MUSIC/Disc series
"The Fine Art of Poisoning"
Jill Tracy, singer/songwriter/composer/storyteller

Got absinthe? Combining the intellectual eroticism of Baudelaire, and the cheerful ghoulishness of illustrator Ed Gorey, this singer/songwriter spins intoxicating tales of mayhem....

Inspiration never comes from any one thing specifically. It's more of a sensory response to the immediate; a word or phrase, an image, a story, a mood, a fragrance, textures and colors, the allure of the unknown, the forbidden, anything that enables me to "slip into the cracks," venture beyond what confines people to the Everyday.

It's a process of living to honor the magic, being alive in that place, allowing the flame. My purpose is finding those trapdoors, prying up the floorboards...

There's no rhyme or reason; that's the beauty of it, the sheer randomness. Sometimes a song will manifest itself in minutes, other times songs will remain in fragments in notebooks for years.

I've learned that you can't wait for inspiration; you have to earn it. You've got to work, be disciplined. Be true to your craft. Read great books. Immerse yourself in the discovery of new things. Live your art. The imagination has to be exercised, just like the body.


People are born with a passion or an interest in varying degrees. For some, the vision is so singular and strong, there's no question that they are born to create music. They breathe it.

For others, perhaps family involvement, hobbies, or schooling has brought them to a conclusion that they want to pursue music as a job. There's a huge difference, obviously, between the two.

All songs begin with a seed of true life, be it from my own experiences, someone else's, or a longing thereof. That sordid past life we wish we were still living.

The difference? In real life, we won't be there to know how our story ends! That's the rub.


I'm a big believer in the fortune cookie philosophies. I tape those little white pieces of paper up everywhere. But I was taken aback when I stumbled across the quote: Just when everything seems to be falling apart, in the grand scheme it is merely falling into place.

Why do I remember that? Because it's absolutely true. It makes you realize that you don't know the magnitude of your own destiny. That phrase has helped keep me going through many a troubled time.


"Quintessentially Unreal" was a phrase that kept living in my head; the song came about from my attachment to the phrase and what it denotes.

The fact is that no matter how we perceive or pursue perfection, the quintessence of everything we aspire to, the reality will never be as good as the fantasy. Nothing ever will be. The ideal will always remain unreal.

I love that song; it's become an anthem for me, a song dedicated to dreamers. A song about not being afraid to admit that you long for something more. Resigning yourself to that fact. That what you really want can never exist.

"My music is a portal...I’m conjuring a mood, a magic place, getting out of this world for a little while. I love sharing that with my audience. It’s the grand escape."

"Into the Land of Phantoms" is the title of the album featuring my film score to F.W, Murnau's 1922 vampire classic, "Nosferatu."

There is that deliciously tense point in the film where the lead character is told to disembark the carriage. He is left alone to journey across a decrepit footbridge, a sinister landscape towering above him.

The carriage driver whispers: "We will go no further sir...into the land of phantoms."

In the context of a song, I’d say words and music have equal weight. The music will always evoke the initial response, luring the listener to travel further -- into the lyrics.

My music is a portal, a vehicle to transport the listener into another realm. When I write, I’m conjuring a mood, a magic place, getting out of this world for a little while. I love sharing that with my audience. It’s the grand escape.


Happy isn’t really much of a stretch, is it? It’s easy and nice; it certainly isn’t perpetual or puzzling.

But the allure of mystery, the dangerous seduction -- that’s where the truth lives, under those protective layers of comfort and convention we hide behind.

The courage to peel away those layers and indulge in what lies underneath, to challenge ourselves -- that is far more compelling.


Quite frankly, music is not necessary in daily life. Sadly, these days, people use music as a distraction, background noise, as an excuse not to engage, to cop an attitude, to ignore the present.

We need to embrace the silent moments, tune into our surroundings and hear ourselves, our own thoughts.

I often focus on the constant plight of the free thinker, the struggle of being yourself in a world that is trying its hardest to turn you into everybody else.

Staying true to yourself; that’s the hardest and most glorious battle of all.

And aside from the allure of mystery and the forbidden, I also strive to give voice to the fact that it’s essential to be confident in your desires.

There is no need for a person to be afraid to be sensual, or to feel deep emotion, from rapture to agony. Those are all facets of the same diamond. You need all those facets to realize the full beauty of the gem.


Writer’s block does rear its ugly head from time to time. After all, this is an intangible medium; you can’t schedule it and roll it out on an assembly line. The muse visits when she’s good and ready. Keeping things interesting, as a rule, tricks her into hanging around more.

The biggest myth about creative people? That a person who is “talented” has some magical power, that fabulous ideas pour out of them at all times, that they can turn it on or off like a switch, no effort whatsoever.

The truth is, just like any other skill set, a creative has to work hard and hone their craft. It’s a tedious job just like any other. The inner workings of it aren’t all that glamorous.

The most important thing a ‘creative’ needs, apart from paper and ink, is the thickest skin in the world and yet the most sensitive.


Things that drive me crazy: Stupidity. People who are inconsiderate and clueless to everything around them. The fact that people continue to be brainwashed by the media, the mass marketing machine, politicians, and the manufactured cookie-cutter hype.

Especially now that the tactics these corporations use are so out in the open. I have a hard time believing that the world is still so gullible.

On the plus side, there are also people who are an inspiration, people who have left their mark in my life in some way.

The list is always growing and changing. Here are a few: Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury, The Cure, Steven Millhauser, Bernard Herrmann, Chrissie Hynde, Nina Simone, Beth Gibbons, Alfred Hitchcock, David Bowie, Roald Dahl, Pink Floyd, Fritz Lang, Alexander Scriabin.


While I lived in Manhattan, I developed this theory that angels would disguise themselves on earth in the form of cabdrivers. (Not all cabdrivers, mind you!)

They fulfilled their earthbound duties while carting fares. I had so many poignant, eye-opening, life-affirming revelations talking to New York City taxi drivers, it was unbelievable. Odd. And the beautiful thing was, I never saw them again.

Perhaps they returned to the heavens...or were stuck in the Bronx.

"I often focus on the constant plight of the free thinker, the struggle of being yourself in a world that is trying its hardest to turn you into everybody else.
Staying true to yourself; that’s the hardest and most glorious battle of all."


From: "Pulling Your Insides Out"

Baby, mind the vultures
They’re circling round the bone
Feeding from the idols
They think they can draw blood from a stone

But the more the diamond glitters
The more it can deceive
The Truth lay in the treasure
Of what we disbelieve

“Pulling Your Insides Out” is a remark on the world and its feeding frenzy for mediocrity, that what glitters is false, fleeting and shallow...how everything that truly matters lies well beyond that phony world. But only for those who have the wherewithal to see it.

From: "Anything at All"

I’ll grant you the Nine of Cups
on eleven rainy days
I’ll pull apart the lion’s mouth
and I’ll make him sing your praise
I’ll challenge the great Houdini
to a remarkable escape
I’ll amputate the fingers
upon the Hand of Fate...

“Anything at All” attains that lovely storybook quality. It’s a collection of the most exquisite, preposterous things you could think of to show how much you want someone. How literally mad you are for them.

I love creating a classic timelessness in my songs. Perhaps you’ve stepped back in time, but simultaneously it couldn’t feel more relevant to that very moment.

From: "The Fine Art of Poisoning"

it’s quite an elaborate scheme
the fine art of poisoning
the dose to comatose
slyly administered

not for the frail of heart
the vengeful must play their part
a friend to the bitter end

or so they say

nice and slow
misfortune will flow

peril in the nursery
it seems a tainted pastry
one bite what a dreadful fright
she was such a delicate little dish

a pleasant parlor gathering
quicksilver concealed in a ruby ring
two lumps or three
i have always adored bergamot tea

nice and slow
misfortune will flow
but...who will know?

This song inspired the animated short film I later created with Bill Domonkos. I’m intrigued by the dark corners of history, a big source of inspiration for me.

I’d been studying various methods of poisoning through the ages, and wanted to bring that to life, but still keeping the covert, ambiguous and simple nature of poisoning itself. It sneaks up on you, never revealing itself -- until it’s too late.

I love reading, old movies, searching the second-hand bookshops for rare finds, as well as antique fairs for strange curiosities.

I like traveling, charting the course of the stars, talking to strangers, keeping ridiculously late hours, and swapping stories over cocktails.

What I’m reading right now:
"Oracle Night" (Paul Auster)
"The FeeJee Mermaid" (Jan Bondeson)
(Patrick Suskind)
"Carter Beats the Devil" (Glen David Gold)
"Strange Brains and Genius : The Secret Lives Of Eccentric Scientists And Madmen" (Clifford Pickover)
"Victorian Murderesses" (Mary S. Hartman)

Favorite quote: From Albert Einstein: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”

[Photo credits: Header image/Jon Bradford; Stairs image/Jim Ferreira.]

Artist bio: Singer/composer/storyteller Jill Tracy has been called a “femme fatale for the thinking man.”

She’s garnered multiple awards, and a devoted following, for her evocative music, glamorous style, and curious passion for collecting strange tales.

Jill Tracy coos in a voice of cut-velvet smoke, creating a world of opulence and danger, magic and madness. As one critic put it: “You know it’s not safe here; but with Jill Tracy as your guide, you’ll be in no hurry to leave.”

Aside from her stand-along CD trilogy (“Quintessentially Unreal,” “Diabolical Streak,” and "Into the Land of Phantoms") Jill Tracy appeared on the “Artists For Literacy” compilation CD alongside Tom Waits and Aimee Mann.

Her animated short film, “The Fine Art of Poisoning,” directed by Bill Domonkos, won over 20 national awards this year, meriting attention from artists like Clive Barker.

Tracy has performed everywhere from alternative rock venues and swanky cabarets. She’s been the opening act for American Cinematheque’s Film Noir Festival for the last two years.

Tracy is currently at work on two more film projects, penning songs for a new album, and developing works for the theatre. Short film “The Fine Art of Poisoning” was just selected for the Colorado Film Foundation’s Best Short Films of the Year DVD series.

Visit her official site here.

ART/Berkeley+Virtual Exhibit
"Transportation Futuristics"
Through September 30th

The virtual exhibit "Transportation Futuristics: Visionary Designs in Transportation Engineering" accompanies the physical installation in the Doe Library, UC Berkeley campus -- and includes a lot more material from the archives that can only be viewed online.

