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‘Slacking Towards Bethlehem,’ the incredible true story of the Church of the SubGenius
10.12.2017
08:35 am
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The Church of the SubGenius’ annus mirabilis, 1998, may have come and gone (or it may be yet to come, as some of the faithful believe), but it’s never been easier to hear the word of “Bob.”

OSI 74 carries on the Church’s TV ministry. Evangelical radio programs such as Hour of Slack, Puzzling Evidence, and Ask Dr. Hal no longer splutter from our computer speakers in a pitiable dribble of RealAudio 1.0, but burst forth in full stereo at 64 Kbps, a mighty firehose of Slack. The classic SubGenius recruitment movie Arise!, which used to cost 20 whole dollars, is now just as free as an ISKCON book with Ganesha on the cover. And The Book of the SubGenius is still in print.
 

 
But a documentary in the works promises to do something new for the Church, namely, to situate its founding and founders in real, actual historical time. Slacking Towards Bethlehem: J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius will tell the story of Rev. Ivan Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond meeting in mid-Seventies Texas as young weirdos. The pair “quickly forged a friendship over a shared love of comic books, Captain Beefheart and UFO paperbacks,” in the words of the movie’s press release, before starting a religion that won converts in R. Crumb, Robert Anton Wilson, DEVO, Frank Zappa and Negativland. Directing is Austin filmmaker Sandy K. Boone, whose late husband, David Boone, directed the 1980 cult film Invasion of the Aluminum People, which might be “an allegorical testimony for the Church of the SubGenius.”
 

 
Slacking Towards Bethlehem is almost in the can, Boone says, with poster art by legendary comix artist and SubGenius saint Paul Mavrides (a/k/a Palmer Vreedeez [unless you believe he’s really Dr. Hal], LIES) to come, but first they have to fund post-production. The movie’s Kickstarter—not to be confused with the also recently launched crowdfunding campaign behind SubGenius Dr. K’taden Legume’s proposed “alien-contacting beacon”—offers tempting perks. At $11, salvation can be nearly anyone’s. There are clothes, books, and rare items from the Rev. Ivan Stang archive higher up the scale. Still more generous donations secure holy relics, suitable for framing, such as pieces of toast on which “Bob” has appeared to believers in their humble kitchenettes; for just a few dollars more, they will sell you the Breakfast with “Bob” toaster used to manufacture these miraculous apparitions. For the very deep-pocketed donor, or the crazed, impulsive superfan with a high FICO score, there is an associate producer credit on offer. Would it be too much to hope for a few Holy Seven-Bladed Windbreakers?
 
Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.12.2017
08:35 am
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Jesus appears on designer shower curtains as Satan, a surfer, his holiness Tom Waits & MORE!
09.20.2017
09:52 am
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The lord and savior, Tom Waits, striking a Christ-like pose on a shower curtain by artist Hilan Can. The bible held by Waits contains lyrics from the musician’s 2004 single, “Dead and Lovely”
 
Sometimes one is fortunate enough to do what they have always wanted to do for a living—and I am living proof of that. Lots of people utter the phrase “thank god” without actually giving the words a second thought beyond using it as a mere expression. By the way, I’m one of those people, and though I wasn’t raised in an non-believing home, I’m pretty convinced that some unseen, unknown deity was not responsible for the creation of this world, nor should said (probably) non-existent deity be personally thanked when you achieve a goal, win a Grammy or dodge a bullet in the game of Russian roulette that is life. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love my job—regardless if I’m writing about Iggy Pop doing coke while in rehab or in this case, fancy shower curtains with various, strange depictions of Jesus Christ emblazened on them. AMEN!

