Weekend links 202

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Figuras Miticas: Bailarin II (1954) by Leonora Carrington.

• The 26th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists have been announced. Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam; Gay City: Volume 5 made the LGBT Anthology list, so congratulations to editors Evan J. Peterson & Vincent Kovar, and everyone else involved. I illustrated and designed the cover of that volume which also contains a piece of my fiction, Study in Blue, Green, and Gold.

Music in School (1969), episode 4: “A New Sound”. Amazing BBC TV programme for schools showing children playing avant-garde compositions using bowed metal sheets, tape loops, and primitive electronic equipment. I was at school then, and can’t help but feel a little jealous. Related: Delia Derbyshire Day approaches.

Voices Of Haiti (1953), recorded during ceremonials near Croix Des Missions and Petionville in Haiti by Maya Deren.

These days it’s hard to remember that Whistler’s Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl caused a bigger uproar at the Salon des Refusés of 1863 than Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe, or that Monet was more influenced by Whistler than vice-versa. The delicacy of Whistler’s perceptions and his willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of harmony make for an art less bracing than that of Degas or Pissarro. And yet how much life there is in his little Thames riverscapes. Perhaps we need another major exhibition—there hasn’t been one for twenty years—to re-evaluate him.

Whistler’s Battles by Barry Schwabsky

• Mix of the week (and a very good one it is): Abandoned Edwardian Schoolhouse by The Geography Trip.

Morton Subotnick tells Alfred Hickling how recording Silver Apples of the Moon blew his mind.

• The fantasy artwork of Ian Miller. A new book, The Art of Ian Miller, is published next month.

Queen for a Day by Alison Fensterstock. A look at the Mardi Gras Queens of New Orleans.

Tex Avery (1988): A 50-minute BBC documentary about the great animation director.

• The Gentle Revolutionary: Peter Tatchell talks to Joseph Burnett about Derek Jarman.

The Soaring and Nearly Forgotten Arches of New York City.

Dennis Hopper‘s photos of American artists in the 1960s.

Vodun at Pinterest.

Litanie Des Saints (1992) by Dr. John | Dim Carcosa (2001) by Ancient Rites | Far From Any Road (2003) by The Handsome Family

The Tinderbox

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HJ Ford (1894).

“Do you see that great tree!” quoth the witch; and she pointed to a tree which stood beside them. “It’s quite hollow inside. You must climb to the top, and then you’ll see a hole, through which you can let yourself down and get deep into the tree. I’ll tie a rope round your body, so that I can pull you up again when you call me.”

“What am I to do down in the tree?” asked the soldier.

“Get money,” replied the witch. “Listen to me. When you come down to the earth under the tree, you will find yourself in a great hall: it is quite light, for many hundred lamps are burning there. Then you will see three doors; these you can open, for the keys are in the locks. If you go into the first chamber, you’ll see a great chest in the middle of the floor; on this chest sits a dog, and he’s got a pair of eyes as big as two tea-cups. But you need not care for that. I’ll give you my blue-checked apron, and you can spread it out upon the floor; then go up quickly and take the dog, and set him on my apron; then open the chest, and take as many farthings as you like. They are of copper: if you prefer silver, you must go into the second chamber. But there sits a dog with a pair of eyes as big as mill-wheels. But do not you care for that. Set him upon my apron, and take some of the money. And if you want gold, you can have that too—in fact, as much as you can carry—if you go into the third chamber. But the dog that sits on the money-chest there has two eyes as big as the round tower of Copenhagen. He is a fierce dog, you may be sure; but you needn’t be afraid, for all that. Only set him on my apron, and he won’t hurt you; and take out of the chest as much gold as you like.”

The Tinderbox (1835) by Hans Christian Andersen

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Helen Stratton (1910?)