Both exhibits examine innovative (or just plain odd) solutions drummed up to address transportation design in a pre-Windows, pre-iPod, pre-Concorde environment -- none of which made it into the mainstream.

Were the designers too forward-thinking? Was there just no way to make the design viable, on an economic level? Or did the prototype just become obsolete, in the wake of a more efficient transport solution?

In some cases, the designs remained on paper, never to make it to the production stage.

In others, the designers committed their what-ifs to celluloid; this was the case with Ford designer Syd Mead, who went on to imagine futuristic transport solutions for movies like "Tron," "Aliens" and "Blade Runner."

[Shown/left: AIDA Development thought this “standing seats” design was a nifty idea to increase human cargo capacity on short-haul flights. Don’t think so. From: “Aircraft Interiors International”, March 2004]

[Shown/right: Horseless Sulky prototype. Achieved speeds of up to 116mph.
From: “Popular Science”, c. 1935]

The exhibit is interesting from a visual standpoint, also to take note of what eventually worked out: air-conditioning in cars, ATVs, escalators, elevated subway lines, a version of GPS.

But it's also interesting to think about what we might have been riding around in, today, given a different design/production outcome: Helicopter for one? Aircar cruiser? Freedomship? Floating airbus? PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) pod to go? Amphibious RV? Robotic automotive tech, via the Hallucigenia project?

What about a NYC-LA "transplanetary subway"?

Odd and interesting, even the what-in-hell designs have an element of originality, albeit an occasional glaring lack of common sense.

Take a look around and go back to the future...

[Shown/header image: Flying helicopter bus, shown in advertisement for Bohn Aluminum.]

Find it: Bernice Layne Brown Gallery
Doe Library, UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
Get info: (510) 642-6000 (main)
View online exhibit.


The Agent series
Featured agency: BookEnds, LLC
First Year Out: "Contract Math"

Q: What is an advance against royalties?

A: When a publisher offers a contract, they traditionally offer an advance. When you hear that an author was paid $10,000 for their book, that is the advance.

It means that the publisher didn't really 'pay' the author the money, they 'loaned' the author the money against royalties. What this means is that before you start earning royalties on the book, you need to sell enough copies to earn out the advance.

Here's a very simple example:

If your royalties are 10% on the cover price of your book, and your book sells for $5.00, you will earn $.50 on each book.

Therefore, if your advance was $5000, you need to sell 10,000 copies of your book to earn out the advance and to begin earning royalties.

That is a very simplistic statement, since there are a lot of other rights publishers can sell -- book club, etc. -- that benefit you, but it helps explain what the advance is.

It's also important to note that an advance is nonrefundable, meaning even if your book sells only two copies, you never have to pay the advance back.

Also note, that rarely does an author receive the entire advance in one check.

The advance is usually payable in segments. The larger the advance, the more payment divisions the publisher will put in place. Traditionally, however, advances are payable on signing of the contract, on delivery and acceptance of the manuscript, and on publication of the book.

Q: What is the difference between a deal for world rights and North American rights only?

A: Keep in mind that when you are contracting your book to a publisher, you are not selling the book, you are selling the right to license or publish the book. As the holder of the copyright, you will always own the book.

World rights vs. North American rights is a negotiating point that your agent will deal with on your behalf.

When a publisher offers a book contract, they will almost always ask for 'world rights.' This means the right to license or sell the right to publish the book all over the world.

Traditionally, publishers do not sell actual books throughout the world. Instead, selling a publisher world rights means you are giving the publisher the right to sell the publication rights to your book to publishers in other countries.

In this case you will split any money received -- advances and royalties -- with the publisher. Keep in mind that if the publisher holds on to world rights, any money you receive from these deals will be used, initially, to earn out your advance. Once your advance has been earned out, any money sold in rights sales will issued with royalty statements.

North American rights means the publisher can only represent rights in North America, and your agent will represent rights or sales to other countries.

In this case, you will receive all the money made from advances and royalties to other countries (less your agent's advance, of course). This money will come directly from your agent once it has been paid by the publisher.

Whether or not an agent retains foreign rights (world rights) depends on a number of situations.

Here are some things to consider: What kind of rights department does the publisher have? Does the book have potential in other countries? Is it more beneficial to receive a higher advance from the publisher for world rights?

Q: What are subsidiary rights? Does it include electronic rights, at present?
Which subsidiary rights should my agent try to retain for me?

A: Subsidiary rights include things like first serial rights, performance rights, audio, electronic, etc. Ultimately, your agent should retain as many rights as possible. But this depends on a number of things, as mentioned above.

Q: I've just delivered my manuscript, but haven't received payment yet -- why?

A: Keep in mind that payment for manuscript delivery is based on delivery and acceptance.

While your agent will try to narrow the definition of 'acceptance' as carefully as possible, it still means that you may have to wait until the book is fully edited and/or revised before this payment is even processed.

About this agency: BookEnds, LLC was co-founded by Jessica Faust and Jacky Sach in 1999. Agents: Jacky Sach, Jessica Faust, Kim Lionetti. Please review their submissions guidelines before submitting a query. BookEnds does not handle children's books, science fiction and fantasy, short fiction, poetry, screenplays, techno-thrillers or military fiction.

Agent bio/Sach: Jacky Sach began her publishing career in 1985 at Berkley Books, now a division of Penguin Group. Fourteen years later, she left her position as senior managing editor to start BookEnds with Jessica Faust. Her expertise and interests include mysteries, women's fiction, suspense novels, self-help, intelligent spirituality, alternative and mainstream health, addiction, chick-lit and innovative, offbeat, edgy nonfiction.

Agent bio/Faust: Publishing veteran Jessica Faust worked as an acquisitions editor at Berkley Publishing and Macmillan for eight years, where she acquired and edited both fiction and nonfiction. Her areas of expertise include women's fiction, mysteries and suspense and nonfiction - self-help, health, sex and relationships, business, finance, parenting, pets, psychology, women's issues, and general nonfiction. Faust prefers female character-driven books and nonfiction with an original angle.

Agent bio/Lionetti: After eight years at Berkley Publishing, Kim Lionetti left her position as senior editor to join BookEnds in March 2004. Her particular areas of fiction interest are suspense, contemporary romance, chick lit, and mainstream fiction. Her preferences in nonfiction include true crime, history, pop science and pop culture.

About this series: "The Agent" is an ongoing series of columns or Q/A sessions with literary agents, providing practical advice for writers.

Read other books/writers features, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

Saliq Francis Savage, for Wire Monkey Dance

The name "Wire Monkey Dance" came during the rehearsal process for our first full season performance.

I'd been recalling the research of Harry Harlow and his daughter on the effects of early tactile deprivation on rhesus monkeys.

They were working at a time when people were taught to not breast feed and when bottle feeding was regimented by the clock.

They devised a test to determine whether a baby monkey's attachment to its mother is primarily due to the fact that she is feeding the infant, or if it has to do with the love, comfort, body contact and that sort of yummy stuff.

The experiment had two attached cages with a surrogate mother fashioned out of wire in each one.

The difference between the two wire surrogates was that one had a bottle, while the other one was just covered in fur.

The baby was free to travel freely between the two cages with the proposition where would the baby monkey spend most of its time.

Of course, it spent most of its time on the wire monkey that was covered in fur, and only enough time to feed on the other one.

So, the company name is a tribute to those baby monkeys that gave their lives to prove that love and nurturing are valuable. I guess you could say that I'm something of a clinger. Give me a warm bosom any day and I'll be happy.

That's why I find things like contact improvisation next to essential. There is an autistic woman who could not stand physical contact but at the same time she craved compression. She devised a special human compression machine. I'm like her, except I love physical intimacy.

There is something like pure animal joy that I experience when I'm dancing with another person; it completely fulfills me. It is in the breathing, yearning, shape shifting, meeting and seducing that my organs can really come alive and begin to express the joy and pleasure in living.

I look for the edge between my body and my partner's body. And then I soften that edge to ground and integrate my body through my partner's body. Then the distinction between grounding and flight becomes a continuum.

I'm looking for a vehicle of creativity and expressivity for my life. Dance provides me with a reason to move.


Wire Monkey Dance creates highly physical dance installations that transform towers of steel scaffolding into multimedia dance events. We address timeless human themes such as the struggle for power, tenderness and longing. The company creates a unique genre of movement on scaffolding, blending contact improvisation, body-mind centering, modern dance and arial dance techniques.


Depending on the type of work created, we work from two weeks to four months on a single piece.

My inspiration to create often comes from nature. We just completed a performance project in the country side of Germany, at the Ponderosa land dance festival in Stolzenhagen Germany.

A small group of us (there were 13 dancers involved) took walks at sunrise as a way to fine-tune our senses.

We spent time climbing big trees listing to the swaying of the limbs into the trunk, the simultaneous clockwise and counter clockwise spirals supporting our weight.

Then we would go back to sleep before yoga and the second starting of the day. That morning ritual created a profound groundedness that helped us to tap into the history of the place and helped make a better site specific performance.

In Stolzenhagen, we created a site-specific piece called "Höhensammler, Height Collectors." In that piece, we performed on and around the grounds of a huge
pre-German-unification farm complex.

We touched many local townspeople with the beauty and simplicity of our dancing in the context of their village; they remembered the paths and woods that surround them daily, but they might not have walked on them for years and years.

This was an important step in bringing the Ponderosa dance festival artists into a synergistic relationship with the local culture; there were many who'd even been married in that farm house.


I created "Blue Hour" in consideration of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. It's about oppression, dreams of reconciliation and suicide bombers.

Pretty heavy stuff, a bit repetitive, but that's just my learning curve as a choreographer. The piece is a fairly naïve treatment of the conflict.

I used projected images taken in the west bank and Gaza by Spee Baum that described the condition of life for the Palestinian people.

The dance describes the lives of three fictional men who live and work together, one an Israeli boss/and the other two Palestinian workers.


I get it [creative block] all the time. I go on these creative jags where I go off and everything seems like the right thing and the ideas come fast and furious.

And then Jen will start to question me about it all and I'll simply go blank. It's as if my ideas are faded away or no longer carry the playful significance that they did while I was flying and thinking them up.


If I could live anywhere in the world: I'd probably go to Brazil, study voice with Madalena Bernardes in Sao Paulo, to Belo Horizonte to learn to speak Portuguese, teach contact improvisation and body-mind centering and go to the beach.

