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‘Time of the Assassins’: William S. Burroughs’ cut-up version of Time Magazine, 1965
10.30.2014
08:23 am

Topics:
Art
Books

Tags:
William S. Burroughs
Brion Gysin
Time Magazine


 
One of the favored forms of Beat author William S. Burroughs was that of the “cut-up,” basically fancy talk for “collage.” After the Dadaists pioneered the technique in the 1920s, the midcentury artist who had done the most with it was Brion Gysin, a close friend of Burroughs, who once called Gysin “the only man I ever respected.” Gysin stumbled on the technique on his own around 1954 when he slashed a newspaper page and noticed that the page underneath created interesting juxtapositions. Gysin showed Burroughs the cut-up concept in the late 1950s, as he related in Cut-Ups: A Project for Disastrous Success:
 

William Burroughs and I first went into techniques of writing, together, back in room No. 15 of the Beat Hotel during the cold Paris spring of 1958. ... Burroughs was more intent on Scotch-taping his photos together into one great continuum on the wall, where scenes faded and slipped into one another, than occupied with editing the monster manuscript. ... Naked Lunch appeared and Burroughs disappeared. He kicked his habit with apomorphine and flew off to London to see Dr Dent, who had first turned him on to the cure. While cutting a mount for a drawing in room No. 15, I sliced through a pile of newspapers with my Stanley blade and thought of what I had said to Burroughs some six months earlier about the necessity for turning painters’ techniques directly into writing. I picked up the raw words and began to piece together texts that later appeared as “First Cut-Ups” in Minutes to Go (Two Cities, Paris 1960).

 

William S. Burroughs, photograph by Brion Gysin
 
In 1965 Gysin and Burroughs collaborated on a cut-up version of Time Magazine that would end up being 27 pages long. According to Jed Birmingham, “Time was published in 1965 in 1000 copies. 886 copies comprised the trade edition. These copies were unnumbered and unsigned. 100 copies were signed by Burroughs and Gysin. 10 copies numbered A-J were hard bound and contained a manuscript page of Burroughs and an original colored drawing by Gysin. 4 more were hors commerce. ... An hors commerce print was used as the color key and printing guide that the printer would use to insure consistency of the print run.”

Apparently, Burroughs and Gysin chose the November 30, 1962, cover of Time to mess with because that issue contained a dismissive review of Naked Lunch under the title “King of the YADs,” where “YAD” stood for “Young American Disaffiliates.” Burroughs was greatly irritated by the review.
 

 
The Time cut-up was described as follows in Robert A. Sobieszek’s Ports of Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts:
 

Burroughs created his own version of Time magazine, including a Time cover of November 30, 1962, collaged over by Burroughs with a reproduction of a drawing, four drawings by Gysin, and twenty-six pages of typescript comprised of cut up texts and various photographs serving as news items. One of the pages is from an article on Red China from Time of September 13, 1963, and is collaged with a columnal typescript and an irrelevant illustration from the ‘Modern Living’ section of the magazine. A full-page advertisement for Johns-Manville products is casually inserted amid all these text; its title: Filtering.

 

Here we can see what the cover originally looked like in color. Photograph: Stephen J. Gertz
 
The first few pages (after the “copyright page”) are pretty much pure typewritten text—the metaphor of this being a version of Time doesn’t really obtain until you get to page 5, which has the word “REPUBLICANS” across the top as well as the words “Democratic Governor John Swainson,” who was the Governor of Michigan when the original issue came out (but not in 1965). After that you spot the familiar non-serif typeface here and there. Page 6 is titled “THE WORLD” and is about Red China. Page 8 is simply an unmolested full-page ad for Johns-Manville. Page 10 has a picture of a bunch of dignitaries at Peking Airport and another one with “John and William Faulkner.” Pages 13-16 are a series of ideogrammatic doodles by Gysin, after which the text reverts almost entirely to typewritten text by Burroughs.

Page 22 may be the most interesting page, as it features several short paragraphs of true automatic writing, as for example: “moo moo. .Tally Tillie Valspar Vent flu flu..doo do do. .Ding Dong Bell. .Sell sell sell. .Knee Wall fell. .sell sell sell. .Tele tell yell. .Sell sell sell. .Pell Pow Mell. .Sell Sell Sell. .Pel Tex Mell.”