Will at 50 Watts is to blame for this one, the illustrations he posted last week were excessive enough to give even a master of exaggeration like Tex Avery second thoughts. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have proved so popular over the years that a core group of stories tend to drive out the less familiar works from fresh editions. The Tinderbox is one of these minor stories, the tale of a soldier with a magic tinderbox capable of summoning a trio of supernatural dogs with enormous eyes. My first contact with the story was via a German television adaptation, Das Feuerzeug, filmed in 1958 and later screened in the UK as filler for the children’s TV schedule along with that memorably creepy series (also from Germany), The Singing Ringing Tree. I remembered little about the story but was never able to forget those weird dogs even though their eyes in the TV version are nothing like the way they’re presented in illustrations. They may not be as freaky but the way they’re presented as huge and black makes me think now of the ghostly barghests or black dogs of British folklore.

Searching around for illustrations turned up the handful here. Many illustrators concentrate on other scenes but I’ve only been looking for the dogs. I’m sure there’s more to be found so this may well be a subject to revisit later. The Stratton and Tarrant pictures show the climax of the story when the soldier, about to be hanged for having used the dogs to kidnap a princess, summons his creatures to kill the king, queen and all the people who condemned him. Yes, it’s good wholesome fare for kids.

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Margaret Tarrant (1910).

Continue reading “The Tinderbox”

Mouse Heaven by Kenneth Anger

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Mouse Heaven: Minnie and Mickey.

Kenneth Anger’s paean to Disney rodent memorabilia, and one of his most recent works, turns up at the Grey Lodge. Mouse Heaven is a distinctly minor piece, an awkward mix of film and video which juxtaposes shots of mouse figurines with a song-based soundtrack. Scorpio Rising this isn’t but the editing is up to his usual standard, and it has a curious, if rather grotesque, charm.

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Rabbit heaven: Bugs drags up again.

I suspect I’m not the ideal audience for a film such as this, never having been very taken with Mickey and the rest of the Disney crew. This seems to be a generational thing. My parents are about Anger’s age and they watched Disney shorts regularly at the cinema, while older Americans would have seen the Mickey Mouse Club on TV in the Fifties. By the time my sisters and I were watching cartoons on television Disney had retreated into the pop culture background. Plenty of merchandise was available, of course, but the animations that gave birth to these characters were rarely seen on British TV since Disney was worried about over-exposure of their precious assets.

The consequence of this (which I doubt they realised) was that a new generation of kids could happily and eagerly watch all the Warner Brothers Merry Melodies (and MGM’s Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons) whereas I’ve still seen hardly any Mickey Mouse cartoons. When they did turn up they were either primitive (Steamboat Willie) or presented a Mouse character that was actually a suburban middle-class American. The contrast between Donald Duck’s irritating petulance and Daffy’s wisecracks, or between the Mouse in a house and a bisexual rabbit, could hardly be more striking. The last shred of any potential Disney charm was dispelled when I read the priceless demolition of the Magic Kingdom and its contents, Mickey Rodent!, by Harvey Kurtzmann and Bill Elder, in a reprint of MAD magazine:

Strolling in the foreground of the opening panel is Mickey himself, with a four-day stubble on his face and a snapped mouse trap on his snout; his left arm has a TV screen, smashed in the middle, with “Howdy Dooit” sunrays visible. (That’s an inside joke: in a previous issue, parodying “Howdy Doody,” Mickey was seen at the edge of the opening panel, grasping and shouting, “That’s MY sunray from MY movies behind his head and I wannit back!”) Around him a melodrama unfolds: Horace Horszneck is being dragged off to jail “for appearing without his white gloves.” The animal chorus behind him clucks, moos and barks their annoyance with “Walt Dizzy’s” rule about wearing white gloves at all times… “In this hot weather too!” “And it’s so hard to buy those furshlugginer three-fingered kinds!” (Read the rest of the description here and try and see the comic for yourself; it’s a masterpiece.)

There was no going back after that, and Wally Wood’s Disneyland Memorial Orgy was merely the icing on an already mouldering cake. So, sorry Kenneth, but I’m an apostate; Bugs Bunny rules my blue heaven.

The Look traces the history of Wally Wood’s scurrilous poster from hippie to punk to Alison Goldfrapp

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Man We Want to Hang by Kenneth Anger
Relighting the Magick Lantern
The Realist
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally