Weekend links 258


Simon Stålenhag‘s SF artwork will be published in book form if funding is secured. In the future everything will be crowdfunded for 15 minutes.

• Mixes of the week: FACT Mix 494 is a fantastic dub selection by Colleen; Secret Thirteen Mix 151 is by Sally Dige; Stephen Mallinder‘s return to the doom-laden Industrial music of the 1980s suits the post-election mood. Mallinder’s mix is helping promote Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay, a documentary by Amélie Ravalec.

• “…it felt more like real life to me than the average hour-long television show.” Sopranos creator David Chase on what he enjoyed about Twin Peaks. Related: Twin Peaks Tarot cards.

Sound & Song in the Natural World edited by Tobias Fischer & Lara Cory. A book about animal music and communication with a 60-minute CD of field recordings.

• “The psychedelic renaissance has already begun, and for the most part I welcome it,” says Erik Davis in a wide-ranging interview with Sean Matharoo.

• It rumbles on: Brown Pundits on “An Embarrassment at PEN”. A useful collection of stories, reactions and polemic from the past two weeks.

Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story, a play by Glenn Chandler about Victorian London’s scandalous pair of cross-dressing men.

• Artist Charles Ray causes a problem for the Whitney Museum of American Art with his sculpture of a naked Jim and Huckleberry Finn.

• “Don’t believe Orson Welles,” says his biographer Simon Callow, “especially when he calls himself a failure.”

• A return to Adolph Sutro’s Cliff House features several photos I’d not seen before.

• More Tarot: Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology is looking for funding.

• At Dangerous Minds: The ancient magic of the record label.

Foreign Movie Posters

Tarot (Ace of Wands theme, 1970) by Andy Bown | Distant Dreams (Part Two) (1980) by Throbbing Gristle | The Devil In Me (1982) by Stephen Mallinder

Weekend links 255


The Owls by Carlo Farneti for a 1935 edition of Les Fleurs du Mal. Via Beautiful Century although the scans probably came originally from 50 Watts.

• “…a project that seemed under a curse comprising greed, peculiar French copyright laws, jealousies and grudges, bad judgment, complicated ownership disagreements, a messy estate, and a list of individuals who believed they had some legal, financial, moral, or artistic right to the film itself.” Josh Karp on the tangled history of The Other Side of the Wind, always the most interesting of Orson Welles’ unfinished feature films.

• Producer Conny Plank is remembered for his work with a host of German artists but he also recorded a session with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra in 1970. Grönland Records is releasing the session in July, and they’ve posted Afrique (take 3 vocal) as a taster.

• “And that’s what a lot of social media by authors is starting to look like, to feel like: being smacked in the face, repeatedly, by hundreds of fish.” Delilah S. Dawson wants authors to leave off the incessant self-promotion.

“In everybody, there is an inner bestiary,” she claimed, and her pictures are overrun with animals and animal-headed creatures; sometimes sinister, sometimes acting as guides to the unconscious, as in The Pomps of the Subsoil (1947). As her interests grew more hermetic her paintings abandoned all trace of the world beyond. If the figures occupy any sort of space it’s rarely more than the planes of a room in muted browns or greys, and in many the surface is overlaid with geometric patterns that seem to imply some mystical framework.

Alice Spawls on the art and life of Leonora Carrington

• “How a pro-domme, a Russian diplomat, US intelligence and Mary Tyler Moore’s landscaper conspired to create a dance classic.” Dave Tompkins on The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.

• “Battersea, in fact, is a fairly simple climb, made ready by the builders who are destroying it.” Katherine Rundell on climbing Battersea Power Station at night.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 148 by Mlada Fronta, and The Ivy-Strangled Path, Volume V, by David Colohan.

Erté illustrates a gay romance in Lytton Strachey’s Ermyntrude and Esmeralda (1913 but not published until 1969).

• Dangerous Minds looks back at “The most unusual magazine ever published”, Man, Myth & Magic.

David Chase on the writing, directing and editing of the final scene of The Sopranos.

