Sticks

1: Illustrations by Lee Brown Coye

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One recurring feature in Coye’s work is the motif of wooden sticks, often in latticework-like patterns. This was inspired by a 1938 discovery in an abandoned farmhouse.

Coye had returned to the North Pitcher, New York, area where he spent much of his childhood. While wandering deep in the woods, Coye discovered an abandoned farmhouse. Boards and pieces of wood which had been set perpendicular to one another surrounded the site. Neither inside nor out could Coye find an explanation for the presence of these crossed sticks. In the years following, Coye remained interested in the significance of his discovery.

When Coye returned to the site in 1963, there was nothing left of the building or the sticks (the area had suffered severe flooding), and he never found out why the sticks were there or who it was that had arranged them in such a manner. Because of the strangeness of the entire experience, these forms never left Coye, and they appear in many of his paintings and illustrations. [Via]

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2: A short story by Karl Edward Wagner

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Whispers #3, March 1974. Cover art by Lee Brown Coye.

The story [Sticks] is really Lee Brown Coye’s and is about Lee Brown Coye, as the Afterword [in Whispers #3] explains. Coye had described the events upon which Sticks was based to me, and when Stuart David Schiff decided to bring out a special Lee Brown Coye issue of Whispers, I stole time from my final few months of medical school to write a story inspired by Coye’s experiences. Sticks is shot through with in-jokes and references which the serious fantasy/horror fan will recognize. I wrote the story as a favour and tribute to Lee, and I never expected it to be read by anyone beyond the thousand or so fans who read Whispers. To my surprise, Sticks became one of my best known and best liked stories. It won the British Fantasy Award and was a runner-up in the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction. The story has been anthologized numerous times and translated into several languages. It was broadcast on National Public Radio on Hallowe’en 1982 and was to have been produced for the short lived television series, Darkroom. Not bad for an in-joke. [Via]


3: Season one of True Detective

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4: An invented soundtrack album by Kish Kollectiv

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Produced for UK television in 1982 by ATV, the undeservedly obscure Dwellers in the Earth is a loose adaptation of the late Karl Edward Wagner’s short story Sticks (itself an inspiration for The Blair Witch Project). The film—thought lost for many years until a somewhat degraded can of film reel turned up in a private collection in Hong Kong in 2009—has been routinely described as one of the scariest made-for-television horror movies of all time. It was directed by the late Freddie Francis and starred Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter with Michael Ironside, Ian McCulloch and Linda Hayden in supporting roles.

With the kind permission of the composer’s widow, Nadezhda Mastandrea, Kish Kollektiv has painstakingly recreated Staszek Korolenko’s long lost soundtrack score for the mysterious film. The UK-based Kollektiv gratefully acknowledges Mr. Korolenko’s huge influence on its own work. The Anglo-Belarusian composer died at the age of only 43, while the master recordings of many of his scores were later destroyed when the cellar of his family home flooded in 1989. [Via]

Previously on { feuilleton }
Owls and flowers
In the Key of Yellow

Weekend links 644

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Yoshitoshi’s Ghosts (2004) by Paul Binnie.

• “The later Grand Etteilla series, printed well into the nineteenth century, and the present-day proliferation of Tarot decks, following ephemeral fads and fashions, all trace their origins to this beautiful and beguiling creation from the enigmatic Egyptophile at 48 Rue de L’Oseille.” Kevin Dann on the Livre de Thot Tarot (ca. 1789) by Jean-Baptiste Alliette, better known as “Etteilla”.

• “Death is not a subject he has ever shied away from, in his fiction or conversation. Indeed, he has measured other writers by how seriously they address it.” Richard B. Woodward on his friend, Cormac McCarthy, and McCarthy’s new novels. There’s an exclusive extract from The Passenger here.

• “…addicts, psychopaths, lovelorn outsiders, cult leaders, lesbian and gay icons…you name it, the vampire has become it.” Christopher Frayling on the perennial popularity of the vampire, and a new book collection of vampire film posters.

Robert Wilson‘s new production of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry is “a sinister, multilingual pantomime bathed in red light and looped in noise…fittingly violent, absurd, ominous and infantile”.

• “What kind of music goes with a show that originates in deep space?” Aquarium Drunkard on Sonny Sharrock’s final recordings, the soundtrack music for Space Ghost Coast To Coast.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine takes a fresh look at the health of secondhand bookshops in Britain.

• Tokyo nightlife photographed by Hosokawa Ryohei.

• New music: Approach by Lawrence English.

The Passenger (1977) by Iggy Pop | The Passenger (1987) by Siouxsie And The Banshees | The Passenger (1997) by Lunachicks

Ralph Steadman, 1977

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This is the kind of thing I like to see: 35 minutes of an artist doing nothing but drawing or talking about drawing. Michael Dibb’s profile of Ralph Steadman is the earliest BBC portrait of the artist, made for the long-running Arena arts series. Arena was launched in 1975 but films from the series prior to 1980 are rare things on the internet. This one concentrates on Steadman’s creation of a drawing for a new book, The Cherrywood Cannon, an anti-war story by Dimitri Sidjanski. In between work on the drawing Steadman describes how he approached illustrating Alice Through the Looking-Glass, and his drawings of the Patty Hearst trial, before repairing to the local pub where he sketches the regulars. Hunter S. Thompson only receives a passing mention, which may surprise some viewers; if it’s Thompson you’re after then you’ll want to see Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood, the 1978 Omnibus profile of the writer which features Steadman again, plus many more of his drawings.

