Weekend links 450

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Orpheus (c. 1903–1910) by Odilon Redon. One of 30,000 public-domain images from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection.

• Network DVD has announced the premiere home release of Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries, a British TV series that ran from 1973 to 74. Welles’ involvement was limited to introducing each episode but the series itself was one I enjoyed a great deal: 26 short adaptations of period mystery stories that featured a wealth of British and American acting talent. The theme by John Barry was an additional bonus.

• The trailer for Apollo 11, a documentary by Todd Douglas Miller which presents for the first time the 70mm footage recording the Earth-bound parts of the Moon mission. Related: Michelle Santiago Cortés on how NASA used art to shape our vision of the future.

• At Dangerous Minds: a preview of Third Noise Principle, the latest in an excellent series of electronic music compilations from Cherry Red, and Cosey Fanni Tutti talks about her first solo album since 1983.

“The way I understood theory, primarily through popular culture, is generally detested in universities,” Mark [Fisher] told me in 2005, when I interviewed him for the Village Voice. “Most dealings with the academy have been literally clinically depressing.” He darkly surmised that his blog, K-Punk, and the surrounding blogosphere, “seemed like the space—the only space—in which to maintain a kind of discourse that had started in the music press and the art schools, but which had all but died out, with appalling cultural and political consequences.” Mark and the Village Voice are both dead now, leaving unfathomable voids in their wake.

Geeta Dayal on Mark Fisher

• At The Witch Wave: Peter Bebergal and Pam Grossman discuss Bebergal’s latest book (also my current reading), Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural.

• At Bandcamp: another release from the retro-synth cosmos of Jenzeits, and Ufology , an investigation of Britain’s flying-saucer landscape by Grey Frequency.

• Surprising collaboration of the week: Beth Gibbons and Krzysztof Penderecki have made a new recording of Henryk Górecki’s Third Symphony.

Alchemy (1969) the debut album by the Third Ear Band, receives an expanded reissue next month.

The Burn: a science-fiction story by Peter Tieryas with illustrations by Arik Roper.

• Mix of the week: Self-Titled Needle Exchange 275 by Black To Comm.

Amy Turk plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on her harp.

Chrismarker.org is seeking donations.

Mystery Train (1955) by Elvis Presley | Mystery R.P.S. (No 8) (1981) by Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit | Mystery Room (1985) by Helios Creed

Weekend links 447

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Physical Training for Business Men (1917).

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis concludes his discussion with religious scholar Diana Pasulka about anomalous cognition, 2001 monoliths, disclosure, future truths, absurd Christianity, and her book American Cosmic.

• This year the LRB wouldn’t let non-subscribers read Alan Bennett’s 2018 diary but they have a recording of Bennett reading entries here.

• “Glen thought it was very good PR for us to be heavily involved in the druids.” Tom Pinnock talks to the Third Ear Band.

• Rebecca Fasman on the forgotten legacy of gay photographer George Platt Lynes.

• Laura Leavitt on John Cleves Symmes Jr.‘s obsession with a hollow Earth.

• David Parkinson recommends 12 essential Laurel and Hardy films.

• Paul Grimstad on the beautiful mind-bending of Stanislaw Lem.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 277 by Sigillum S.

• The endlessly photogenic Chrysler Building.

Energy Flow by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

195 Gigapixel Shanghai

Solaris: Ocean (1972) by Edward Artemyev | The Sea Named Solaris (1977) by Isao Tomita | Simulacra II (2011) by Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason

Night’s black agents

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Poster by Edmund Dulac (1911).

This month sees a profusion of events marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death so here’s my contribution, a rundown of Macbeths-I-have-seen on screen and stage. I’ve mentioned before that Macbeth and The Tempest are my favourite Shakespeare plays, two dramas concerned with magic of very different kinds. Macbeth is the more popular play, not least for being the more easily adaptable: the supernatural dimension may not suit every circumstance but the themes of treachery, fear, paranoia and a murderous struggle for power are universal. This list contains a wide range of adaptations but there are many film versions I’ve yet to see, including the most recent directed by Justin Kurzel.

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Macbeth (1948), directed by Orson Welles
Orson Welles as Macbeth
Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth

I think the Welles adaptation was the first Macbeth of any kind that I saw so it’s fitting that it begins this chronological list. Famously shot over three hectic weeks on the sound stages of Republic Studios, and with sets made from props previously used in cheap westerns, the result is often eccentric. I’ve a lot of time for Welles as a director but this is one film of his that I’ve never enjoyed very much. His theatre performances (and productions) of Shakespeare began at school, and he was seldom precious with the texts: Chimes at Midnight is a fusion of several different plays while this version of Macbeth uses the same doctored script that he directed for the Voodoo Macbeth in Harlem in 1936. I don’t mind some editing—short scenes such as the witches’ meeting with Hecate are often excised—but some of Welles’ changes are made to support his belief that the witches are directly responsible for Macbeth’s actions, a theory I don’t agree with, and which I’ve never seen given credence elsewhere. This explains oddities such as the appearance of the witches at the very end of the film delivering words from the beginning of the play: “Peace! The charm’s wound up.”

Worse than this is the decision to have most of the cast speaking with vague Scottish accents (a “burr” Welles called it), something that would work with a Scottish cast but which courts disaster with a group of Americans working in haste. The accents may be warranted by the setting but the words of the play are English ones, free of common Scottish colloquialisms such as “ken”, “bairn” and the like. On the plus side, it’s good to see Harry Lime-era Welles performing Shakespeare, and the mist-shrouded production has a barbaric quality that Jean Cocteau appreciated. The forked staff that each witch carries is a detail that I’ve borrowed for drawings on a number of occasions.

