FOR THE BROTHAS: AN INTRODUCTION

It must have been about 20 years ago when I first began thinking about creating a "Cultural Salon" as a reaction to the mundane social circles In Washington D.C. The richness of intellectual and artistic interchange had died, college friends had moved, the internet had not yet become the phenomenon it now is... I romanticised about the Salons of the mid to late 1800's in Paris, London and Berlin and the cultural dynamo of the Harlem Rennaisance. I was fortunate enough to meet a gentleman, an artist who lived and traveled with James Baldwin... Jimmy he affectionately called him, and he spoke often of their small cottage in southern France and of the many Artists, Poets and Luminaries that dropped in to chat and relax. Well, the impressionists, cubists, modernists, etc. all hung out together famously in those days and shared their ideas with one another creating a creative greenhouse in a world that was rapidly changing. I longed to have lived in those times, to have met Cassat, Rodin, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Baker, Balwin, well I did finally meet Baldwin and others purely for the joy of intellection upon the arts. This was in the late 1980's and by the mid 2000's I happened to run into a friend of mine from Hampton University who had been living in New York since he graduated in the early 90s. Well, I was surprised to hear him comment that in all of the wonder that is New York he never met anyone who ever really had anything interesting to say about art, literature, architecture, science, fashion or anything... I was so surprised to hear this since it had also been my experience. Well here I am in 2011 attempting the Virtual Salon...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

THE MEN'S SMOKING LOUNGE TAKES A LOOK AT THE IMAGE OF MEN WHO SMOKE CIGARS


IN THE MEN’S SMOKING LOUNGE
EROS IS THE MAN
SMOKING HIS CIGAR…

There was a time when gentlemen could enjoy a good cigar in the company of other gentlemen who shared their passion for the art of smoking in a place created solely for that purpose.  The smoking room or lounge offered a perfect atmosphere for men to relax, to be conversant, to talk sports, play billiards or cards, to enjoy their favorite whiskey scotch or bourbon and all  in the company of men who like themselves sought out a refuge from the worries of the world.  This was a hallowed place where manly virtues were celebrated, elevated and cultivated as a high art.  



As it was back then and as it is today, one would be hard pressed to find anything particularly sexy about a dim,smoky room full of men sucking on cigars while discussing sports, politics or whatever it is men choose to talk about when they are by themselves.  Popular culture however has an odd way of turning what is otherwise ordinary into a remarkable trend adding a nuance of sexiness as a marketing punch.  



In the capitalistic imagery of twenty-first century consumerism a roomful of men spending upwards of $20.00 on a single hand-crafted incindiary object, which is more than the hourly wage of many Americans, it is plausible that some might romanticise this form of relaxation as a hallmark of economic privilage sexy because it appears to be by its very nature a passion of excess.  Gentlemen who consider the virtues of a good cigar and cocktail to be among the fundimental privilages of manliness watch unmoved as the trend rises and subsides many times over; to them it is relaxation as usual.



Today many men have all but abandoned their claim to the verdantly sueded chairs, the mohogany paneled walls, the oriental carpeted floors and the soft gaslight of the gentlemen’s smoking parlour in exchange for a generic atmosphere that offers them no refuge from the aesthetic meanness of the world.  For the twenty-first century man the gym can enhance but never replace the gentleman’s club as a place for stylish and ultra-civilized relaxation, there quite honestly has never been a better place for men to be men.  This century has banned smoking of any kind from most places of public assembly save those which are grandfathered or established solely for the enjoyment of the tobacconists arts.  Almost as a rebound to the demonization of smoking as a social faux-pas we now see the rise of many new smoking establishments in the form of cigar lounges and hookah bars. 




From yet another purely figurative angle It was suggested by someone from whom I casually eavesdropped whilst taking coffee on a sunny sidewalk cafe that the image of a man smoking a cigar was sexy.  I thought carefully about this osmotic theory asking myself what could be construed as sexy about a man smoking a cigar.  Was it the cigar that imparted its sexiness to the gentleman or was it the gentleman who imparted his sexiness to the cigar or was it possible that both the cigar and man endowed with their own masculine charms oscillated in such a manner that created a uniquely sexy, macho vignette.  



