, until the body breaks free, with infectious results.

Directed by Suk & Koch
A futuristic imagining of narcissistic duplication.

"The Sailor's Girl"
Directed by Brett Simon
A young woman with the ability to predict how one will die receives a dire portent
of her own death, but is unable to prevent her fated end.

Other: Videos

Bad Religion "Los Angeles is Burning"
Directed by Light-Borne
This cut-and-paste banger puts pretty much everything hated about LaLa land to the torch.

Thavius Beck "To Make Manifest"
Directed by Ben Barnes
Cops investigate a bloody crime scene while an abstract rapper puts his breath control to unexpectedly stealthy usage.

Los Amigos Invisibles "Playa Azul"
Directed by Carlos Lowenstein
It's hard for a group from Venezuela to struggle through the harsh North American winters -- until they meet their snowmen alter egos.

Colder "Crazy Love"
A sharp-looking rotoscoped clip featuring a running figure captured from all angles; directed by the musical artist.

Faultline "Biting Tongues"
Directed by Vernie Young
Techno-dub excursion brilliantly harnessed as the soundtrack to a magnificently colored, frenetic new vidfilm.

Also: Geoff McFetridge retrospective

This month's mini-retrospective features a selection of the work of graphics artist
and designer Geoff McFetridge, known for his work with Milk Fed and X-Large.

DJs Aurelito and Shakespeare of I&I Productions helm the decks at the screening
after-party: known in LA for their underground dancehall/prog/hip hop Chocolate Bar parties at Gabah, but mainly for their mission to bring the music to the people in their converted ice cream truck/mobile sound system.

Shakespeare, originally from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, bought the '69 ice cream truck
a few years ago, and spent nearly a year decking it out into a reggae/dancehall

Last thing: have a summer booze-up on the house, with complimentary drinks courtesy
Red Stripe and Izze.

[Shown: "The Sailor's Girl"]

Find it: Egyptian Theatre
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA
Get info: (310) 826-1298

Find more film screenings/events in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


Readings/San Francisco/"Mortal Love"
July 20, 7pm

"Mortal Love," a dark fantasy novel from Elizabeth Hand, explores the theme of artistic inspiration and its dangerous devolvement into obsession and madness.

In this compelling new work, Hand laces her story with references to the work of artists ranging from Algernon Swinburne to Kurt Cobain while capturing the intense emotions of her characters in exquisitely sculpted prose.

Elizabeth Hand is the award-winning author of six novels, including "Black Light" and "Waking the Moon." She co-created DC Comics' post-punk, post-feminist cult series "Anima."

Her one-act play, "The Have-Nots," was produced in 1997 and staged at London's Fringe Theater Festival.

Hand comments on the new book: "'Mortal Love' isn't so much a decadent novel as a Symbolist novel; not a book about the thing but the thing itself. Algernon Swinburne is a supporting character, and really upstages everyone else when he's around. The central female figure is a sort of avatar of the White Goddess; at least that's how mortals see her: her true nature is something else entirely..."

Related: Find out more about this book, and read the "Arte Six" author interview here.

Visit Hand's official site here.

Find it: The Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117
Get info: (415) 863-8688, (800) 493-7323

Find author reading/signing events in other cities, in the July issue of "Arte Six".


"NeoTokyo Girl Crush! 2040"
July 16, 23

Cult improv favorite "NeoTokyo Girl Crush! 2040" is back at the UCB Theatre every Friday, through July. The show uses the bizarre language of anime in a multimedia comedy show in which live actors portray Japanese cartoon archetypes in an original story.

Special effects are carried out by dark-suited kuroko (a convention borrowed from kabuki) that -- along with puppetry, video, projection, sound effects and lighting -- are used to recreate the unique look of anime for the live stage.

The story follows an American boy teaching conversational English in a questionable cram school, the superpowered schoolgirl who falls for him, and the perverted demon lady who has her own designs on him:

Can the kawaii schoolgirls of Girl Team Sakura fight off the very ecchi Mistress Yaoi from seducing their cram-school English teacher with her army of lustful tentacles. Who will win the all-NeoTokyo Pop Idol Contest to save the world from a transdimensional warlord in short pants? Baku baku for sweet strawberry? OK! Let's Girl Crush!

Find it: UCBT (Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)
307 W 26th St. (btwn 8th/9th Ave.)
New York NY 10011
Get info: (212) 366-9176

Find other theatre events in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".



Reel Venus Film Festival
July 20-22

Fledgling festival Reel Venus launched in 2003, to showcase film and video shorts by emerging and established female directors. The 2004 festival lineup includes 60 alternative and mainstream shorts from all genres, including regional work by New York City-based filmmakers. All screenings begin 6:30pm.

Highlights include "Downpour Resurfacing," directed by Frances Nkara (the film aired on the Independent Lens series this spring), and "Fasteners."

Directed by Marianne M. Kim, "Fasteners" is an experimental performance-based video inspired by the movement of Japanese Butoh and the writings of Nobel Prize winner Elias Cannetti. The short explores the phenomenon of volatile interdependence between twins.

Cocktail reception: July 19, 7pm
City Center in Studio 5, 130 West 56th Street

[Shown: Detail from "Fasteners". Director: Marianne M. Kim.]

Find it: Symphony Space in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater
95th and Broadway, NYC
Get info: (212) 714-8375

Find more film festivals worldwide, in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six"