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The Arena film is relatively short but valuable for the insight it gives into Steadman’s technique: no preliminary drawing, for example, he starts with ink on a blank sheet of paper. I was amused to see him using a spray diffuser to fill in the background. This is a kind of lung-powered airbrush, an angled tube which you place in your bottle of ink then blow through to create spray effects. I used one myself for a while as a rougher (and cheaper) alternative to an airbrush, before graduating to using old toothbrushes which are easier to control when spattering ink. I’d always assumed that Steadman used an airbrush himself but seeing his loose approach to sketching it makes sense that he’d like the grainier, less predictable textures created by a diffuser.

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Michael Dibb’s film is at the producer’s Vimeo channel together with many other excellent documentaries, including John Berger’s landmark Ways of Seeing series.  Vimeo changed its policies recently, insisting that you sign in if you want to see something that hasn’t been rated by the user (ie: most of the things there). This can be avoided by using the mobile Vimeo app, an option which also gives you better search facilities.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ralph Steadman record covers
Beardsley and His Work

Leslie Megahey, 1944–2022

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TV producer & film director Leslie Megahey died at the end of August but the news has taken a while to filter through to these pages where his BBC TV productions have been the subject of several posts. My recurrent comments about his work were effusive enough for him to send me a handwritten note of thanks a few years ago, plus a promotional card for one of the films in the Artists and Models series. If more of his productions had been available online or on disc I would have written something about them as well, but old television, especially the documentary variety, remains persistently inaccessible to future audiences.

There are biographical details in the link above so what follows is a list of the Megahey productions that, for this viewer at least, made his name one to look out for in the TV listings. Some of these are on YouTube, a couple are available on disc, while the rest have yet to resurface anywhere. Everything here is highly recommended…if you can find it.

Omnibus: All Clouds are Clocks (1976/1991): An hour-long interview with composer György Ligeti. I caught this one on its updated rebroadcast in 1991 when Megahey revisited Ligeti to see what directions his career had taken over the past 15 years. Currently unavailable.

Schalcken the Painter (1979): Another Omnibus film, and a ghost story (after Sheridan Le Fanu) that’s as good as any of the BBC’s MR James adaptations. Released on (Region B) blu-ray & (Region 2) DVD by the BFI.

Arena: The Orson Welles Story (1982): A two-part interview (165 minutes in total) which caught Welles in a rare mood when he was happy to talk at length about his career. The TV equivalent of the huge book of Peter Bogdanovich conversations. Part One | Part Two

Artists and Models (1986): Three drama/documentaries about French painters: David, Ingres and Géricault.

Cariani and the Courtesans (1987): Another historical drama about an artist, Giovanni Cariani (c. 1490–1547). Very much in the mould of Schalcken the Painter but without the supernatural element. Currently unavailable.

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (1988): The best film version of Bartók’s opera. The Region 1 DVD by Kultur seems to be deleted but is worth seeking out for having removable subtitles. There’s a copy at YouTube.

The Complete Citizen Kane (1991): A 90-minute documentary about Welles’ film using extracts from the Arena interviews and the Megahey produced TV series The RKO Story, plus new material. No longer on YouTube (or anywhere else) due to a copyright complaint. This is why I’m always saying you should download these things as soon as you find them.

The Hour of the Pig (1993): A feature film about a medieval animal trial, this one was hacked around by Miramax then released in the US as The Advocate where it flopped. The hard-to-find UK version turned up on YouTube a few days ago.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Men and Wild Horses: Théodore Géricault
The Complete Citizen Kane
Schalcken the Painter revisited
Le Grande Macabre
Leslie Megahey’s Bluebeard

Weekend links 633

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A blueprint by Buckminster Fuller for the first geodesic dome.

• “That opening sequence on the train, it’s got the dynamic of a wonderful pop video. It’s one of the world’s greatest actors who understood the power of small gestures.” Jah Wobble enthusing about Roy Budd, Michael Caine, and Mike Hodges’ baleful revenge drama, Get Carter.

• One of the BFI’s Halloween releases this year will be The Ballad of Tam Lin (1971), the blu-ray debut of a cult film that blends folk horror with modish melodrama. Direction by Roddy McDowall, music by Pentangle, and a cast that includes Ava Gardner and Ian McShane.

• New from A Year In The Country: Cathode Ray And Celluloid Hinterlands, a book exploring weird film and TV, not all of which is from the over-ploughed folk-horror furrows.

The whole notion of the Diggers kind of evolved out of the anarchism thing. And also there was more than a little social conscience. Because, by now, in ‘66, people started to come to the Haight Ashbury from all over. And that was when, in ‘66, it was still, really… Before the “Summer of Love,” it really was the Summer of Love. The “Summer of Love” [in 1967] was Life Magazine’s version. That’s what created the homeless on the streets and all that shit, because so many people came with absolutely no understanding of what they were about.

The role of the Diggers in this period was an outlaw, romantic, feed-the-people, anarchist, ‘Who’s in charge?—YOU ARE’, that kind of thing. That line in Apocalypse Now when he gets to the bridge and the little string of Christmas lights are hanging and he gets to one guy who’s guarding one end of the bridge and he says, Who’s in charge here? He says, I thought you were. And that’s so true. That is so true. Then Grogan, whenever anyone would ask, where’s Emmett Grogan… anyone could say “I’m Emmett Grogan.” So you could deflect a lot of shit.

Harvey Korspan of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock in another installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• “Buckminster Fuller patented the geodesic dome on June 29, 1954. Two decades later, it was everywhere in science fiction.”

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Harry Mathews Tlooth (1966).

• Mix of the week: A mix for The Wire by Cheri Knight.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Bangel.

Tam Lin (1969) by Fairport Convention | Young Tambling (1971) by Anne Briggs | Tamlane (2016) by Dylan Carlson & Coleman Grey