Intertextuality

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): in the upper half there’s the big sun from Bob Peak’s poster for Apocalypse Now, in the lower half a radical reworking of Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead.

In 1990, shortly after the first season of Twin Peaks had finished showing in the US, Video Watchdog magazine ran a feature by Tim Lucas which attempted to trace all the various cultural allusions in the character names and dialogue: references to old TV shows, song lyrics and the like. This was done in a spirit of celebration with Lucas and other contributors welcoming the opportunity to dig deeper into something they’d already enjoyed. This week we’ve had a similar unravelling of textual borrowings in a TV series, only now we have the internet which, with its boundless appetite for accusing and shaming, can often seem like something from the grand old days of the Cultural Revolution.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): a more subtle allusion to Apocalypse Now.

The latest culprit ushered to the front of the assembly for the Great Internet Struggle Session is Nic Pizzolatto whose script for True Detective has indeed been celebrated for its nods to Robert Chambers and The King in Yellow. It’s also in the process of being condemned for having borrowed phrases or aphorisms from Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (2011). See this post for chapter and verse.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): It’s not very clear but that’s a boat from The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

If I find it difficult to get worked up over all this pearl-clutching it’s because a) it shows a misunderstanding of art and the way many artists work, b) True Detective was an outstanding series, and I’d love to see more from Pizzolatto and co, and c) I’ve done more than enough borrowing of my own in a variety of media, as these samples from my adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu demonstrate, a 33-page comic strip where there’s a reference to a painting, artist or film on almost all the pages, sometimes several on the same page.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1988): Ophelia by Millais.

Cthulhu is a good choice here since Pizzolatto’s story edged towards Lovecraft via the repeated “Carcosa” references. You’d think a Lovecraft zine of all things would know better than to haul someone over the coals for borrowing from another writer when Lovecraft himself borrowed from Robert Chambers (and Arthur Machen and others), while “Carcosa” isn’t even original to Chambers’ The King in Yellow but a borrowing from an Ambrose Bierce story, An Inhabitant of Carcosa (1886). Furthermore, Lovecraft famously complained about his own tendencies to pastiche other writers in a 1929 letter to Elizabeth Toldridge: “There are my ‘Poe’ pieces and my ‘Dunsany pieces’—but alas—where are any Lovecraft pieces?”

Continue reading “Intertextuality”

Weekend links 218

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The End of a Thousand Years (2014) by Hilary White. Via Phantasmaphile.

• It’s taken a while to shamble into the world but A Mountain Walked, an anthology of Cthulhu Mythos stories edited by leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, will be published by Centipede Press next month. The publisher’s page for the book shows that my contribution will be facing Joshi’s introduction which is something I wasn’t aware of until this week. It also says the 692-page limited edition is sold out, although book dealers often buy collectible volumes such as this to sell on after adding their own markup. Be warned that it was listed on Amazon at $160 so if there are copies available anywhere they won’t be cheap.

• It’s not such a surprise to hear that magic mushrooms were an inspiration for Frank Herbert’s Dune. David Lynch’s film of Dune receives passing mention in this profile by Jeremy Kay of Lynch and the Twin Peaks film/TV series.

• “Whitechapel station is one of Giambattista Piranesi’s imaginary prisons, colonised by frantic electrical engineers and watched over by CCTV.” Will Wiles on the chaos and tangled energy of modern cities.

The word perfume comes from the French root “fume”—smoke—and where there’s smoke, there’s fire! I think most people are turned on sexually by scents and smells. Certain body odours can be very sexually stimulating. We purposefully chose certain ingredients for my Obscenity perfume that are associated with occult or religious rituals, including vetiver, labdanum, and oud, and others that are considered aphrodisiacal, including patchouli and sandalwood. The point of Obscenity is that there is no conflict between the religious and the sexual, and in fact they should be completely complimentary. The fragrance is meant to stimulate you sexually, but it also literally contains water from Lourdes, so it also has religious notes and perhaps even healing properties!

Bruce LaBruce talks to Kathy Grayson about his new fragrance, Obscenity

The Baffler, “a journal of iconoclastic wit and cultural analysis” relaunches with full access to its archives from 1988 to the present.

Pineal, the new album by Othon, is dark and “properly, brilliantly queer,” says David Peschek.

• At Core77: How to improve the audio quality of vinyl records with wood glue.

• P. Adams Sitney interviews Kenneth Anger on WNYC’s Arts Forum (1972).

• At BibliOdyssey: Le Bestiaire Fabuleux by Jean Lurçat.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen mix 123 by Evol.