Coming up: performances of "As if Life" at Tree Studio in September, then we travel to Macao, China to perform and participate in a couple of festivals.

[Shown/header image: Saliq Francis Savage, co-founder, Wire Monkey Dance]

About this group: Wire Monkey Dance performances are produced by Saliq Francis Savage; choreographed and directed by Saliq Francis Savage and Jennifer Polins.

Their work has been presented in gallery spaces, proscenium theaters, under trees, in large outdoor squares, parades and has toured to New York, Boston, Berlin and Taiwan.

Artist bios: After a Marquette University education in mathematics and the basic sciences, Savage studied the homeopathy of body-work; he is a registered movement therapist through ISMETA, and maintains a private practice in movement and body-work. He has traveled through North America, Asia, Europe and South America to teach and perform. He produces and is the general artistic director of Wire Monkey Dance.

Jennifer Polins joined the Joffrey II Dancers at the age of 17, and later danced with the Milwaukee Ballet and the Zurich Operahouse Ballet. While in Zurich, she was a founding member of modern dance company "POOL." Her work has been shown in Switzerland, France, Germany, Poland, Taiwan and New York. Polins is also involved in teaching, in addition to choreographing and performing. She co-founded improvisational group "Weeds" and the "Crank it Out" performance series.

Visit WMD's official site here.

Upcoming tour schedule:
* Sept 17-19, 24-26 and Oct 1-3, 2004, Tree Studio, 108 Cabot St. Holyoke MA
Get info: (800) 224-6432
* Oct 20-25, WACFEST and Macao Fringe Festival, Macao China

Read in-depth interviews with other creative artists, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


LIVES: Cheryl Lawson, stuntwoman

"The scariest stunt I successfully completed was a spin-the-horn vault in a nun's habit. It was a trick riding stunt, but my horse was running out of control..."


I started as a rodeo trick rider. My first job was a trick riding sequence on a mini-series called "Dream West" in 1985. I was hired because I was a trick rider, and I was recommended for the job by my boss at the time, Tad Griffith; he was in charge of a [key action] sequence.

I didn't set out to become a stuntwoman. I'd have to say I fell into it, and kept on falling into it. I went to college to become a special education teacher.

I just kept taking opportunities that came my way. The next thing I knew I was living in Hollywood.


The biggest obstacle: First of all, getting a stunt coordinator to hire me. They won't hire someone they don't know unless you've been highly recommended.

I also needed more experience -- trick riding was definitely my calling car, but there's a lot more to being a stuntwoman than just trick riding; I had to learn how to use an air ram, wire work, martial arts, some gymnastics, learned how to take hits, give hits.

I went to a stunt driving school, practiced sword work, jumped off friends' roofs onto mats. I studied acting, too -- sometimes productions need stunt people who can also act.

I needed to learn about fire. Fire work should be taken very seriously. You need to know how to handle a gun -- a rifle, machine gun, hand guns.

You need to learn gun safety; blanks can kill you. You need equipment and pads to help protect your body.

I think a lot of stunt people specialize in one particular thing; if you're a champion at something, it gets you noticed. Sometimes that's your calling card, but to stay in the business, you need to be a well-rounded stunt performer. There's a lot of competition out there and good work generates more work.

Even so, I take gigs I'm comfortable with, or I won't take the job. I'm least comfortable with high falls.

There isn't a lot of horse work out there. I can't say that I practice riding for the job; I ride because I love my horses. If I had a job coming up that required something unique like trick riding, I'd tune up.

Ironically, these are actually the least controllable stunts, working with animals --- they have their own minds, and we don't always have complete control over what they decide to do.

I personally need to practice stunt driving. I've been to stunt driving school, but it's not something I get to practice often.

If I have a job coming up that requires stunt driving, I practice; either take the class again or find an old car we can practice with in a safe area.

Some things you just learn on the job, even if you get some rehearsal time first. For example, I did some wire work when I was hired to double Sela Ward on a commercial -- I trained on the job for that.


The more tricks you have up your sleeve, the more jobs you're capable of completing. The more you practice, the better you are.

A good stuntwoman is a talented athlete who is capable of learning all aspects of stunts, someone focused and mentally alert, with the courage to go when they say 'action.'

Mental training is important. You have to pay attention, memorize sequences, hit your marks, stay focused, and do your stunt -- all of this is mental, as much as it is physical.

Martial arts helps me mentally train. I have to memorize a lot of different forms in class and my instructor is a stunt man, so we practice routines that can applied to our work.

But fight scenes are different for the camera than what you use in practice sessions.

You want the hits to look real, but you don't want to really hurt anyone -- and sometimes you'll be using a weapon -- a gun, sword or knife. They'll usually give you a dummy weapon, in case somebody accidentally hits the other one, but it happens.

You try to exaggerate the hits a bit, and we do train in how to take hits and give hits so that it works onscreen. Fight scenes, in my experience, are usually choreographed so the actor can do the fight also. I take a regular martial arts class -- it keeps me in shape and helps me be mentally prepared for the job.


Here's a list of the top stunts we're usually asked to perform:

Fights: Fights are usually choreographed. For example, there might be a scene where two women are bad-mouthing each other, which leads to a fight.

One pushes the other into some breakaway table, the other one grabs her and pulls her hair, then they wrestle over the sofa; they break a vase made of candy glass, they hit the floor, one pushes the other off her, one grabs the lamp to hit her over the head -- when suddenly the daughter comes in and jerks the rug from under her mother to stop the fight. It's all sequenced.

Car work: The car chase. [The inclusion of a car chase scene] may involve a lot of other factors -- how big the budget is for the show, for example.

Horses: You need to be able to fall off your horse on cue -- the horse rears up, you fall off. Other elements: bucking horses, jumping horses, horses falling in tandem, and much more.

Falls: The top three are stair falls, high falls and low falls. Big high falls are not my favorite, because I don't have a lot of experience with highfall work. There are girls out there who are great in the air -- they should get these jobs.

Fire: For a scene where a building is on fire, you must run through the flames, maybe you catch on fire -- there are full burns, partial burns, where, let's say, your arm catches on fire. Lots more.

Wire work: There's so much to say here, that it would be better to talk to a rigger, to get all the details. You wear a special harness, usually under your wardrobe.

You're then hooked up to wire cables, then, depending on the stunt, you'll be pulled up or down, out and around.

They may use an accelerator, decelerator, descender, hand pull and other methods. This one is really a team effort, since different timing is involved, depending on the stunt. There's also a lot more to say about just setting up the stunt.

Water work: Anything that takes place in water. Falling off a boat, diving off things into the water.

For example: In the scene, you're being rescued by a helicopter. You're drowning in the ocean, they throw you a rescue rope or ladder, and you have to climb up to save yourself. "The Perfect Storm" and "Water World" have some great [illustrative scenes]of water work.

Explosions: We run from them, we drive through them, we jump away from them, etc. This can also be considered fire work.

[Shown: Stuntwoman Cheryl Lawson]

The most dangerous on the list: They're all dangerous if something goes wrong. That's why professional stunt people are hired to do these stunts. Stunt people have been killed doing a stunt.

A stunt that seems simple should be taken seriously, and stunt people who are not qualified should not do the stunt -- they can hurt themselves or put others at risk.


Every stunt person arrives on set with a stunt bag with the tricks of their trade inside. I let my coordinators deal with the director.

If I have a problem I talk to the coordinator. Generally, things are worked out before we shoot. Our motto is “safety first”.

I think the directors have a vision they want to see on screen our job is to pull off that stunt sequence to his satisfaction -- safely.

If there’s a big battle fight and you’re basically in the background doing your fight, you might improvise things.

Otherwise, I’d have to say it’s pretty clear what you are doing beforehand, so people don’t get hurt.

The most important thing to remember when you’re about to complete a stunt is safety and the correct sequence of events.

I feel that it’s a creative endeavor. You’re trying to bring to life the vision the director and writer have. The sequences that involve stunts must have a flow that coordinates with the story.

So it’s a team effort, even though you may be the only person doing the stunt, let’s say, a horse fall or a stair fall, you still have a lot of other people involved that makes that stunt work for the shot.


You can get hurt doing anything. Fights can be great fun, but I've been kicked in the face -- that hurt. I once did a stunt that looks simple onscreen -- an actor grabs my throat during a fight scene.

He hit me so hard in the throat that I was hoarse for a week. It hurt, but you don't say anything. Why? It wasn’t intentional -- but that’s why I did it, not the actress, because accidents can happen, even though the fight scene looks easy to the audience.

Throwing a good punch looks easy, but it’s actually one of the things that a lot of people do badly, unless they’ve been taught how to throw good punches for the camera. I personally wouldn't call any of it easy.

I recently worked on the television show “24”. I was doubling an actress who has to take down a bad guy.

The frustrating part was no rehearsal time was allotted for the fight scene; it was added at the last minute.

Well, we switched a couple of hits for the second time for the director, which is fine – that’s our job -- but in the rush of things, I managed to hit my stunt partner with my weapon. He ended up with a bloody lip. I felt horrible.

Rehearsal times hinge on the complexity of the stunt or scene – but sometimes you get lots of takes, at other times it’s a one shot deal that you can’t mess up, because there’s just no time left on the clock.

For fight scenes using glass, there are different materials used, depending on what is breaking.

There’s something called candy glass that bottles are made out of, for when you get hit on the head. If you go through a window, it may be
tempered glass -- this is used with a light explosive device that helps break the glass as you go through it.

It makes for a nice shattering effect, but it can cut you. I've gone through tempered glass in little shorts and a skimpy top. I wound up with tiny little cuts all over my body.


In “The Scorpion King”, I was one of the warrior women -- we worked on different scenes for a couple of months: sword fighting, explosions, some horse work.

In “Oceans 11”, I play a cocktail waitress who gets run over by a frightened customer. I got hit and knocked to the ground about five times. There was more to the scene than just me getting run over, of course, but the whole scene took probably four hours to shoot.

I recently doubled Carla Gugino on a short-lived show called “Karen Sisco.” Most of my work was tackling the bad guys. Her character was a
Marshal on the show. It was a great show, don't know why it got cancelled.

I loved being Carla’s double -- hope she does more soon. I’ve also doubled Rachel Weisz, Sela Ward, Charisma Carpenter, Marlee Matlin, Rena Sofer and Catherine Zeta Jones.

“Spiderman 2” is just coming out. I have a scene in it, but I haven't seen the movie, yet, so I don't know if the scene made the final cut.


