Nine

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Celebrating nine years of interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms. As before, a look at the annual delivery of stats from WordPress is instructive.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 970,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 42 days for that many people to see it.

The busiest day of the year was August 30th with 4,215 views. The most popular post that day was Index, fist or manicule?

Most posts here hit between 2,500 to 3,000 visits a day although the annual total is down on last year. I have Google stats indexing this site but I can never be bothered logging in to see how they compare. WordPress has the advantage of delivering stats to your blogging dashboard.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2014.
1 The art of NoBeast June 2007
2 The art of Thomas Eakins, 1844–1916 March 2006
3 The art of Takato Yamamoto June 2007
4 Gekko Hayashi revisited December 2012
5 The art of Oliver Frey July 2009

The gay art posts always beat everything else, and NoBeast is the most popular post for another year. Russia’s current crop of authoritarian goons may regard gay sex as horribly un-Russian but NoBeast gets consistently heavy traffic from VK, the Russian social network.

The top referring sites in 2014 were:
1. twitter.com
2. facebook.com
3. ficbook.net
4. pinterest.com
5. mentalfloss.com

Twitter and Facebook referrals are all very well but the way they hide what people are looking at means they’re no help to people running websites. Anyway, thanks as always for reading, referring and commenting! Here’s a few musical nines:

If 6 Was 9 (1967) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Nine Feet Underground (1971) by Caravan
Nine Moons In Alaska (1971) by Beaver & Krause
Party 9 (1973) by Faust
Katzenmusik 9 (1979) by Michael Rother

Eight

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Dharmacakra in the Sun temple, Odisha, India.

Celebrating eight years of interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms. These days WordPress conveniently prepares a page of stats at the end of each year, and since I generally use the blog anniversary to record the posts of interest this is how things worked out over the past year:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 1,000,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 43 days for that many people to see it.

The busiest day of the year was February 12th with 6,374 views. The most popular post that day was The gay artists archive.

This was more than a million fewer visits than last year. Nothing to do with me as far as I can tell. I read somewhere that Google had tweaked their algorithms which may have resulted in a fall of traffic. I’ve also noticed a lot less comment spam in the past year, something you seldom see at the front end thanks to filters.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013:
1 The art of NoBeast June 2007
2 The art of Takato Yamamoto June 2007
3 Phallic casts May 2011
4 The art of Oliver Frey July 2009
5 Magicians September 2013

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2013. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

Okay, WP! Everyone is always after the erotic stuff. No surprise there although there was less of it in last year’s top five.

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That’s 210 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. The United Kingdom & France were not far behind.

As always, my thanks to all those blue countries for reading and commenting. Here’s Neu! playing After Eight.

Gekko Hayashi revisited

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It remains a fact that the most popular posts here are the sex-related ones. The post about Clayton Cubitt’s Hysterical Literature project continues to rack up views despite having been written about at greater length on far more popular sites; this weekend Facebook users were flocking to see the phallic plaster casts (why now?).

One of the perennial favourites from the gay artists archive is the post I made two years ago about the homoerotic art of Gekko Hayashi, the pseudonymous alter ego of Goji Ishihara (1923–1997). This has managed to become an almost universal point of reference despite all my knowledge about the artist being gleaned from other websites. The popularity would appear to be due to a generally high level of visibility in Google rankings combined with a tendency to write about recherché subjects which don’t receive high-profile attention elsewhere. Talking to Anne Billson yesterday about Ishihara’s monster art had me searching around for more of the Hayashi material. There’s still little to be seen outside some Japanese reprints. Given the language barrier when searching the Japanese book world it’s difficult to say whether any of these are still in print.

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After turning up a few more examples of Hayashi’s work I’m increasingly struck by the strangeness of some of his art as well as the rare disjunction of seeing a commercial illustration style serving semi-pornographic ends. The latter effect is like seeing the libido of an artist such as Look and Learn painter Ron Embleton suddenly laid bare. A similar disjunction can be found in Oliver Frey’s work where a polished illustration and comic strip technique is applied to raw sexual scenarios. (I should note that Ron Embleton’s libido was on display in his comic strips for Penthouse magazine while—going in the opposite direction—Oliver Frey worked for a while at Look and Learn.)

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You can find a polished style elsewhere but few artists get quite as weird with their erotic fantasies as the picture below showing a pair of penis-headed males embracing, and the one of a boy in what may be a bath full of blood being menaced (?) by an ambulatory midget phallus. Weirdness is familiar in the fetish world—everyone’s fetish is inherently weird to those who don’t share it—but always within strict limits, and besides, these aren’t fetishes. What’s odd about the pictures (especially the first) is the way they overburden the eros with a peculiarity you’d think would defeat the purpose of the painting. Hayashi/Ishihara worked as a comic artist as well as an illustrator so perhaps they’re part of a larger narrative; they may also be illustrating a text piece like some of the other pictures. For the moment they appear caught between the gay work and the monster illustration from the 1970s. This isn’t a complaint, it makes the art all the more intriguing and worth searching for.