Here is Burroughs and Gysin’s Time cut-up in its entirety:
 

 

 

 
The rest after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Thomas Pynchon pranks the 1974 National Book Awards ceremony
10.29.2014
10:24 am

Topics:
Books

Tags:
Thomas Pynchon
Professor Irwin Corey


 
The publication of Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon was one of the most important events in American publishing during the postwar era. Everyone who grappled with it at the time recognized it to be an unusually interesting and impressive work—it’s also very long—but it also engaged, in a high-minded way, the counterculture. The book is above all about paranoia. It features five “Proverbs for Paranoids,” including, “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” One of the book’s characters is young Malcolm Little, later Malcolm X, and the epigraph to the book’s final section (“What?”) came from Richard Nixon himself. Gravity’s Rainbow was so polarizing that it led to a stalemate among the Pulitzer Prize voting committee; for the year 1974, there is simply no award given. (Causing a schism of this type is much cooler than winning a Pulitzer, I reckon.)

Through the unusual mix in his books of science, conspiracy, corny jokes, and rock music (most of his books have made-up rock or pop lyrics as part of the text, and Gravity’s Rainbow is no exception), Pynchon has always been one of those writers, like Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, whose audience did not consist merely of literary types. Pynchon’s audience, as far as I can tell, always had more than its share of autodidacts, computer programmers, truckers, rock music fans. For a difficult author, Pynchon has had something like the common touch. The corny jokes part of the equation is an important one. In his introduction to Slow Learner, a volume of Pynchon’s stories, the author cites Spike Jones (no, not Spike Jonze) in a way that suggests a deeper connection.
 

 
Which leads us to the 1974 National Book Awards. As mentioned, Gravity’s Rainbow was a big enough deal that people pretty much knew it was going to win for best novel. There was a big gala held at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center in New York, and everyone present also knew that Thomas Pynchon, being extremely reluctant to appear in public, was unlikely to show up. And yet, one just never knew, did one? ... Instead of making an appearance, Pynchon (actually Pynchon’s publisher Thomas Guinzburg, pictured below) sent in his place comedian Professor Irwin Corey, whose schtick consists mainly of butchering hifalutin language, including bad puns, malapropisms…. basically the ultimate absent-minded professor. Oh—and just for fun, the proceedings were also interrupted by a streaker. It was the 1970s! Stuff like that happened.

The ceremony took place on April 18, 1974. The next day, the New York Times account of the event related the following:
 

The National Book Awards were given to 14 authors last night and burlesqued at the same time by a stand-up comic who accepted the prize for Thomas Pynchon, the novelist, and a naked man who jogged through Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center shouting: “Read books! Read books!”

Professor Irwin Corey, the comedian who bills himself as “the world’s greatest expert on everything,” accepted Mr. Pynchon’s prize and took off into a series of bad jokes and mangled syntax that left some people roaring with laughter and others perplexed.

Some in the audience wondered whether Mr. Corey—who pounded the podium and shouted such aphorisms as “He who underestimates the American public will not go broke”—was, in fact, the reclusive Mr. Pynchon himself.

It turned out, however, that his appearance was a jape contrived by Thomas Guinzburg, head of Viking Press, publishers of “Gravity’s Rainbow,” which won the award for Mr. Pynchon.

 
George Plimpton of the Paris Review remembered it this way: “Tom [Guinzburg] was fairly sure that Pynchon was going to win the National Book Awards, but he knew that Pynchon wasn’t going to appear. And so in a wonderful bit of imagination and cleverness, he got this wonderful actor called Professor Corey. ... So he came out onto the stage, and Thomas Pynchon was announced and a great roar of applause ... because everybody knew that Pynchon was more or less a recluse, and to have him actually appear to get his award, everybody stared at this man, who then proceeded to give an acceptance speech.”

The award was shared by Gravity’s Rainbow and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s A Crown of Feathers. Corey/Pynchon was introduced by none other than Ralph Ellison In the speech, Corey referred to “himself” as “Richard Python,” had a lot of fun with the name of noted author Studs Terkel, and referred to Henry Kissinger as the “acting president of the United States.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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How Sam Cooke Invented the Afro
10.27.2014
08:09 am

Topics:
Books
History
Music
Race

Tags:
Sam Cooke
Peter Guralnick


 
The name of music writer Peter Guralnick may not resonate with rock music fans the way names like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer do, likely because his work is informal, thoughtful, and restrained compared to that of many of his self-aggrandizingly, flamboyantly gonzo contemporaries from the early days of rock writing coming into its own. For example, his scholarly ‘90s Elvis Presley biographies Last Train to Memphis, Careless Love, and the mind-bogglingly granular Elvis Day by Day serve serious students of rock history as valuable counterpoints to the notoriously lurid sensationalism of Albert Goldman’s work on the subject.

On November 4th, Guralnick will be releasing two of his works—Sweet Soul Music and Dream Boogie—as enhanced e-books. In addition to being optimized for e-readers, the e-books will include troves of supplemental A/V material, including audio of his original interviews with figures like Ray Charles, Bobby Womack, and Solomon Burke, and newly purpose-shot video interviews. I was watching one of those video interviews when something I thought interesting jumped out. Guralnick was talking about the legendary soul singer Sam Cooke with the great Stax songwriter, singer, and producer William Bell, and of the brilliant and tragic talent behind indelible songs like “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” and “Another Saturday Night,” Bell rather bluntly asserted that “Sam started the afro.”
 

