Weekend links 133

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Lower Manhattan (1999) by Lebbeus Woods.

RIP Lebbeus Woods, an architect and illustrator frequently compared to Piranesi not only for his imagination and the quality of his renderings but also for the way both men built very little from a lifetime of designs. Lots of appreciations have appeared over the past few days including this lengthy piece by Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG. (Geoff interviewed Woods in 2007.) Elsewhere: A slideshow at the NYT, Steven Holl remembers Lebbeus Woods and Lebbeus Woods, visionary architect of imaginary worlds. See also: Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings and this post about Woods’ illustrations for an Arthur C Clarke story collection. Woods was at his most Piranesian with Gothic designs for an artificial planet that would have been the principal location in Vincent Ward’s unmade Alien 3.

Arkhonia draws to the end of a year of blogging about and around the Beach Boys’ errant masterwork, Smile (1967). Witty, discursive and frequently scabrous accounts of how Brian Wilson’s magnum opus was derailed and marginalised until it became convenient for commercial interests to exploit its reputation. Anyone following those posts won’t have been surprised by Wilson’s sacking from his own group by Mike Love in September.

• “We’ve been underground for 27 hours now. Everyone is caked in mud, with grit in their hair.” Will Hunt explores the catacombs and sewers of Paris.

I think the only remotely interesting drug was acid. I had a slightly peculiar attitude towards it I think. Just about everything about hippydom I hated. I liked the 60s up to about ’65 or ’66. I liked the mod clothes, I liked the look. I wasn’t a keen taker of speed because I didn’t like the comedown from it. Then everything changed and became looser, I didn’t like the clothes at all. I felt rather out of step with it. The acid thing was interesting though. I come from Salisbury and from the age of 12 I had a friend who was 30 years older than I was who I saw regularly up until when he died a couple of years ago, whose obituary I wrote in The Times. This man was called Ken James and he was deputy head at the chemical warfare unit at Porton Down [the MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory]. He then became head of the scientific civil service; he was the man who introduced computing into the civil service and he had taken acid as early as 1950. This was long before Aldous Huxley.

Sharp Suits And Sparkle: Jonathan Meades On Acid, Space And Place by John Doran. Marvellous stuff. Meades’ new book is Museum Without Walls.

• In New York later this month: A Cathode Ray Séance – The Haunted Worlds of Nigel Kneale.

• More acid: Kerri Smith talks to Oliver Sacks about his drug experiences.

• “It starts with an itch”: Alan Bennett (again) on his new play, People.

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Lower Manhattan last Wednesday. Photo by Iwan Baan.

• Back issues of OMNI magazine can now be found at the Internet Archive.

• Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins present their new film, Jimmy’s End.

• At BibliOdyssey: Atlas title pages part one & part two.

• Raw Functionality: An interview with Emptyset.

Athanasius, Underground

Vintage Caza

Stormy Weather (1979) by Elisabeth Welch.

Weekend links 131

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Japanese poster (1982).

At The Quietus Steve Earles looks back at John Carpenter’s visceral and uncompromising The Thing which exploded messily onto cinema screens thirty years ago. It’s always worth being reminded that this film (and Blade Runner in the same year) was considered a flop at the time following bad reviews and a poor showing at the summer box office. One reason was The Thing‘s being overshadowed by the year’s other film of human/alien encounters, something called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. To The Thing‘s status as the anti-E.T. you can add its reversal of the can-do heroics of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951), an attitude out-of-step with Reaganite America. Carpenter’s film is not only truer to the original story but from the perspective of 2012 looks like one of the last films of the long 1970s, with Hawks’ anti-Communist subtext replaced by bickering, mistrust, paranoia and an unresolved and completely pessimistic ending that most directors would have a problem getting past a studio today.

I was fortunate to see The Thing in October of 1982 knowing little about it beyond its being a John Carpenter film (whose work I’d greatly enjoyed up to that point) and a remake of the Hawks film (which I also enjoyed a great deal). One benefit of the film’s poor box office was a lack of the kind of preview overkill which made E.T. impossible to avoid, and which a couple of years earlier did much to dilute the surprise of Ridley Scott’s Alien. I went into The Thing mildly interested and came out overwhelmed and aghast. For years afterwards I was insisting that this was the closest you’d get on-screen to Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. The correspondence is more than merely Antarctica + monsters when you consider this:

Lovecraft’s story was rejected by his regular publisher Weird Tales but was accepted by Astounding Stories in 1936 >> The editor of Astounding, John W. Campbell, published his own Antarctica + monsters story (under the pen-name Don A. Stuart), “Who Goes There?”, in the same magazine two years later >> Charles Lederer wrote a loose screen adaptation of Campbell’s story which Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby filmed as The Thing from Another World.

