Weekend links 138

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Heartsick (2011) by Kelly Durette.

• Now that Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch album is out and causing the usual consternation, the spotlight-shy singer/composer has been doing a surprising amount of promotional interviews. Simon Hattenstone talked to him for the Guardian at the end of last month; this week it was John Doran’s turn at The Quietus. One quote from the latter piece stood out in the light of this week’s posts: “…the music we’re making is meant to be an aural version of the HR Giger drawings for Alien. It always sounds to me like those look.”

Satanica is a limited-edition publication curated by Gio Black Peter & Christopher Stoddard “for anyone who rejects societal norms, for those dedicated to a life of pleasure, excess and self-reflection”.

• Sci-Fi-O-Rama has put five years’ worth of blog pictures onto Pinterest. I don’t really need to do that, there’s already a diverse crowd of Pinterest users compiling their own selection of things posted here.

As Susan Sontag once observed, pornography is practical. It was designed as a marital aid, and its vocabulary should follow natural biological rhythms and stick with hot-button words in order to produce a predictable climax. It is not about sex but is sex. Whereas the great sex writers (Harold Brodkey, DH Lawrence, Robert Gluck, David Plante, the Australian Frank Moorhouse) have a quirky, phenomenological, realistic approach to sex. They are doing what the Russian formalists said was the secret of all good fiction – making the familiar strange, writing from the Martian’s point of view.

Edmund White on writing about sex in fiction

• When pirate DVDs of films by Cocteau, Bresson and Pasolini are on sale in a Mexican market, life in the 21st century increasingly resembles a William Gibson novel. Joanne McNeil investigates.

• Copies of City Fun, Manchester’s premier music fanzine/alt culture mag (founded 1978), can now be read online at the Manchester District Music Archive.

• Linked everywhere during the past few days, the astonishing map of bomb hits on London during the Blitz (October 1940 to June 1941).

• At 50 Watts: 30 Vintage Magazine Covers from Japan and Alfred Kubin’s illustrations for Lesabéndio: An Asteroid Novel (1913) by Paul Scheerbart.

• Earlier this year for Frieze Magazine Geeta Dayal talked to musical collaborators of the great German producer Conny Plank.

Invisible Ink by Christopher Fowler, “the extraordinary stories of over one hundred forgotten authors”.

Cynthia Carr talks about Fire in the Belly, her biography of American artist David Wojnarowicz.

• “Blasphemy, Filth, And Nonsense” More Aleister Crowley ephemera at Front Free Endpaper.

• At Strange Flowers: Surrealist art by Jindrich Heisler (1914–1953).

Vladimir Nabokov wrote to Alfred Hitchcock in 1964.

• Scott Walker’s four tracks from the Nite Flights album (1978): Shutout | Fat Mama Kick | Nite Flights | The Electrician.

Weekend links 73

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Johnny Trunk of Trunk Records reissued the soundtrack to The Wicker Man in 1997. Mr Trunk’s latest delve into the cultural past is Own Label: Sainsbury’s Design Studio, a book from Fuel examining the supermarket chain’s packaging design of the 1960s and 1970s. Creative Review shows some examples while I have to note the uncanny similarity between one of the posters for The Wicker Man and an old Sainsbury’s corn flakes box. Now we see that the Old Weird Britain wasn’t only hiding in the fields and the folk songs but was also lurking on the supermarket shelves.

Related: a new DVD set from the BFI, Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games. And let’s not forget the ley lines of Milton Keynes, and a new edition of Ritual by David Pinner, said to be the novel which inspired The Wicker Man.

• “He wrote me…” Sans Soleil (1983), Chris Marker’s beguiling accumulation of memories, dreams and reflections, is recalled in a Quietus piece entitled Things that Quicken the Heart. Not the first time on DVD as it says there (Nouveaux Pictures released it with La Jetée in 2003) but it’s good to know it’s being reissued.