On “Scorpion King”, we were doing the big battle scene towards the end, when a huge statue behind us explodes.

We were working with real explosives, so people could have gotten get hurt – it was vital that we jump out of the way ON COUNT.

They later added bodies flying through the air to make it look more effective -- air rams were use for this effect. An air ram is a mechanical piece of equipment used to throw people into the air.

We had to worry about getting out of the way on cue, so we didn’t get burned -- or mess up the shot. This is not something you get very many takes to do.


The worst part of my job: Recovery after an accident. I’ve worked as a stuntwoman for 12 years. I wish someone had told me before I started that my body was going to be in pain for the rest of my life. Also, when it rains it pours -- you don't work for a while, then you get three jobs in the same week and have to turn something down.

I’ll keep doing stunts as long as my body allows me to, but if a friend or family member wanted to become a stuntwoman, I’d discourage them from doing it. If they were persistent, I’d try to help them. But it's a tough business to get into. There can be a lot of disappointment and rejection along the way.

The best part of my job: Paycheck. I don't mean to sound like I do stunts just for the money, but I wouldn't do stunts for anything less. If you do stunts long enough, things start hurting permanently. But when everything works out and you do a great job, it's a good feeling.


Most of my work lately has been in town. I recently worked on a soap opera called “Passions”. I seem to be getting mostly television shows these days, which is great, but I’d like to [work on another] big feature.

I don't have any great stories about unusual set locations. Sets in general can be so amazing. I love the set design work they do these days. Creating or recreating the look for the show can be something to see, especially if it’s something out of the ordinary.


The scariest stunt I successfully completed was a spin-the-horn vault in a nun’s habit. It was a trick riding stunt, but my horse was running out of control...

To set it up: I had to spin around backwards, vault off and vault back on. The stunt itself was tough enough, but it was the wardrobe that complicated everything; I had a pillow stuffed into my dress to make me look heavy. My horse was running away at top speed and a big oak tree was coming up.

I had to let go. I did a face plant. That hurt.

We did two more takes, and I finally got it. Everybody was happy and I couldn't believe I’d pulled it off.

This was the first and only time I personally had a producer tell the coordinator to give me a bigger adjustment than what was budgeted. Adjustments in this business mean money.


I’ve gone through recovery for several accidents. I think every stunt person that has done stunts long enough is crippled up. Some more than others.

I've broken my tail bone, I broke my ankle twice, underwent reconstructive knee surgery. Along with the usual bumps, bruises, sprains and cuts. Believe me, there are some horror stories out there that mine don't compare to at all.

I have respect for stuntmen and stuntwomen, equally. It’s true that most of the time we do stunts in high heels and a skirt -- but then,
we don’t have to worry about getting kicked between the legs, like the guys.


Working on the World Stunt Awards show was great. I was a spokesperson for the show; it was broadcast on national television.

Right before the end of my speech, I was dropped through the floor as a joke. This easily counts as my favorite stunt, because so many fellow stunt friends were there and it got a big laugh.

[Shown/header image: Stuntwoman Cheryl Lawson, on the set of "The Scorpion King"]

Bio: Cheryl Lawson has worked as a stuntwoman for 12 years. Audiences worldwide have seen her work in "The Scorpion King", "CSI", "Karen Cisco" and "24", "The Practice", "Ocean's Eleven" and "Enemy of the State". She has doubled actors Carla Gugino, Rachel Weisz, Charisma Carpenter, Marlee Matlin, Catherine Zeta Jones, Rena Sofer and Sela Ward. She is a member of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures.

Read interviews with other creative artists, in the August 2004 of "Arte Six".

ART/San Francisco
"Free Basin"
Through October 10th

"Free Basin" is a monumental sculpture that doubles as an indoor skate bowl.

As a viewer enters the YBCA Galleries, they walk underneath the skating surfaces and experience the rhythm and sounds of the skateboarding from below.

Once the viewer emerges, they can also watch how the skateboarders respond to the specific character of this sculptural form.

"Free Basin" is part of the "Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture" exhibit, featuring skateboard memorabilia and contemporary art by more than fifty artists inspired by skateboarding culture.

The exhibition explores the social and cultural world of skateboarding, from the 1950s surf scene through to its ties to punk and urban cultures, into mainstream status today.

The works featured include paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and local artists Tommy Guerrero and Craig R. Stecyk.

[Shown: Detail, "Giant Poster", (1989)
Shepard Fairey
Courtesy of the artist.]

Find it: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Get info: (415) 982-8522

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


"On the run with Munch"

Right. In that's-certainly-interesting news, armed robbers apparently stormed into the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway this morning, and made off with two of Edvard Munch's most famous works: "Madonna" and "The Scream".

Apropos for stylish art robbers, the two were dressed in black. They made their getaway in an Audi. Wine and cheese nibbles were not served.

Our favorite report was logged by Norway's "Aftposten", who interviewed a little old lady:

An 80-year-old woman visiting the museum saw two men with "revolvers" running through the building.

"Did I feel threatened? I am the calm type," the elderly lady laughed.

Edvard Munch (b. December 12, 1863, d. January 24, 1944) was a picturesquely tormented artist, along the lines of, say, Vincent Van Gogh. Why? Well, who knows, but a fanatically religious father and the deaths of both his mother and elder sister from tuberculosis before Munch turned 14 probably didn't help.

[Shown above: Detail, "Self-Portrait with a Burning Cigarette" (1895)
Oil on canvas
National Gallery, Oslo
Edvard Munch]

His morbid works, with their themes of delirium, sickness, love and death, influenced expressionist artists, but they weren't always, er, popular with the general public. Munch's 1892 exhibit so scandalized audiences in Berlin that the exhibit closed after only a week.

He seemed to have been a little confused about women, as well; he alternately depicted them as fragile, suffering creatures, or lurid, pitiless sexual predators. Or soulless vampires -- which, incidentally, is the title of one of his works: "The Vampire". Well.

Munch eventually suffered a nervous breakdown -- or, nervous "collapse" -- and was admitted to a Danish sanitorium. He died in 1944.

Miserable life, really. Excellent fodder for art historians, though, so that was certainly considerate of him. But moving on...

"The Scream" (1893) is one of Edvard Munch's most popular works; the silent scream is a significant motif; a symbol of modern man, for whom God is dead.

"Madonna" (1894) is a striking, but lesser-known work; it depicts woman both as a sacred and sexual object. Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski described the painting as "the moment Life and Death shake hands".

Both paintings are worth millions, although this shouldn't be news to anyone. "The Scream" has actually been stolen before; thieves made off with it in 1994. The canvas was recovered undamaged, the men accused of trying to ransom the painting for USD$1 million.

Bit silly, really, since both canvases are worth far more -- in the USD$20 million range for "Madonna", with "The Scream" assessed at double that. On the open market.

"Aftposten" reports that museum officials are waiting for a ransom demand to be tendered, but let's consider two words, here, which make a bit more sense: private collector.

Naw, there couldn't possibly be anyone out there with a fetish for Munch and a piddling $60 million-plus lying around in a vault. Ya think? Either that, or someone's getting one hell of a Christmas present, come December...

Unless the canvases were spirited off on a bet. Perhaps by contemporary starving artists; in which case, morally reprehensible though it may be to laugh -- ha!

While Interpol gets down to sorting out the who-what-where, the rest of the what-if business shall be left as an exercise for writers with overactive imaginations...although, perhaps that's redundant.

[Shown/header image: Detail, "Madonna"(1894)
Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 70.5 cms
Formerly on view at the Munch Museum, Oslo. Now -- on the road. In an Audi.
Edvard Munch]

Find more art news/events in the August issue of "Arte Six".


Gamers Nite Groove
August 26

Spotlighting this month's Gamers Nite Groove (GNG), secret agent high jinks,
in new stealth-action game "Spy Fiction."

In the game you play as either super spy Billy Bishop or partner Shelia Crawford on a mission to stop a bio-terror conspiracy. The game requires you to use your wits in conjunction with the futuristic gadgetry only a super spy could love.

Along with the obligatory silenced pistol, a batch of more fun gear, like optical camouflage, including a special camera that helps you create off-the-cuff disguises based on the pictures you snap. Unlike most stealth games where you assume the same identity throughout your mission, "Spy Fiction" forces you to take on different costumes to solve puzzles and keep you hidden from the enemy.

Also this month: NIS America's beautiful new tactical RPG, "Phantom Brave,"
a stunning work of art similar to predecessors, "Disgaea" and "LaPucelle."

Also on the GNG screens will be Japan's original robotic pre-teen in all his aerial glory, featured in two new Astroboy games -- Sugoi!

Providing tunes for the night, GameBoy musician Bubblyfish. Instead of using the GameBoy for portable gaming, Bubblyfish has instead manipulated the famous Nintendo hand-held to produce some infectious electronic music. Playing alongside Bubblyfish, video art by motion graphics collective, Honeygun Labs.

About The Tank: The Tank is a midtown space for performing and visual arts, emphasizing new work by emerging performers, artists, directors, writers, and producers.

About New York-Tokyo (NYT): On a mission to provide exposure of techno-cool, eye-popping production from Japan to the general public in the U.S., New York-Tokyo taps into the vibe between New York and Tokyo. Best known for Anime Festival and Music Festival, NYT currently holds two monthly events : GNG (Gamers Nite Groove) and MDS (Monthly Director Series) and two annual festivals : Tokyo Robotics and eNerGy.

Find it: The Tank
432 W42nd St. (btw. 9th/10th Ave.)
The entrance to The Tank is through the courtyard - follow the signs.
Get info: (212) 563-6269

Find events in other cities, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


Copenhagen International Film Festival
August 19-29

The Copenhagen International Film Festival is a new entry to the international festival circuit, only founded last August, but it's already going strong.

Any excuse to visit Copenhagen is a good one, anyway; a beautiful, architecturally interesting city, crammed with ridiculously good-looking people. Truth.

Plus, of course, there's all the rest going on, onscreen: 100 films in ten days, opening with Che Guevara bio-pic, "The Motorcycle Diaries," national favorites and international premieres, a late-night horror film series for clubbers and insomniacs ("Midnight Madness"), new directors/films and favorites from the Berlinale and Cannes, and a focus on work by female directors, "Women on Top."

Several films are shortlisted for a brand-new award category, best film by a female film director, including "Fifty Fifty" and "Goddess of Mercy."

