Weekend links 584

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Cover for the 1970 US edition of Moonchild by Aleister Crowley. No artist credited (unless you know better…). Update: The artist is Dugald Stewart Walker, and the drawing is from a 1914 edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Thanks to Mr TjZ!

• “…a very mid-Seventies cauldron of Cold War technology, ESP, sociology, black magic and white magic, experimental science and standing stones, secret radar and satanic rituals, whirring aerials and wild moors: a seething potion of Wyndham and Wheatley.” Mark Valentine on The Twelve Maidens, a novel by Stewart Farrar.

• “The line in the song ‘feed your head’ is both about reading and psychedelics. I was talking about feeding your head by paying attention: read some books, pay attention.” Grace Slick explains why those three little words have been attached to these pages since 2006.

Freddie deBoer reposted his “Planet of Cops” polemic, a piece I linked to when it first appeared in 2017, and which used to come to mind all the time before I absented myself from the poisonous sump of negativity that we call social media.

• RIP Charlie Watts. The Rolling Stones’ last moment of psychedelic strangeness is Child Of The Moon, a promo film by Michael Lindsay-Hogg featuring an uncredited Eileen Atkins and Sylvia Coleridge.

• Old music: A live performance by John Coltrane and ensemble of A Love Supreme from Seattle in 1965 that’s somehow managed to remain unreleased until now.

• A short film about Suzanne Cianni which sees her creating electronic sounds and music for the Xenon pinball machine in the early 1980s.

• “I’ll be in another world”: A rediscovered interview with Jorge Luis Borges.

Steven Heller explains why Magnat is his font of the month.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the allure of toy theatre.

• New music: Vexed by The Bug ft. Moor Mother.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Nikola Tesla Festschrift.

Moon Child (1964) by The Ventures | Moonchild (1969) by King Crimson | Moonchild (1992) by Shakespears Sister

Weekend links 581

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The back cover of Oz 33, February 1971. Art by Norman Lindsay.

Walker Mimms looks back 50 years to the trial of the editors/publishers of Oz magazine, in which the trio were accused of “conspiracy to corrupt public morals” following the appearance of Oz 28, the “Schoolkids Issue”, in May 1970. Elsewhere: corrupt your own morals by reading the offending issue; then see Hugh Grant in a hippie wig in The Trials of Oz, a BBC dramatisation of the courtroom drama; after which you can watch the real editors—Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis—discuss the whole affair with other interested parties 20 years on (and also see Germaine Greer shame Jonathan Dimbleby into saying the word “cunt” on live TV).

• New music: Caves – A Compilation Of Silences by Other People (“This collection of silences and music can be used as timers for cooking, meditation, running, walking, sleeping or anything you want”), and Vaganten by ToiToiToi, the next release on the Ghost Box label.

Chris Carter‘s favourite albums. I think I own more of the albums listed here (including the ABBA) than any other entry in this long-running series. Which isn’t really surprising…

What I would say about that in general is what I’ve written in the new introduction to Teenage, which is that the 60s youth culture that we’ve been talking about, the progressive, critical side of it came as a complete surprise to adults. And once they identified what was going on, they were incredibly hostile, and authorities were incredibly hostile to it. And from the Thatcher government in the 80s you have a series of measures, a series of laws, a series of attitudes, a series of structures put in place to make sure that that never happens again. So youth itself has been deliberately depoliticised and also had a lot of the opportunities for any kind of autonomy taken away from it. That is, it has been a deliberate government policy right the way through, including Blair, and definitely with the current lot.

Echoes of the Oz debate in this discussion between Jon Savage and Owen Hatherley

• At Perfect Sound Forever: RIP Jon Hassell: honouring a one-of-kind musician/composer.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Edward Luper’s 36 Views of the BT Tower (after Hokusai).

• At Unquiet Things: Doorways into Awareness: An interview with Century Guild.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XXIV by David Colohan.

• Ghost notes: Michio Kurihara‘s favourite guitar solos.

• “Future space travel might require mushrooms.”

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Alexander Hammid Day.

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 FIVE STAR is live.

Like A Tear (1968) by The World Of Oz | Return To Oz (2004) by Scissor Sisters | Il Pavone Di Oz (Praslesh Remix) (2014) by Verrina & Ventura

Pynchonian cinema

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(Pynchonian? Pynchonesque? Pynchon-heads can no doubt supply the most common descriptor but for now Pynchonian will do.)

