Everything that has happened to Yoko has caused her to get better at living on the outside (instead of trying to get in). She is out there in the lonely wide open–from being a silenced daughter to a war transplant to an expatriate to an unpopular artist to a feminist with no female friends to a lover blamed by the world for the breakup of their favorite band to losing her daughter to a cult to losing her husband to a killer. She manages all of these losses and holds her ground, is not swept away. She is out there in nowhere or everywhere, and she tries to find beauty and she tries to find connection and she knows the pain of loneliness that is in all of us even though we might not be aware of it. But she is aware, and she reaches to that place in us, she wants us to know it’s okay. We will be okay. Everything is all right.
Lisa Carver, Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono
To protect ourselves, we spun cocoons out of TV, books, video games, early stolen alcohol, and dreams. And then one day we realize we’re grown up yet still all muffled inside what we’ve built around us. We don’t feel real. “There were often times when he would feel as if he were lifting out of his body and observing himself from above,” Dan Chaon writes in just about every one of his short stories. All the writers my age write about blackouts ad floating. We try to get out of these cocoons and make our way down to where our bodies are. We try shoplifting and racist/sexist/ageist humor (trying to offend our way out); we get naked on stage. We try sleep deprivation and razors on our skin. We date creepy, scary sleazes who we half-hope, half-fear might do the cutting for us. But we’re so used to living inside a dream, even cutting feels dreamy. We can’t get out. We can’t wake up.
Most of the time I feel like I’ve gotten out of the cocoon, but sometimes I find it and it still fits and I burrow in.
All Yoko Ono ever wanted was for people to bite what they thought could not be bitten, see what they thought could not be seen, know what they thought could not be known.
She was, it seems, Satan.
But there was a mistake in telling the story. Satan was the good guy. God didn’t want us to bit the apple of knowledge because then we’d know we were Him, and the patriarchy, the whole order of things, would turn to dust.
Lisa Carver, Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono is not pretty, she is not easy, her paintings aren’t recognizable, her voice is not melodious, her films are without plot and her Happenings make no sense. One of her paintings you are told to sleep on. One of her paintings you are told to burn. One of her paintings isn’t a painting at all — it’s you going outside and looking at the sky. Most of her stuff is not even there. This is why I love her. This is why we need her. We have too much stuff already. It clutters our view, inward and outward.
We need more impossible in our culture. Go out and capture moonlight on water in a bucket, she commands. Her art is instructions for tasks impossible to complete. We already have a billion lovely things and a million amazing artists who have honed their talent and have lorded it above us. People who have achieved the highest of the possible. People wearing their roles as artist or writer or filmmaker or spokesman as a suit of armor or as an invisibility cloak or as an intimidatingly, unacquirably tasteful outfit.
It takes an enormous lack of ego to not put your imprint on everything you do, to not employ your learning and position. To stand back, to hold back, to keep your mouth shut. To yell with your silence, when you know you very well could make soothing and welcomed sounds at the drop of a hat. She could sing; she knows how. And being a Beatles wife could have been a magic charm — but she wasn’t interested. It takes willpower to overpower the will to power. To be accepted, to be thought nice, is traditionally woman’s power. That is something Ono doesn’t need.
“For the Yoko book tour, what I’m doing is going to people’s living rooms all over California in top-secret locations and re-enacting some of Yoko’s films and pieces. I’m going to re-enact one of her films, “Up Your Legs Forever.” In it, people are walking on a treadmill, and they’re naked, and one person had a peg leg, and they were maybe not all attractive people. There was just this assembly line of naked bodies walking on a treadmill, and on the soundtrack you could hear the producer and Yoko Ono making phone calls trying to get more naked people to come down and get on the treadmill. It really messed with your perceptions after a while. Playboy has no hold over you after you’ve sat through an hour of that movie…I’m going to have everybody come and get naked, and I’m really hoping that there will be somebody with a peg leg or something like that. So far I haven’t been able to find a treadmill, but somebody said they have a rowing machine so I think we’re going to have to do it on a rowing machine.
But you can only get one person on a rowing machine.
[Laughing] Well, they’re going to have to take turns.
Why Aren't You Going Back to the Land of Grey & Castles? A Tribute to Cynthia Dall.