Meawbin the Creepy Cat

Perfumed Metal (1981) by Chrome | Fragrance (Ode To Perfume) (1982) by Holger Czukay | The Perfume (2006) by Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, Tom Tykwer

Weekend links 215

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Julian House artwork for Other Voices, a new singles series on the Ghost Box label. Other Voices 01 is a collaboration between Sean O’Hagan of the High Llamas and Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle.

Last week I linked to a copy Zadie Smith’s new introduction for Crash by JG Ballard. That piece could only be read in full by NYRB subscribers but this week the Guardian has the full text:

I was in college when the Daily Mail went to war with [David Cronenberg’s] movie, and found myself unpleasantly aligned with the censors, my own faux-feminism existing in a Venn diagram with their righteous indignation. We were both wrong: Crash is not about humiliating the disabled or debasing women, and in fact the Mail‘s campaign is a chilling lesson in how a superficial manipulation of liberal identity politics can be used to silence a genuinely protesting voice, one that is trying to speak for us all.

Related: Thomas Jones in 2008 reviewing Miracles of Life:

Despite all the bodily fluids spurted and smeared onto wrecked dashboards, the problem isn’t that it’s too pornographic but that it isn’t pornographic enough: the novel is too conscious of the deeper meaning of the sex and violence for the sex and violence to work as elements in themselves.

The fetishisation of Ballard’s novel (and Ballard’s fetishes) show no signs of abating: B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica), is a short film by John Foxx, Karborn and Jonathan Barnbrook.

• Last Thursday I was watching a live performance by Pye Corner Audio and Not Waving, so it’s good to find this mix by the pair surfacing in the same week. Kudos to the latter for choosing something by Chrome. More mixes: FACT mix 468 by Throwing Snow, and Secret Thirteen mix 120 by Drøp.

• Ellen Datlow’s horror anthology, Lovecraft’s Monsters, continues to gather plaudits. Among recent reviews there’s Matt Barone at Complex who included the book in his Year’s Best Genre Fiction Books (So Far) list, and also praised my illustrations.

In recent years, many of the people on book covers have been women without faces. So prevalent is this visual cliché that the publishing industry has cycled through at least two well-documented iterations. The first, the Headless Woman, features some poor thing cut off above the neck, like the swimsuit-clad beachgoer on Alice Munro’s story collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The website Goodreads’s Headless Women page has 416 entries. Last year, the Headless Woman was supplanted by the Sexy Back, in which a woman is shown from behind, often gazing out over a vista.

Eugenia Williamson on the packaging of books for a female readership.

• The latest Taschen volume from Dian Hanson, editor of (among other titles) The Big Penis Book, is My Buddy. World War II Laid Bare, featuring photos from the archives of Michael Stokes. World of Wonder has pages from the interior.

I Have Walked This Body by Jenny Hval and Susanna is a track from a forthcoming album inspired by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon. It sounds fantastic so I’m looking forward to hearing more.

• If you have a spare half-million dollars, and don’t mind the possibility of possession by murderous supernatural entities, the Palmer house from Twin Peaks is for sale.

• Read an extract from Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal.

The Stars and Their Courses: over six hours of the Nevada night sky in 4k definition.

Lee Siegel on the fraught friendship of TS Eliot and Groucho Marx.

Harmony Korine talked to Kenneth Anger for Interview Magazine.

New Scientist: How magic mushrooms induce a dream-like state.

• 3D-print your own Marcel Duchamp chess set.

Scott O)))

Crash (1980) by Tuxedomoon | Burning Car (1980) by John Foxx | A Crash At Every Speed (1994) by Disco Inferno | Burning Car (Dubterror Remix, 2008) by John Foxx

Night Music in two parts

Night Music One by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Night Music I
The Hafler Trio – Soundtrack To “Alternation, Perception, And Resistance” — A Comprehension Exercise (1985)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 4/1 (Hankie) (1994)
Michael Brook – Earth Floor (1985)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 10/1 (Tree) (1994)
Biosphere – Startoucher (1994)
Black Lung – Rex 84 (1995)
Biosphere – Biosphere (1992)
Holger Czukay – Radio In An Hourglass (1993)
Rapoon – Rains (1993)
Clock DVA – Memories Of Sound (1992)

Night Music Two by Feuilleton on Mixcloud

Night Music II
Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia – Dust (At The Crossroads) (1994)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II: Untitled 2/2 (Parallel Stripes) (1994)
Harold Budd – The Gunfighter (1986)
Divination – Errata (1993)
Coil – Dismal Orb (1992)
Biosphere – Mir (1994)
David Toop and Max Eastley – Rising Up Before Us Like Things (1994)
Angelo Badalamenti – Night Life In Twin Peaks (1990)
Coil – The Sleeper II (1992)
Jon Hassell – Empire II (1983)
The Grid – Virtual (1990)
Biosphere – En-trance (1994)

After signing up to Mixcloud earlier this year I’ve only managed to compile one mix so here’s an unseasonal attempt to compensate.