If you have been reading Dangerous Minds for a while, then you’ve been personally hipped to an obsession that I share with DM’s own Tara McGinley that concerns our preoccupation with designer shower curtains. To prove my point, I will tell you that just today I was looking for yet another new curtain for my bathroom (I need a support group, it’s true). Then I came across a curtain featuring Slim Jim spokesperson/one of the greatest WWE wrestlers of all time, Randy “Macho Man” Savage flying through the air about to land a perfect “big elbow” to the back of Jesus’ head. I do remember that particular image was a huge Internet meme following Savage’s passing in 2011 in a tragic car crash. Even in death, Macho wasn’t having any of it, not even when he arrived at Jesus’ nifty cloud house. Anyway, the discovery of that epic shower curtain led me to immediately pursue the availability of other alarming bathroom necessities that incorporated images of the Son o’ God in ways that most of us have never considered. All I can say is this—there is a blacklight shower curtain in this post of Jesus with a third eye and blood dripping from his other eyes. That’s all. No big deal. Some of the images below are NSFW.
 

Jesus as an astronaut, a more believable scenario than other stuff I’ve heard. Get it here.
 

The mythical Randy “Macho Man” Savage vs. Jesus shower curtain. Get it here.
 

The equally mythical blacklight Jesus shower curtain. Bong and VHS copy of ‘The Song Remains the Same’ not included.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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09.20.2017
09:52 am
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The occult art of Austin Osman Spare
09.15.2017
09:59 am
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Austin Osman Spare was an outsider artist, an occultist, a writer, a philosopher of sorts, and a clarinet player in a jazz band called the Bulldog Breed. His career as an artist burst like a firework against a full dark night—a quick, bright, early success fading to a slow and unworthy decline into poverty, dirt, and virtual obscurity. The myths about Spare and his involvement with the occult often take precedence over his talents as an artist. This is a pity, as Spare was a tremendously complex artist who deserves far greater recognition than being tagged merely as someone who is collected by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.

Spare was born into a working class family in London on December 30th, 1886. His father was a policeman, his mother the daughter of a Royal Marine. This was a no-nonsense, square-headed family who lived in a tenement in Smithfield—the city’s meat market district. Every day on his way to school, Spare had to wander through the busy market with its hanging flesh and blood splattered cobblestones. As an animal lover, he hated this brutal bloody carnage.

As a child, Spare showed a prodigious talent for drawing, which eventually led to his exhibiting work at the Royal Academy in his teens. There’s a story that his father, who was a stickler for correct English grammar, saw a news vendor selling papers with the headline “Local Boy Hung.” His father being an utter jobs-worth made his way across to the vendor to correct the word “hung” to “hanged.” It was only when he read the story did he realize this was not about some ghastly execution of a murderous youth but a report on his very own son having work exhibited at the RA.

His technique for line drawings saw Spare hailed as the new Aubrey Beardsley—who was then the fashionable Decadent artist of polite London society. This should have been a caveat. Fashionable artists tend to bloom and fall with the season. Spare’s startling early success—where it seemed nearly every art critic hailed him as the next big thing—soon vanished. It must have been galling and utterly confusing for him. In some respects, it could be argued that his background and his class went against him in the London art world. Add to this Spare’s growing interest in the occult, which saw George Bernard Shaw dismiss his work as “strong medicine” that was not to everyone’s taste.

His interest in the occult started with his early reading of Madame Blavatsky before moving onto Agrippa and then becoming friends with Aleister Crowley. Whatever happened between these two men to sour their relationship isn’t fully known other than Crowley described Spare as a “Black Brother”—an occultist who had failed to submit his ego for the advancement of learning—or in plain English, to submit himself to the will of the “Great Beast” or one Mr. A. Crowley.