 
The idea that someone could have “started” the way a significant number of people’s hair grows normally would seem absurd absent the context of the ‘50s, when many African-Americans, quite literally second-class citizens in the US, straightened their hair in aspirational imitation of white hairstyles, especially if they were public figures like entertainers. The common men’s hairstyle was called a “process” or a “conk.” Some of the most spectacularly vertical conks were sported by James Brown, Esquerita, Little Richard, and Muddy Waters. An amazing sequence of photos in Waters’ Electric Mud LP shows his conk’s creation step-by-step. But Waters was a holdover. That LP came out in 1968, by which time processed hair was becoming passé.
 

 

 
Perhaps it’s because I’m from a post-boomer generation, but I’ve long been accustomed to Jimi Hendrix getting a great deal of credit as the musician who popularized the afro. Not that Sam Cooke was without conspicuous black identity bona fides; he did, after all, write the immortal and still-potent “Change is Gonna Come.” Seeking clarity, I turned to Guralnick himself, who literally wrote the book on Sam Cooke—the aforementioned Dream Boogie is it, in fact. (He also wrote the movie on Cooke.) It turns out that the man is as dizzying a fount of knowledge in conversation as he is on the printed page. Compared to the thoughtful depth and detail of his answers, my questions sound embarrassingly boneheaded, so I’ve replaced them in the following Q&A with pictures of celebrated afros.
 

 

Sam started wearing his hair natural back in 58. He saw it as a point of racial pride, and he preached it as a point of racial pride. And Otis Redding stopped processing his hair after talking with Sam—this is what Roger Redding, Otis’ brother, told me long, long, ago, and which I’m sure is true, because Sam’s brother L.C. had told me the same thing. So he went out there at a time when a large percentage, by far the majority of African-American singers were straightening their hair, Sam was out there doing it natural, and making a point of saying “I don’t want to try to look like somebody else, I’m proud of being myself, I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of my race.” And he articulated it to—not to interviewers, because nobody was interviewing him about it—but he articulated it, and I’ve heard this again and again, to other singers of that era.

 

 

This was a very unusual thing to do. I’m sure it wasn’t unique, in fact I know it wasn’t unique, but it was quite unusual, and it took a degree of self-awareness. Sam was somebody who was an inveterate reader, he just read anything and everything, from War and Peace to The New Yorker to Playboy, and he started reading black history, both African history and African-American history. He read John Hope Franklin, he started reading a great deal of that history, and really immersed himself in it, and in new people like James Baldwin and Malcom X, who were his peers.

 

 

On the night of the first Clay/Liston fight, when Muhammad Ali was still Cassius Clay, and he won the title, after the fight, Sam Cooke, Clay, Malcolm X and the football player Jim Brown went back to Malcolm X’s hotel room in the Hampton House, and the FBI had an informer there, and were extremely concerned! They saw this as a potential nexus of sports and entertainment superstars getting together on a political agenda. Sam was very serious—I don’t mean to make him out to be a crusader, but he was an extremely aware person, and extremely well-read. He once told Bobby Womack, if you want to expand your writing, you’ve got to read. You can’t just keep writing songs about “I love you I love you I love you.” You want to expand your horizons by reading. Bobby was a total disciple of Sam’s, and could describe Sam’s lessons almost word-for-word. I don’t know whether he ever became a great reader but he took the point.

 

 

One thing I think I’d emphasize, Sam’s hair was neither accidental nor happenstance. It was a well thought out response what he saw as white cultural domination and the willingness of the black community, in many instances, to see that as something to which to aspire, to want to look white, like the majority population, and he said that was ridiculous. He embraced James Baldwin’s point that this is a community of incredible joy, creativity, appreciation of life, a community that should celebrate itself, not to try to imitate anybody else.

 

 

Sam saw Black Power arise to some degree, with the Black Muslims who were preaching self-reliance, that was sort of a variation on Booker T. Washington I suppose, in a sense, though they wouldn’t have taken it that way. But the point is that was a proclamation of separateness, of black power.