Magic Man (1969) by Caravan | The Myth (1982) by Giorgio Moroder | Magick Power (1987) by Opal

Last Suppers and last straws


Hardly a week passes without the religious right in America getting their knickers in a twist over some new iniquity, a condition so commonplace that new outbreaks are barely worth acknowledging. However, this week’s storm in a teacup caught my attention for being art-related.

If there’s one thing certain American Christians have in common with Muslim fundamentalists, it’s the habit of reacting to anything remotely gay with all the composure of caged baboons being prodded with sharp sticks. The pointed implement on this occasion has been the poster for the Folsom Street Fair, an annual Leather Pride/BDSM event held in San Francisco. The photograph by FredAlert (site NSFW) continues what’s become a minor tradition in artistic parody by working a variation on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1498), with leather girls and guys for the disciples and a black man in the place of Leonardo’s Jesus. The flag on the table is a Leather Pride flag. The intent behind the poster was explained by Andy Cooper, one of the event’s organisers:

There is no intention to be particularly pro-religion or anti-religion with this poster; the image is intended only to be reminiscent of the Last Supper painting. It is a distinctive representation of diversity with women and men, people of all colors and sexual orientations.


We hope that people will enjoy the artistry for what it is—nothing more or less. Many people choose to speculate on deeper meanings. This is one artist’s imagining of the Last Supper, and we have made it our own. The irony is that da Vinci was widely considered to be homosexual. In truth, we are going to produce a series of inspired poster images over the next few years. Next year’s poster ad may take inspiration from American Gothic by Grant Wood or Edvard Munch’s The Scream or even The Sound of Music! I guess it wouldn’t be Folsom Street Fair without offending some extreme members of the global community, though.

To judge by the splenetic frothing of groups such as the Concerned Women for America, it seems they managed a double helping of offence this year. The CWA see a deliberate attack on their religion, something I can’t see at all. While the reaction may seem to be harmless bluster, it should be noted that groups such as CWA and the more substantial American Family Association receive a lot of money via donations from supporters. Moral panics and perennial threats to civilisation have become a means to drum up additional support (ie: cash) to safeguard what they claim are Christian values. And gay people/rights/events have become a convenient whipping boy (so to speak) for fund-raising. As Joe Murray, ex-staff attorney for the American Family Association writes, this is now a multi-million dollar business:

It is not coincidental that the road to Hell is paved with the best of intentions, thus while one hopes that conservative leaders, such as Don Wildmon, began their crusade motivated by morality, it appears that a number of them have been hypnotized by the siren song of the almighty dollar.

Christian activism has become a lucrative business. According to its 990 form, the AFA took in millions. Arguably, such revenue was made possible by sending out “Action Alerts” warning homosexuals will throw Christians in jail under the hate crimes bill. Such rhetoric is misleading at best, dishonest at worse.

How does one protect Christianity? Send money. Call it cash-back Christianity…

Public complaints about blasphemy or other slights are always double-edged. Without the outrage I probably wouldn’t have noticed the Folsom poster, despite reading gay news blogs every day. But thanks to the CWA this isn’t the only blog now replicating the picture or showing similar examples of alleged Leonardo abuse. It hardly needs pointing out that the two other paintings mentioned in the Folsom Street Fair statement are also very popular as parody subjects and parody doesn’t work at all if the original reference isn’t well-known. Leonardo’s two most famous works are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper and the latter proves attractive for parodists by being a group scene presented in tableaux form. The Last Supper, American Gothic and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam must be the three most-parodied paintings in art history; many of the Last Supper variations?including versions by Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol?are very well-known and have been around for years.

Continue reading “Last Suppers and last straws”

Cormac and Oprah


Cormac McCarthy’s appearance on Oprah’s Book Club—his first television appearance ever—was screened last week. You can watch it online for free on her site although you need to register first. The interview is presented in chunks and only lasts for about twenty minutes but it was worthwhile for all that, even if it is chopped to pieces in that manner typical of American daytime TV.