Highlights: Women on Top

"Goddess of Mercy"
Dir: Ann Hui
Beijing yuppie Yang Rui falls in love with the female janitor, An Xing, at his martial arts studio; in the aftermath, Yang loses both his wife and his job.

Deeply in love, but poverty-stricken, the couple try to make ends meet and care for An Xing´s sick child, until An Xing´s past as an top agent for the drug enforcement agency comes back to haunt them.

Young drug dealer Maojie, whose parents were killed during a drug raid led by An Xing, has finally tracked down his old enemy.

All that remains is revenge and the settling of old scores - with no mercy on either side.

"Killing Words/Palabras Encadenadas"
Dir: Laura Manas
A psychiatrist faces off against a madman in the "Word Game." If she wins the duel, she lives. If she doesn't -- she loses. An intense, psychological thriller, pitting an intelligent adversary against a killer, in a game no one is willing to lose.

Highlights: Panorama/General Program

"Code 46"
"Code 46" takes place in the near future, where citizen's movements are strictly controlled by official permits.

In the vast deserts beyond the cities are shantytowns populated by outcasts without legitimate permits.

Family man William is sent to investigate a case of permit forgery; he meets Maria, and falls in love with her, but their affair can only last the 24 hours he has before his travel permit expires.

Spurred by a sense of duty, he reluctantly returns to his controlled environment. However, increasingly desperate to see Maria, he ultimately risks the penalty of using a fake permit and becoming a criminal -- to find her again.

"Den som frygter ulven"
Desperate bank robber Morgan is having a very bad day. He'd planned everything in minute detail: the bank, the time, the getaway car, the escape route and what he was going to wear. But what he definitely didn't plan on was nabbing a hostage who'd just escaped from a high security hospital for criminal psychopaths...

The idea for "Strings" came to director Anders Rønnov-Klarlund while he was watching an in-flight commercial about tourism in Prague; the spot included a puppet sequence.

He developed the idea into a classical good vs. evil drama, set in a unique, elaborate universe populated by puppets controlled by strings in heaven.

[Shown: "Strings"]

In "Bumer," we meet four Russian gangsters forced into involuntary exile in the isolated hinterlands while the trail of their crimes grows cold. They find a small town, where they can lie low and avoid the police.

The four urban cowboys arrive in a big, flashy BMW ('Bumer' is the Russian equivalent of 'Beemer') but it's not long before the hapless mafioso realize that what they'd envisioned as a safe hideout is actually a rural nightmare.

Highlights: Midnight Madness

This live-action remake of a minor 1970s animated series from Tatsunoko Pro has some interesting alterations; the original, straightforward tale of a selfless hero tackling a clearly evil enemy has subtly morphed into a complex evaluation of the destructive power inherent in the entire human species.

In this version of "Casshern", there's really no black and white, just shades of grey.

The story: In a totalitarian industrialist future, the Axis powers have won World War II and Japan has accomplished its Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Dr. Azuma is a brilliant geneticist driven to find a cure for wife Midori's crippling illness, caused by environmental pathogens unleashed in the aftermath of fifty years of conflict between the 'Greater Eastern Federation' and 'Europa.'

Azuma's obsessive research results in the development of a restorative "neo-cell" technology.

Desperate to continue his work, he appeals to the government for funding, but politicians in the Health Ministry turn him down, fearing that the new technology is a threat to the power stranglehold they have over the ailing populace.

Devastated, but relentless in his quest to save his wife, Azuma finds a buyer -- a sinister faction in the powerful military takes him up on the new neo-cell process, making him a secret offer to provide the support he needs in order to complete his research.

A freak accident at the underground research facility causes a vat of regenerating body parts to reintegrate into humanoid form; the 'Shinzo Ningen,' a race of mutants.

Caught unawares, the military guards recoil in fear, destroying the creatures.

A small band of mutants escape the slaughter. They make their way to a deserted outpost, and -- rather fortuitously -- stumble across a discarded arsenal of military robots. Their leader, Brai, vows revenge for the annihilation of his people.

Instead of saving mankind, Azuma's miraculous technology has put it on a collision course with a legion of the Shinzo Ningen, seeking revenge for the deaths of their brother humanoids.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...frustrated by ongoing military skirmishes which wreak havoc on an already suffering population, Azuma and Midori's son Tetsuya joins the Federation army, hoping to effect a permanent change in the system.

During a heavy-fire tour of duty, Tetsuya is killed in combat.

His body is returned to Azuma, who uses the neo-cell process to bring his son back to life; the process works, but renders his body overly vulnerable to physical attack. A fellow scientist helps Azuma, providing his son with the prototype of an advanced full-body armor.

Back from the dead, and armed with unusual powers, our hero sets off to end the carnage of a new war.

However, as the saying goes, he who fights monsters should take care that he does not also become one...

[Shown/header image: "Casshern"]

Find it: Various venues.
Dagmar Teatret, Jernbanegade 2, Copenhagen
Get info: 33 14 32 22
Cinemateket, Gothersgade 55, Copenhagrn
Get info: 33 74 34 12
Imperial, Ved Vesterport 4, Copenhagen
Get info: 70 13 12 11

Find coverage of other film festivals worldwide, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF)
August 18-24

Subterranean screenings in the Windy City. The Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) was founded in 1993 by Columbia College film student Jay Bliznick. He and partner Bryan Wendorf created a festival for the kind of films they wanted to see: offbeat, opinionated work that established film festivals refused to show.

Now in its tenth year, CUFF has - ironically - become a major stop on the international festival circuit. The pace hasn't slowed appreciably, though: screenings are still followed by nightly parties and live music at local venues.

This year's festival weighs in heavily on politikino, featuring several features, documentatries, shorts and animated films commenting on everything from commercialism to terrorism.


August 19
"Sound Class"
Dir: Adam Glickman
"Sound Class" traces the history of the Jamaican 'soundsystem' and its often overlooked, highly influential impact on hip-hop, DJ culture and modern music generally.

Filmed in Kingston, London and New York, the 'soundsystem' story is told here for the first time through interviews with musicians such as Coxsone Dodd, U Roy, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Paul Simonon of The Clash, Jerry Dammers of The Specials, Sean Paul, Wyclef Jean and many more.

From their humble beginnings outside liquor stores where they attracted customers, the 'soundsystems' soon moved into dance halls, with DJs/selectors doubling as MCs, replacing bands, assembling massive rigs in a funky battle to take over the thriving Jamaican music scene.

The development of the 'soundsystem' also had a dramatic impact on the music itself, spawning DJ culture and a new style of cutting and mixing tracks; dance-hall reggae, dub, ska and even hip-hop are inextricably linked to the rise of the soundsystem as its influence spread through the UK and into the US, via Kool Herc's New York block parties. Get ready to feel the bass.

August 20, 23
"Patriot Acts"
A related series of short films and animation, commenting on U.S. politics and culture, featuring:

"Weapons of Mass Destruction"
Anim: Lee Lanier
A tongue-in-cheek peek at the dangerous times we live in; words from a "New Millennium Dictionary" are juxtaposed with surreal clips of twitching heads of state and anthropomorphic consumer products. The first short film to feature annoying pop-up ads.

"30 Seconds Hate/Suckers"
Dir: Bryan Boyce
In "30 Seconds Hate," Fox News and Henry Kissinger want to kill you as a tribute to George Orwell's 100th birthday: 'Peace Alert: Kill Everybody.' "Suckers!" gives a half-minute history of Halliburton in Iraq.

Also showing: "States of the Union", "Notes from the Desk of the Dept. of Homeland Security"

August 21, 24
"Popaganda: The Art and Subversion of Ron English"
Dir: Pedro Carvajal
Documentary/Chicago Premiere
Mercilessly funny, engaging film about the culture-jamming and billboard-liberation antics of painter Ron English.

The modern day Robin Hood of Madison Avenue, Ron paints, perverts, infiltrates, reinvents and satirizes modern culture on canvas, in songs, and directly on hundreds of pirated billboards.

Shot entirely guerilla-style, the film chronicles the evolution of an artist who offers an alternative universe where spin is wrung dry, nothing is sacred, everything is subverted and there's always room for a well-merited poke in the eye.

"Advertising agencies are mercenaries, it's about profit. Is the product good for the environment? Society? The individual consumer? We employ the same techniques and pirate the same spaces as the advertisers, but to different ends."
- Ron English

"Certain Women"
Dir: Bobby Abate and Peggy Ahwesh
Video artist Bobby Abate and punk feminist filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh's collaborate to create this sordid melodrama loosely adapted from populist Southern genre writer Erskine Caldwel's novel and shot on a multitude of video formats.

Hilda, Louellen, Clementine and Nannette search for love and acceptance in a hopelessly old-fashioned town filled with residents -- good, bad and indifferent. Their stories, like their lives, intertwine, each woman reflecting an aspect of the other. These women must come to terms with and overcome many obstacles in a town fueled by ignorance, wickedness, and vicious rumors.

August 22, 23
"Elevator Movie"
Dir: Zeb Haradon
Jim is a loner, pervert, and virgin. Lana is a friendly outgoing born-again Christian who has renounced her past. They've never met until they step into an elevator together one day. The elevator gets stuck between floors. The building maintenance rep assures them over the emergency intercom that help is on the way. Hours, days, weeks, and months pass, and no repairmen ever show up.

Starvation is not a problem for them, as Lana entered the elevator with a bag full of groceries, which is mysteriously found to be filled with fresh food every morning. Is it a test? A miracle? An experiment? After enough time passes, Jim gives up all hope of escape and resigns himself to building a new life -- in the elevator. Lana, on the other hand, continues to look for a way out...

[Shown/header image: "Popaganda"]

Find it: Three Penny Cinema
22424 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL
Get info: (773) 525-3449

Find out about other film festivals worldwide, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"Show Me the Future"
Through August 29

"Why is tile roofing still used today? Because hundreds of years ago there was, technically, no alternative -- and because, in the interim, no one was prepared to fundamentally consider doing it differently." (W. Sobek)

Werner Sobek is one of a small group of engineers and architects who systematically work to integrate developments in material research, nano-technology and sensor-engineering -- used in automobile, aviation and aerospace technology -- into the construction field.

In a relatively short period of time, Werner Sobek's "House R 128" in Stuttgart has become known, even outside of professional circles, as the embodiment of future construction and habitation form.