So there you have it. Guralnick’s mention of that Cassius Clay story reminded me of this wonderful clip of Clay and Cooke singing together. The song is “The Gang’s All Here,” and it saw release on Clay’s LP I Am the Greatest!, which, yeah, exists. While you’re enjoying that, I’ll be starting research for my own scholarly work on the Jewfro.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Alfred Hitchcock: On nightmares, suspense and how to scare people
10.24.2014
10:43 am

Topics:
Books
Movies

Tags:
Alfred Hitchcock

alfdbrdhtch.jpg
 
Every second Friday was mobile library day. At ten to four, I would run down the street to the local co-op store where the giant black library truck always parked, next to a small power generator with its electric hum, rushing to be first in line, waiting for the librarian to lower the steps and squeeze open the vehicle’s accordion door. Inside were tightly crammed wooden shelves of dreams and adventures and endless pleasures. I always made straight for the horror and ghost stories, the monsters and creatures from some dark beyond lurking inside their covers. I liked Poe, I liked Blackwood, I liked James, I liked Bradbury, I liked Bloch, I liked Hitchcock. The librarian always scanned the covers with her cool blue eyes, fin-tailed spectacles tied to a chain around her neck. “Isn’t this book a little old for you?” she would ask tapping a finger on the cover of the latest Alfred Hitchcock compendium of tales. I didn’t think so, and protested, saying I’d read all the others she had, so what could possibly be wrong with this one? “But he’s so macabre,” the librarian replied, taking out the stamp, dampening it on the ink pad and punching out a return date. “I hope you don’t get nightmares, now,” the librarian said as I ran down the stairs and back home through swirling autumn leaves.

Of course I wanted nightmares, that was the whole point—why else would I read Alfred Hitchcock’s “tales to make my skin crawl” or “tales to make my heart stop”? That was the whole idea. I knew Hitchcock didn’t write the stories, but knew he had chosen each story because they were supposedly so terrifying, so gob-smackingly horrific, and I always hope that they were. In my innocence, I believed that in facing up to the worst terrors an imagination could conjure up would only make me stronger.

The covers may be different from the books I borrowed from the mobile library, but the titles and the tales were the same. The trick of thrilling suspense, as Hitchcock once said in an interview in 1966, was to make the reader or viewer identify with a central character and bring in the unexpected—like a man who sees a road accident, sees the dead body and moves on, only on a second look does he suddenly recognise the dead man. And then we’re hooked, like I was once hooked on these Alfred Hitchcock books.
 
alfantisocial.jpg
 
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alfdeathbagcorpse.jpg
 

 
More classic Hitchcock covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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American Grotesque: William Mortensen, Photographer as ‘Antichrist’


 
This is a guest post from Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey regarding two fascinating new books related to photographer William Mortensen.

Now that smartphones have become the camera of choice, it seems strange that photographers once belonged to divergent schools that battled one another, and sometimes quite viciously at that. The style that integrated painterly techniques with film technology was called Pictorialism. The “modernists” who dismissed complex photo techniques called themselves Group f/64 before they enlarged their influence, ultimately becoming known as “Purists.” For the Purists, sharp focus was the only natural way to photograph an image, and nature itself was the preferred subject.

Purists like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston did brilliant work in their careers, but it seemed important to them to remove Pictorialism from textbooks, galleries and museums. Their bête noire was none other than William Mortensen, who had for decades published many instructional manuals and reproduced his work in major photo magazines of the time, most notably Camera Craft. Mortensen specialized in a style that emphasized a grotesque look, which tended to feature many nudes. Compared to the trees and mountainsides that Ansel Adams shot, Mortensen’s work was accused of being exploitative and distasteful.

Purist hate was so intense that Adams even referred to Mortensen as “the antichrist.”

I had first heard of Mortensen from Anton LaVey, who had a photograph called “Fear” hanging in his Black House kitchen. In this photo a distressed woman is enveloped by a black-cloaked demonic entity. Anton acknowledged that Mortensen’s book The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze changed his life, teaching him the basics of what he called “Lesser Magic.” LaVey also co-dedicated The Satanic Bible to Mortensen.

When Photoshop techniques and manipulated digital photography took hold in recent decades, the Pictorialist style once again became quite prominent though by then the Purists had long ago successfully bounced Mortensen out of public recognition. This was the reason I found it important to publish both Mortensen’s The Command To Look, which also includes Michael Moynihan’s article on Mortensen’s influence on occult researcher Manly Palmer Hall and Anton LaVey. We have also published a Mortensen monograph called American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen, that includes an illuminating biography by Larry Lytle, a great deal of heretofore unpublished images and Mortensen’s textual battles with Purists from photo magazines. We hope that this evidence of William Mortensen’s brilliance once again revives his reputation and cements his rightful place in the history of the Photographic Arts.

—Adam Parfrey.