Is it possible to identify a Pynchonian strand in cinema? This question came to mind while I was reading the end of Gravity’s Rainbow, and probably a little before then during a scene that takes place in the Neubabelsberg studio in Berlin. The Pynchon reading binge is still ongoing here—after finishing the Rocket book I went straight on to Vineland, and I’m currently immersed in Mason and Dixon—so I’ve been watching films that complement some of the preoccupations in the Pynchon oeuvre, at least up to and including Vineland. This is a small and no doubt contentious list but I’m open to further suggestions. Inherent Vice is excluded, I’ve been thinking more of films that are reminiscent of Pynchon without being derived from his work. Elements that increase the Pynchon factor would include: a serio-comic quality (essential, this, otherwise you’d have to include a huge number of thrillers); detective work; paranoia; songs; and a conspiracy of some sort, or the suspicion of the same: a mysterious cabal–the “They” of Gravity’s Rainbow—who may or may not be manipulating the course of events.

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The President’s Analyst (1967)
I’d be very surprised if Pynchon didn’t like this one. James Coburn as the titular analyst, Dr Sidney Schaefer, has little time to enjoy his new job in Washington DC before half the security services in the world are trying to kidnap him to discover what he’s learned about the President’s neuroses. This in turn leads the FBI FBR to attempt to kill Schaefer in order to protect national security. Pynchonian moments include a bout of total paranoia in a restaurant, Canadian spies disguised as a British pop group (“The ‘Pudlians”), and a visit to the home of a “typical American family” where the father has a house full of guns, the mother is a karate expert, and the son uses his “Junior Spy Kit” to monitor phone conversations. Later on, an entire nightclub gets spiked with LSD. This is also the only film in which someone evades abduction to a foreign country by the cunning use of psychoanalysis.
Is it serio-comic? Yes.
Is there detection? In the background: the CIA CEA and KGB agents have to work together in order to outwit the FBI FBR and discover who the ultimate villains might be.
Is there paranoia? You only get more paranoia in one of the serious conspiracy dramas of the 1970s like The Conversation or The Parallax View. (The latter includes the same actor who plays the All American Dad, William Daniels.)
Any songs? Yes. Coburn hides out for a while with the real-life psychedelic group Clear Light, and helps with their performance in the acid-spiked nightclub.
“They”? There are multiple “They”s in this one.
Pynchon factor: 5. Maybe a 6 for the LSD.

Continue reading “Pynchonian cinema”

Heartbreak Hotel

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Number One: Teen Angels in Anguish. Cover by Barry Kamen.

Among the recent uploads at the Internet Archive is a complete run of Heartbreak Hotel, a British magazine six issues of which were published in 1988. (More or less…I think the first issue may have appeared at the end of 1987.) Heartbreak Hotel differed from other bi-monthly publications by being predominantly a comics magazine, but it also differed from other comics magazines by a) having the contents of each issue themed to follow a different musical genre, b) running articles by and interviews with people who had little or no connection to the comics world, and c) being a lot more openly sympathetic towards gay men and lesbians than any other magazine aimed at a general readership. The latter stance was a political one in 1988. This was the year when the Thatcher government, growing hubristic after a third election win, passed a Local Government Act whose notorious Section 28 prevented authorities from “promoting homosexuality”. The clause was designed to prevent Labour-run councils from funding gay and lesbian support groups, as well as to stop teachers from mentioning homosexuality in sex education lessons. The editors of Heartbreak Hotel, Don Melia and Lionel Gracey-Whitman, were a gay couple, so the magazine stood against the repressive atmosphere of the time without being too polemical or too serious. The polemic was more overt in affiliated publications Strip AIDS, a benefit comic for the London Lighthouse (a residential and daycare centre for people with AIDS), and AARGH (or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia), a collection of comics taking a stand against Section 28 which was the first publication from Alan Moore’s Mad Love imprint.

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The other notable feature of Heartbreak Hotel was the attention it gave to new artists, to women artists, or to people who weren’t drawing generic action/adventure strips. The first two issues appeared while I was working on the last pages of my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu so I sent the magazine some sample pages and was subsequently invited to meet the editors at the launch of the next issue in London. I spent a somewhat nervous weekend in the capital; this was my first introduction to the wider comics world, and my introversion in those days was a lot more pronounced among strangers than it is today. I met Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie for the first time (separately—they weren’t a couple at that time), and was amused when Don made a point of telling me that he and Lionel were gay, something he evidently felt he had to declare even though it had been (for me, at least) quite obvious from the editorial stance of Heartbreak Hotel, as well as the camp graphics scattered throughout the magazine’s pages, and the fact that the publisher was co-named “Willyprods”.