• Marker’s film references Tarkovsky’s Stalker a couple of times, most notably in the comment, “On that day there will be emus in the Zone.” Geoff Dyer has what he describes as “a very detailed study” of Stalker out next year.

I don’t like those commentators who keep on saying that London will never be the same again. London is always the same again. I remember those comments were made very loudly after the [July 2005] terrorist attacks – “London will never be the same again, London has lost its innocence” – it was all nonsense. London was exactly the same again the following day. Rioting has always been a London tradition. It has been since the early Middle Ages. There’s hardly a spate of years that goes by without violent rioting of one kind or another. They happen so frequently that they are almost part of London’s texture. The difference is that in the past the violence was more ferocious, and the penalties were more ferocious – in most cases, death.

Peter Ackroyd, reminding us that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse don’t wear hoodies and ride bikes.

Wolf Fifth: “rare vinyl records from the golden era of avant garde and experimental music”. And in FLAC as well, not crappy mp3; I want to hear all those scratches uncompressed, dammit!

Another great mix at FACT, this time compiled by snd who throw together Morton Feldman, Siberian shamen, Einstürzende Neubauten, Dome, Oval and many others.

• Colin Marshall asks “how weird is Australia?” in an appraisal of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout.

A Comprehensive Solution to the Tokyo Umbrella Problem.

• More poster art from Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.

Morbid Excess, a series of drawings by May Lim.

Conrad Schnitzler (1937–2011) by Geeta Dayal.

Neopolitan cephalopods.

Willow’s Song (1973) by Paul Giovanni & Magnet | The Willow Song (1989) by The Mock Turtles | Wicker Man Song (1994) by Nature and Organisation.

Weekend links 17

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Aladdin Sane (1973). Cover photo by Brian Duffy who died this week.

• Among the obituaries this week: artist Louise Bourgeois; poet and partner of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky; film director Joseph Strick, a man who dared to film James Joyce’s Ulysses; photographer Brian Duffy.

The dustbin of art history: “Why is so much contemporary art awful? We’re living through the death throes of the modernist project—and this isn’t the first time that greatness has collapsed into decadence.” Admirable sentiments but galleries and dealers have far too much invested in the corrupt edifice to let it collapse any time soon.

• Edinburgh film festival to screen ‘lost and forgotten’ British movies including the director’s cut of Jerry Cornelius film The Final Programme.

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Delectable Bawdville burlesque boy Chris “Go-Go” Harder. Via EVB who have more pics.

Homobody by Rio Safari, “a scrappy diy zine about queerness”. Obliquely related: Lizzy the Lezzie, animations at the Sundance Channel.

• Richard Norris aka Time and Space Machine puts together a psychedelic mixtape for FACT. Fab stuff.

• Diamanda Galás has a message for critics: “Stick to reviewing plant life and leave the Witches alone.”

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine will be the first US survey of Gysin’s work in NYC next month.

• Geeta Dayal’s study of Another Green World by Brian Eno reviewed at Ballardian.

• For type-heads: font anatomy wallpaper by Sigurdur Armannsson.

If it was my home: visualising the BP oil disaster.

Antony Gormley’s Breathing Room III.

The Paris Review has a new blog.

• Bizarre juxtaposition of the week: John Martyn’s sublime Small Hours with, er… The Clangers.

Memories of the Space Age

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I was a Space Age boy. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in Project Mercury’s Friendship 7 a month before I was born, and growing up in the 1960s it was impossible to be unaware of the NASA missions. The first encyclopedia I was given in 1967 had a whole chapter about the Mercury and Gemini projects which ran from the late 1950s through to 1966. A subsequent section showed an artist’s impression of how it might look when we were exploring the Moon and the planets. By the time the photo above was taken, in 1968 or ’69, I was obsessed with the Apollo missions and had the names of the astronauts memorised the way others memorised the names of football players. (Everyone knows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon; I’ve never forgotten that Michael Collins was the third member of the team, waiting for them in the Command Module.) For a while there was an American boy at school of whom I was deeply jealous; his father was in the USAF and his family had actually been present during the launch of Apollo 8!