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Looking for the Wild Boys

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Calder & Boyars, 1972. Design by John Sewell.

This must be the first space novel, the first serious piece of science fiction—the others are entertainment.

Mary McCarthy defending The Naked Lunch in the New York Review of Books, June, 1963.

Mary McCarthy’s view—echoed a year later by Michael Moorcock and JG Ballard in the pages of New Worlds magazine—has never been popular or even particularly acceptable. William Burroughs gets touted as an sf writer by other writers, and John Clute gives him an entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, but Burroughs’ sf scenarios are guaranteed to offend those readers who prefer their narratives presented in a neat, linear form with detailed explanations of How The Future Would Actually Work, or the physics behind some piece of imaginary technology. The books which immediately follow The Naked LunchThe Soft Machine, The Ticket that Exploded, and Nova Express—all feature sf scenes or ideas. The latter was deemed sufficiently generic to prompt Panther Books in the UK to publish it three times as “Panther Science Fiction” although given the severe criticism that Moorcock sustained for trying to broaden the horizons of readers in the late 60s I don’t expect sales were encouraging.

The Wild Boys, published in 1971 (1972 in the UK), was Burroughs’ first novel after Nova Express, and his first book of fresh material after mining the stack of writing that birthed The Naked Lunch and the titles which followed. The novel is subtitled A Book of the Dead (as in the Egyptian or Tibetan Books of the Dead), and is certainly science fiction although I’ve never seen it marketed as such or noticed any sf reader include it in a list of notable genre novels of the period. My Calder & Boyers hardback offers a précis of the fractured narrative:

The year is 1988. The Wild Boys, adolescent guerilla armies of specialized humanoids, are destroying the armies of the civilized nations and ravaging the earth. The wild boys, who began in the pre-present past as petrol gangs, dousing their victims with petrol and setting them on fire for kicks, have grown to an army, dedicated to violence. One of them is used in a cigarette commercial. He becomes a new cult figure, a demi-god responsible for great destruction, and it is left to strong man Arachnid Ben Driss to exterminate the wild boys. He slaughters them, but the battle continues underground until all civilization collapses, revealing a future of horrifying dimensions. The originality of the theme and the very special Burroughs style together make this one of the most unusual science fiction novels ever, a prophetic exploration of the future, that should quickly establish itself as one of the classics of the present time.

That’s accurate, up to a point, although like many book blurbs it misrepresents the content somewhat. It also neglects to say how funny the book is. For anyone with a black sense of humour Burroughs has always been a great comic writer, and The Wild Boys has some prime examples, not least the opening chapter, Tío Mate Smiles, which is best appreciated in the author’s own reading.

Having gone through the novel in the past week, and going through its follow-up/appendix/remix Port of Saints at the moment, a couple of things occurred to me. The first was the way The Wild Boys strongly prefigures later works like Cities of the Red Night and The Place of Dead Roads. This is a fairly obvious point but it’s one that hadn’t fully clicked until now. The Wild Boys takes the problems of repressive control systems posed in the first few novels and offers a possible solution: a homoerotic utopia/dystopia where gangs of teenage boys hide out in depopulated regions, waging war against the rest of humanity with sex, magic and a mastery of weapons, including biological and viral varieties. While doing this they are steadily mutating so they can leave behind all human concerns with nation, family, laws and written language. Cities of the Red Night was Burroughs first novel after The Wild Boys and presents a less radical proposal, ranging through time with its anarchist pirate colonies and the six cities of the title. In The Place of Dead Roads Kim Carsons has his band of outlaw cowboys, The Wild Fruits, and the book gives us the conflict between the Johnsons—those who “mind their own business”—and the Shits: lawmen, politicians, tycoons, all the usual agents of Control.

Continue reading “Looking for the Wild Boys”

Gekko Hayashi: homoerotics and monsters

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Needless to say, it’s primarily the homoerotics which concern us here. Gekko Hayashi is the name under which Japanese artist Goji Ishihara (1923–1997) produced his gay erotica, and these examples are among a small handful to be found on the web. Far more common is his Ishihara work which included some spectacular grotesqueries for the Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters (1972) and the Illustrated Book of Hell (1975). Sate your appetite for the monstrous at Pink Tentacle.

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Hayashi/Ishihara’s work may be scarce but you can read about both his personas thanks to ComiPress, who posted an overview of the artist’s career, and Comics212, who examined the gay side of his output. There is a book collection of Hayashi’s gay art but that appears to be out-of-print. This Japanese page has many samples from the Ishihara work.

The dual career of Hayashi/Ishihara brings to mind another artist equally adept at commercial illustration and gay art, Oliver Frey. As “Zack”, Frey gained an enthusiastic audience in UK gay mags while he was also popular with quite a different audience for his illustrations in computer game magazines throughout the 1980s. He was also no slouch at painting monsters as I recall. A collection of Zack comic strips, Bike Boy, is published this month by Bruno Gmünder.

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