Weekend links 307

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Demon (2014) from the Witch Series by Camille Chew.

• Released next month, Machines Of Desire is the first album of new music by Peter Baumann since Strangers In The Night in 1983. Baumann’s first two solo albums, Romance 76 (1976) and Trans Harmonic Nights (1979), are exceptional works of analogue electronica that frequently outmatch his former colleagues in Tangerine Dream. Both albums have been unavailable for over 20 years so it’s good to know that Cherry Red are reissuing them at the end of May (see here and here).

• RIP Jenny Diski whose death from cancer wasn’t a surprise when she’d been writing about her condition for many months. Linked here in 2013 was this pre-diagnosis meditation on death that takes in Nabokov, Beckett and Francis Bacon (philosopher, not artist). “Jenny offered a living example of how, sometimes, compassion can be born of misanthropy,” says Justin EH Smith. The LRB’s archive of Diski writings is currently free to all.

Murder by Remote Control, a graphic novel by artist Paul Kirchner and writer Janwillem van de Wetering that “resembles a Raymond Chandler-esque noir ‘whodunnit,’ viewed through the psychotropic lens of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky”.

Inspired by Gore Vidal’s 1968 satirical novel, Myra Breckinridge which was denounced as obscene by conservatives, [Boyd] McDonald embarked on a radically, offensive publication, one that avoided the sexless influence of middle class gay mores that sought to whitewash the homosexual experience in order to present a more palatable image of assimilated gays to the general society. This political strategy was successful in achieving gay marriage and more tolerance, but, in the opinion of McDonald, came at a cost. Straight to Hell was in fact the first queer zine. Utilizing erotic photos, interviews and news, McDonald saw it as a “newsletter for us,” the small group of deviates who were its earliest subscribers.

Walter Holland reviewing True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell by William E. Jones

• “HP Lovecraft’s…fascination with all things tentacular and aquatic is unmistakably imprinted on Evolution“, a new film by Lucile Hadzihalilovic. Watch the trailer.

• At Dangerous Minds: Broken, the notorious Nine Inch Nails video collection with “snuff movie” interludes by Peter Christopherson, is available online (again).

BEAK> (Geoff Barrow & Billy Fuller) make “claustrophobic, hypnotic music, drawing…on krautrock, post-punk and Interstellar-Overdrive psychedelia”.

• Mixes of the week: Bacchus Beltane 3 : The Age of Abrasax by The Ephemeral Man, and Secret Thirteen Mix 183 by December.

Tease by Jan Rattia, photographs of male strippers on display at ClampArt, NYC.

Wu Zei (2010), a sea-monster sculpture by Huang Yong Ping.

• “I was born weird,” says Robert Crumb.

Sacred Revelation by Susanna

Broken Head (1978) by Eno, Moebius & Roedelius | Broken Horse (1984) by Rain Parade | Broken Harbours (Part 1) (2001) by Stars Of The Lid

Weekend links 284

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Les Hanel I by Pierre Molinier. There’s more at The Forbidden Photo-Collages of Pierre Molinier.

• Western anti-hero Josiah Hedges, better known as Edge, was the creation of prolific British author Terry Harknett. The famously violent Edge novels, credited to “George G. Gilman”, were ubiquitous on bookstalls in the 1970s. They were Harknett’s most successful works, and are still collectible today; if you’re interested there are 61 of them to search for. Amazon Originals have just launched Edge as a new TV series although anything for a mass audience is unlikely to retain the exploitative qualities of novels that often sound like pulp precursors of Blood Meridian.

Related: Terry Harknett discusses the creation of the Edge series at Drifter’s Wind; Ben Bridges on Harknett’s career, including a look at the writer’s many other Western and thriller novels; Bill Crider on Edge, Harknett and the British group of Western novelists known as “The Piccadilly Cowboys”.

• Boyd McDonald’s queer-eye film guide, Cruising the Movies: A Sexual Guide to Oldies on TV (1985), has been republished by Semiotext(e) in an expanded edition. Related: True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell by William E. Jones.

• “Zdenek Liska’s music thrived in unrealities,” says David Herter in a lengthy appraisal of the great Czech film composer (whose name would be accented if the coding of this blog would play nicely with diacritics).

• “…a film that plumbs the dark recesses of all our imaginations: dangerous, glorious, absurd, vivid and terrifying by turns.” Charlotte Higgins on her favourite film, The Red Shoes (1948).

Art Forms from the Abyss, a new collection of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel for the report of the HMS Challenger expedition (1872–76). Related: Silentplankton.com

• “The biggest kick I ever get is to find myself pursuing some group of images without knowing why,” says M. John Harrison in conversation with Tim Franklin.

• “Plots didn’t interest him much. They were just pegs on which to hang characters and language.” Barry Day on Raymond Chandler.

• At Dirge Magazine: S. Elizabeth delights in the dark decor of Dellamorte & Co.

• Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd selects his ten favourite Nabokov books.

• Mix of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XIII by David Colohan.

Take me to the cosmic vagina: inside Tibet’s secret tantric temple.

• Pour Un Pianiste (1974) by Michèle Bokanowski | 13’05” (1976) by Michèle Bokanowski | Tabou (1992) by Michèle Bokanowski

In the Key of Yellow

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My Easter weekend was profitably spent watching True Detective again, a series I enjoyed even more the second time around. For the past year I’ve been pondering off and on the connections the series makes with the suite of weird tales that Robert Chambers published in 1895 as The King in Yellow, and also the relationship between Chambers’ book and the chromatic preoccupations of the 1890s. The influence of Chambers on later writers such as HP Lovecraft is well established; this post traces some of the less obvious connections and correspondences.

1: À Rebours (1884) by JK Huysmans

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It begins, as many things do, with the bible of the Decadence. Neither Huysmans’ novel nor its dissipated central character, Des Esseintes, have much to say about the colour yellow but the first edition came packaged in a yellow wrapper, a common feature of French novels of the period. This detail is significant in light of the following connection.

2: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde

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The decade that came to be called the Yellow Nineties opened with the publication of Oscar Wilde’s only novel. The influence of À Rebours may be felt most strongly in the chapters where Dorian indulges his senses and a passion for precious stones. Then there’s this famous section describing the unnamed novel that Lord Henry gives him to read:

His eye fell on the yellow book that Lord Henry had sent him. What was it, he wondered. He went towards the little, pearl-coloured octagonal stand that had always looked to him like the work of some strange Egyptian bees that wrought in silver, and taking up the volume, flung himself into an arm-chair and began to turn over the leaves. After a few minutes he became absorbed. It was the strangest book that he had ever read. It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him. Things that he had dimly dreamed of were suddenly made real to him. Things of which he had never dreamed were gradually revealed.

It was a novel without a plot and with only one character, being, indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian who spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their mere artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called virtue, as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call sin. The style in which it was written was that curious jewelled style, vivid and obscure at once, full of argot and of archaisms, of technical expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that characterizes the work of some of the finest artists of the French school of Symbolistes. There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids and as subtle in colour. The life of the senses was described in the terms of mystical philosophy. One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner. It was a poisonous book. The heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain. The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and creeping shadows.

Two things are connected here that coalesce in Chambers’ stories: the colour yellow, and the idea of “a poisonous book”, compellingly readable and thrilling in its capacity to corrupt. The “repairer of reputations” in Chambers’ story of the same name (the first in the King in Yellow cycle) also happens to be a Mr Wilde. Yellow is still only a detail at this point, but not for long.

Continue reading “In the Key of Yellow”

Weekend links 165

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Cahill Expressway (1962) by Jeffrey Smart whose death was announced this week.

• “Russell Beale is awed by the beauty of the Roman silver Warren Cup showing men and youths making love, so startlingly erotic that the first time the British Museum was offered it in the 1950s, it turned it down flat. In 1999, when it came on the market again, the museum had to raise £1.8m to acquire it. ‘It’s just heaven, isn’t it?’ Russell Beale sighs.” Maev Kennedy on Same-Sex Desire and Gender Identity, a new exhibition at the British Museum.

• “The route to Tyburn Tree snaked through Holborn and St Giles, then went along Tyburn Road, today’s Oxford Street. It was dense with spectators.” Matthew Beaumont on the tiny memorial (Google view) for the estimated 50,000 people executed in the centre of London.