Night Music was a bona fide mix on cassette tape that I put together in 1994, intended as a response to Kevin Martin’s double-disc compilation from the same year, Ambient 4: Isolationism. The three previous entries in Virgin’s Ambient… series were fairly routine reworkings of the label’s back catalogue, collections of more-or-less ambient material with light electronica. Martin’s compilation concentrated on the darker, doomier end of the musical spectrum, and also pulled in music from outside the Virgin fold. It arrived as a considerable tonic after several years of diluted techno and psychedelic clichés being marketed as “ambient”.

Night Music is much more of a genuine DJ mix than Ectoplasm Forming. I didn’t have any proper mixing equipment at the time so had to record every other track onto stereo videotape then play back the tape while fading the rest of the tracks in and out from the CD player. The whole thing was recorded live to a C-100 cassette. Rather than run the mix as a single track I’ve kept the two sides separate; both sides were programmed with beginnings and endings so work better this way. I transferred the mix to CD several years ago, and still listen to it every so often. There’s a little too much Biosphere but apart from that I wouldn’t alter the track list.

As usual I’ll be away for a few days so the { feuilleton } archive feature will be activated to summon posts from the past below this one. Enjoy your wassail.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A mix for Halloween: Ectoplasm Forming

Design as virus 14: Curse of the Dead

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Curse of the Dead (1966).

Continuing an occasional series. This photograph, reproduced in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973), intrigued me for years. Gifford’s book is a very good collection of stills from horror films of all kinds, ranging from the earliest days of cinema to the 1970s. The pictures are mostly black-and-white, and are often far more stimulating than the films they would have been promoting. The text generally refers to the films depicted but in the case of this picture there’s only a single credit, Curse of the Dead (1966), a film I’d never heard of. These kinds of mysteries have been banished for good now we have resources like IMDB where you can learn immediately that Curse of the Dead is a Mario Bava film whose original Italian title was Operazione Paura. (It’s also known, with the usual hyperbole, as Kill, Baby…Kill!) “An 18th century European village is haunted by the ghost of a murderous little girl” says the summary. Bava’s films were always visually impressive so it’s really no surprise to find it was one of his.

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The first repeat usage I know of is this cover from the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult series published by Sphere books from 1974–77. Sphere used Wheatley’s name to sell a lot of reprints but the series was substantial and featured a number of titles that would have been appearing in paperback for the first time. Unfortunately the best thing about the covers was the uniform design of the horoscope circle against a coloured background. The quality of the illustrations was very uneven so it’s probably for the best that the artists and photographers went uncredited.

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Then there’s one of Dave McKean’s title pages for Arkham Asylum (1989), the heavily symbolic Batman book he created with Grant Morrison. There’s only a portion of the picture but I’d say it’s a good guess he used the Gifford book since at least one of the panels in his earlier Violent Cases was based on another of the Gifford photos.

This isn’t all, I’m sure I’ve seen the Gifford picture used on a record sleeve but there’s little way of discovering which one unless somebody recognises the photo. If anyone knows, please leave a comment. And despite all of this I still haven’t seen Bava’s film even though I’m told it had a strong influence on Twin Peaks. This account at The Horror Digest is slightly disappointing when a colour equivalent of the Gifford still lacks the particulated creepiness of the black-and-white version. More surprising is finding yet another film featuring the arms-out-of-the-walls motif. This obviously requires further investigation.

Update: Thanks to Irv in the comments for finding the following singles so quickly. The Decorators sleeve was the one I remembered. (See it larger here.) Kicks were an Australian band. Odd that these were both released in the same year.

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Twilight View (1980) by The Decorators. Design by Malcolm Garrett.

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The Secret (1980) by Kicks.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 13: Tsunehisa Kimura
Design as virus 12: Barney’s faces
Design as virus 11: Burne Hogarth
Design as virus 10: Victor Moscoso
Design as virus 9: Mondrian fashions
Design as virus 8: Keep Calm and Carry On
Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles
Design as virus 6: Cassandre
Design as virus 5: Gideon Glaser
Design as virus 4: Metamorphoses
Design as virus 3: the sincerest form of flattery
Design as virus 2: album covers
Design as virus 1: Victorian borders