What's WAM?



by John Young

July-August 1996

In celebration of WAM's inauguration
Public Safety

WAM readers are invited do their duty and send confidential reports of malpractice to Young animals and the proper local authorities. All will be published here so the God of Infame can reward the guilty with more shitty&safe-design publicity.

Fingering Big Award winners gets a V-for-valor ribbon.


de la Sota

UIA Barcelona




Fdez. Hermana





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Public Safety

The abuse of professionalism as a hired gun is a favorite topic of mine. Along with that of architects ducking responsibility by pusillanimous role-playing. And escaping culpability by calculated ignorance. And the hosts of self-serving nefaria employed to ignore professional obligations and hazardous conditions through misguided education, hiding behind artificially prolonged litgation, sealing reports of malfeasance and other evasions pf public accountability -- I.M. Pei's firm is the classic example.

Hired-guns-work is big business in the U.S. -- for good and evil, sadly, more the latter. Does your dear prof really double his salary at this para-legal subway postering? If so, neat, down with taking low fees, improve income by attacking the big fat archi-animals.

If you care to, running comments on your course would be a welcome thread.

You will recall the honorable duty to publically name the preening design peacocks and their dangerous projects -- or you could be part of a complicitous cover-up. Tips should go to the state boards of architecture and engineering who will make the official finding.

Here in NY the state board is eager to act on miscreants and their failure to report illegal construction and practice. Indeed, the executive director has told me that the board wishes more NYC architects would report the all-too-common "crap" they whisper about at dinner parties but are too cowardly to officially report. I proposed that they offer bounties, paid by the educationally-oriented Lottery.

Licensing, he says, is interpreted too much as a tool for prestige and economic privilege and too little as an ongoing public obligation. Hint, he means the professionals' silence is bought through foolsgold awards, remuneration for closed-eyed signoffs, and terrorism by liability intimidation.

Exactly. And this multifurcation, it is suggested, accounts for the low public esteem of architects, and probably their own sense of alienation and low self-esteem. Thank goodness for the media's and higher education's bountiful intellectual and aesthetic palliatives to calm their job safety angst, eh?

We must establish a big dollar awards program for exposing malpractitioners: in the profession and in the schools and in the dissimulating trade rags.

19 July, 1995
Responding to Design-L msg by Mark Darrall

Sarge told us if pinned down to stay put until help comes, don't be a hero, you ain't worth $10,000 of my taxes. How about fifty for a weekend with me, Dale called, or Baby Jake here'll take a five for a quickie.

Shut it, Sarge barked, saddle up, let's move out. Dale, take point.

Down the road, nearing Cho-seng, a richochet zinged off a rock at Dale's foot, drilled up into Baby Jake's chin and out his neck, dropping the tubby kid like a sack. Hit it, Sarge screamed, and we flopped into roadside muck.

From five yards I could see Dale side by side with Baby, working the wounds, wrapping blood and shaggers, keeping low from rhythmic shots hitting near him, the sniper scope- searching, adjusting sights, squeezing off rounds.

Dale twitched at rock showers pelting him and Jake, fragments pinging their helmets. He hunched closer to the boy, lay on him. I heard him whisper, whimper, Sarge, help us, please.

Keep your ass down, Dale, Sarge shouted, he'll use up his ammo, or give up at dark. Hang in, we're here as long as it takes. What's Baby's condition?

Dale rasped between shots, bad ... his chin and neck're gone ... not breathing ... no pulse ... my spit's gone, too ... need water.

The shots continued, none at us, only at Dale, one a minute, the pauses worse than the pop, not knowing where the next would hit, rock or Dale, taunting Dale to break and run, like Sarge said they would, to get a clean shot at a running target, show their skill, no points to hit a still animal, Sarge said of sniper training. Keep still, like a rabbit, he said, the hunters move on, looking for thrills and chases.

Dale cried, Sarge ... I'm pissing ... and shitting ... I'm so scared.

Sarge slowly snaked down the ditch toward Dale, softly talking, stay still, don't move, breathe shallow, maybe he'll think he got you.

A shot drilled Sarge's helmet; he sank into the mud. Silence. Dale moaned.

We froze: the sniper can see us all, nailing Sarge to pin us, shocking us immobile, to watch his horror show of teasing Dale, minute by minute, increasing fear on the alpha rabbit to run for his life. Then each of us, one by one, we shivered, cursed and wept, unless darkness saved.

Between sunset and last light, the shots decreased, to two minute internvals, five, ten. Then a final thud and quiet.

We waited an hour, then I crawled to Dale. He lay atop Jake's body, still, an awful gouge where an eye was.

We carried the three head shots seven miles to base; and reported to the CO on the sniper. He said Sarge knew the deserter, trained him at Benning, sent him on a black mission, lost contact, heard from him by radio, recorded the dare: want me back, Sarge, run a trap. Recon said we had him boxed; must of sprung. What a fuckup; names the other baits?

