Weekend links 188

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The Baron in the Trees (2011), a book-cut sculpture by Su Blackwell.

Kurt Andersen at Vanity Fair examines the latest claims that Vermeer used a combination of lenses and mirrors to aid the creation of his remarkable paintings. David Hockney caused a considerable fuss in 2006 when he made similar assertions. Andersen recounts how Tim Jenison (who isn’t an artist) decided to test the hypothesis by building a replica of the room from Vermeer’s The Music Lesson (1662–65) which he then painted with the assistance of a lens-and-mirror apparatus. I’m agnostic on this issue, and don’t regard it as a devaluing of the work of Vermeer (or any other artist) if some special apparatus was used to help create the paintings; artists for centuries have been using whatever technology was available.

One point which isn’t mentioned in the article: lens optics were being developed to a high standard in the Netherlands during Vermeer’s time. One of the developers of the microscope, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, was a contemporary of Vermeer’s in Delft, and is even alleged to be portrayed in some of the artist’s paintings.

• Before Alfred Hitchcock’s film and Daphne Du Maurier’s short story, The Birds was an “eerie yet satirical and rather metaphysical novel” by Frank Baker, inspired in part by Arthur Machen. Michael Dirda reviews a new edition. Related: “The Day of the Claw: A Synoptic Account of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds“, an essay by Ken Mogg examining avian menace through the ages.

Kevin Brownlow and Carl Davis on how they brought Abel Gance’s 270-minute silent masterwork, Napoleon (1927), back to the screen.

Finally, he was asked about the growth of surveillance and the militarization of the police.

“The phenomenon itself shouldn’t be surprising—the scale was surprising—but the phenomenon itself is as American as apple pie,” Chomsky said. “You can be confident that any system of power is going to use technology against its enemy: the population. Power systems seek short-term domination and control, not security.”

Matthew Robare on “American Anarchist” Noam Chomsky in (of all places) The American Conservative.

• “Why the hell wouldn’t I?” Evan J. Peterson on reading/performing his poetry in public, and his new book, The Midnight Channel.

The adversaria of Google Books: captured mark of the hand and digitization as rephotography.

• No surprise that the rabies-haunted town of Scarfolk is soon to have its history fixed in print.

Mazzy Star made a rare TV appearance last week, playing a song from their recent album.

The Sorcerer Blog is obsessively devoted to William Friedkin’s cult film.

• Unexpected Artefacts: Pushing the envelope with Bristol’s Emptyset.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 097 by Lee Gamble.

• At PingMag: Ryokudo—Tokyo’s Green Roads.

Norman Records’ Top 50 albums of 2013.

Birds Of Fire (1973) by Mahavishnu Orchestra | Attack Of The Killer Birds (2006) by Émilie Simon | One Thousand Birds (2012) by Six Organs of Admittance

Weekend links 154

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Collage by Chloé Poizat.

Xenis Emputae Travelling Band plays the Music of John Dee, and free at Bandcamp: Victorian Machine Music by Plinth, the “creaking, winding, piping, chiming and wood-knocking of Victorian parlour music machines”.

Jeremy Willard on Mikhail Kuzmin, “the Oscar Wilde of Russia”. Related: Conner Habib on the Disinfo podcast discussing pornography, sexuality, and whether sex be a revolutionary act.

Ed Vulliamy paid a visit to Hawkwind’s Hawkeaster festival. The Hawks’ Warrior On The Edge Of Time album is released in a remastered edition next month.

• Blasts from the past: Mahavishnu Orchestra, live in France, August 23rd, 1972, and Ashra (Manuel Göttsching & Lutz Ulbrich) in Barcelona, 1981.

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An illustration by Alberto Martini for Raw Edges (1908) by Perceval Landon.

NASA’s cover designs for Space Program manuals, guidebooks, press kits, reports and brochures.

PingMag—”Art, Design, Life – from Japan”—makes a welcome return as an active blog.

Suzanne Treister‘s Hexen 2.0 Tarot designs.

Listening to records that no longer exist

The architectural origins of the chess set

The Bohemian Realm of Absinthiana

Les sources d’une île: a Tumblr

Hammer Without A Master (1998) by Broadcast | Test Area (1999) by Broadcast | Make My Sleep His Song (2009) by Broadcast & The Focus Group

Weekend links 117

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Illustration and design by Karlheinz Dobsky.

Above and below: samples from Die Lux-Lesebogen-Sammlung, an exhibition of booklets for young people published by Sebastian Lux from 1946–1964. All were designed and illustrated by Karlheinz Dobsky.

• At The American Scholar: “Vladimir Nabokov’s understanding of human nature anticipated the advances in psychology since his day,” says Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd, and An Unquenchable Gaiety of Mind: “On visits to Cambridge University late in life, Jorge Luis Borges offered revealing last thoughts about his reading and writing,” says George Watson.

• The British Library releases The Spoken Word: “A rare collection of recordings featuring the American writer William S Burroughs and the British-born artist Brion Gysin.” Related: Interzone – A William Burroughs Mix by Timewriter.

• Charting the Outlaws: Christopher Bram (again) talking to Frank Pizzoli about his recent study Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America.

• The BBC asks “Where are you on the global fat scale?” I’ve always been thin but was still surprised to find my BMI at the very bottom of the scale.

The “otherness” of Ballard, his mesmeric glazedness, is always attributed to the two years he spent in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai (1943–45). That experience, I think, should be seen in combination, or in synergy, with the two years he spent dissecting cadavers as a medical student in Cambridge (1949–51). Again the dichotomy: as a man he was ebulliently social (and humorous), but as an artist he is fiercely solitary (and humourless). The outcome, in any event, is a genius for the perverse and the obsessional, realised in a prose style of hypnotically varied vowel sounds (its diction enriched by a wide range of technical vocabularies). In the end, the tensile strength of The Drowned World derives not from its action but from its poetry.

Martin Amis on The Drowned World by JG Ballard.

The Chickens and the Bulls: “The rise and incredible fall of a vicious extortion ring that preyed on prominent gay men in the 1960s.”

• It’s that Zone again: Jacob Mikanowski on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Geoff Dyer’s Zona.

• Scans of the rare film programme for London screenings of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

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Illustration and design by Karlheinz Dobsky.

• “The web is a Library of Babel that could go the way of the Library of Alexandria.

Fila Arcana: alchemy- and occult-themed embroidery by Mina Sewell Mancuso.

A Very Edgy Alice In A Very Weird Wonderland: illustrations by Pat Andrea.

Malka Spigel reveals a new track from her third solo album.

John Martin and the Theatre of Subversion.

Olafur Eliasson: Little Sun at Tate Modern.

• Meanwhile, back in 1972: Mahavishnu Orchestra live at the BBC (30 mins), and the complete performance of the MC5 on Beat Club (29 mins).