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A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays.



Sushi Grass in Paradise (A story)

written by Holly Lee
with photographs by Lee Ka-sing


(15) Paprika Plains

"Sorry Vio, I got cut off from this phone call selling me more speed and bandwidth which I DON'T NEED. Let us get back to Paprika Plains. If it's too long and boring, just quit anytime.

Even though Blue is her most successful and beloved record, don't get stuck there. In fact her work got more and more interesting in the seventies. Joni was adventurous, brave and lucky. She was a magnet, attracted and surrounded by other talented musicians - either she looked for them or they came to her. The hard-to-settle woman jumped from one lover to another, not just because of mutual attraction, but also for inspiration and challenge to move forward. Her love was full and honest and you see - almost all her lovers were musicians. It was one relentless pursuit after another - of the men and their genius in music. My mind keeps strolling away and I have not found a suitable entry point into Paprika Plains. Or perhaps, there are too many ways to cut in and we can start from any point and anywhere.

Her music is unclassifiable. Even back to her earliest record 'Song To A Seagull' in 1968, it was not the folk music as we knew. In the early seventies she did rock and roll for a while but then devoured the flesh and kept the bones. We really ought to look at her as a creative artist, treating her every album as a new canvas, shedding her skin as she evolved. In fact, how many of us have such capacity and patience to understand her every move? We just wanted immediate access, settling ourselves quickly in familiar musical settings. To our frustration, it was not at all the case. We need to do more work.

From the lyrics of Paprika Plains, this line keeps playing in my head: "When I was three feet tall, and wide eyed open to it all..."

This wondrous child, when became a woman, was still wide eyed, and open to it all. Was it naivety or overindulgence, that boosted her confidence as an untrained musician, to challenge herself into creating something bigger in music? The 1977 Paprika Plains is a rare collaborative musical work incorporating a song, an orchestral work and a jazz improvisation. This was something very unexpected at that time in popular music, no, not even what one would try today. I am not going to labour on how the piece was created. You can listen to the song and, at the same time google all the background story.   

Surely some critics did question her adequacy to produce a masterpiece score, but she didn't mind. Who says a bird must learn to sing before it can sing? By nature, we are free to express if we have a voice. I admire her boldness, genuineness, ability and ambition to create something so contemporary and epic. Regardless of what others felt or said, she completed herself, recounted and relived moments spanning half her life time, from childhood memories to later encounters. This song is so full of visuals, people, land, smells, sound of rain, and for a short 16 minutes we ride through a musical wonderment, another composition tour de force far ahead of its time. It's like, yes, she was using music - to paint a song, and extending it further into cinematography.

You might be interested to look at a simple synopsis of the song:

Beginning scene : A soliloquy by the narrator accompanied by piano work, of a late-night gathering in a bar frequented by native people, permeated with drugs and alcohol, a rainstorm broke out. The narrator leaves the scene to watch the rain and falls back into fragments of her prairie childhood.

Middle section: The narrator enters into a state of dream, improvised piano work support by a full orchestra. The 72 lines of unsung lyrics were printed in parentheses, of innocent childhood memories, a nuclear explosion, and finally returning to the beginning, where a band of Indian men took stage.

Ending scene: The narrator returns inside after the rain, creates another scene inspired by former conversation with Bob Dylan. Mirrored ball now shines on everyone. With her fingers hitting hard on the piano keys, the jazz kicks in, jamming, partying and peaking at a jubilant finale.

It sounds almost like a play isn't it. Paprika Plains is not like fast food, its nutrients require a process of slow digestion. I urge you take some time, put Paprika Plains on, and follow the words. And do not forget, be grateful (like her) to all her collaborators, who are equally great musicians of our time: Michael Gibbs, the orchestra arranger and conductor, the jazz musicians, Jaco Pastorius (bass), John Guerin (drums) and Wayne Shorter (soprano Sax). Their participation had added valuable layers of colour and texture to this song."

Mrs. Bento couldn't understand it. What's all this endless bragging about pepper plain? She craved to hear this song and gave her own rating. Not difficult at all, for among the line of cds filling up the top shelf on the opposite wall, she found many Joni Mitchell's compact disks. One of them featured a black hipster, a woman with a top hat and a boy, was the album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter.