Kevin said he came to New York to hang while he made up his mind about going to medical school or law or architecture, maybe try business like his dad, or do nothing -- his "mom and dad would back him as they always had," he chuckled, "money and love was never short in Des Moines."

I met him running in Central Park and learned that he was staying down the street from me with a group of college girls and guys. We ran together three or four times a week.

I checked his apartment in a badly repaired building for safety hazards to reassure his Midwest mom who telephoned, fudged the facts and told her it looked okay -- it was actually scary as hell. Homemade light fixtures and cheap extension cords to piles of electronics, clothes and flammable papers and books and magazines scattered everywhere, garbage and butts overflowing, greasy dishes stacked in the greasier kitchen, a fire-trap transient student campsite like hundreds in the city.

Kevin and I discussed the place and he thanked me for calming his mom, "she worries too much," he said. I asked him to try to get the youngsters to clean up a bit, buy some safer equipment and wire it right, get a fire extinguisher or two, read some home safety manuals I give out to babysitters and parents and school kids.

I told him I'm a crank about building hazards after seeing the disasters caused by tenant ignorance and slumlord negligence and lax code enforcement. He smiled and said, "you're a nut, that's for sure, you sound like my mom, John, let's hit the park and blow away your anxiety. I'll bring it up to the cave dwellers tonight and see what they think, we're having a party."

About 5 this morning I heard sirens -- nothing new, they're on Broadway every hour. But more kept coming and coming and coming, so I got up to look out the window. The flashing lights were down the street, hoses strung and helmeted firemen rushing to hook up more. I could see it was Kevin's building and horrific flames were billowing out of street front windows.

I got on a coat and ran down the street, there were only one or two onlookers watching the intense firemen leading, carrying, families and kids and grannies out of the inferno.

Kevin's apartment was totally engulfed as far as I could tell. I knew there were rear windows and I dashed past the firemen down the steps of the side court and to the fire escape drop ladder. Two of the youngsters were slumped on the rail of the landing, firemen holding oxygen masks to their faces.

I glanced down and saw Kevin naked on his back below the fire escape. I pointed to him and shouted to the firemen. They slowly shook their heads.

I jumped down and kneeled beside his bare young body, no marks, he appeared to have escaped to safety and lay down to rest in relief.

A weak girl's voice said from the shadows, "He carried me out. He got out okay, came back, woke us up, said run for the ladder. It was terrible, the smoke was everywhere. I was too scared to walk. He picked me up and carried me to the ladder and went back for Jim. Jim had already left through the front but Kevin kept looking, I could hear him yelling, 'Jim, Jim!' He was coughing and choking and stumbled to the escape window and fell over the rail and died gasping right there. I couldn't move, I couldn't scream, there was no one to help. I saw him heave and heave and then be still, I couldn't move to help."

"You're Mr. Young, Kevin's friend, we laughed about you last night during the party. Kevin tried so hard to be serious, like you, he said, we laughed at his act, then he laughed too, said what the hell, we can't live forever. Let's party. Oh god, Mr. Young, I'm so scared, poor brave beautiful Kevin, who never, ever had a bad day, who'll tell his parents."


In celebration of WAM's inauguration:

The buzzword among young artists is *mestizaje* - the word for racial mixing, used here to mean the blending of different cultural currents.

Financial Times, June 24, 1996, Spain Survey, p. VI.

Spain. New flamenco: by Kathy Karmen

Out of tune with tradition

Bongo drums and bare-chested stars have attracted a new audience to flamenco music.

[Bare-chested photo] In the flesh: Joaquin Cortes has melded ballet and flamenco traditions

The polka dots and flounces are gone. Forget about the castanets. And the lone guitar now has company on stage. Take "Gypsy Passion", the latest show by rising star Joaquin Cortes. Women in plain black dance to the wail of flutes, violins and the beat of bongos. The stylised contortions of bare-chested Cortes even get the grannies in the audience leaping to their feet.

Flamenco purists grumble but the sounds and look have opened up a new era in the music. In recent years young flamenco musicians have been bridging the gap between traditional flamenco and other music forms - salsa, blues, jazz and pop/rock. An assortment of instruments, ranging from the Peruvian *cajon* or box-drum to violins, flutes, blues guitars and even the piano, has invaded the scene. Cortes admits to having danced a "seguiriya" - a basic flamenco song - to a grand piano. In the recording "10 de Paco" a piano, saxophone, flute. double bass and percussion reinterpret 10 compositions by master guitarist Paco de Lucia. It is "flamenco fusion" at its best - though few would have thought a piano could sit in for the flamenco guitar.