A dabbling in the occult is always good copy when explaining why things turned out the way they did. Though Spare did devise his own magical rituals (which heavily influenced modern Chaos Magic) and beliefs involving Zos (“the body considered as a whole”) and its complementary force Kia—which were “symbolised anthropomorphically by the hand and the eye”—it is fair to say, he was ultimately probably a bit of a confabulist about his magical powers. He was later aided and abetted in this myth-making by fellow occultist and writer Kenneth Grant, who believed he had found his own personal magus in Spare. Unfortunately, Grant made up so much of Spare’s alleged magical powers that it is unclear as to what Spare actually did believe and what he actually practiced. For example, it was claimed Spare was inducted into the occult by an octogenarian witch who seduced him when he was a boy. Great story, but most likely false. Similarly, Grant wrote eloquently about Spare’s use of magical sigils where “any wish may be given symbolic form,” which was to a large extent true but never seemed to deliver the “particular desire in question.” Spare’s use of magic never extricated him from anything but seemed to keep him in the direst poverty, obscurity, and near starvation. A life of painting in a tiny darkened basement, where he collected stray cats and drawing portraits in pubs for beer and sandwiches. After Spare’s death in 1956, Grant claimed this kind of “intense disappointment” was the way by which Spare attained greater enlightenment. But of course!

Spare was a unique and consummate artist. He was a visionary in the tradition of William Blake or even to an extent Stanley Spencer. And while his belief in magic and the occult has relevance to his artwork it shouldn’t become the determining factor when appreciating Austin Osman Spare’s art which has an impressive range of styles and techniques, which has led some to describe him as “the first Surrealist” and even (surprisingly) the first Pop Artist.

But in truth, he wasn’t any of those things. He was just Austin Osman Spare, artist.
 
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See more of AOS’s work after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.15.2017
09:59 am
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Someday is Now: The trailblazing political pop art of Sister Corita
09.06.2017
01:17 pm
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For those of us who worship at the altar of art and creativity, the career of Sister Corita serves as something like a proof that exciting and bracing art can come from any source. Another way of stating this is that if Sister Corita had never existed, the art-heads of the 1960s might have been obliged to invent her. Sister Corita was a peace activist, a nun, and a pop artist of considerable stature—all at the same time.

The woman who would later become known as Sister Corita was born Frances Kent in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1918, which incidentally means that she was 45 years old on the day that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed. Her large family moved to Los Angeles when she was young, where she would find educational mentors in a Catholic community of liberal nuns, namely the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart Order. They encouraged her to pursue art. In the 1950s she came upon an old silk screen at the art department of Immaculate Heart College and the wife of a Mexican silk-screen practitioner taught her how to clean and use it.

Her career can be said to have begun then; despite impressive productivity, however, it took about a decade for her work, which incorporated textual elements from the very start, to come into full maturity. The debt that Sister Corita owes artists like Andy Warhol and Peter Blake is evident everywhere, but it should be emphasized that the work of those two men lacked moral and spirital components that came to Sister Corita quite easily. When she zooms in on a package of Wonder Bread with emphasis on the words “Enriched Bread,” it’s almost impossible not to think of Jesus Christ. Warhol’s work has a moral element, for sure, but he wouldn’t have been as likely to meditate on the words wonder, enriched, and bread in the same way. (Warhol was only interested in one kind of “bread”: money!)

In 1967 she said, “I started early putting words into my prints, and the words just got bigger and bigger.” That year the Morris Gallery in New York hosted a show dedicated to her prints. By this time she was a “card-carrying” member of the peace movement; she was quoted as saying, “I’m not brave enough not to pay my income tax and risk going to jail, but I can say rather freely what I want to say in my art.”

After a lifetime of association with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she resigned from the order in 1968, in part because of the unusual demands her sudden celebrity had brought. It’s fascinating to watch her work get progressively darker through the 1965-1970 period. I marvel at the sheer balls it would take to put together a red, white, and blue canvas with the words assassination and violence prominently represented and call it American Sampler—I just know I don’t have them!

For a good overview of her work, by all means do consult Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita by Julie Ault. The Corita Art Center has a terrific collection of her images as well.
 

For Eleanor, 1964
 

Mary Does Laugh, 1964
 
Much more after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.06.2017
01:17 pm
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Meet the Swedish mystic who was the first Abstract artist

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The artist and mystic Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) never described the 193 paintings she produced between 1906-15 as “Abstract art.” Instead, af Klint thought of these paintings as diagrammatic illustrations inspired by conversations she (and her friends) conducted with the spirit world from the late 1890s on.