Here are some examples of William Mortensen’s work from American Grotesque
 

“Fear” aka “Obsession”
 

“A Family Xmas, 1914” 1932
 

“The Strapado”
 

“Belphagor”
 
More Mortensen after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Never Mind The Sex Pistols: Here’s Vivienne Westwood’s Bollocks
10.21.2014
09:10 am

Topics:
Books
Fashion
Punk

Tags:
Vivienne Westwood


 
You would think the old saying (often attributed to Mark Twain) of “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can’t think of anything better to say” would be redundant when it came to Dame Vivienne Westwood’s autobiography. Surely, there would be a surfeit of entertaining and amusing tales to tell, without recourse to plagiarism or possible legal action over libel? Well, possibly not, as the investigative magazine Private Eye has been noting over the past few weeks. It would appear that Dame Westwood’s autobiography (written together with Harry Potter actor Ian Kelly) has been accused of plagiarism, factual inaccuracies and may shortly be on the receiving end of some serious legal action.

As first reported in Private Eye’s Books & Bookmen section on October 3rd-16th, there are “already rumblings from the estate of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, which has taken exception to her account of the Westwood/McLaren business arrangements.”

But as the Eye points out this is negligible to a “potential libel action” for the authors and publishers Picador.

...the biggest nightmare for Picador, may be a whopper of a potential libel action from her former shop manager. [Westwood] says in the book that, since he is dead, “now we can be honest”—and proceeds to accuse him of stealing all her money from the shop’s takings for eight years, taking “every spare penny”. Alas! The man in question is still very much alive, working as a psychotherapist in west London.

In the same passage she names the manager’s “boyfriend”, a well-known businessman and tycoon in the 1970s, who was “keeping” him. This man in question is also still alive, married with three children, and has never come out as gay. Although his name is slightly misspelt he is clearly identifiable.

Private Eye contacted publishers Picador to ask whether the book had been checked for legal issues—the publishers did not return their calls.
 

 
Other claims made by the Dame Viv of Westwood are “not actionable” but are certainly rum:

“The mad old bat is even claiming she wrote lyrics with Johnny Rotten,” says one incredulous veteran of the punk scene. Of the Sex Pistols’ first single, “Anarchy in the UK” [Westwood] says: “The idea and the title were mine.”

Private Eye followed up this story in their 17th-30th October issue, pointing out a number of elementary typos/spelling mistakes and factual errors:

We read of artist “Derek Boucher” (presumably Derek Boshier) and guitarists “Jimmy Hendrix” and Pete “Townsend”. The latter may surprise Pete Townshend less than Westwood’s claim that her first husband, airline pilot Derek Westwood, “managed the Who” in the early 1960s.

This all may be explained by Westwood’s caveat to her biographer Kelly:

I think, in talking about the past, it’s important to think afresh. Nothing from the past is entirely true.

Okay. I guess this may explain the large number of factual errors contained within Westwood’s autobiography, for example her first meeting with Malcolm McLaren is stated as “1963” then three pages later when McLaren was nineteen, i.e. in 1965. Even the dates of the Sex Pistols first gig at St. Martin’s School of Art is out by a year, claiming it took place in 1976 rather November 1975.
 

 
And then there are the charges of plagiarism:

“‘Just look at what people like Jack Kerouac were wearing,’ explains Vivienne, ‘after they had left the marines and the army and went on the road. White T-shirt, jeans, leather jacket…’” And so, for several more sentences. But despite that “Vivienne explains”, Kelly has in fact lifted the whole paragraph verbatim from a foreword written by McLaren, not Westwood, to Paul Gorman’ book The Look (2001).

Gorman is not pleased. Although named in a few footnotes, he has so far identified 24 “textual lifts from my work without attribution, credit or acknowledgement”, and has already consulted m’learned friends. “We’re throwing the book at them,” he says, “claiming damages, an apology and rectification of credit etc.” He notes that the copyright in many photos credited to the “Vivienne Westwood Archive” actually belong to photographers or picture agencies who will presumably now want fees and proper attributions.

If Picador is also sued by the man they thought was dead, this car crash could soon become a multiple pile-up.

I am sure a few lawyers across London are rubbing their hands with anticipation. It may be an idea, therefore, to buy your copy before this edition becomes rather scarce!

While we wait for that, here’s Academy Award-winning director Mike Figgis’ documentary Vivienne Westwood on Liberty, which features footage from the 1994 Paris fashion Show and captures Westwood’s captures thoughts on beauty, femininity, show production, clothing… but not the importance of fact checking.
 

 
Via Private Eye

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Here be monsters: Incredible illustrations from ‘De Monstris’ (1665)
10.16.2014
10:32 am

Topics:
Books
History

Tags:
monsters
De Monstris
Fortunio Liceti

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Fortunio Liceti (1577-1657) was an Italian philosopher, doctor and scientist. He studied medicine and philosophy at the University of Bologna before becoming a lecturer of logic at the University of Pisa and then a professor of philosophy at the University of Padua. Liceti was omnivorous in his interests writing books on mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, genetics and disease. He was friends with Galileo and the mathematician Bonaventura Cavalieri, who once remarked that Liceti was such a prodigious scholar that he produced a book a week. It’s certainly true that Liceti did have a rather impressive output of scientific and philosophical texts during his life ranging on subjects as diverse as the immortality of the soul, gem stones and the causes of headaches (which he thought were the microcosmic equivalent of lightning).