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Dave Gibbons spills the beans in issue one.

The format of the magazine was established in the first issue: five or six strips based on songs that suited that issue’s theme, together with interviews or features, some of which also matched the theme. “Spill It!!” was a regular feature in which a different artist had a page to create an autobiographical piece in strip form, and there was also a column about comics and related matters by artist/writer Trina Robbins. I’d initially hoped to draw something for the psychedelic issue but by the time I posted my photocopies that number was already being prepared for print. I did turn up in the fourth issue, however, in a short news piece which announced the publication of the Caemaen Books edition of my Haunter of the Dark strip.

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Also from issue one, Alan Moore recounts his trip to the USA.

A more important outcome from my journey to London was Lionel’s offer to run The Call of Cthulhu in BLAAM, a spin-off comic that Willyprods/Small Time Ink was planning. Heartbreak Hotel had been inundated with work by talented newcomers so rather than make them wait for a slot in the parent magazine the editors decided to launch another title to provide an additional outlet for new creators. Lionel had been very impressed with my Lovecraft story, and also assisted with its conclusion when he suggested that I add an extra page to help the pacing near the end, something I did, and which I’ve been grateful for ever since. The first issue of BLAAM, printed on tabloid-size newsprint sheets, came bundled with issue five of Heartbreak Hotel. The idea was that BLAAM would continue separately as a free publication thanks to a combination of low production costs, advertising, and Don Melia’s contacts at Titan Distribution. This was all very exciting, especially when two more issues of BLAAM appeared soon after. My strip was slated to run in number four or five but Willyprods/Small Time Ink didn’t publish anything more after December 1988. I was disappointed by this but not for long. A year later I’d started working on the Savoy comics, and Steve Bissette offered to publish the Cthulhu strip in Lovecraft Lives, a book he was planning for Kevin Eastman’s new enterprise, Tundra Publishing. That one didn’t work out either—the stars weren’t right for a variety of reasons—but all this attention, and the enthusiasm shown by everyone involved with Heartbreak Hotel, made the comics world seem like a good place to be. For a while, anyway.

Continue reading “Heartbreak Hotel”

Weekend links 572

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L’Insolite (1980) by Jean-Marie Poumeyrol.

• “As we move down the ladder of prestige into the world of unvetted tweets, we observe an increasing difficulty, among people with very strong opinions, in exercising that basic critical competence of distinguishing between the authorial creation of a character, and the author’s affirmation of that character’s every moral trait and political view.” Justin EH Smith on the HR managers of the human soul.

• “When is a Didone not a Didone? How far must an exemplar Didone, like a Didot or a Bodoni, be altered before it loses its ‘Didoneness’?” John Boardley on the vexed question of font classification, and the need for an alternative to the present system.

• “Birds with Human Faces and Birds with Human Souls share shelf space with The Book of Owls and Expert Obedience Training for Dogs…” Joanna Moorhead visits the Casa Estudio Leonora Carrington in Mexico City.

“Indolent” is a funny way to characterize her natural state, which seems more like “incisive” to me, but I also have the unshakable sense—for myself—that writing can’t or shouldn’t look like staring into space or feel like not wanting to move from the couch. “A fraud is being perpetrated: writing is not work, it’s doing nothing,” she states in that first essay, from 1992. But she immediately counters with, “It’s not a fraud: doing nothing is what I have to do to live.” Listing a few more pertinent existential options, Diski ends with, “Or: writing is what I have to do to be my melancholy self.” The protoplasmic, chattering, melancholic “I” of these essays is, of course, the collection’s constant, its true subject. I can commiserate with her on every page even if emulation is out of reach.

Johanna Fateman on the incisive long-form criticism of Jenny Diski

• At Spine: Vyki Hendy identifies sunburst as a new trend in book cover design. I often think I overuse these things in my own cover designs which means I may be inadvertently (and fleetingly) trendy.

• At the Magnum Gallery, London: Metamorphoses, photographic studies by Herbert List of male bodies and Greek statuary.

• At Spoon & Tamago: A butterfly sipping moisture from puddles, sculpted entirely in wood by Toru Fukuda.

• At Dangerous Minds: Joseph Lanza on the easy listening side of psychedelic pop.

• At CounterPunch: Louis Proyect on thinking like an octopus.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 510 by Britton Powell.

Bye Bye Butterfly (1965) by Pauline Oliveros | Butterfly Mornings (2001) by Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions | Butterfly Caught (2003) by Massive Attack