"Experiments aside, flamenco will always be based on the guitar." says flamenco critic Joaquin Albaicin. The guitar, he says, has evolved more than anything else because of Paco de Lucia's innovations. De Lucia, an extraordinarily gifted and precocious guitarist, himself outgrew traditional forms and techniques of playing.

This is a result of his mastering flamenco's strict canons at too young an age, sigh the purists with some misgivings: one gets bored and starts messing with bossa nova and such. By the early 1970s de Lucia, who is now 48, was incorporating bongos and a bass guitar to enhance rhythm.

Persuasive Latin American rhythms are not entirely new to flamenco. The connection with Spain's new world colonies left its mark a century ago with a form of flamenco called *de ida y vuelta* or "there and back here" song. Afro-Cuban rhythms such as the rhumba gave a new twist to flamenco's lighter forms. Compared with a solemn bit of chair-binding *cante hondo* (deep song), a burst of gypsy rhumba comes on like an attack of ants in the pants. The French group Gypsy Kings has taken the rhumba to its ultimate commercial success with music made to get the dead going. The group's Andalucian cousins claim more subtle variations.

*Cante* or flamenco song was revolutionised by the phrasing and personality of the Cadizborn singer Camaron de la Isla (Little Shrimp of the Isle). Camaron, a blond, flamenco version of James Dean, moved a whole generation with his fantastic *rajo* voice - a hoarse quality caused as much by his gypsy origins as by cigarettes. An idol at home and admired abroad by the likes of Mick Jagger and Leonard Cohen, Camaron died in 1991, aged 41, of lung cancer.

In the wake of such heavyweights, young flamenco talents do not always have an easy time finding a voice of their own. Sound-alikes abound, but imitators are ruining the essence of flamenco, fret the critics. Few have the ability of Camaron or de Lucia to revert to traditional forms at will.

For some, having it in the blood is as good as having it in the fingertips. The offspring of various flamenco dynasties have simply opted to do their own thing. Groups such as. Ketama or Pata Negra have broken new ground by mixing their flamenco base with salsa, blues and rock.

Spanish jazz musicians have also joined in, realising that flamenco is not only a source of untapped riches but also Spain's most exportable cultural product. The result of all this is uneven. Rock music, for example, is a rhythmically more limited and less melodic partner. As flamenco evolves, the debate is about where to draw the line.

Some flamenco artists remain hostile to what they see as pure commercialism. There is also unease over excess technical perfection detracting from essence. Virtuoso *zapateado*, or noisy footwork of the clockwork kind, can drown out the subtlety of dance movement. Older artists are also cautious about the borrowing. One veteran dancer compares flamenco with clay: "You can make a thousand marvellous figures with it, without having to use other materials."

But the buzzword among young artists is *mestizaje* - the word for racial mixing, used here to mean the blending of different cultural currents. Cortes, 27, a former ballet star who went back to his gypsy origins to take up flamenco, is one of several such cultural hybrids. The result is a ballet flamenco where the two dance forms fuse or taunt one another like two street fighters, or blend together to a jazz trumpet. With his fluid movements, Cortes takes some of the strutting out of flamenco. The critics and the public may at times be sceptical, but Cortes has undoubtedly freshened up the rigid as well as macho world of flamenco.

He and a bevy of other flamenco stars appear in Flamenco, the new film by Spanish director Carlos Saura in which the classic and the new have their say in a feast of song, dance and guitar.

Paradoxically, the mixing of cultural currents goes along with a strong emphasis on ethnic origins. On stage, Andalucian gypsy performers fete their history and cultural specificity. Though non-gypsy artists such as Paco de Lucia have always thrived. flamenco owes its survival to the gypsies and their oral tradition. The closed world of flamenco has opened up, especially in Andalucia where gypsies have moved to the cities and become more integrated, and it has gained a new following.

The debate about new flamenco is bound to continue. Will a packed stadium hurt the essence of flamenco? As society evolves. will an art form preserved until now by a marginalised people lose its roots? Does flamenco risk being absorbed into "world music"?

One happy outcome of all the experimentation is that many young adepts who are drawn to the new sounds turn to traditional flamenco for more. And there is enough young talent around to satisfy the demand for the genuine.

To see color photo:


And be sure to fire your privates watching *Riverrun*, the Irish dancing spectacular with blends of tap, flamenco and other percussive dance. It's on world tour and on video, $19.95. Watch the two stars float above the stage and weep with envy of their antigravity.

Then for even more sexual longing, grab anywhere you can the touring Indian dancers, Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, and suffer almost unbearable full-flesh Kama Sutra seduction. The New York Times writes:

The five young women offered a sense of the delicately sensuous Odissi, a classical Indian dance form believed to have originated in the temples of Orissa as early as the second century B.C. They performed with a burnished grace, a selfless concentration that reflected their intensive training in dance, music, literature, language and philosophy.

[Photo] Pavritha Reddy performing with the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.

To see b/w photo:


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