His most famous work was De monstrorum causis, natura et differentiis (Of the causes of monsters, nature and differences) that documented the many “monstrosities” and deformities reported in nature. The book chimed with the public’s interest in “monsters” and “freaks” and Liceti documented all of the stories of man-beasts, mermaids, wolf children as well as the physical abnormalities he had witnessed (co-joined twins, multiple-limbed children, hermaphrodites and alike). Liceti did not consider these “monstri” as abnormal, but rather as attempts of nature to fashion life as best as possible, in the same way an artist would create art with whatever materials were available.

It is said that I see the convergence of both Nature and art, because one or the other not being able to make what they want, they at least make what they can.

He was also the first to posit the idea that fetal disease could lead to abnormalities in children.

De monstrorum causis, natura et differentiis was first published in 1616 without illustrations, a lavish illustrated second edition was published in Padua in 1634, with a further edition De monstris (or what you might call the mass market edition) was produced in Amsterdam in 1665. It is from the last edition that these incredible images are from.

A PDF of De monstris is available here.
 
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More illustrations from ‘De monstri’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Noted poster artist dragged into local election fracas over charges of anti-Semitism
10.15.2014
01:45 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
Politics

Tags:
Kent Smith
Mikhail Alterman
Derek Hess


 
Amazing the trouble that a reaction-baiting local TV news segment can work up, isn’t it? In Euclid, a small city to the east of Cleveland, Ohio, the race to send a representative to the state house in Columbus recently got a healthy injection of political punk art—not always the most welcome addition to a candidate’s resume. The controversy stems from a book that one of the candidates wrote in 2008, a book of good old-fashioned pamphleteering called Please God Save Us. The text of the book is by current Euclid school board member and possibly future state representative Kent Smith, and the art is by renowned master of the punk rock poster idiom, Derek Hess.

On September 22, a markedly one-sided news segment by political reporter Tom Beres on local station WKYC all but accused Smith of being a virulent anti-Semite—over a book that has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism—because Hess (not Smith), in order to land a specific point about specifically extremist brand of Republican thinking—incorporated a modified swastika in some of the images. Predictably, it isn’t all that difficult to get the vox populi tut-tutting if you show an older voter a picture of a swastika and refuse to explain the full context. The WKYC segment explains that Smith is listed as an author of a book that does have a weird kind of swastika-ish symbol on the cover and then cuts to some older women saying (and this is a quotation), “I find it very disturbing, I find it insulting,” etc etc. Basically a respectable TV station said “Boo!” to some random shoppers in a retail mall and got them to say “Eek!”
 

 
Kent Smith finds himself in a tough race with Republican Mikhail Alterman and Independent Jocelyn Conwell, a race that would be a shoo-in for the Democrat if not for some gerrymandering shenanigans from 2010 that put portions of impoverished (read African-American) East Cleveland and predominantly affluent and Jewish Beachwood into the previously unified 8th district of Euclid. Alterman is an interesting guy, a former metal DJ at WRUW, the radio station of Case Western Reserve University—hey wait, don’t you reckon Alterman has to have purchased more than a few pentagrams in his day? Does that make him unfit for office? (For the record, Cleveland.com, the online presence of the Plain Dealer, enthusiastically endorsed Kent Smith on October 3, saying that Alterman is “armed with lots of ideas but some don’t make sense.”)

I spoke with Smith on Sunday evening. He insists that there isn’t anything to the charges, reasoning that the book has been in circulation for a while without anyone objecting to any anti-Semitic content: “Mr. Alterman and the Ohio Republican Party are not objective book critics or art reviewers,” said Smith. “The reason they are offended by the positions taken in the book is because those positions run counter to their Far Right, Tea Party agenda for Ohio and this nation. Please God Save Us has been in circulation since 2008 and not one professional, impartial reviewer found it to be antireligious or anti-Semitic.”
 

 
The fuller context you need to know is as follows: Kent Smith is a responsible and accountable representative of his community; the book was an expression of Democratic anger directed at the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, and Smith is being branded an anti-Semite for images he did not draw in a book that has zero to do with Judaism. But more to the point, the book has been out for six years now. It was conceived in 2006, not long after the bitter defeat of John Kerry, when liberal anger over the excesses of the Bush administration was at its peak. The book was released on July 4, 2008, the heady days of Obama’s first presidential run, and received positive notices from many quarters, including the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Weekly, Real Detroit Weekly and Juxtapoz. The book received national coverage for a brief period, and to be frank, nobody said diddly squat about any anti-Jewish sentiment in the book. Kent Smith has run for office several times since then and the issue has never come up because it’s completely clear that the charges of anti-Semitism are utter nonsense.

