Poet Adrienne Rich was a pioneering feminist and alchemist. Her alchemical compounds were composed of vowels and consonants. She showed us that words, spun from a revolutionary tongue, point the direction while embodying the essence of the destination. The poem arrives at itself with the immediacy of sunlight striking glass.
1 A.M. (aka One American Movie) was shot in 1968, abandoned by Godard in 1969, and then later resurrected and re-edited by his collaborator on the film D.A. Pennebaker. Intercut with film footage of Godard at work on the film and re-named 1 P.M. (One Parallel Movie), it was finally released in 1972.
An abstract and maddening mash-up of cinéma vérité, documentary footage and goofy political theater, 1 P.M. is another attempt by a European director to wrap his head around America’s turbulent Sixties’ political scene and pretty much failing. Even with input from ace documentarian Pennebaker, the movie seems remote from its material. But despite many yawn-inducing moments of pretentiousness and arthouse vagueness, there are still plenty of interesting bits and pieces in the film to sustain one’s interest. Specifically, an interview with Eldridge Cleaver, a rambling but fascinating sequence involving Tom Hayden. Rip Torn’s absurd Native American routine and a Manhattan-rooftop performance by Jefferson Airplane of “House at Pooneil Corners,” which ends with the cops busting the band and film crew.
In this fascinating but (far too) short clip, Alan Moore gives an introduction to the work of artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), who he describes as “one of the most over-looked figures in British art history”. The obituaries for Spare’s death remarked “England had lost one of its best ever nude study artist.” Nearly sixty years after his death, little is known about the artist outside of knowledgeable and specialist circles.
But Spare wasn’t only an incredible artist, as Moore points out, he was also “possibly the greatest English magician of the twentieth century.”
“I think that Magic offers the artist a new way of looking at their consciousness, and of looking at where they get their ideas from.”
Spare was an artistic prodigy, who was the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy, London. At the same time, he was developing his own esoteric beliefs, which brought him into contact with Aleister Crowley, and a relationship of sorts began, with Spare contributing illustrations to Crowley’s magazine Equinox. However, the friendship foundered and Spare alluded to Crowley in his book The Book of Pleasure:
“Others praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is over-run! Is it by symbolising we become the symbolised? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be an object of disgust or pity. These Magicians, whose insincerity is their safety, are but the unemployed dandies of the Brothels.”
Yet Spare did not give up on magic completely, rather he began his own particular mix of “repressed magic”, which fed directly into his art work. Spare became known for his “automatic drawing” - allowing himself to act as a medium to spirits to guide his pencil, creating inter-twined images of figures and faces on a page.
There are many different stories (some more incredible than others) about Spare and his involvement with magic and the spirit world. He was said to have the power of divination and premonition, and could accurately predict events long before they took place. He was also know for his dialog with “spirits” and “demons”, and after a fire at his studio, he fell under a mysterious ailment which left him unable to paint for 5 years.
Spare’s work had some odd admirers, in particular Adolf Hitler, who asked him to paint his portrait. Spare refused believing Hitler to be evil, and if he were a Superman, Spare was claimed to have said in reply, then he would prefer to live as an animal.
Étienne Sauret’s documentary Dirty Pictures is warm-hearted and appropriately shambolic look at the life of Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the man who discovered the psychedelic effects of MDMA and a variety of other home-brewed synthetic compounds that alter, expand and raise consciousness.
A former Dow Chemical drug developer who early on saw the light (a mescaline trip), Shulgin moved on to independent research in the mid-1960s. With his wife Ann, he developed and tested hundreds of psychoactive drugs, mostly analogues of phenethylamines (which include MDMA and mescaline) and tryptamines like DMT and psilocibyn.
“I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability.” A. Shulgin.
Shulgin’s books PiHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved) and TiHKAL (Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved) combine autobiography and research into essential reading for anyone who is interested in the science and history of psychedelics and the life of a spiritual revolutionary who has fearlessly led the fight to wrest consciousness from the brain police.
Directed by Tim Pope, Soft Cell’s Sex Dwarf video, released to promote their debut album, created quite a scandal in 1981. Claiming it was pornographic, British police actually confiscated copies of the video. It was banned from MTV at the time and has been banned from YouTube…though it pops up now and then.
The Sex Dwarf clip reminds me of the films of Jack Smith and The Kuchar Brothers, mashed up with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: a Bacchanalian group grope full of writhing bodies, hot flesh and a chainsaw. Enjoy it in all its sleazy glory.
Tim Pope and Marc Almond discuss the making of “Sex Dwarf.”
A ripping New Years Eve concert from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers taped in Santa Monica, CA in 1978.
My first ever concert was seeing Tom Petty on April 19, 1977 in Wheeling, WV when I was eleven years old. The Heartbreakers—who were in the charts at the time with their second album and the “I Need to Know” single (which I thought was the greatest song ever recorded except for “Live and Let Die”)—were the opening act for the Doobie Brothers, who I just hated. Tickets were like $4.
Speaking of doobies, this occasion also marked the very first time I smoked weed. My friend and I were so stoned that we went to the area behind the stage—where no one was sitting as the area was roped off—and fell asleep. Yes, sound asleep at a loud rock concert in a hockey arena! The trouble was, during the Doobie’s set, during the obligatory big 70s drum solo, the drummer did this thing with an electrified gong that he touched with a “magic sword” that caused massive electrical bolts and sparks to fly out of it (out of the gong).
This was a hell of a way to wake up out of a stupor, believe me. It was obvious after the fact why that section had been cordoned off. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were amazing, though!