Space was everywhere, it became a dominant theme, at least while the Apollo missions lasted. Pop culture of the 1950s had its share of rockets ships and flying saucers but was predominantly filled with Westerns and other Earth-bound adventures. You can see a watershed moment occurring when the hugely popular Gerry Anderson puppet shows went from the cowboy adventure of Four Feather Falls in 1960 to the science fiction of Supercar and, immediately after that, the full-on space adventure of Fireball XL5 in 1961 and ’62. Cowboys couldn’t compete with astronauts; Supercar and subsequent Anderson shows were regularly repeated, Four Feather Falls wasn’t. As well as being enthused by the Anderson shows I enjoyed something called Space Patrol, another science fiction puppet series which few now seem to remember.

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A page from a 1977 catalogue for Airfix model kits. I had the lunar module and the Saturn V. I don’t recall ever being interested in the Russian craft.

I wasn’t watching TV when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon—it was 3.39 am here, I was fast asleep—but that didn’t matter, it was the event rather than the moment which counted. And there were five more landings following Apollo 11, each repeating those first moments and all accepted with the same spirit of innocent enthusiasm. What none of us kids realised at the time was that these events weren’t universally seen as a positive thing. Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson later declared that going into space was the next step in human evolution but you wouldn’t know it looking through the underground press of the period. Appraisal of the NASA missions was filtered through the prisms of the Cold War and the cultural wars of the 1960s, with the entire Apollo enterprise being seen as a spin-off of the US military—the astronauts were all airforce pilots, after all—encouraged by a despised President Nixon and used as a means of embarrassing the Soviet Union. (This latter point tends to forget that the Russians were playing tit-for-tat, and had earlier embarrassed the US with Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin.) No one wanted to support men with crew-cuts who prayed in space and enjoyed country & western music. And few were prepared to concede that a President stoking the Vietnam War might have inadvertently done something worthwhile by continuing Kennedy’s space programme.

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The cover of International Times for July 18, 1969, the Moon mission seen as an exploding Coke bottle which shatters the sky. An editorial within complains about the hoisting of an American flag on the Earth’s satellite.

There was a similar hostility in the attitudes of some of the younger breed of sf writers of the time who saw the Moon missions being praised and supported by the old guard of sf and, like the counterculture freaks, were disappointed by the conservative character of the astronauts. I only know this retrospectively, of course, but the complaints have always seemed rather purposeless; those men were test pilots, what else were people expecting? Equally dismaying was the amount of times throughout the 70s and 80s you’d hear black musicians only referring to the space missions in terms of a waste of money. What happened, I’d want to know, to Sun Ra’s “Space is the place”, to the elegant science fiction of Samuel R Delany, and to Parliament’s Mothership Connection? (For a more positive attitude we now have Afrofuturism.)

My own disappointment came in 1972 when it became evident that the whole show was over. As Tom Wolfe notes, after the Moon landing there was nowhere left to go. I developed a taste for written science fiction which lasted for several years but I’ve wondered sometimes whether that sense of an interplanetary future being brought to a dead stop isn’t the reason why I’ve since regarded all visions of the future as suspect. Everything in the 1960s told us that by 2009 we’d have bases on the moon and probably Mars; some of us might be living in Gerard K O’Neill‘s space colonies. When that future, which for a while seemed not only likely but inevitable, can be so easily short-circuited, why should we believe any others presented to us?

Related links:
NASA’s pages for the Apollo missions
Wired: The Moon Landings: Fact, Not Fiction
Wired: The Science of Apollo 11
Geeta Dayal on Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
by Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno

Pink Floyd’s Moon-Landing Jam Session
Armstrong and Aldrin’s “lost Lunar City”
Julius Grimm’s map of the Moon from 1888

Previously on { feuilleton }
Apollo liftoff
Earthrise
East of Paracelsus