Weekend links 691


Arcus (2019) by Markus Matthias Krüger.

• “Listeners can only make an educated guess as to what the experience of working with Slapp Happy might have done for Faust.” Fergal Kinney on the 50th anniversary of Sort Of by Slapp Happy, an eccentric intersection of Anglo-American rock and German experimentalism.

• Now that the summer is over people are making mixes again. Take your pick this week between a mix for The Wire by Shane Woolman at Stihia festival, The Observatory by Jay Keegan, or DreamScenes September 2023 at Ambientblog.

• Quantum poetics: “How Borges and Heisenberg converged on the notion that language both enables and interferes with our grasp of reality.” William Egginton explains, with a little help from Funes the Memorious.

“I feel as if I am entering Jorge Luis Borges’s Library of Babel, a universe of books and records, or maybe a labyrinth of paper and vinyl,” a flabbergasted Szwed relates. “The temptation is to read and listen to every one of them in hopes of at least finding the meaning behind Harry Smith the reader and listener.” He adds, with pointedly Borgesian anxiety, that “maybe my book is in there, already written.”

Ed Halter reviewing Cosmic Scholar: The Life and Times of Harry Smith by John Szwed

• At The Daily Heller: Photographs of lost buildings and American ruins.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: The unknowable presents…Secretly encoded.

• At The Paris Review: Six photos from WG Sebald’s albums.

Winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023.

The Art of Cover Art: A Substack by Rachel Cabitt.

• New music: Le jour et la nuit du réel by Colleen.

Familiar Reality (1971) by Dr John | Reality Dub (Virtual Reality Mix) (1993) by Material | Reality Net (1994) by Richard H. Kirk

Weekend links 680


15 Miles into the Earth (1944) by Hendrik Wijdeveld.

• “He realized that there were individuals around him who had never appeared in the great altarpieces and frescoes, individuals who had been marginalized by the cultural ideology of the previous two centuries. And there were hours of the day—transient, yet unequivocal in their lighting—which had never been reproduced, and which were pushed so far from habit and use that they had become scandalous, and therefore repressed.” Pasolini on Caravaggio.

• “Reading Albert Camus and Mikhail Bulgakov by day, by night, crucially, they were listening to Chic, Kraftwerk, Donna Summer, Michael Rother and Grace Jones in the clubs.” Graeme Thomson on the atmosphere and influences that helped create my favourite album by Simple Minds, Empires And Dance. Borges was also a minor influence, apparently, which wasn’t something I knew until this week. I like it when your favourite things join up this way.

• “This being England, a ‘tea shop’ is not a shop that sells tea. That would be a tea merchant. A tea shop serves tea.” Mark Valentine on the perennial connections between rambling and tea-drinking.

Talking about generations as if they really existed and had sway over people is much more respectable and widespread than the belief that events and personalities are governed by the movements of the planets. But is there really much more substance and reality to “generations”? If not “a bunch of bullshit”, the discourse of generations is certainly generative of bullshit: tenuously grounded overviews and opinion pieces, specious analysis and analogies, platitudes and truisms. And yet, like astrology, it is a fun game to play along with. And far more than astrology, it’s a mode of talk that partially constitutes its object: generalizing about a generation actually brings it into semi-existence, shaping how people perceive themselves and how they are perceived by earlier or later generations. What may just be an illusion, a shaky set of alleged affinities, becomes a social fact.

Simon Reynolds analyses the generation game

• More Milton Glaser: PDFs of the Glaser Gazette, a memorial publication in three parts: Vol 1 | Vol 2 | Vol 3

• New music: Tractatus Lyra-Organismus by Lyonel Bauchet, and Grounded Rectangle by Ambidextrous.

• “A digital archive of graphic design related items that are available on the Internet Archives.”

• DJ Food found a handful of psychedelic posters by Nicole Claveloux.

• “Rights to Jorge Luis Borges’s work go to his wife’s nephews.”

• “Is this the earliest known phallic art?

Young Generation Dub (1976) by Augustus Pablo | Chile Of The Bass Generation (1990) by Mental Cube | Invisible Generation (1992) by Cabaret Voltaire

Eco calls on Cthulhu


In which Umberto Eco nods fleetingly to the Cthulhu Mythos near the end of his second novel, Foucault’s Pendulum. I’d show you more of the relevant passage (below) but it’s rather spoilerish if you haven’t read the book. This turned up during a re-reading, my first since the novel appeared in paperback in 1990. A reference like this doesn’t stand out as much as it might elsewhere, not when the text that precedes it is stuffed to the gills with esoterica. Several hundred pages of occult history made me forget that Eco had hauled Lovecraft into his compendious fabulation along with everything else.


Ishmael Reed was responsible for returning me to Eco’s novel as a result of an earlier re-read of Mumbo Jumbo, Reed’s fictional account of voodoo, jazz, politics and many other things in the America of the 1920s. Eco was already in mind prior to this since I’d been working my way through his essays and lectures. (As I still am. He wrote a lot of the things.) Mumbo Jumbo‘s exploration of occult knowledge and occult conspiracy summoned vague memories of Foucault’s Pendulum, which made me realise that I didn’t remember very much at all about Eco’s novel even though both books share an interest in the tangled history of the Knights Templar. To the top of the pile it went.