I had delved into a subjective realm which is almost never consistent when spied from within the myriad of prallaxes.  Then whilst oer’hearing a conversation between a gentleman and salesman in a handsomely appointed cigar establishment I got wind of what might have been part of my answer.  The gentleman, customer said as he was being shown various brands, “I guess smoking cigars is an oral fixation of mine”.  Eureka! I thought, oral fixation indeed!  Now a cigar is objectified as the equivalent of a mature male pacifier, calming,  relaxing and soothing the lion.   So I stole away to the imagery vault visualising a man smoking a cigar, watching as it exeuded its handsomely wrought, earthy aroma like the hunting woods, moss, the heavy herbal scent of a grassy clearing or a lively campfire, calming the savage beastliness of a man.  That was the image I found to be most like that of a smoky cigar lounge.  Of all the manly pleasures of relaxation the smoking of cigars is one of most civilized.  Smoking a cigar is most unlike a massage, the sauna or spa, it is a patently masculine form of relaxation that a gentleman can enjoy fully clothed and just about anywhere he pleases, these days a gentleman may even enjoy his cigar in the presence of ladies. 



Hesitant as I was to tap into the stereotype of the Alpha Male, magnificent and intimidating like a great lion I found its imagery rather suited the case.  Yet I observed gentlemen coming from all walks of life, from corporate, state and federal occupations and from every manner of livelihood at the days end to a common place of relaxation… a cigar lounge.  



Some of these men were undoubtedly extracted from the meeker persuasion perhaps not Alpha males but males nonetheless attracted by the same passion for a fine smoke and honest company; oddly enough considering their diversity at the cigar lounge all men were equals.   Here was a place where they could slow their hectic pace down, unravel their cravat, undue their cufflinks order their favorite whiskey and cigar then take their patient time to enjoy their virtues with or without conversation.  To a man there is nothing more sexy than the prospect of being able to relax and kick back after a hectic day doing something he passionately loves, in this case it is the enjoyment of a fine cigar.  




Whether there is any connexion between the enjoyment of a fine cigar and a sexual experience is wholly a matter of opinion.  Aren’t we all enamored of the way that manliness is promoted as a sexual qualifier in our culture?  Look at 007 for example promoted as the epitome of manhood and enjoying his hand-rolled cuban cigars.  Others contend that the sensuousness  of cigar smoking is to be found in the experience of smoking itself; the texture of the cigar, the aroma of the humidified tobacco and the smoke and of course the buzz from a finely aged cigar.  These are the hallmarks of what can be classified as a sensable, psychological experience and therefore closely related to sensual or erotic stimulation. 



The chemical enzymes contained in the tobacco and released as a result of the chemical reaction when the tobacco is burned such as nicotine are also agents that contribute to the psychological experience of sensuality and arousal.  Most cigar smokers will admit they get a buzz while smoking a well-crafted cigar.  It is a proven fact that  among the chemical agents present in tobacco  are opiads released as a gas only when the tobacco is burnt.  These vaporised opiads chemically stimulate our senses through the brain in the same manner as any other stimulant sexual or otherwise.  Of all the plausible cases for the sexiness of cigar smoking this is perhaps the most sound if not the most clinical.



I have to confess as a man who enjoys his cigars that there is something very sexy about  the image a gentleman smoking his fine cigar whether alone or in the company of others.  It is the epitome of manliness, the essence of machismo, a romantic and elegant vignette of the old-guard that simply exudes genteel, and manly virtue.  It is the combination of the intrinsic aura a man emits and the way in which he controls the smoking of his cigar, how he holds it, draws from it and releases the dense fumes of aromatic smoke.  In contrast to an artless world moving at the speed of light, to see a true gentleman slow down and carefully smoke his cigar while the world rages on is indeed a sexy sight.  



Who is that leisurely man smoking his fine cigar, cool and focused while the rest of the world burns wild?  He is the new sexy, the new mascho, the personification of cool in a world so hot it consumes itself.  Nobody knows his name and it is not important because all we need to know is that in the smoking room that is wherever he sojourns, Eros is  the man smoking his cigar.



