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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


Lady Bug, a film by Ben Proudfoot


Lady Bug is a short study of Canadian artist Elizabeth Goluch, the creator of beautiful sculptures of insects and other creatures crafted from precious metals. Ben Proudfoot’s film is one of a series, Life’s Work: Six Conversations with Makers, looking at artists and craftspeople in the Nova Scotia area. I’d not browsed Elizabeth Goluch’s website for a while so it’s good to see new additions like this jellyfish that conceals a Medusa pendant. I’m very partial to Ms Goluch’s work, of course, but the other films are worth a look as well.


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Elizabeth Goluch’s precious metal insects


La Bibliothèque de Babel


It was perhaps inevitable that this small collection of works of fantastic fiction was named after its director’s most famous creation, the Library of Babel. Jorge Luis Borges chose the titles, and also wrote introductions for each of the books. The series was published in France by Retz–Ricci, with 4000 numbered copies of each title appearing from 1977 to 1981.

Many of the selections will be familiar to Borges aficionados, others seem obscure as a result of the vagaries of translation: Jack London’s Les Morts Concentriques is The Minions of Midas, a story that Borges had earlier translated into Spanish as Las Muertas Concéntricas (The Concentric Deaths). The story of linked deaths apparently influenced the writing of Death and the Compass. I’ve never seen Borges discuss Arthur Machen at length so the inclusion of Machen in the selection is a welcome sight. In addition to The Shining Pyramid, the Machen volume also contained The Novel of the Black Seal and The Novel of the White Powder, two of the oft-anthologised sections of The Three Imposters.

The only detail that’s defeated me  is the identity of the illustrator of the series. If anyone knows who was responsible then please leave a comment.

Update: the covers are credited to publisher/designer Franco Maria Ricci and Marcella Boneschi. Thanks to herr doktor bimler and Al Diniz.



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The pinscreen works of Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker


The incredible animated films of Alexeieff & Parker have been featured here before, the last occasion being a post about their 1963 adaptation of Gogol’s The Nose. The Gogol film is included in this 38-minute YouTube compilation whose contents are as follows: A Night on Bald Mountain (1933), En passant (1943), The Nose (1963), Pictures at an Exhibition (1972), Three Moods (1980). The Nose is still the best of their films that I’ve seen to date but mention should be made of the gem that is En passant, a very brief illustration of a Canadian song. The precision of this piece never fails to astonish me: the pinscreen technique must be difficult enough without also being able to suddenly shift viewpoint—the moment when the squirrel jumps on the windmill blades!—and accurately convey the movements of a squirrel and a rooster. Watch that one if nothing else.

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The Nose, a film by Alexandre Alexeieff & Claire Parker
Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker


The Big Fix!


One of the stories that was new to me in recent book purchase, Strange Ecstasies (1973), was The Big Fix by Richard Wilson, a science-fiction piece about a junkie in New York City looking for something newer and better than the heroin habit he’s trying to quit. The story first appeared in Infinity Science Fiction for August 1956 but the first half of the narrative seemed so unlike the usual SF fare of the time that I kept flicking back to the copyright page to check the date. The Big Fix of the title (or The Big Fix! as it was in the magazine) is a substance named uru given to the narrator by Jones, an alien in disguise; smoking the drug induces a telepathic conversation with Jones followed by a journey through space to his home planet. In the second half of the story we discover why Jones (or Joro as he’s known at home) is transporting low-lifes from New York and offering them a chance to live on his world. The explanation is as pedestrian in SF terms as an episode of Star Trek, a factor which makes the first half of the story seem all the more striking, replete as it is with junk-life details, contemporary slang and discussion of the (for the time) very obscure South American drug known as yage, aka ayahuasca. Was this written from Wilson’s personal experience or had the details been lifted from a contemporary authority?


A few minutes of searching turned up the solution in an illustrated spread from the magazine: the original printing opened with a paragraph from Junkie (1953) by William Burroughs (credited as William Lee) which not only explains the accuracy of the drug and slang details but also why Wilson was mentioning yage. Burroughs’ connections with (and influence upon) the SF world are well-documented but this is a surprising example—maybe the first—of his influencing a story before he was known as William Burroughs. I wonder now if he ever knew about this instance himself, or if the excising of the Junkie paragraph from subsequent reprints marooned the detail in the magazine. At the end of the story there’s more contemporary relevance when the narrator has managed to return to Earth and is helping some researchers with their mescaline experiments, a process whose higher status he attributes to “the Huxley effect”.

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More trip texts
Mugwump jism


Spheres, a film by Norman McLaren and René Jodoin


Norman McLaren’s dance films were a late development, previous decades having been spent creating animated films in a variety of techniques. Many of these were abstract works with a musical accompaniment, as is Spheres (1969), one of McLaren’s last films in this style. It’s not completely abstract: a butterfly keeps interrupting the multiplying spheres which dance through space to a piano piece by Bach. This being a Canadian production, it’s fitting that Glenn Gould is at the keyboard.

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Ballet Adagio, a film by Norman McLaren
Pas de Deux by Norman McLaren
Norman McLaren




Coulthart Books

    The Haunter of the Dark



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    carrington.jpg   williams3.jpg



{ feuilleton } recommends

Z (aka Bernard Szajner) presents Visions of Dune


I Am The Center--Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990


Cosmic Machine--A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980)


Why Do The Heathen Rage? by The Soft Pink Truth


School Daze by Patrick Cowley


The Art of Gothic by Natasha Scharf


Somnium by Steve Moore


Strange Attractor Journal Four


Clive Hicks-Jenkins


A Humument by Tom Phillips


Schalcken the Painter


Berberian Sound Studio


Under the Skin


The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale


Beasts by Nigel Kneale


A Field In England




Enter the Void


David Lynch Collection


Children of the Stones--The Complete Series


BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas (Box Set)


The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome


L'Ange by Patrick Bokanowski


Piotr Kamler--A La Recherche du Temps






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“feed your head”


Below the fold


Penda's Fen by David Rudkin