Ladies and Gentlemen, guys and dolls, friends and foes, hear me: Welcome, truly. Truly: welcome to me and mine. I extend this invitation into my world with the sincerity fit for an overdue meeting between two old friends, a moment complete with a long hug, a squeeze of the shoulder, a smile in the lines of our faces: this is merely an exclamation of true, deeply felt understanding, adoration and love. It is good to be here.
This open letter marks my first foray into the world wide web. I am excited to share this experience with you, and please don’t hesitate to be in touch—comment vigorously on the work I have assembled here, and contact me if you wish to be a part of Roger Presents. I am always interested in reading, watching and experiencing new things. I can be reached at rogerpresents AT gmail DOT com, or by the contact form on this website.
Here in Shanghai, it rains most days, the winds are at their seasonal peak and news of Tibet trickles in. Reports of protests, violence and self-immolation make the rounds via Weibo, Twitter and the Western media. An old friend and long time Sichuan resident, Sascha Matuszak, has provided us all with his take on the Tibetan problem in light of the recent unrest, the ultimate takeaway of which may well be this: that no matter how you feel about Tibetan independence, the influence of the Dalai Lama and the expansion of the Party and its institutions onto the Tibetan Plateau, the issue of Tibetan autonomy/subjugation is most certainly just that—a problem, no matter how you take your coffee. Let us hope for minimal bloodshed, at the very least.
Last year, Matt Day launched the ongoing film project Naked Musicians. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with musicians during their creative process is already aware of how different being behind the scenes is than listening to the finished record or witnessing a live show. Personalities emerge, tensions rise and the unexpected manifests itself on a scale both minute and grandiose. Naked Musicians strives to catch artists outside of their prepared elements, and in this pursuit is assuredly successful. When I watched A day with Nick Zammuto, the first part of a two part documentary series on the man featured here, I was blindsided by feelings of nostalgia and a longing for some thing that continues to elude identification. It is this feeling that we search for in art of all mediums.
A few weeks back, an old friend emailed me a wonderful letter of unknown provenance. I imagine that it has had some sort of online half-life already, but I find it so beautiful that I am nonetheless pleased to present it here regardless of its origins. One day, three autumns. May we all be so loved.
No matter the reason, it is with great hesitation that we all leave behind the familiar and undertake a new beginning. This story by James Weir, which I first saw on the website of an expat publishing group, HaLiterature, is one man’s expression of the displacement involved in beginning a new chapter in a strange, unfamiliar place. Greetings from a former tenant seems to be, above all, a catalog of the struggle we feel when uprooted, and the subsequent search for something to hold onto.
Caylin Capra-Thomas‘ poem, Let Me Explain, is startling. Alternately despondent and threatening, this poem so accurately and searingly conveys the struggle to communicate the complexities of living that it is shiver-inducing. As Caylin would perhaps say: I refuse to explain. See for yourself.
No doubt the most terrifying piece contained in this Blast, Ryan Headley‘s Vampire Tango harkens back to a day when Edgar Allen Poe still reigned King over the world of fantastical horror stories. Unlike the watered-down vampire tales that abound in today’s cultural milieu, this story wastes no time on trivial matters, and arouses in the listener fears long-forgotten.
The short Moving Takahashi, directed by Josh Soskin, is at times unsettling. Shot on 35mm Kodak film (which imparts on the movie a crispness not often seen in today’s digital world), the story deals with the unsavory issues of familial-resentment and suicide with simultaneous delicacy and frankness. Eleven minutes well-spent.
There are few things in this world more pure than the subtle beauty of a soul musician expressing pain, love and longing. Etta James, though arguably not underrated in the minds of the more obsessive collectors, long struggled to emerge from the shadow of the soul greats of the 1960′s and 70′s. Her song, I’d rather go blind, is stunning for its simplicity of message and purity of performance, and four and a half decades later remains as much a testament to the human capacity for love as it ever did.
Examples of this same capacity for love can be seen all around us, but there is no venue more welcoming than soul music. There are few things more expressive than the human voice, and the dexterity with which so many individuals exploit this trait is alarming and reassuring. I have compiled a mix, Roger’s indispensable soul, in order to document a few instances of such expression.
Finally, not a day passes without thought of Phil. These ruminations fluctuate from nostalgia and regret to bitterness and anger— but mostly, I struggle to understand the ease with which he flippantly smuggled me into and left me alone in the Chinese countryside for the sake of a short-sighted laugh (my success and ultimate affinity for this place and its people notwithstanding). Though perhaps a simple prank gone wrong and something for which he may one day be forgiven, these days I try and focus on the reasons I hate Phil. Here a five of them.
Please take the time to explore and enjoy this Blast and its contents. The web design was provided by Charlie Moseley, he of Chengdu Living fame, and none of this would have been possible without his assistance. Additionally, the black and white photographs seen on the homepage are courtesy of Daniel Maroti, a talented young man and excellent dancer.
Comment, contribute, and let us continue to better ourselves and broaden the scope of our lives. Remember to think, to experience, and to expand. It is, after all, the most we can ask for.
All the best to you and those who matter,