This isn’t to say that Campbell copied Lovecraft—both stories are very different—but I’d be surprised if Lovecraft’s using Antarctica as the setting for a piece of horror-themed science fiction didn’t give Campbell the idea.

More things elsewhere: Anne Billson, author of the BFI Modern Classics study of The Thing, on the framing of Carpenter’s shots, and her piece from 2009 about the film | Mike Ploog’s storyboards | Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack music, of which only a small percentage was used in the film.

• The week in music: 22 minutes of unreleased soundtrack by Coil for Sara Dale’s Sensual Massage | Analog Ultra-Violence: Wendy Carlos and the soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange | A Halloween mixtape by The Outer Church | Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters, live in Bremen, 1974: a 66-minute set, great sound, video and performances | Giorgio Moroder’s new SoundCloud page which features rare mixes and alternate versions | A video for Collapse by Emptyset.

One of the main themes of the book, and what I found in The Arabian Nights, was this emphasis on the power of commodities. Many of the enchanted things in the book are lamps, carpets, sofas, gems, brass rings. It is a rather different landscape than the fairy tale landscape of the West. Though we have interiors and palaces, we don’t have bustling cities, and there isn’t the emphasis on the artisan making things. The ambiance from which they were written was an entirely different one. The Arabian Nights comes out of a huge world of markets and trade. Cairo, Basra, Damascus: trades and skills.

Nina Moog talks to Marina Warner

John Palatinus, “one of the last living male physique photographers of the 1950s”, is interviewed. Related: the website of Ronald Wright, British illustrator for the physique magazines.

• “A classic is a work which persists as a background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway.” Italo Calvino’s 14 Definitions of What Makes a Classic.

Huge Franz Kafka archive to be made public. Related: Judith Butler asks “Who owns Kafka?”

• Geoff Manaugh’s Allen Ginsberg Photos & Ephemera, 1994–Dec 1996.

Magic mushrooms and cancer: My magical mystery cure?

Clark Ashton Smith Portfolio (1976) by Curt Pardee.

Jan Toorop’s 1924 calendar.

artQueer: a Tumblr.

• All The Things You Are (1957) by Duke Ellington | Things That Go Boom In The Night (1981) by Bush Tetras | Things Happen (1991) by Coil | Dead People’s Things (2004) by Deathprod.

Weekend links 129

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Daughters of Maternal Impression by Arabella Proffer.

A genre’s landscape should be littered with used tropes half-visible through their own smoke & surrounded by salvage artists with welding sets, otherwise it isn’t a genre at all.

M. John Harrison, incisive as ever, on what he memorably labels “Pink Slime Fiction”. Elsewhere (and at much greater length) Cowardice, Laziness and Irony: How Science Fiction Lost the Future by Jonathan McCalmont, and a two-part Paul Kincaid interview here and here.

• “Once upon a time, in almost every city, many rivers flowed. Why did they disappear? How? And could we see them again? This documentary tries to find answers by meeting visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world.” A trailer for Lost Rivers, written and directed by Caroline Bâcle. Related (and mentioned here before), London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide by Tom Bolton.

Ghosts in the Machine: “Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari, a recent exhibition was imagined as a Wunderkammer simultaneously tracing and questioning the relationship between people and technology.” And in Istanbul a Wunderkammer of a different kind: Rick Poynor looks at Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence.

• “There’s a vast territory still to be explored…” Bristol duo Emptyset (James Ginzburg & Paul Purgas), many of whose releases I’ve designed, talk about their music. Tracks from their new EP on the Raster-Noton label can be heard here. You’re going to need bigger speakers.

• “I liked doing it one time but I don’t want to become the gay porn soundtrack guy.” Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance talking to Sir Richard Bishop about one of his more unusual commissions.

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Double Vision (2009) by Bonnie Durham.

FACT mix 349: Silent Servant puts together a great selection of music old and new with the emphasis on the grit of the early Industrial era.

• Read Joyce’s Ulysses line by line, for the next 22 years, with Frank Delaney’s podcast.

Borges and the Plain Sense of Things, an article from 2006 by Gabriel Josipovici.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins on Equus and seeing your inspirations come full circle.

• At Pinterest: A few nice paintings of men

Spunk [arts] magazine

Derelict London

• Ritualistic Bug Use (2009) by Pink Skull | Demiurge Variations (2012) by Emptyset | Utopian Disaster (End) (2012) by Silent Servant.

