The Snow Queen (1916) by Harry Clarke.
• “…blogging remains my favourite format precisely because the writing so rarely feels like labour. Liberated from the need to pitch an idea or wield credentials, blogging—for a professional writer—frees you up to address topics outside your perceived expertise. It feels like a leisure activity because it’s leisurely—a ramble across fields of culture and knowledge, during which you sneak short cuts and trespass into areas you are not meant to go. A post doesn’t have to have a destination, a point. You can bundle or concatenate several different topics, push into adjacency things that don’t obviously or naturally belong together—like oddments inside a Cornell box. You can start somewhere and end up somewhere completely different, without any obligation to tie things up neatly.” Simon Reynolds reflecting on 20 years of the blogging thing, and neatly summarising the attractions of the medium. For some of us, anyway…
• At Smithsonian Magazine: “Structural colour was first documented in the 17th century, in peacock feathers, but it is only since the invention of the electron microscope, in the 1930s, that we have known how it works.” Tomas Weber on Andrew Parker’s nanotechnology developments which are creating some of the brightest hues in the world.
• “Bring back the Cailleach, beloved Scottish goddess of winter, shaking out the snow on the land. Bring back Mother Holda, with her wild geese and her snowflakes landing on the tongue like a gift from the sky…” Yvonne Aburrow would like to see the festival of Yule returned to its anarchic origins.
• Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, an extract from a recent audience-less concert by Ryuichi Sakamoto which he says is liable to be his last.
• At Unquiet Things: S. Elizabeth posts some of the pictures that couldn’t be fitted into The Art of Darkness.
• Mix of the week: A Tribute to Manuel Göttsching by Low Light Mixes.
• It’s the end of December so it must be time for Alan Bennett’s diary.
• RIP Mike Hodges.
• Vale Berfrois.
• Snow (1985) by Takashi Toyoda | Snowfall (2000) by Haruomi Hosono | Snowfall (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd
The Horror of Living (1907) by Tyra Kleen. Via
• “Voss suggests Af Klint was a pioneer of abstract painting, a label that fits in some ways – her work certainly isn’t representational in the normal sense – but jars in others. She saw her work as a spiritual calling, supercharged with meaning in ways most of her contemporaries struggled to grasp. Most, but not all. Af Klint socialised and collaborated with other visionary women. Some were artists, others were writers, but all were adherents of the new philosophies sweeping Europe in the late 19th century: spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, theosophy.” Madoc Cairns reviewing Hilma af Klint: A Biography by Julia Voss.
• “I want to insist on an amateur internet; a garage internet; a public library internet; a kitchen table internet. At last, in 2023, I want to tell the tech CEOs and venture capitalists: pipe down. Buzz off. Go fave each other’s tweets.” Robin Sloan looking for new avenues away from the corporate cul-de-sacs of social media.
• “Even when subjects take psychedelics in clinical environments devoid of nature…many of them still emerge with stronger relationships to the natural world.” Simran Sethi on the connections between psychedelic use and eco-activism.
• At A Year In The Country: A Shindig! Selection: From Celluloid Hinterlands to Children of the Stones via The Delaware Road and a Sidestep to the Parallel World of él Records.
• At Public Domain Review: Mighty Mikko: A Book of Finnish Fairy Tales and Folk Tales (1922) by Parker Hoysted Fillmore.
• “When coffee is all gone. It’s over.” Spoon & Tamago gets existential at Tokyo’s Museum of Wonky English.
• The “S” Word: Spirtuality in Alternative Music is a book-length study by Matthew Ingram (aka Woebot).
• New music: Does Spring Hide Its Joy by Kali Malone (featuring Stephen O’Malley & Lucy Railton).
• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Geetype.
• Spiritual Awakening (1973) by Eddie Henderson | Spiritual Blessing (1974) by Pharoah Sanders | Spiritual Eternal (1976) by Alice Coltrane
Aquarius (1910–1914) by Ilna Ewers-Wunderwald.
• “…they created a unique Afro-Caribbean soundscape—Battiste’s exceptional skills saw him use the studio as an instrument, voices flutter in and out, instruments shiver and shriek, over which Rebennack mutters and chants, a shaman of sorts.” Garth Cartwright on the life and works of Mac Rebennack, better known to the world as Dr John.