It seems an age ago now that I happened upon the majestic beauty of Cynthia Dall’s debut ‘Untitled.’ My love for this mysterious record accelerated further once I got past the intriguing cover of a Chinese concubine floating above an accumulation of clouds and smoke; flowers descending from a basket held by her delicate hand. I immersed myself in the shy-like distress of its lo-fi framework. I felt that Cynthia Dall lived by her music effortlessly, in the sense that she genuinely was it. She wasn’t going out of her way to prove something, she wasn’t a trained musician or singer but felt the need to do something in this life. Her nonchalant eeriness was indeed her persona, her disposition. Her music and song writing playfully makes me question myself. Makes me question my shame and guilt whereby I can laugh at myself. This underlying disengagement with all that is conventional is empowering. Cynthia seemed fiercely independent to me, relying on a close knit group of friends and cohorts for inspiration, guidance or to simply lend and share creativity. This is why she spoke to me, and undoubtedly a few others. “I Lie on the Bed - I Check to see if You’re Dead”
Cynthia Dall was born March 12th 1971 in Roseville, California but grew up in the state capital Sacramento. In the early '90s she gained popularity and notoriety for her far-out, sexually subversive photography in Lisa Carver’s fanzine Rollerderby. This radical feminist zine featured Lisa Carver’s writings, thoughts and interviews with alternative eccentrics including Courtney Love, Vaginal Davis, Boyd Rice, GG Allin as well as Cynthia Dall. Satirical cartoons, sexual drawings and dialogue all poke fun at this so-called confusing existence. Thought-provoking and grotesque cover shots included Cynthia poised upon a bed moments after shooting a lover’s brains out entitled My First Orgasm. Another featured her beaten and bruised in a spoof of the Halston advertisement of 1991 which originally starred a nude Cindy Crawford. Finally, a total gross-out image sees Dall in a pool of blood, her legs spread and what can only be perceived as a cone wrapped in an American flag atop her bleeding vagina.
The back image to the Royal Trux 1993 UK 12" 'Dogs of Love’ features Cynthia looking rather voluptuous as a sailors prostitute. Her recording career also started in the early '90s lending her guitar playing and voice to her then boyfriend Bill Callahan under the alias of Smog. She contributed to a B-side track titled 'Wine Stained Lips’ a flipside to the 7" single 'A Hit’ Cynthia also collaborated and guested on many a Smog record including the EP 'Burning Kingdom’ and LPs 'Wild Love’ and 'The Doctor Came at Dawn’ Just listen to the haunting vocal dynamics between Cynthia and Bill Callahan on 'Lize’ or the savage ascending guitar abrasions on 'Sleepy Joe’ and 'Prince Alone in the Studio' A tour with Smog subsequently followed across the U.S. and Europe in 1995. Also that year she provided vocals to a remixed version of 'Torture Day’ by German indie-rock band The Notwist.
“Through Make-Up - I Was Faithfull”
Her experience and newly found confidence following this exposure saw the release of the cult record 'Untitled.’ And untitled is exactly what it was. Her name was purposely omitted from the sleeve. Released on Drag City in the U.S. and Domino in the UK, later pressings were given a sticker to assist people with understanding its magnificence and beguiling sleeve design. ‘Cindy Dall’ as she was sometimes referred as, to me represents a contradiction to the unspoiled and virginal Sindy Doll of the 1960s, therefore thwarting all disillusions Cynthia may have had with herself. The record featured engineering work by Jim O’ Rourke and vocals by Smog. The record itself is unusual, stark and sparse. The listener is drenched in disdain; its abstract foundation slowly breaking up, in the hope of catching up with Cynthia’s lyrics of unease and disbandment. A particular favourite track of mine is 'Bright Night’ in which a violent sea of guitar distortion enwraps the listener in despair. A cello sways, the piano keys pedal gently and abruptly in equal measure. Its crescendo spirals high and intensifies before allowing the hazy and lethargic drumloops to reappear. Cynthia’s vocals come forth like an apparition among the rich waves of sensuous cacophony, overlapping like velvet. Being ever so young, I would listen to this track on repeat, lifting the needle once again to hear my own sorrow play through Cynthia’s music. We can find comfort in its agitation and anxiety.
01. Christmas (California) 02. Berlin, 1945 03. Lion Becomes Dragon 04. Holland 05. Bright Night 06. For Tiara 07. Grey And Castles 08. Aaron Matthew 09. Krutitzuh Viertitzuh
Cynthia then became quiet. You’d be forgiven for assuming she became a recluse and a somewhat reluctant artist. This is admirable however, why should an artist conform, especially when coming from the underground. Cynthia Dall’s second record 'Sound Restores Young Men’ appeared in 2002. Recorded and engineered by Jim O'Rourke and Tim Green (of fellow Drag City indie-rockers The Fucking Champs.) Her follow up is more focused, its song structures being fully formed albeit not lacking her sympathic yet harrowing wry wit.
Sound Restores Young Men
01. Be Safe With Me 02. God Made You 03. Extreme Cold 04. Zero 05. I Played With Boys 06. The Party 07. Not One 08. Wastebasket Kid II 09. Nest of Dead Children 10. Boys And Girls 11. I’m Not Tempted 12. Snakeblood & Vodka
Cynthia remained ever quiet since the aforementioned release. She was committed to achieving her degree in philosophy, mathematics and Near Eastern studies at UC Berkeley. She regularly contacted Drag City to inform them of what she was up to and to chat about music, plans and matters in general. She was recently enthused by recording new demos for a new record.