[Shown above: “R128 Haus”, (1999-2000), Werner Sobek. Photo: Roland Halbe]

[Shown/header image: “R129 Haus”, (2002-2008), W. Sobek.
Photo: Werner Sobek]

The "Show Me the Future" exhibition begins with a look at this recyclable house that needs no energy and is emission-free; the house contains no knobs or switches, no brick walls.

Through the use of state-of-the-art technology, which also partly stems from the aviation and aerospace industry, commonly held ideas about building and dwelling are being revolutionized.

To that end, basic building principles are fundamentally analyzed and questioned.

At Sobek's "Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK)" at the University of Stuttgart, as well as in his own architecture and engineering office, the accent is on the development of new techniques, structures and materials that have already been put to use in his architectural works in, for example, Chicago, Shanghai and Bangkok.

Sobek's research work into load-bearing systems, his innovative use of glass, textiles and titanium, as well as the development of adaptive or self-regulating elements, are demonstrated and explained through the use of models, work pieces and films.

For example, glass surfaces with changeable light-permeability or a load-bearing glass dome out of glued segments will be used to illustrate potential future uses for these materials.

For Werner Sobek, civil engineering and architecture combine into a more unified form of engineering; a form process that brings together elements of the highest technical and aesthetic levels.

Finally, the exhibition presents Werner Sobek's "House 129”", which is still in the development stage, a project that is more radical than "R 128", which breaks with all usual preconceptions about building, pointing the way to new directions in future architecture and ways of life.

The exhibition affords a chance to take a stimulating and comprehensible look into these "ways into the future" as they relate to architecture and civil engineering.

Find it: Pinakothek der Moderne
Kunstareal - Barer Str. 40, Munich
Get info:+49-89-23805-360

Find other art events worldwide, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

ART/Virtual Galleries
"On Language"
Through August 31st

Minus Space has launched their first online group exhibition, "On Language," featuring the work of artists Soledad Arias, Richard Kostelanetz, Juan Matos Capote, and Manfred Mohr.

"On Language" explores these New York City-based artists' broad interpretation of language in their work, including their use of letters, numbers, symbols, words, texts, languages, writing, sound, speech, binary code, and sensory experiences.

Argentinean artist Soledad Arias uses language to shift reality through psychological/sensory experiences.

She explains: "Sight: When I visualize a word I hear sound. Its sonorities trigger spatial resonances in myself. Sound: Understanding of an idea permeates me with a sense of awe, a dissolution of limits in the face of new form. Touch: I provoke a shift in time, delay enhances the perception of emotional meaning.

"Physical interaction: The siting of text in the environment adds to words (language) a physical dimension stretching the boundaries of our sensory/psychological experience."

Artist Richard Kostelanetz was born and raised in New York City. He uses letters, numbers, symbols, sounds, words, and texts to create work in multiple media.

He explains: "Having begun as a writer, initially of essays and then of books, which I continue to do, I've made art reflecting my professional origins, first with visual poems and minimal fictions for printed pages.

"Later I put language on larger sheets of paper...I thought about alternative materials for literary forms, making poems entirely of numerals, and fictions wholly of line-drawings whose sequences would suggest a narrative.

"Then I made audiotapes and videotapes entirely of words, followed by wholly literary holograms and films…I produced audiotapes entirely about the sound of a certain thing: the language of prayer, New York City, baseball, the sound of Hebrew."

Hailing from the Canary Islands, Spain, artist Juan Matos Capote uses onomatopeic structures to link sounds, language and images.

About his work, he says: "I began to use language some years ago when I began to place onomatopoeic texts, that is, written sounds, onto the surfaces of monochromatic canvases…metaphorically, I was listening for a response, wishing for a conversation, as if I was with someone...these onomatopoeias were taken from comics that depicted people sounding pleasure [in print] while having sex. This let me begin to concentrate on the [mixture of the] visual and aural, in consciously mixing the spectator's senses when [they experience the work].

"I also use sentences in my work with the purpose of leading the spectator, or suggesting a [mental/physical] sensation…like when I paint it smells of roses on a rose pink canvases, or when I paint Listen: or the text Once upon a time,, stressing the narrative."

Lastly, German-born artist Manfred Mohr uses binary language to create ever-evolving works in digital media. He states: "The semiotic aspect of my work is an important part of my art, visually and content-wise. The complex structure of an n-dimensional hypercube (on which my work has been based for 30 years) is a rich source of material to create and develop signs.

"Since they are created within the rational structure of computer programming, my work is fundamentally an algorithmic art. All signs refer only to themselves and their content is the history of their creation.

"My work incorporates a sequential flow in time and relationships among elements, which gives it the characteristics of a musical language. I therefore describe my art in many instances as 'visual music'."

[Shown: “you are here”, (2002)
Intervention/installation, neon sign, words, timer: 5 seconds on, 5 seconds fades down, 5 seconds fades up. Installation on 42nd Street, Times Square, NYC. Soledad Arias]

About this gallery: Minus Space is an online curatorial and critical project. Minus Space's physical gallery will open in Brooklyn, NY, in 2004.

Minus Space presents the best reductive, concept-based art, including work in painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, photography, video, new media, performance art, architecture, and design.

Reductive, concept-based work is characterized by its use of plainspoken materials, monochromatic or limited color, geometry and pattern, repetition and seriality, precise craftsmanship, and intellectual rigor.

Find out about other art events, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

NYC/KGB Bar/Reading
August 18, 7pm

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.

Reading: Ilsa J. Bick, "Star Trek Lost Era #06: Well of Souls"

About this book: The secret history of one of the most mysterious ships in Starfleet -- the Enterprise-C -- and the crew members as they battle a conspiracy for control of ancient alien ruins. "The Lost Era: Well of Souls" is a highly charged tale of the Enterprise-C and its crew when they encounter deadly alien forces unleashed by the estranged husband of Captain Rachel Garrett. Now Garrett and her crew are caught in a sinister plot of kidnapping, extortion, and murder as underworld forces attempt to claim Cardassian ruins reputed to link the living world with the ancient dead.

Also reading: Alexander Irvine, "One King, One Soldier"

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

Find events in other cities, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".



"Paradiso e Inferno/Heaven and Hell"
Through August 23rd

The experiences of common humanity: love, ecstasy, beauty, joy, freedom and peace. But also despair, pain, deceit, hate, suffering and terror.

Heavenly sentiments and hellish states of mind, reality itself is a state of
ever-changing contrasts.

"Paradiso e Inferno/Heaven and Hell" is a journey through these contrasts, via the work of a dozen artists.

The exhibition, curated by Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, director of the Bergamo Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, will be housed at two separate Bevilacqua la Masa Foundation venues: the St. Mark's Square Gallery stages Heaven, while the Palazzetto Tito will house Hell.

Each presenting artist tackles an issue connected to fear, love, peace, hate -- the entire range of human desires and terrors -- in works suited to their own specific poetry and style.

Each artist takes over a single room in which to display one or more works relative to the proposed themes.

The project is informed by Dante's literary masterpieces; the ambitious scope of the exhibit adds yet another theme to "Paradiso e Inferno": the understanding that one must have courage, as well as humility, in examining the grand themes of life.

The following is an outline of the proposed journey:


LOVE: Mike Kelley, (USA): "Extracurricular Activity Reconstruction #1 (Domestic Scene)"

Paintings made by covering the canvas with hundreds of glued-on, multi-colored buttons.

These surfaces become a series of festive planes and visual whorls of movement, tactile representations of the joy of life in simple everyday items that we carry around with us on our clothes, that first layer of artificial skin.

BEAUTY: Ettore Spalletti, (Italy): "White and Gold"

Harmonious beauty is the focus of Ettore Spalletti's work, wherein surfaces bathed in pinks, blues, greens, yellows and whites are captured within the golden borders of the painting frame; the abstract, balanced planes recall the world of painting from antiquity.

They establish a relationship to the immaculate world of Beato Angelico, with Piero della Francesca's exacting perspective geometry, even the delicate finesse of Raffaello's draftsmanship.

ECSTASY: Decosterd and Rahm, (France): "The Scent of Christ, Artificial Air" is a scent-spreading installation. A sculpture descends from the ceiling like an
upside-down fungus, almost touching the ground, then unexpectedly infuses the room with a gentle perfume: an ecstatic perfume which the creators, two architects, call "The Scent of Christ, Artificial Air", which is the arrival point for the installation.

The artists comment on both credulity and skepticism; the possibility to experience the miraculous is inherent in all, regardless of whether or not they believe in miracles.

JOY: Patrick Tuttofuoco, (Italy): Eight luminous sculptures that resemble "mini-skyscrapers" occupy the room like pieces from a chessboard; light and sound pierce the room, modifying the viewer's perception of the space.

In this work, we see the art object, the space surrounding it, and ourselves become part of the joyous experience of being immersed completely, and becoming part of a work of art, rather than just an observer.

FREEDOM: Armin Linke, (Italy): "G8", (2001)
On display, photos from G8 counter-demonstrations in Genova.

The work examines artistic freedom and the public spaces in which we are able to demonstrate our thoughts through action.

Disagreement is central in this series of photographs; we see both liberation and repression through this series of images from a very public demonstration.

PEACE: Massimo Grimaldi, (Italy): "Fish in Afghanistan"

Photos from an emergency mobilization to build a hospital in Kabul. The photos scroll through the dual screens of a Mac computer; through the merging and dissolving of photographs onscreen, the artist demonstrates two means of progress: on the one hand, the beauty and power of technology to assist us in our daily lives; on the other, the constructive (literally) effect of peace and benevolent intent during times of crisis.


DESPAIR: Marcel Dzama and Neil Farber (Canada): Both artist draw on the theme of the apocalypse: some one hundred surreal drawings are on display, which recount the story of the day of judgement.

A type of moving human/animal bestiary, the images pulse with a macabre vitality, a dance of death made up of mythological beings. The narrative begins with the start of time and finishes with the final days, and the end of hope; utter despair is what the Canadian artists offer here.

PAIN: Ryan Mendoza, (USA): Mendoza creates striking paintings in which the protagonist is an icon, a mixture of realism and expressionism. The work is based on the suffering body.

The artist uses a palette of thick and compact colors that give life to images, abrading the viewer's senses with images of men and women who carry the burden of pain and suffering as if it were inseparable from their existence.

Mendoza's works are enigmatic and visceral, portraits of anonymous figures which capture an eerie awareness of physical and psychological pain in the subject of our scrutiny.