• Issue 3 of Man Is The Animal: A Coil Zine is now available for pre-order. I contributed to this one with a piece entitled “Singularities of Art and Nature”, an examination of the Coil discography via the Wunderkammer concept and the Musaeum Clausum of Thomas Browne.
• Among the recent arrivals at Standard Ebooks, the home of free, high-quality, public-domain texts, is Arthur Machen’s episodic and influential horror novel The Three Imposters (1895).
• Media History Digital Library: “A free online resource, featuring millions of pages of books and magazines from the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound.”
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Shall I, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, conjurer, introduce myself to you, viewer? And why not?
• At Public Domain Review: The Blood Collages of John Bingley Garland (ca. 1850–60).
• Mix of the week: Endymion, an autumnal ambient mix by The Ephemeral Man.
• “New Webb image captures clearest view of Neptune’s rings in decades.”
• New music: Of Endless Light by Cleared.
• RIP jazz giant Pharoah Sanders.
• Conjuration (1977) by Tangerine Dream | Necronomicon—Conjurations (2004) by John Zorn | A Boy Called Conjuror (2020) by Teleplasmiste
Miniature Zen Garden (1895) by Unknown.
Ryoan-ji Temple (Mid-20th C.) by Inagaki Toshijiro.
Ryoan-ji Temple (Mid-20th C.) by Maeda Masao.
Stone Garden of Ryoan-ji Temple (c.1950s) by Ito Nisaburo.
Ryoan-ji Zen Garden (c.1950s) by Okuyama Gihachiro.
Continue reading “Nineteen views of Zen gardens”
Also witch-finders, demons, magi, and a skeletal Adolf Hitler clutching a glowing crystal ball… Jan Parker is a British artist who was working as an illustrator in the early 1970s, during which time he produced a small number of covers for SF and fantasy titles. One of these, The Worlds of Frank Herbert, is a book I used to see a lot on the secondhand shelves although I never owned a copy. As with Victor Valla’s cover art, the 70s was a decade when idiosyncratic imagery of the type created by Parker and co. was a more common sight on genre covers than it is today. Witchcraft and Black Magic, published by Hamlyn in 1971, brought Parker’s brand of naïve weirdness to a Peter Haining history of the more lurid forms of occultism. This is a book that I did own for a while until someone borrowed it and never returned it, a persistent hazard for the books in my not-very-extensive occult library. Haining’s study is the kind of thing that publishers often call a pocket guide, although this suggests something you’d carry around to be used as an identification tool during chance encounters; you wouldn’t want to encounter most of the people (never mind the creatures) in these paintings.
A handful of Parker’s illustrations turned up some years ago at the now-defunct Front Free Endpaper, then were reblogged at Monster Brains and elsewhere. The copies here are from another recent upload at the Internet Archive where the book is part of a sub-archive of titles scanned from Indian libraries. The very tight binding evidently presented difficulties for the scanner, hence the appearance of fingers holding open most of the pages. It’s good to see this one again; I always valued the book more for the artwork than the text which isn’t bad but was simply another commission for the very prolific Haining, a writer who was a better anthologist than a historian. If you want a general history of the occult there are more authoritative options elsewhere.
As for the artwork, I wonder now how long it took Parker to paint all these pictures. There are about 80 original illustrations plus a number of others taken from antique books or from artists such as Frans Hals and Goya; that’s a lot of original art for a book of only 160 pages. Many of Parker’s pieces are copies of pre-existing portraits or of familiar illustrations like the perennially popular demons from de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal. This makes me wonder why Hamlyn commissioned copies from Parker rather than simply paying a picture library for the original images as Marshall Cavendish were doing in 1971 with their multi-part encyclopedia, Man, Myth and Magic. Whatever the reason I’m pleased they gave Parker so much free reign. His depictions of historical figures wouldn’t be out of place in the portrait gallery in Dance of the Vampires, while some of his other pieces stray into outright Surrealism; the picture of people being menaced by flying eyeballs was used for the cover art of the US reprint from Bantam.
Haining’s book had at least one reprint in the UK before going out of print. The early 1970s saw the peak of the occult revival which had begun in the previous decade, and which made room in publishers’ lists for odd little books like this one. Secondhand copies are still floating around although they’re seldom cheap. If you do find one just be careful who you lend it to.
Continue reading “Jan Parker’s witches”