"Sushi Grass in Paradise" is an on-going story. To read the full length version with previous chapters, please visit- https://oceanpounds.com/blogs/sushi-grass-in-paradise



Lee Ka-sing
A selection of book covers for 文化視野䕺書

(work year 1996-2001)







這些圖像,有些後來收入我的照片冊《FORTY POEMS》, 也有些在後期設計的封面,圖像卻是從我的照片冊抽出來使用,例如陳冠中的《什麼都沒有發生》。這個也是說明,在我的不少設計個案中,其實是與我的攝影創作中有著很密切的關係。

關於《文化視野叢書》封面的設計,還可以作一點補充- 由於整個設計概念是以叢書整體視覺形象為本,坊間過客,驟眼即可認出。這個也有不足之處,個別個體的形象相較會沒那麼突出,不能做得那麼淋漓盡致。這個也是群體與個體的爭持。當然,以上所說的都是從視覺的角度出發,《文化視野叢書》假若沒有了堅實的內容,它也失去了流存的價值。




Holly Lee

I met some familiar faces, I mean on paper, when I was in a museum in Reykjavik last April. I enjoyed looking at the work of the Icelandic painter Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885-1972). He was one of the pioneers of Icelandic art in the 20th Century. Romantic and bohemian, he had once said, "art is too serious to be taken seriously." I was mesmerized by his drawings on paper, almost like he doodled out of any waste papers he could find around his table. Yet the drawings have certain sensitivity that strikes the same chord, and vibrated through the drawings of another friend of mine - Irina Schestakowich.

In the Summer of 2002, I received Irina's postcard sent from Newfoundland. It was heart and soul and I still remember and appreciate the effort she took to share it with me. Maybe there was no effort at all from her point of view :). With a thankful thought I wrote something down to remember the day I received the postcard.
"I got a couple of things from the mail box this morning - a Pizza Nova leaflet, three different packages containing stuffs that Iris bought from the Internet, a Flare magazine renewal notice, and, thinking of just another promo thingie, I almost threw this postcard to the recycle bin. Glad that I didn't. A casual flip on the back showed me it was a postcard from a friend. I instantly recognized it as Irina's. She mentioned to me a few months ago about going to Newfoundland this summer to help a B&B, in exchange to stay there for a few weeks at the water's edge. She would cook breakfast in a kitchen that can smell the sea. On the card she wrote:

Roughing it on the Boat House - not hot, ocean traffic. Helping with the Rock Bottom B&B. Brought wrong clothes overwhelmed with the heat - looking forward to sleeping in my own bed Again soon. Regards from much water - Irina + G

It's seldom to receive a postcard these days, even rarer a hand-written one. Irina's writing and drawing is pure pleasure. She must be sipping a cup of coffee as she wrote, with a box of water colours on the side, she signed it with her iconic, greek and Picasso inspired goddess profile.

Among her writings, which were all over the card, she left this originally printed line without disturb: Sauna, Jacuzzi, Hiking, Fireplace, Hot Breakfast, Internet, Icebergs, Whale Watching, Sea/City View, Nightlights.

And on the front of the picture postcard, you can see the bed & breakfast nestled under the cliffs of a hill. It has this message: Is Operating And Is For Sale."




Wong Kan Tai
Tibetan, 1991 (#95P0136)
8"x10", gelatin silver photograph
(printed in 1995)
OP Edition, with "OP editions" blind-stamp
Edition 9/20, signed, numbered on front
Featured in the OP EDITIONS catalogue, issue 9504 in 1995

OP editions are limited edition photographs from the OP Print Program we organized since 1995. After we moved to Toronto, the Program was still in operation for the first five years. Over hundreds of artists have been included, with photographs released as small format limited editions, in 8”x10” fibre-based black and white or chromogenic colour photographs. We plan to publish here, a selection from the collection on a weekly basis. Some of the photographs from OP EDITIONS are available at OCEAN POUNDS online shop.




Issue 0510-2019

A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays.
Published by Ocean and Pounds and archived at oceanpounds.com
All rights Reserved.

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leekasing.com is a portal website for current and earlier works. Apart from exhibitions, Holly and Ka-sing use extensively web platforms to display photography and writing projects. Contact us for a detail list of links.

Holly and Ka-sing currently live in Toronto with their daughter Iris, and their cat Sukimoto.


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