The book has ten chapters, which tackle themes like opposition to creationism, opposition to fossil fuels, opposition to the Iraq War, support of stem cell research, and a few other topics like that. Where’s the substance to the anti-Semitism charge? Alterman threw a stinkbomb into the middle of the race as a kind of Hail Mary pass, but the tactic reeks of desperation and threatens to sully Kent Smith.
 

Kent Smith and Derek Hess
 
And what of Derek Hess, self-described “superhero + overrated artist” (the verbiage comes from his own website). Angry, oh so angry, intemperate, irresponsible Derek Hess? Come now, this is rank silliness. Hess is a gifted graphic artist of whom it can safely be said that moderation is not his strong suit. But who really gives a tinker’s damn about the political agenda of Derek Hess? He’s not running for anything. He’s an internationally acclaimed artist whose work the Louvre in Paris has calledune remarquable série d’affiches” (a remarkable series of posters); the museum has acquired some of Hess’ posters. Derek Hess is not an amateur, he’s not a crank, and he’s not a joke. If anything, the decision of Derek Hess to choose Smith as a co-author can only reflect positively on Smith.
 

Mikhail Alterman
 
Let’s talk about the “swastika.” It isn’t really a swastika, to begin with. You can see it on several of the images on this page—it’s a swastika that Hess has (rather cleverly) modified with some care to make a specific point. In the book, which probably nobody involved in this whole fracas has even read, Hess explains that the symbol in question, which variously appears on a U.S. flag where the stars would normally be and as a kind of elongated cudgel, is a “Crosstika,” elaborating further that the hideous red Republi-creature is holding a “half swastika, half cross” that is designed to “create blind faith and allegiance, much as the swastika was used by Nazi Germany.”  In other words, Hess is linking the swastika with the extremist right wing, which makes sense insofar as the original Nazis were an extreme and hyperconservative reaction to left-wing/collectivist political groupings like Marxism, socialism, and so forth. In other words, Smith and Hess aren’t advocating anything at all with respect to the stupid swastika.
 

 
One might ask, what is Mikhail Alterman’s objection to anti-fascist art? Why is he hostile to outspoken denunciations of fascism or movements that bear some similarities with fascism? Does every political objection have to take the form of “candidate X” strayed within 1000 feet of “annoying object Y”—is that where all thought processes have to end? Does anyone, Alterman included, really want a world like that? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

As Smith said to me, “Neither Derek Hess nor myself are anti-religious – any religion. But we both strongly disagree with Republican Party positions on the economy, environment, going to war over trumped up claims and faulty intelligence, freedom to marry and women’s reproductive rights.  Please God Save Us is a rebuke to the Far Right and I do not back off from what I wrote.”
 

 

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This ridiculous Burt Reynolds paperback might mark when the 1970s truly began!
10.10.2014
10:34 am

Topics:
Books
Movies
Sex

Tags:
Burt Reynolds


 
One of the many mystifying aspects of the 1970s was the American public’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for Burt Reynolds. The same decade that is widely considered the strongest for uncompromising American cinema, a decade that produced The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Nashville.... was also the decade that multiple times bestowed on Reynolds the title of America’s top box office star.

It isn’t so much that Reynolds is bad, exactly. It’s just that often his fame and celebrity success often seemed to come in advance of the cinematic accomplishments. If you look at Reynolds’ finishes in the “Ten Money Making Stars Poll” annually conducted by the Quigley Publishing Company, you get this:

1973: 4
1974: 6
1975: 7
1976: 6
1977: 4
1978: 1
1979: 1
1980: 1
1981: 1
1982: 1
1983: 4
1984: 6

Number one box office star—five years in a row. That feat was duplicated only by Bing Crosby from 1944 to 1948. If you look at 1973, the first year Reynolds made the list, he finished ahead of (in order) Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, and Paul Newman. At that point his primary accomplishments as an actor were being second lead in Deliverance (an admittedly excellent movie in which he is also very good) and a brief appearance in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). In addition, of course, Reynolds had starred in The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. For the next few years, it didn’t really matter what movies Reynolds starred in—the American public wanted more.

One of the most attention-getting episodes in Reynolds’ career was his hunkalicious nude appearance in the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan. Clearly, women were lusting after the cocky (ahem) and hirsute thespian and former athlete, a fact that leads us into the true subject of this post.

In 1972 Signet Books released a remarkable paperback, authored by Burt Reynolds, with the title Hot Line: The Letters I Get ... And Write! It was less a portrayal of Reynolds’ life as a man of letters than a kind of palatable, not X-rated version of his Cosmo pictorial.