It’s been interesting reading Eco’s novel again. For a start, it was funnier than I remembered, although this may be a result of my being much more familiar with the publishing business than I was in 1990. The story concerns a trio of men who work for a small publishing house in Milan, a division of which is devoted to the works of self-financing authors or “SFAs”. A vanity press in other words. A potential SFA turns up with a crank book rather similar to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, then abruptly disappears without collecting his manuscript. Curiosity, idleness and invention inspire the trio to improve upon the manuscript’s occult conspiracy in a manner that knits together just about every aspect of Western mysticism there is, and even some of the Eastern ones: Rosicrucianism, alchemy, the Kabbalah, Atlantis, the Illuminati, ley lines, the Hollow Earth, Stonehenge, etc, etc; it’s all in there. This is the thing they eventually call “the Plan”, a kind of Unified Field Theory of esoteric knowledge, and a contrivance whose fabrication is assisted by further SFA manuscripts arriving as candidates for a new line of “Hermetic” books. Problems arise for the publishers when their elaborate intellectual game ends up being taken for a serious revelation by a group of fanatical mystics. Eco’s novel demonstrates the pleasures of creative apophenia—the trio are continually challenging each other to fit a new piece of historical data into their scheme—while also acting as a warning that any halfway plausible Plan has the potential to be taken seriously by credulous cranks. As Lia, the novel’s voice of reason, says:

People are starved for plans. If you offer them one, they fall on it like a pack of wolves. You invent, and they’ll believe. It’s wrong to add to the inventings that already exist.

Eco explored this phenomenon more seriously in a later novel, The Prague Cemetery, which invents an author for the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Plan whose conspiratorial claims continue to fuel anti-Semitism the world over. The internet has only accelerated Plan-construction, and I imagine Eco would have been simultaneously fascinated and appalled by the feeble imaginings of that ex-football player with the lizard obsession, and the shambling, frothing Q-mob with their Very Important jpegs. (What is it the latter are always saying? “Trust the Plan”… And having mentioned Mr Icke, I just put his name into Google only to find that the latest extract from his Twitter feed has him talking about the Holy Grail. Welcome to the Crank Zone.)

Continue reading “Eco calls on Cthulhu”

Weekend links 668


The Drowned Cathedral (1929) by MC Escher.

• “All Saints’ was the last of the seven parish churches to fall headlong into the waves. The drowned church was doomed to lie in a gulley not far out to sea, a habitat for sponges and crabs, and yet it lives on, unvanquishable; for—as the story of Britain’s lost cities, ghost towns, and vanished villages tells us—what has disappeared beneath the sea can rebuild itself in the mind.” Matthew Green explores the history of Dunwich, Suffolk.

• “Why do certain artists endure and become (dread word) ‘iconic’, while some are forgotten or sidelined or only grudgingly acknowledged?” Ian Penman talking to Jeremy Allen about his new book, Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: A new edition of England’s Hidden Reverse, David Keenan’s study of the lives and music of Coil, Nurse With Wound and Current 93.

• “What is electronic music?” Daphne Oram, Desmond Briscoe and David Cain of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop are here to explain.

• “Direct evidence of the use of multiple drugs in Bronze Age Menorca (Western Mediterranean) from human hair analysis.”

• New music: Timespan by Majeure, and Microdosing by African Head Charge.

• “Future of Borges estate in limbo as widow doesn’t leave will.”

Arooj Aftab’s favourite albums.

Paperback Covers on Tumblr.

The Engulfed Cathedral (1974) by Tomita | Engulfed Cathedral (1981) by John Carpenter | La Cathédrale Engloutie (2003) by Sora

Weekend links 666


Muy Mago (Portrait of Aleister Crowley) (1961) by Xul Solar.

• “…snails amaze with their capacity to move so far, to spread so widely, while doing so little. This, it seems to me, is one of the real marvels of snail biogeography. Individuals do not need to exert great effort because natural selection has acted for them, acted on them, acted with them, to produce these beings that are so unexpectedly but uniquely suited to a particular form of deep time travel, drifting. From such a perspective, rather than being any kind of deficiency, the highly successful passivity of snails might be seen as a remarkable evolutionary achievement.” Thom van Dooren on how snails cross vast oceans.

• “Slow art has layers. And this is why it requires time and effort. We should see this as a good and necessary thing. If this is a kind of obstacle in the way of easy assimilation then it is an obstacle that is integral to the value of the thing itself. The mind is calmed, or disturbed, or made exultant by the art that rewards us for our goodwill and our capacity to take our time.” In Praise of Slow Art by Chris Horner.

• “I have set naturalism and the supernatural in binary opposition but perhaps there is a third way. Let’s call it the supranatural stance…” Paul Broks explores the roots of coincidence.

• At Unquiet Things: The art of Hector Garrido, an illustrator who specialised in the Gothic staple of women in gowns fleeing at night from sinister mansions.

• “The writer Jorge Luis Borges once referred to his friend the artist Xul Solar as ‘one of the most singular events of our era’,” writes Miriam Basilio.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Japanese craftsmanship meets Pokemon at Kanazawa’s National Crafts Museum.

• At Public Domain Review: Martin Frobenius Ledermüller’s Microscopic Delights (1759–63).

• New music: Rest Of Life by Steve Roach.

The Four Horsemen (1972) by Aphrodite’s Child | Supper’s Ready (1972) by Genesis | Six Six Sixties (1979) by Throbbing Gristle