WRITTEN BY BIGDADDY BLUES

WWW.FORTHEBROTHAS.BLOGSPOT.COM


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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SIMPLE VS COMPLEX

THE PANTHEON IN PARIS


THE PARADOX BETWEEN THE INTELLECTUAL AND THE SIMPLE LIFE…

“THE GREAT IRONY THAT SHADOWS KNOWLEDGE AGAINST THE UNLEARNED IS THAT ONCE WE BECOME EDUCATED NOTHING IS SIMPLE ANYMORE.  THOSE WHO ASPIRE TO LIVE THE SIMPLE LIFE LOOK WITH DISTRUST AT THE ASSUMED MACHINATIONS OF INTELLECTUALS OPTING TO FOREGO THE WAY OF OVERWORKED MINDS.  THOSE WHO HOLD SACRED A PURSUIT OF THE UNKNOWN FEAR THE RUT OF COMPLACENCY BUT APPEAR NEVER TO BE TRULY HAPPY UNLESS THEY ARE ENGAGED IN A CONTINUAL PURSUIT OF TRUTH.   I BELIEVE VOLTAIRE COINED THIS CONTRADICTION IN THE PERSONA OF A BRAHMAN… EXISTENCE IS QUITE PUZZLING IN THIS WAY, THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO THINK BEYOND THE PURELY MUNDANE ARE SUDDENLY LAUNCHED INTO A REALM SO VERY FAR FROM THE REST OF HUMANITY AND YET THEY ARE CHALLENGED TO LIVE IN THE SAME WORLD AT THE SAME TIME…  TO THE ORDINARY MAN THE INTELLECTUAL IS ESOTERIC, EVEN OBSOLETE BECAUSE THE SIMPLER MAN UNDERSTANDS HOW TO GET FROM POINT “A” TO POINT “B” WITH FEWER CARES.

VOLTAIRE'S GRAVE IN THE PANTHEON, PARIS
 

THE INTELLECTUAL UNDERSTANDS THAT IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT GETTING FROM ONE POINT TO ANOTHER; IT IS ABOUT THE JOURNEY ONE TAKES ON THE WAY.  WHO CAN TRUTHFULLY COMPARE THE QUALITY OF THESE TWO UNIQUE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, NO ONE CAN? THE SIMPLE MAN IS HAPPY THAT HE HAS GOT TO WHERE HE WAS HEADED AT ALL, HAVING TO BALANCE HIS JOURNEY WITH A HOST OF OTHER MUNDANE CONCERNS.  THE INTELLECTUAL HAS WRITTEN SONNETS, PAINTED, SCULPTED, AND REVELED AT THE MANY WONDROUS HISTORICAL ELEMENTS ALONG HIS WAY, HE HAS TARRIED TO EXPLORE AND CULTIVATE, TO EXTRAPOLATE, TO INTELLECTUALIZE EVERY CUBIC CENTIMETER OF HIS CONSCIOUSNESS… IF THE TASK WAS MERELY TO SEE WHO COULD GET FROM POINT “A” TO POINT “B” THEN THEY ARE EQUALLY VICTORIOUS BUT IF THE TASK WERE TO USE THAT JOURNEY AS A VEHICLE TO EXPOUND ON THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE THEN AGAIN, BOTH JOURNEYS MIGHT WEIGH-OUT THE SAME.  WHO IS TO SAY THAT INTELLECTUALISM OUTWEIGHS PRAGMATISM?  PERHAPS THE SIMPLE MAN DETERMINED TO FOREGO THE SCENIC ROUTE IN ORDER TO GET TO HIS DESTINATION QUICKER WHEREUPON HE WOULD BE FREE TO PROPOUND THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE ITSELF AGAINST THE VICISSITUDES OF HIS JOURNEY!  THAT IS WHY KNOWLEDGE IS SO STRANGE, THE MORE OF IT WE GATHER THE EASIER IT IS TO THINK AND UNDERSTAND YET THE MORE COMPLEX EVERYTHING SUDDENLY BECOMES IN ITS WAKE…”


FIN



WRITTEN BY BIGDADDY BLUES

6-24-14

THE PANTHEON, PARIS AT NIGHT









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Monday, May 26, 2014

BELLE, A CINEMATIC 8TH WONDER...