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Joe MacBeth (1955), directed by Ken Hughes
Paul Douglas as Joe MacBeth
Ruth Roman as Lily MacBeth

The play reworked as a cheap gangster picture set in the Chicago of the 1930s but made in Britain with a partly American cast. I’ve only seen this once (and many years ago) but I recall it being pretty ludicrous, not least for another accent problem with the English actors doing bad impersonations of Chicago hoodlums. Anyone who grew up watching the Carry On comedy films has a hard time taking Sid James seriously in heavy roles, and here he plays the Banquo character, “Banky”. Joe MacBeth is chiefly notable today for being the first entry in the Macbeth-as-gangster sub-genre; after this there was Men of Respect (1990), Maqbool (2003, an Indian film set in Mumbai), and Macbeth (2006, an Australian film set in Melbourne), none of which I’ve yet seen.

Continue reading “Night’s black agents”

Weekend links 304

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One of ten new stamps designed by The Chase for the Royal Mail’s Shakespeare celebrations.

• “I basically had this problem with bombast and intensity. And I started to feel like it was a nuclear arms race.” Tim Hecker talking to Rick Moody about loud sounds, Icelandic elves and Minimalism. Hecker’s new album, Love Streams, features contributions from Ben Frost and Jóhann Jóhannsson.

• “He joked in a letter to Edmund Wilson that he had ‘managed to get into Harvard with a butterfly as my sole backer.'” Laura Marsh on Nabokov the lepidopterist.

• The brutal musical legacy of JG Ballard by Tim Noakes. Ballard’s own musical taste, as revealed in his choice for Desert Island Discs, was mostly nostalgic.

One outcome of this sense that homosexual people existed in large numbers while still remaining more or less invisible to the naked eye was the suspicion that when they got together they were likely to engage in something more, something even worse than the indulging of a perversion. Notoriously, the networks of homosexuality seemed to transcend many more formal social and political boundaries, reifying crossovers not only between national and ethnic cultures, but between high society and the demi-mondes of bohemian artists, and so forth. The Homintern certainly helped cross-fertilise the arts.

Gregory Woods on the gay artists and writers who changed the world

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 544 by Tim Gane, Abs’s Cornerhouse Classics by Abigail Ward, and Secret Thirteen Mix 181 by Broken Bone.

I Can’t Give Everything Away: Jonathan Barnbrook’s text-and graphics video for the song by David Bowie.

• “Chernobyl is spooky, in the manner of all disowned places.” Simon Parkin enters the Zone.

Osman Ahmed on why Doreen Valiente is “the mother of modern witchcraft”.

• The camera obscura art of Abelardo Morell.

An oral history of Taxi Driver.

Swiss graphic design in CSS

• RIP Tony Conrad

Lady Macbeth (1972) by Third Ear Band | In The Back Of A Taxi (1984) by Penguin Cafe Orchestra | Butterfly Mornings (2001) by Hope Sandoval & The Warm Vibrations

Weekend links 235

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Shadows (1974) by Pawel Nolbert & Lukasz Murgrabia, one of three images recreating Francis Bacon’s Triptych–August 1972.

Breaking the Code (1996), a BBC film by Herbert Wise based on Hugh Whitemore’s stage play about Alan Turing. Wise’s film has been linked here before but it’s relevant again thanks to the release of The Imitation Game. Derek Jacobi played Turing on stage and screen, and Whitemore’s script managed to deal with Turing’s life and work without insulting the man or the intelligence of its audience.

• “…if you listen to A Beacon From Mars by Kaleidoscope or if you listen to some Turkish taxim then something starts happening.” Robert Plant talking to Julian Marszalek about the music that excites him.

• “CGI has become wearingly dull and clichéd. Can its deep weirdness be recovered and filmgoers’ minds stretched again?” asks Jonathan Romney.

The cult of the Thirty-Seven Nats is unique to Burma. […] The junta’s attempts to subdue nat worship had an unintended effect: the role of the nat wife was embraced by an already marginalized group. Homosexuality is illegal in Burma and has been since its British colonizers instituted a late-nineteenth-century ban on “intercourse against the order of nature”. Government restrictions opened a professional vacuum, says scholar Tamara C. Ho. Becoming a nat kadaw offered the achauk—a Burmese term for gay and transgender men—both “a vocation and queer visibility”.

After the Green Death by Will Boast

• “Cat memes and other frivolities aren’t the work of an Internet culture. They’re the work of an American one, ” says Caitlin Dewey.

• Hear the cavernous reverb of Berlin’s Kraftwerk captured by Emptyset’s James Ginzburg and Yair Elazar Glotman.

• Take part in the first #psychedelicpride photoshoot in central London on Saturday, December 13th.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 470 by Jonny Trunk who also appears in the list of vinyl hoarders below.

• Queer Noise: Abigail Ward on the history of LGBT music and club culture in Manchester.

More photos of the steampunk exhibition at 751 D-Park, Beijing, China.

A chronological list of synth scores & soundtracks.

• Animated photography by Julien Douvier.

• A Third Ear Band archive at SoundCloud.

The secret lives of vinyl hoarders.

Taxim (1968) by Kaleidoscope | Water (1970) by Third Ear Band | Love Is The Devil (1998) by Ryuichi Sakamoto