DECEIT: Pietro Roccasalva, (Italy): Paintings and drawings.

Pietro Roccasalva evokes the meaning of deceit through the process of painting, itself.

Painting, indeed, is never truly real, even when the image constructed on the surface seems to represent the original object.

The process of creation, and the resulting imagery is a kind of deceit, and, in this sense, that untruth is its own condemnation: the viewer is never placed in front of the world, but in front of an image of the world.

HATE: Roberto Cuoghi, (Italy): The artist displays paintings which portray psychedelic/expressionist skulls: "memento mori" for a world churning with conflict.

The representation of death is shown in skulls which smile statically, and relentlessly, though our cultural, political, and socio-economic clashes, reminding viewers that they'll all wear the same grim 'smile' -- eventually.

SUFFERING: Dragana Spanjos, (Croatia): Installation. Spanjos creates mechanized environments through technology or manually operated apparatus, which animate the space, always at the ready to catch the bored gallery trawler by surprise.

In this case, the artist has routed a series of sensors which zap the unwary with a small electric shocks at calf-level, gifting the casual observer with the experience of genuine physical suffering, albeit in micro.

TERROR: Gino de Dominicis, (Italy): "D'io", (1971)

A sound installation of diabolical laughter. The artist's satanic laughter spreads throughout the area at random intervals, causing disorientation for the visitor, since there is no effective way to predict when the sound will resurface.

The sound follows the visitor throughout the exhibition, and there is no way to escape. Oh, the horror.

[Shown: “Intelligent Artificer”,
(1999-2003), Pietro Roccasalva]

Find it: Galleria Bevilacqua La Masa, Piazza San Marco 71/c
and Palazzetto Tito, Dorsoduro 2826
Venice, Italy
Get info: Tel. +39 041 5237819 (San Marco)
and +39 041 5207797, +39 041 5208879 (Tito)

Find art events in other cities, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

THEATRE/San Francisco
BATS Summer Improv Festival
Aug. 1-30, 8pm

BATS Improv presents its annual Summer Improv Festival: 30 days, 22 shows, Shakespearean long-form improve to guerilla theatre.


"Eat the Apple"
August 7
Improv with a feminine edge. This time it’s personal: real-life experiences, political issues, social contretemps and pop culture all get the mash, as all-female improv group "Eat the Apple" tackle all of the above.

"Improvised Shakespeare"
August 7
The Bard of Avon is back in play; the audience supplies the title and the story takes off from there -- the plot, characters, and lines are made up on the spot using the language of Shakespeare.

"The News Show"
August 12
Ripped from the headlines; taking inspiration from the world's newspapers, improvisers riff on the stories of the day.

"Gorilla Theatre"
August 14
Five directors, no rules, and one gorilla. Gorilla Theatre is a "directed improv" program. Each improviser in the show takes a turn at directing a scene. At the end of the scene the audience decides if the director was successful or not -- and votes to reward or punish them.

"True Fiction"
August 20
Guest improve troupe "True Fiction Magazine" present an evening of spontaneous theatre. The 'provers take titles suggested by the audience and spin out stories that move forward and backward in time, like flipping pages in a 1940s pulp magazine.

Trivia: Modern improvisation finds its roots in commedia dell'arte, (Italian, meaning "comedy of professional artists") which was a form of improvisational theater which began in the 16th century and was popular until the 18th century, although it is still performed today. Traveling teams of players would set up an outdoor stage and provide amusement in the form of juggling, acrobatics, and, more typically, humorous plays based on a repertoire of established characters with a rough storyline.
[Source: Wikipedia]

Find it: Bayfront Theater
Fort Mason Center, Building B
San Francisco
Get info: (415) 474-8935

Find more dance/theatre events in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

Stealth wallpaper

Wi-Fi hitchhikers, take note: British defense contractor BAE Systems had some material lying around, used for stealth bombers/to cloak the location of radar used in military operations, and discovered – hey, this stuff works as a security block for Wi-Fi, too...

The FSS (Frequency Selective Surface) panels are manufactured in the same way as printed circuit boards, with layers of copper on Kapton polymer. The panels are 50 to 100 microns thick; they can be applied to most surfaces, including glass. Which is half-useful; get ready to dig deep, to cough up for the additional artificial lighting expense.

The panels prevent third parties from snagging a free Wi-Fi ride into company data traffic, while allowing other traffic through, including cell phone signals.

'Course, if you're really determined, and use a bit of ingenuity (and a blowtorch)...

Just saying.

Find more sci/tech news in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"4 X 4"
Through August 29th

Four art projects from artists creating work for the fourth borough of Florence: voila, it's "4 X 4".

The open-air exhibit is being held in three venues: the park-gardens of Villa Vogel, Villa Strozzi and Villa Pandolfini.

The common denominator for all the projects is the 'incidental' principle; the spectator is confronted with contemporary art where he least expects it. Just when you thought you were safe from a little culture intruding on your stroll through the park...

That's the goal of the exhibit, and we're thinking 'confronted' is probably the word, considering that artist Filippo Frosini's contribution is a huge bug sculpture. Taking a nip of hazelnut gelato, readjusting your sun shades, and --"Holy macaroni, it's a giant bug. How'd that get there?"

The concept: a low-key exploration of paradox, in that the tiniest of the species becomes nearly as large as the dinosaur. Hmm. Yes.

Sound design from Stefano Passerotti replaces the natural sounds of the garden with soundscapes drawn from nature -- birds chirping, etc., only it's all electronically rendered.

The artists: Chema Alvargonzalez, (b.1960); he lives and works in Barcelona and Berlin Timet; Stefano Passerotti, composer and sound designer; Lorenzo Brusci (b.1966) is the founder of concept group "Timet." He lives and works in Tuscany. Lastly, Filippo Frosini, born in Siena in 1977, and local artist Vittorio Corsini.

[Shown: “Cricket”, (2004)
Wood, stainless steel, fiberglass, industrial paint
Filippo Frosini]

Find it: Consiglio di Quartiere 4
Commissione Cultura
Villa Vogel
V. delle Torri, 23
Get info: +39-055-27-67-113-135

Find other art exhibits (and art interventions) worldwide, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


LIVES Mini-view: Sparkle Hayter, novelist

"I didn't set out to break rules. It just seems to come naturally to me."

The original title of "Bandit Queen Boogie" was "Macguffin," after the plot device made famous by Hitchcock.

A good contemporary example of a macguffin would be the golden-glowing valise in "Pulp Fiction." In this book, it's the thing inside the statue of Hindu God Ganesh.

The publisher asked me to change it to something less obscure to non-crime readers, and since bandit queens are a strong ingredient in the book, I called it "Bandit Queen Boogie."

Accidental criminals:

The two main characters, Chloe and Blackie, are loosely based on two English women I met while backpacking in India and Pakistan in 1986. Con artists.

I found them fascinating and had long thought of writing a book about two young women who become accidental criminals, and are good at it.

Thinking about them, and imagining how they got into it and where it could lead, became "Bandit Queen Boogie."

My favorite character:

Ganesh. Among the human characters, it's hard to say. I like and dislike things about each of them (and some of those things are things I took from my own self, which complicates it further).

Blackie, Cameron and Diane would be a lot of fun to socialize with. Eddie and Chloe are deeper and more thoughtful, better for long-term friendship. I find Wendy, the right-wing Christian, very endearing, and have a soft spot for Mama Dajgit and Chunky the goonda, too.

Writing it:

Chloe and Blackie came first, but I always knew there'd be a tie to India because the inspiration came from India, a place I love in a complicated way.

Among the things that fascinate me are Bollywood and Bombay goondas (gangsters), and those things came together through the statue of Ganesh, my favorite of the Hindu gods.

What changed:

The Robin Hudson mystery series books are written in first person, while this book and "Naked Brunch" are written in third person.

It was refreshing to stop writing "I" and be able to be more of an "observer"
in the two standalone novels. The mysteries, too, are darker, more cynical and more personal.

Real-life fiction:

I used a lot of my own road stories, the characters, the places we traveled, in the book. It was great to revisit certain places and people.

The art squat is very closely based on the Chateaudun squat where I lived in Paris for a year with the arts group Kilometer Zero (KMZ). It was a remarkable place, with remarkable people.

I also spent a lot of time working out of a "legal" squat (one of those practical Dutch things) in Amsterdam, and some of that place made it into the Artery squat in BQB, too. A lot of European countries have -- or had, in the case of France -- laws or conventions that facilitate squatting under certain circumstances.

They can be very fertile places for artists to work, providing the space and the freedom to experiment outside of commercial pressure. The lifestyle is rugged and simple, but I've seen some amazing things created in squats, with few or no material resources.

KMZ is a very free-wheeling group. Our friends include a Russian sympathetic to capitalism, a Wisconsin guy who leans towards Marxism, a Christian who helped blind people pray at Lourdes, a wry, beer-drinking Muslim. Members are all ages, all economic backgrounds, different nationalities (though with a disproportionate Canadian contingent).

It wasn't utopia. There were a couple of big blowouts at the squat, but everyone had a desire to be fair and try to work things out and everyone shares a wicked sense of humor, and those qualities made the place work.

Labor pains:

It's a cliché to compare writing a book to childbirth, but it's mostly true.
A year later, a mother has forgotten her labor pains, and a writer has forgotten hers, too. Book writing though, has a longer gestation period, probably closer to that of the elephant than to a human.

And after the book is born, it won't kiss you, make you birthday cards, or call you up after midnight and ask for bail money. So the analogy falls short in some respects.

Breaking the rules:

"Bandit Queen Boogie" can be classified as chick lit, in a broad way. It is true to some of the conventions; it's a comedy, the tone and style are light-hearted,
the protagonists are young, middle-class women, who have some boyfriend trouble and aren't sure what they want to do with their lives.

But my protagonists don't always get the guy. That isn't the only or even central focus of the plot ever, though there is always some sex and twisted romance. It's more about adventure and that includes romantic and sexual adventure, but goes well beyond that. I didn't set out to break rules. It just seems to come naturally to me.

[Shown: Sparkle Hayter. Photo: Michel Crotto/Opale]

Author bio: Sparkle Hayter was born in Pouce Coupe, B.C., Canada. In 1980, she ran away to New York City where she ended up in TV news, primarily for CNN. She has also written for the "New York Times", "The Nation" and the "Toronto Globe and Mail," was a regular panelist on CNN & Company. She has also appeared on NPR, BBC and Paris Premiere. Leaving CNN, she went to Afghanistan to cover the Afghan war.

After a particularly hair-raising trek through a minefield behind some Frenchmen and a flatulent packhorse, she gave up full-time journalism. Upon her return to New York City, she got married, took up stand-up comedy, sold her first novel, moved to Tokyo, moved back to New York into the fabled Chelsea Hotel, got a divorce, published five more novels, and acquired a tattoo.

Hayter is the author of the Robin Hudson mystery series ("What's a Girl Gotta Do", "Nice Girls Finish Last", and "Chelsea Girl Murders"), and urban Grimm's fairy tale, "Naked Brunch".

Her new book, "Bandit Queen Boogie", was just released. She lives in Paris.

About KMZ: Kilometer Zero is a non-profit collective of artists and writers based in Paris who are trying to build an alternative forum for ideas without any advertising or corporate support.

Excerpt: "Bandit Queen Boogie", by Sparkle Hayter

A little Italy, a little France, a little crime, a little romance...…

Meet Blackie and Chloe: two best friends who decide, over tequila shots, to spend the summer backpacking through Europe.

Blackie wants to go a little crazy -- drink, smoke, flirt, meet men, have a romance or two. Chloe wants to nurse her broken heart and bury her nose in a book.

One is dark and boisterous, the other blond and quiet. Together, they're an irresistible combination . . . to cheaters and shady fellows on expense accounts, looking to lure the girls to their hotel suites for a little harmless 'fun.'

Discovering a latent gift for the con, Blackie and Chloe beat the bad guys at their own game, lock 'em up, take the money and run. It's the perfect crime - until the intrepid tag team hits the wrong mark in Monte Carlo.

When their latest 'victim' turns up dead, the jig is up, and the bandit queens are on the run. Chloe and Blackie's ride through Europe gets a whole lot wilder, with a passel of unsavory characters in hot pursuit of the mystery women last seen with the dead man and his golden statue.

Cheeky and subversive, fueled by mistaken identity and international intrigue (helped along by inept gangsters, a man who sketches God, a runaway heiress, sexy bullfighter, two errant filmmakers and a van full of Buddhists), "Bandit Queen Boogie" is an antic tour of Europe on the wrong side of the law. If only every jaunt down the Blue Coast was this much fun...


For nine years, Michelle "Blackie" Maher and Chloe Bower had been best friends, and in that time, neither knew the other was born a thief.

If they hadn't gone to Europe the summer after college graduation and become accidental criminals they might never have known, though if Chloe had thought about it, she would have seen it in Blackie all along. Blackie always underpaid on dinner tabs, borrowed money without paying it back, had an amusing and largely harmless amoral side to her, and a great ease in rationalizing it all.

She liked to quote something her father said when she was twelve and they were wrestling a side of beef into the back of her Dad's chevy after he swiped it from a meat wholesaler who had shortchanged him on some construction work:

"It's a sin to be too generous with the greedy, Blackie."

Many people would have been surprised that these two very different girls had that of all things-crime-in common. Outside observers could never quite figure out how these two had ever bonded, matter and antimatter as one of Chloe's boyfriends would later refer to them.

In fact, lawbreaking had been at the root of their friendship, nine years B.E., Before Europe. In eighth grade, they'd both been caught smoking in the john and sent to the same Stop Smoking program after school. They were the youngest reprobates in the class. After everyone else in the circle had talked about why they started smoking and how long they smoked, it was Blackie's turn and she said, "All I can think of right now is that there are 30 smokers in this room and we could all be smoking and having a lot of fun."

When they had to pick a 'buddy' to help them through the course, Chloe picked Blackie. After class, they went off to smoke behind the 7-11-Marlboro reds for Blackie, Benson & Hedges menthols for Chloe. Neither wanted to quit smoking and they conspired to fake their smoke sheets for class and lie about their progress until they were sprung from the program. With this small, and unhealthy, act of rebellion, they became co-conspirators, the first step toward friendship.

Their pact required celebratory cokes, and the smoking of more cigarettes. Blackie showed Chloe how to 'French inhale,' blowing the smoke out her nostrils like a dragon, and Chloe showed her how to blow smoke rings, perfect, silky gray Os.

As they sipped and smoked, they discovered they liked the same bands and TV shows. More important, they disliked the same people, particularly one mean clique of girls who had invited Chloe to a premium slumber party recently then withdraw the invitation publicly the next day.

"I didn't want to go anyway," Chloe said. "I was afraid I'd fall asleep during the night and they'd call me dead and eat my heart and liver."

"And suck the marrow from your bones," Blackie agreed.

Nobody could have been more shocked that they had anything in common than they themselves were. They'd seen each other in school and just always assumed they were in parallel universes.

Chloe was cool, blonde, quiet, bookish, ambitious, and came from an upper-middle-class family with a well-known photography business that handled class photo and yearbook contracts in three counties. They belonged to a (not overly exclusive) country club, lived in a big two-story house in an established part of town and had fine china that not only matched but had been passed down two generations almost intact, with just the loss of a gravy boat.

Blackie looked tougher, a bit feral, with dark hair, dark eyes, a tattoo. She was friendly, got good grades without trying and never did more than she had to in school. Her father was a carpenter who had started his own business, her mother a homemaker and part-time Avon saleswoman, and they lived in a more modest house in a newer subdivision.

Long after her father's construction business became successful the family still drank out of mismatched glasses, two of which were survivors from a set Blackie's grandmother won at bingo, which Blackie jokingly referred to as the 'heirlooms.'

Their differences, as much as their similarities, helped them stay friends through high school and college. They had different ambitions, so there wasn't any negative competitive energy between them.

They went for different kinds of guys, eliminating a common friction point between friends. They never much liked each other's boyfriends, but this was less of a problem than if they had liked them too much, and at breakup time it was easy to say, "You're better off without him," and "He'll never find another girl like you," and sound convincing.

Or, as Blackie said after Chloe was dumped by John Carey in senior year of college, "This is the best thing that ever happened to you. You're free of that weighty albatross at last. Get dressed. I'm taking you out to celebrate."

Blackie was not surprised by these events. John Carey had been a yo-yo since Christmas, when his best friend got engaged to his pregnant girlfriend. Chloe was infected with the matrimonial virus around the same time John, watching his buddy go down, was inoculated with the antibodies.

One day he'd be withdrawn and aloof to Chloe with no seeming reason, then he'd feel guilty or turn needy and be loving, warm, and solicitous. Her confidence in herself was steadily eroded by the increasing drip-drip of his ambivalence.

It had been a sad thing to watch.

A couple of months later, when Chloe caught the bouquet at a same-sex wedding reception for her favorite professor and his boyfriend, John's ambivalence turned to cold hostility. It was obvious to everyone but Chloe. As Blackie noted, you could almost see that gotta go light turn on inside his head.

"What reason did he give for the breakup?" Blackie asked now.

"He pitched it as an artistic imperative -- a great writer needs to have a lot of different experiences, he needs to know a lot of women, he can't be hemmed in by conventional relationships. Look at Kerouac, Lord Byron, Hemingway, Henry Miller, Ted Hughes," Chloe said, mimicking John’s voice. "It's dangerous to keep a wild thing like him in a cage...He'd only hurt me worse down the road -- this was for my own good."

"FUCKER! But he's right about the last part, it's for your own good."

"So I listed all the great artists who were greater for being married, like Gustave Mahler."

"Chloe, you don't for one moment think this guy is going to be Jack Kerouac or Ted Hughes."

"He's got talent."

"He's clever and superficial. I bet you a buck he ends up in his dad's investment business. He's a tourist."

"Do you think John will come back to me?"

"If he has any taste and intelligence at all, honey, he would. So in other words, no. Oh God, I hope not."

"Don't say that, Blackie. I love him."

Over tequila poppers and tapas at a campus bar, Chloe cried and drank and wondered aloud what to do with the rest of her miserable life if John didn’t come back to her.

They were both enrolled at Columbia grad school in the fall, but how could she go to New York if they were no longer together? Risk seeing him with some other woman, or women? And that summer they had planned to go to Europe together, but how could she go now --

"You're not going to cancel Europe because of him, or Columbia in the fall, Chloe. That's insane. Just abdicate your dreams to him?"

"Fu-uck it," Chloe said, hiccupping. "You're right. I should go to Europe anyway."

"You should," Blackie said, and an even better idea suddenly occurred to her. "I should go too."

"Yes," Chloe said. "Please."

"God, yes. A little Italy, a little France, a lee-tle romance."

The first sign that there might be some trouble on this trip was the choice of guidebooks.

Chloe bought the upscale Mousseline Travel Guide, with its subtle, blue matte cover bearing no picture whatsoever, just the words, "Mousseline Guide to France" in plain white letters, an understated style reflecting the discerning, just-the-facts approach inside.

Blackie bought the backpacker's Bible, the "Lonesome Roads Guide," which was chatty, frank, and included offbeat advice on which hostels had chiggers and where to find the black market in Marseilles.

Neither one thought anything about it. They prepped for the trip with maps, web sites, and by watching old movies set on the Riviera, most starring either Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, and of course Cary Grant who, they agreed, played a great heterosexual. Though still depressed about John, planning for Europe took the edge off for Chloe.

The only person who felt any foreboding about this trip was Blackie's father. He didn't want her to go, claimed it was because he couldn't replace her in the office. He was afraid to say the real reason out loud because of superstition that saying it might bring it about-that as an American she was a walking bull's eye when she stepped outside her nation's borders.

So she wouldn't be identified as an American he bought her a backpack with a big glaring Canadian flag on it, two maple leaf lapel pins (in case she lost one), and several t-shirts.

One said Canada in big red letters above a red maple leaf. Below that it said, "We're not America." It was supposed to be a joke motto, poking fun at America and at Canada's own mythical lack of identity at the same time. To her father, who came from Canada, it was a kind of shield.

When he and his girlfriend and Blackie's mom and her boyfriend came to see her off at the airport, he said, "You watch out for those rats and mashers over there."

Mashers was his old-fashioned term for a wide variety of pickup artists, continental seducers, and white slavers. It was the same thing he said before she went to her first mixed party, to New York sophomore year, and before every first date.

Blackie said what she always said, "And they'd better watch out for me."

Excerpted from "Bandit Queen Boogie" (July 2004, Three Rivers Press)
© 2004, Sparkle Hayter. All rights reserved. Used with permission.