• Mixes of the Week: Bottoms Up by Staffan Lindberg for BUTT Magazine, and Electronic Ladyland, a collection of women with synths (and other instruments) from Bitch Media.

But the very thing that is valuable about diversity – the cultural and ideological clashes that it brings about – is precisely what many people fear. And that fear takes two forms. On the one hand you have the little Englander sentiment: immigration is undermining the national fabric, eroding our sense of British or Englishness, turning our cities into little Lahores or mini-Kingstons. And on the other you have the multicultural argument: that diversity is good, but it has to be policed to minimise the clashes and conflicts and frictions that diversity brings in its wake. And so we have to restrain speech, and police the giving of offence.

Kenan Malik on The Pleasures of Pluralism, The Pain of Offence.

L’Empire des Lumières is a great title for Anne Billson’s blog about Belgium. Tram-wire covered streets are one of my favourite things.

The Outer Church, 28 musical artists with an uncanny temperament collected by Joseph Stannard for Front & Follow.

His Heavy Heart, a film by Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins, is looking for Kickstarter funding.

• In 1997 Quentin Crisp wrote about “Ten Wonderful Gangster Movies” for Neon magazine.

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep redesigned for the Penguin Design Award, 2013.

• Out on DVD/Blu-Ray this month: The Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection.

A billion-pixel panoramic view of the planet Mars from the Curiosity Rover.

• In the TLS: Robert Craft on Stravinsky and The Rite of Spring.

Typophonic: Album cover typography.

The Owl Theremin is a thing.

LSD ABC

Spring Rounds From The Rite Of Spring (1975) by Alice Coltrane | Revenge Of The Black Regent (1999) by Add N To (X) | Sore Ga Afrirampo (2010) by Afrirampo

Watchmen

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This year sees the 20th anniversary of the publication of Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This landmark comic book, one of the few to deserve the designation “graphic novel”, remains a particular favourite of mine, and one that still excites today for its consummate command of the comics medium. The following is a very long round table discussion with Watchmen‘s creators from issue 100 of Fantasy Advertiser, first published in March 1988. It’s surprising that this doesn’t seem to have been posted anywhere else on the web as it’s an excellent discussion into some of the details of this great book.

Spoiler warning: this piece discusses in depth just about every revelation in the story so you’d be advised to skip it if you haven’t read the book.

MARTIN SKIDMORE: Alright, let’s have a starting point… just what is it about Watchmen that distinguishes it from other…
STEVE WHITAKER: Cream cheeses?
MS: …superhero comics on the market?
DAVE GIBBONS: Is this in the form of direct questions to us, or…
FIONA JEROME: No, we’re all gonna talk.
DG: Well, I’ll have a schnoozle then…
SW: The thing that I think distinguishes Watchmen from other comics is that the series holds together more like a novel. Your climax isn’t in the last 3 panels in Watchmen 12. There are long quiet tracts with exciting bits or…moderately exciting bits (LAUGHTER) In terms of Jack Kirby Wham! Smash! Pow! it’s all very quiet. There’s a lot of suffering but…
MS: …it’s all emotional rather than physical suffering.
ALAN MOORE: It’s a difficult question for me and Dave to answer, probably one that you could answer better, but if I had to say anything then it’s the degree of structure that me and Dave have applied to it—I can’t think of many examples of that degree of structure, that degree of layering.
FJ: I was going to say: especially visually you don’t get such a use of motif certainly not in American comics.
MS: Doug Moench has used it occasionally.
FJ: But not with the same complexity and not filling-in with written structure as well.
PETER HOGAN: The thing is: you’re given a world. The characters, alright, they’re based on the Charlton Characters but they’re new as of page 1. Even so, they’re characters with a history that comes out over the course of the thing… Their world has a history… it has a cohesion to it.
SW: Something that quite interests me now we’re talking about structure and stuff, is the symmetry—there is a real symmetry to Watchmen and the way the characters are set up.
DG: Two arms… two legs. (LAUGHTER)
MS: Perhaps the Comedian and Rorschach…
SW: I was thinking more of Osterman and Ozymandias.
MS: That’s right—the intellectual and physical, chaos and law…
AM: It’s difficult pinning down what’s symmetrical to what—I mean to me, at least to some extent, there’s an equally good case for contrasting Nite Owl and Rorschach.

Continue reading “Watchmen”