Most of the discussion skated on the surface but I was surprised (and pleased) when Oprah mentioned having read several of his books, including his ferocious masterwork, Blood Meridian. Main topic was The Road, of course, but we also got to hear something about Cormac’s dedicating himself to a life of precarious unemployment in order to have the freedom to write. He’s playing my tune but I imagine many of Oprah’s viewers would have struggled to comprehend that decision. Faulkner’s name was mentioned, and James Joyce when they talked about the lack of punctuation in his prose. In the end it was enough to simply see the man as a human being sat in a chair. And kudos again to Oprah for championing his work.

Meanwhile, The Sopranos screened its final episode on Sunday night. I watched the last couple of seasons via BitTorrent so I’m privy to the controversial ending which I won’t reveal here even though plenty of news sites have done so already. All I’ll say is I approve of the ending and regard the naysayers as foolish in complaining about a series which throughout its run tried to be different, challenging and better than the half-baked fare which is usually offered as television drama. For those who know the ending (or aren’t so concerned about it), series creator David Chase discussed his intentions and the audience reaction with the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Update: A David Chase comment from 2001 turned up via the NYT. I’m sure these are sentiments Cormac McCarthy would also agree with.

What’s the difference between what’s art and what isn’t art? That’s the hard question to answer. The only thing that I guess I believe is that a lot of what I see on the air and in other places is giving answers, and I don’t think art should give answers. I think art should only pose questions. And art should not fill in blanks for people, or I think that’s what’s called propaganda. I think art should only raise questions, a lot of which may be even dissonant and you don’t even know you’re being asked a question, but that it creates some kind of tension inside you.

Previously on { feuilleton }
In praise of Cormac
Cormac McCarthy book covers

Farewell to Deadwood


So farewell then, Al and company. Deadwood finished its third and final season this week. Since it’s still running in the UK I won’t say anything about how things turn out. There was supposed to be a fourth season but it seems we’ve been denied this after HBO cancelled the run. This is a shame but we should probably be thankful that the thing exists at all at a time when television drama in the UK has been run into the swamps of mediocrity.

I came across Deadwood by chance via a mention in The Guardian that described Ian McShane swearing and murdering his way through a new role as malevolent saloon owner, Al Swearengen. If it hadn’t have been for the whole pirate TV network that now exists it’s unlikely I would have seen it at all. My television gave up the ghost a few years ago and even when it was working I didn’t have any satellite channels which is where it’s been shown in Britain. I downloaded the first episode and was immediately knocked out by the incredible period atmosphere (no mere sets these, they built an entire town), the cinema-quality production values and the exceptional performances. Ian McShane had played villains in the past but Al Swearengen was as far away from cheeky antiques dealer Lovejoy as it was possible to get. The rest of the cast was just as good but for me it was the scripts that made the series. The Sopranos may have the edge in being closer to our world and our lives but the language of Deadwood, its prolixity and elaboration amongst the most outrageous cursing, was completely without precedent. I’m looking forward to re-watching the entire run on DVD so I can go back over some of the incredible aphorisms that the writers gave to these characters, lines at once baroque but with an elegance fitting a BBC period drama and completely lacking the anachronisms (swearing aside) that often spoil Hollywood films. No wonder that Brian Cox demanded to be given a part; he was also given some of the best lines in the third season as actor/manager Jack Langrishe.

As with many cultural works, it seems to be the very things I enjoy that serve to alienate a drama like this from a wider audience. The Sopranos is pretty much a soap opera with the addition of strippers and people being whacked; nothing too challenging there. Deadwood was darker and quite often a lot weirder. Tony Soprano confides his troubles (albeit reluctantly) to a psychiatrist; Al Swearengen talks to the severed head of an Indian chief he keeps in a box. In The Sopranos considerable care has to be taken when disposing of bodies; in Deadwood they’re dragged round the corner to the Chinese quarter and fed to the pigs. This sounds inordinately grim but there was also a great deal of humour (often of a rather black variety), a major tragedy in season 2 and a very poignantly-developed lesbian relationship. The fact that this series came about at all provides a sliver of hope that television drama isn’t quite the redundant medium it often seems to be. It’s this, not 24 or Lost, that people will still be watching in years to come. It seems there may yet be two more feature-length specials that continue events. Fingers crossed for those. The first two seasons are out there now on DVD. Run, don’t walk.