THE HISTORIC CINEMA DRAMA “BELLE” IS INDEED A BELLE EPOCH!


From a court painting dated 1779, three years after the American Revolution and 13 years before the French Revolution the gilded life of a black noblewoman named Dido Elizabeth Belle has come into new light in the form of the 2013 film “BELLE”.  The film is brilliant on all levels and visits places that “The Duchess,” another intensely vivid exploration of 18th century womanhood, could not go; alas, it is a truly different story.  That the late 18th century evolved into a proving ground for the ideals of the Enlightenment which had been brewing for over 150 years is fully evinced in this film.  Abolition in England was ripe for the ending of slavery as early as 1782 but the Slavery Abolition Act was not turned into law until 1833.  Belle delves into the caldarium of slavery, racism, interracial relationships, class-ism, sexism and happily plain old fashioned love. 



The costume and set design are impeccably in sync with the current fashion trend consisting of revivals of the the 17th through 19th centuries.  The costumes are magnificent!  The eighteenth century was a highly decorative era for ladies and men’s fashion and architecture, it was the height of the exuberantly ornamental Baroque Era.   Neither expense nor attention to detail was spared in the faithful recreation of the 1790's for this production largely filmed in period English homes and exceptional pains were even taken to reproduce the slums and the bustling but raunchy commercial districts along the Thames river in late 18th century London..  There were no tongue-in-cheek anachronisms or oversights such as electrical fixtures or outlets in the walls or modern skyscrapers in the palatial or urban vistas, the visual experience was remarkably immaculate.  



The screenplay was also masterfully written and acted.  This is one of the few films where I can honestly say every performance was superlative even down to the coach drivers and that is not only due to the artifice and talent of the actors but also to the skillfulness of the director and camera crews.  



The lighting for this film recreated the soft interior glow of candles and fire-lit exteriors, the  genuine play of light was not forgotten, the intensity and cavernousness of interior daylight within the grand and ornate halls and chambers was brilliantly utilised.  Shading and shadowing techniques were brilliantly applied to accentuate the rich textures and intense moods of the film.  The movie, 



Belle, was filmed entirely during the spring and summer of the Island upon which it takes place and the vivid 18th century colors juxtaposed against a verdant backdrop catapults this movie into a realm of one of the most beautiful to capture the landscape of the Isles.   



The musical sound track was engineered to inspire tears, joyfulness and suspense; it kept to the harpsichord, and the typical instruments and compositions of the age.  In the movie Belle played a melancholy classical piano solo and her sister a lively courting song. the soundtrack was a mellow but critical element narrating the mood of the film and it took pause to allow itself a soft, secondary role so that the main focus could be the acting and other visual effects.  



Through the screenplay the audience is stolen and taken back into an aristocratic world that existed over 234 years ago.  it was written in a traditional and eloquent English aristocratic style that retained the ability to convey the minds of historical characters in ways that verified that they thought not so very differently from the way we think.  I always enjoy when a film can prove the human condition is common to all times.  The floral but direct nature of 18th century aristocratic English was played to the fullest in its explication of the complex layers of class embedded into the social etiquette of the day.  The screenplay effectively clarified the distinction between tradition and the law it was as much written from a lawyers mind as it was from the mind of a woman of those times...



BELLE, shows a very different perspective of the black experience.  It shows how a woman wrapped in the trappings of wealth and privilege but stigmatized by race was able to overcome the hesitancy of a world for which change was inevitable by living that change using her affluence to make a difference. As such it also hints a clear message to affluent blacks of this century by demonstrating how privilege ought to be used.  One might argue that it was easy for a woman of privilege to defy the odds yet again one might as easily answer it with, “Why”?  the “Why” is at the very heart of this film, it explains everything in a uncluttered human scale.  While we acknowledge that the actual life of this woman is a complete mystery we can also concede that elucidated in the mythic drama of this amazing film her life truly defined an extraordinarily powerful, “BELLE EPOCH”!

FIN

WRITTEN BY: DAVID VOLLIN
ADMINISTRATOR: FOR THE BROTHAS, A VIRTUAL, INTELLECTUAL AND CULTURAL SALON




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