photo manipulation by nacrowe
i was a late comer to ANTHONY BOURDAIN.
seems i was inadvertently chasing him around the world like R.E.M. and BLACK FLAG on the same HARDCORE/INDIE ROCK circuit of VFW HALLS and CIVIC centers back in the 1980s. wherever i was abroad in some random part of SOUTHEAST ASIA or EASTERN EUROPE or SOUTH AMERICA at a local restaurant there inevitably seemed to be some reference to BOURDAIN and some episode of PARTS UNKNOWN after the fact either in tourist literature or by fellow travelers. i specifically remember having ceviche at a place in CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA and it turned out an episode was filmed there.
ugh. not gonna lie. it kind of annoyed me at the time since i feel like places should be exciting in and of themselves, not because some random AMERICAN celebrity anointed the place important. struck me as slightly colonialist in a way. i ate at places because that was where the locals ate.
what i failed to realize is that he connected his audience to the world, and specifically local communities on a very intimate level trough his capacity to appreciate all aspects of food.
i remember when i was abroad i'd seek out and buy dresses for my niece. by learning about traditional clothing across cultures and learning common inspirations and locally-sourced materials, you in turn learn a great deal about the native culture in a fairly intimate manner. i can recognize that same drive in BOURDAIN. also, its always nice to see an AMERICAN who is has the correct instinct to connect with other cultures without resorting to exoticizing or passing judgement, which is something i have long seen in travel series and documentaries meant for mass consumption. BOURDAIN spoke with eloquence, intention and genuine curiosity that was contagious to watch. i only wish more of my fellow countrymen could do the same when visiting abroad.
rest in power fellow world traveler and ally of global culture. rest well.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
the documentary AMERICAN VALHALLA (EAGLE ROCK, 2017) takes its name from a song off of IGGY POP's late-career album POST POP DEPRESSION (LOMA VISTA, 2016), which was a collaboration between the iconic STOOGES frontman and musician JOSH HOMME of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE/KYUSS fame. this documentary follows their collaboration throughout the songwriting and recording process with interviews of both conducted by ANTHONY BOURDAIN (RIP).
i guess it should be stated that while IGGY and HOMME come from celebrated bands, both are actually quite unconventional musicians. lots of bands pay lip service to expanding their sound on subsequent releases, but if you track the career trajectory of both you will see that is actually the case. when IGGY reached out to HOMME, both took it as an opportunity to experiment and see what new creations could be manifested from their respective provided elements. it was interesting that in navigating this new relationship they based much on instinct and cooked the songs quickly in short order to not overthink it. just move forward.
i think this film at its core is about the nature of collaboration, especially when you have a history or legacy. it is about dismantling those expectations, both external and, more importantly, internal.
i remember when i was teaching i never slept particularly well because i was constantly questioning my plans. its not that they were inferior, i knew they were sound, but the opportunity cost of it all drove me nuts. there were so many options and how could i choose the right course of action that would best serve my students. i think that drive in part is what broke my heart about the profession, the fact that so many of my peers phoned it in. taught the same thing in the same order as years before, altering nothing. i saw the classroom as a dynamic venue for exploring ideas and challenging them against new technologies and world events. opening up the curriculum to show how these classroom concepts affect our understanding of both the world and ourselves. the fact that i did this in foreign countries, never on my home court made it that much more invigorating and scary at the same time. more colors to play with. i was willing to fail and being unable to settle down completely at night was the price i was willing to pay. risk nothing you get nothing.
what i am trying to say is that im well aware of this fear HOMME had in the film. how do i collaborate with an icon? make it worth his time and my time? and most frightening of all: the opportunity cost of all the other possible music i could write, that i could present to him. how do you conquer that fear?
you just do it by doing it. being truly in the moment. their collaboration was all instinct, mutually respecting and sharing that creative moment. in the moment. right now.
i loved that tightrope dance. i miss it.
note: but i wouldnt return to teaching. dealing with administrations that didn't have the students interests at front of mind cut my heart out. repeatedly. a bad one-sided collaboration rooted in politics.
great film. intriguing documentary on the nature of collaboration and cost required to make it a fruitful and meaningful endeavor.