Weekend links 97

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Illustration by Ermanno Iaia. Hard to believe that Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) is only now appearing on DVD in the UK. Arrow Films release a dual-format edition at the end of this month.

• The week in perfume: Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez is reviewed by Emily Gould (“this is a golden age of perfume criticism”) and prompts a meditation on the art and process of scent from Rishidev Chaudhuri.

Electrical Banana by Norman Hathaway & Dan Nadel is “the first definitive examination of the international language of psychedelia, focusing on the most important practitioners in their respective fields”.

Sacred Monsters is a forthcoming collection of essays and criticism by Edmund White. Related: Colm Tóibín from 1999 reviewing A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods.

Medium, a video by Clayton Welham and Sam Williams for Emptyset whose imminent release (also entitled Medium) I’ve designed. Related: Dave Maier on music versus noise.

• Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy: the face of US presidential contender Rick Santorum rendered as a collage of (mostly) gay porn. More provocation: All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay.

• Coilhouse discovered a rough copy of Bells of Atlantis (1952), an experimental film which features Anaïs Nin, input from Len Lye and an electronic score by Louis & Bebe Barron.

• “The idea that we should have but two options when it comes to our gender presentation, male or female, has always felt ludicrous to me,” says LaJohn Joseph.

Bely paints “a universe of strange manifestations” which drifts across Apollonovich’s consciousness every night before he falls asleep. We are even shown congeries of images that are shards of events which took place that day for the senator: “all the earlier inarticulacies, rustlings, crystallographic figures, the golden, chrysanthemum-like stars racing through the darkness on rays that resembled myriapods”

Malcom Forbes on Andrei Bely’s masterwork, Petersburg (1916).

RIP Barney Rosset, publisher of Grove Press books and the Evergreen Review.

The Brothers Quay will be at work in Leeds city centre this May. Lucky Leeds.

Warm Leatherette, a short film by Analogue Solutions.

Cormac McCarthy, Quantum Copy Editor.

The importance of being axonometric.

Always Crashing In The Same Car (1977) by David Bowie | Crash (1980) by Tuxedomoon | Crash Dance (1983) by Yello.

Weekend links 89

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A drawing from Bestiario Moderno by Domenico Gnoli (1933–1970).

RIP Russell Hoban. Nina Allan celebrates a favourite writer while David Mitchell, writing in 2005, pays tribute to Riddley Walker. For me the gulf between Hoban and many of his contemporaries could be measured by his entry in the Writer’s Rooms feature the Guardian Review was running for a couple of years: Hoban’s room was the only one that admitted to being cramped and chaotic.

A wristwatch could be “a tiny flowering hell, a wreath of roses, a dungeon of air” and still tell time. A short story could take the shape of an instruction manual for the most routine of tasks (crying, singing, winding said dungeon, killing ants in Rome), or a compendium of tales about fantastical but oddly familiar species. A novel didn’t have to progress from the first page to the last, hung on a rigid skeleton of plot: it could proceed in oblong leaps and great steps backward, like a game, say, of hopscotch. “Literature is a form of play,” said Cortázar. […] It is perhaps because he so stubbornly resists categorization, as much as for the ludic complexity of his work, that Cortázar is in these parts more admired than he is read. The Anglophone literary imagination (or perhaps just its material substrate: the market) appears to have room for only one Latin American giant per generation—Borges, García Márquez, the freshly beatified San Bolaño. Cortázar was too weird, too difficult, too joyously slippery to make the cut.

Eels Über Alles: Ben Ehrenreich on Julio Cortázar

• Alfred Jarry is another writer the Anglophone world has often found “too weird, too difficult”. Jarry has been dead for over a century but Alastair Brotchie’s recently-published full-length biography is the first such work in English. Mark Polizzotti reviews a life of “the poster boy for literary cult figures” at Bookforum.

• “A Beautiful Trip”: Frances Morgan interviews David Lynch about music and sound. And Robert Wyatt talks for 95 minutes to Tony Herrington about his favourite music.

• Twilight Science: Paul Schütze presents solo musical work and various collaborative projects in new digital editions.

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Jonathan Barnbrook‘s logo design for Occupy London.

• Winter reads: Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green. Related: What became of illustrations in fiction?

The White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen is a new Penguin Classic out in January.

• “This Christmas, why not give Viriconium, city of sex, syphillis & consubstantiation?”

• The Casual Optimist announces its Favourite Book Covers of 2011.

The Collect Call of Cthulhu

Living with Burroughs

Function (2011) by Emptyset | Aftertime (2011) by Roly Porter with Cynthia Miller on the Ondes Martenot.