I’ve no idea how to sum up my thoughts on the passing of Cynthia. Drag City said it best: “Goodbye Cynthia – we’ll carry your love and joy and sorrow with us until we too are gone”
In Esquire magazine in 2010, Yoko looked back on being called Dragon Lady, and all the blaming energy aimed at her, as “trying to erase me.” But eventually she came to be thankful for the “incredible power” used against her, because she was able to absorb it and use it to become more powerful herself, or to make bigger things. “Power is power. It’s energy. And if you gt big, big energy, you can use that …” In her song “Revelations,” she sings: “Bless you for your anger; it’s a sign of rising energy. Bless you for your greed; it’s a sign of great capacity.” And she did use all the negative energy, like it was a rain of bullets aimed at her and she caught them in her bare hand and popped each one in her mouth and swallowed, for the iron.
Lisa Carver, Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono
My 15-year-old son, Wolfgang, has had a tempestuous relationship with climate conditions since before he could even speak. He is endlessly fascinated by the weather, and not knowing what is happening with it for even half an hour is torment to him. When he was one year old I’d have to carry him around town every day to check all the satellite dishes. His first words were about clouds, wind, and mud, and most of his words ever since have been centered on those same topics. His artwork, from childhood finger paintings to current oils on canvas and sculptures, heavily features erupting volcanoes, obliterating snow, and hail. Even his religious beliefs—which no one in his family or among his friends share—begin and end with the natural disasters of the apocalypse and the balminess of heaven.
Lisa Carver: How many times a day do your sister and I ask you to stop talking about the weather? Wolfgang Carver: I would say about ten. It’s less since I got my 24-hour weather radio, because I can have it anywhere I want and I don’t have to turn on the TV every hour and wait for the weather.
What does the weather radio talk about? How it’s supposed to be that day or the next few days, or barometric pressure, or wind chill in the Dover area, Maine, Boston, and Mount Washington. Plus they give warnings, like if there’s flooding, go to high places. “Turn around, don’t drown.” Or if there’s lightning, don’t touch metal.
How do they make the forecast? Satellites in space and satellite dishes on earth receiving signals.
You have two CDs that you listen to over and over when you’re not listening to your weather radio. What are they? Al Gore and a storm CD—thunder and rain, that’s all.
What does Al Gore talk about? The world ending. And how we’re infecting the environment. And a hole in the atmosphere we made with pollution that the sun gets through. And the greenhouse effect—lots and lots of heat getting trapped, changing the weather.
What does weather mean to you? It always makes me feel safe because… if I don’t listen to it, how will I know what’s going to happen?
What’s the forecast for the next few days? Sunny today, around 20 degrees, but wind chill zero or below zero. Storm coming in Saturday, coming from out West. Three to six inches of snow Saturday night and Sunday.
How would you describe our family vacation to Florida? It was between 70 and 80 degrees. There was a storm. Gusts of wind picked up sand and got it in my eyes. Hurricane Ida was in Texas and then Jacksonville and turning down and swirling in the Gulf coming around the tip of Florida to us where we were in Miami.
What would stop you—rain, sleet, hail, or snow? I think hail. Sometimes it’s four inches across and I could get knocked out.
What’s your favorite weather? Thunderstorms.
How did you feel when those bullies snatched your umbrella and stomped on it? I felt like I was cold and wet. It was raining off and on all day. This was around 2:30 PM, walking home. It was around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But I was walking through the forest, in the shade, so it was probably more like 64 or 63.
What are you most afraid of? The apocalypse, because it’s about people dying, and I don’t want to die yet. No one really knows how the earth will end, but my theory is earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, tornadoes, thunder, and lightning all around the world.
Tell me more about the apocalypse. If people are worshipping the devil in the form of witchcraft and bad movies, then God would burn the earth when he comes here. But we would be safe in the gates of the Holy City. The weather is sunny there. And warm, but we wouldn’t feel it the way we do now because we wouldn’t be in the form our bodies are in now—no sickness and broken bones. We’d be flying through the warmth more than walking. We would still have our heart and soul, which would feel love and happiness but doesn’t touch things the same way, doesn’t feel hurt. Everyone would be vegetarians, so animals would be free. We’d have a new earth, all pure and sweet, and it would be only spring and summer. No air pollution.
What was that DVD you picked out in Walmart yesterday? It was about natural disasters: earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, and floods. But I ended up not buying it because I got scared.
But you didn’t want any other DVD, even though I said you could have any DVD at all. It’s funny that what you’re most attracted to in the world is also what most terrifies you. Some people are like that about love. It’s very powerful. I’m attracted to knowing what’s going to happen. I feel safe then.
Are you interested in dating ever? I don’t know yet. I think I’ll just wait, because I don’t want to end up like you.
[laughs] End up like me how? Divorcing everybody.
Oh my God. OK, I’ll take that hit. I won’t edit that out. Do you have any obsessions other than the weather? Time. [gets up and leaves the room]
Did you just go check the microwave to make sure it was on the time rather than how many seconds left to cook? Yeah.
We have ten other clocks in the house. Why do you always have to have the microwave tell time, too? I don’t know. So I won’t be late? [laughs]