Reynolds was not a man without a sense of humor, as can be seen in his confident, silly pose on the hand chair. (Yes, that’s right—hand chair.) The letters—who can say where these letters came from?—all acknowledge Reynolds’ fame and sex appeal as immutable facts and engage in some heavy double entendres—what one writer terms “Swahili.” Here’s a typical sample:
 

Dear Burt,

MAN, DO YOU EVER TURN ME ON! You’re great. When I told my husband how I love you, he said, “Well, just pretend that I’m Burt Reyolds.” To which I replied, “Nobody in the world has got that much imagination!”

I have to tell you this funny thing that happened at the office where I work. We have this 60-yr-old supervisor (lady). When we showed her the miniature picture of you from Newsweek, she said, “Well, that doesn’t turn me on!” The rest of us girls decided it would take all the men of South America put together to turn her on.

But you’re just the hottest! If I knew my tropic zone number I would use it rather than my zip code. (Sin)—Cerely

FAY IN FARGO

Dear Fay:

Why don’t you introduce your husband to the 60-year-old supervisor? Forget about your tropic zone number and bone up on your erogenous zones.

 
The pictures of these luscious babes literally draping themselves on Reynolds’ torso are a kind of visual corollary to the libido that the sexual revolution had just unleashed. You can’t exactly imagine Clark Gable doing this pictorial…. this was the new sexual frankness that would come to define the decade. In fact, you could argue that this stupid book, or the Cosmo pictorial, was the first thing that really reeked of the Seventies the way we think of it today. That hairy chest just needs a coke spoon to complete the picture.

Here are a few shagadelic scans from the book—I’m confident you won’t soon forget them.
 

 

 
More Burt Reynolds than anyone in this century could ever possibly want, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Mourka the dancing cat, pre-Internet trailblazer for today’s ‘cheezburger cats’
10.03.2014
08:36 am

Topics:
Animals
Books
Dance

Tags:
cats
George Balanchine
Mourka


 
As the 1964 book Mourka: Autobiography of a Cat amply demonstrates, cats did not need the Internet to become nationwide sensations; they have been, er, catnip to content providers for decades.
 

 
Mourka was an “alley cat” who belonged to the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. A picture of Balanchine “training” Mourka appeared in LIFE magazine, and the picture proved so popular that a book deal was quickly inked. The author, Tanaquil Le Clerq, was Balanchine’s wife, and the photographer was Martha Swope. This text is from the dust cover of the book:
 

Mourka, an extraordinary alley cat is one of famed choreographer George Balanchine’s prize pupils. He has learned to do entre-chats, pas de chats, and even a grand jeté. When photographer Martha Swope caught Mourka doing one of his spectacular leaps, Life printed the memorable photo and Mourka’s reputation was made instantly for millions of Americans. Here, Miss Swope’s pictures and Miss Le Clerq’s text convey his many exploits and suggest that Mourka may well be the most accomplished feline in the world. [This, of course, was written decades before the advent of Maru.]

Mourka, a native New Yorker, shares a large apartment on the upper West Side with Mr. and Mrs. Balanchine. He spends his summers in Weston, Connecticut, where he indulges in his favorite hobby, bug-watching, and such favorite foods as asparagus, potatoes, peas, and sour cream.

Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clerq, the wife of George Balanchine, was born in Paris and brought to this country at an early age. She won a scholarship to the School of American Ballet at the age of eleven and later danced many leading roles with the New York City Ballet. In 1956, while on a dance tour of Europe, she was stricken with polio which halted her dancing career. Now that Mourka is published, she is at work on her next book, a gourmet cook book to be published by Stein and Day in 1965.

 

Balanchine training Mourka
 
Balanchine put in considerable time “training” Mourka, and on the occasion when Mourka was obliged to present a command performance for the composer Igor Stravinsky, it was the only time that a ballet performance ever gave Balanchine butterflies. According to Balanchine: A Biography by Bernard Taper:
 

While [Balanchine] was away, a friend or Tanaquil’s mother stayed with her, or she often chose to remain alone in the apartment, kept company by Mourka, their white-and-ginger-colored cat, a pampered and much admired creature. Balanchine had trained this cat to perform brilliant jetés and tours en l’air; he used to say that at last he had a body worth choreographing for. He talked of presenting Mourka publicly, in a program titled—in parody of the revolutionary program he had presented as a youth in Russia—“The Evolution of Ballet: From Petipa to Petipaw.” Once, at a party at his apartment during the Christmas season, Stravinsky asked to see Mourka perform. Guests present later said that was the only time they had ever seen Balanchine nervous before a performance.

 

 

 

 

 
via Awful Library Books
 

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