That af Klint did not call her work “Abstract art” is enough for some art historians to (foolishly) discount her art as the work of the first Abstract artist. In fact af Klint was painting her Abstract pictures long before Wassily Kandinsky made his progression from landscapes to abstraction sometime around 1910, or Robert Delaunay dropped Neo-Impressionism for Orphism and then moseyed along into Abstract art just a year or two later. But these men were members of voluble artistic groups and Kandinsky was a lawyer who knew the importance of self-promotion. Unlike af Klint who worked alone, in seclusion, and stipulated that her artwork was not to be exhibited until twenty years after her death. Af Klint died in 1944. In fact, it took forty-two years for her work to be seen by the public as part of an exhibition called The Spiritual in Art in Los Angeles, 1986.

And there’s the issue. The word “spiritual.” In a secular world where anything with a whiff of bells and candles is considered irrelevant, contemptible, and generally unimportant, it has been difficult for af Klint to be seen as anything other than an outsider artist or a footnote to the boys who have taken all the credit. Of course, a large part of the blame for this must rest with af Klint herself and her own prohibition on exhibiting her work. It’s very unfortunate, for this self-imposed ban meant that although af Klint may have been (I’ll say it again) the very first Abstract artist, her failure to share her work or exhibit it widely meant she had no or very limited influence through her artistic endeavors.

But now that af Klint has been rediscovered, it’s probably the right time to rip up the old art history narrative about Kandinsky and Delaunay and all the other boys and start all over again with af Klint at the top of that Abstract tree.

Hilma af Klint was born in Sweden in 1862 into a naval family. Her father was an admiral with a great interest in mathematics, who could play a damn fine tune on the violin. Her family were Protestant Christians but took considerable interest in the rapid advances made by science into the world—from medicine and x-rays to the theory of evolution. Unlike today, religious belief and scientific investigation were not mutually exclusive. In the same way, there was (at the time) a scientific interest in the spiritual.

Af Klint was passionate about mathematics, botany, and art. Some of her earliest paintings were detailed examinations of plants. Her father had little understanding of his daughter’s passion for art and would ruefully shake his head when she enthused about painting. Af Klint studied portraiture and landscape at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm 1882-87, graduating with honors. Her paintings are exceedingly good and technically very fine but not extraordinary or even offering much of a hint of what was to come.

The turning point for this great change roughly stemmed from the death of her younger sister. After her sister’s death in 1880, af Klint joined a group of women known who shared an interest in the spiritual, in particular, the occult theories and Theosophical ideas of Madame Blavatsky who promoted a unity of the scientific and the spiritual. These women became known as “The Five.” They held séances together with af Klint often acting as the medium. The group made contact with spirit entities which they called the “High Masters.” Under their guidance, these women started producing works created by automatic writing and automatic painting—this was almost four decades before the Surrealists laid claim to inventing such techniques.

It was through her contact with these High Masters that af Klint began her series of Abstract paintings in 1906. These pictures, she claimed, were intended to represent “the path towards the reconciliation of spirituality with the material world, along with other dualities: faith and science, men and women, good and evil.”

Af Klint detailed her conversations with these spirits including one with a spirit called Gregor who told her:

All the knowledge that is not of the senses, not of the intellect, not of the heart but is the property that exclusively belongs to the deepest aspect of your being […] the knowledge of your spirit.

In 1906, af Klint began painting the images these spirits instructed her to set down. Her first was the painting Ur-Chaos which was created under the direction of the High Master Amaliel, as af Klint wrote in her notebooks:

Amaliel sign a draft, then let H paint. The idea is to produce a nucleus from which the evolution is based in rain and storm, lightning and storms. Then come leaden clouds above.

Between 1906 and 1915, af Klint produced a total of 193 paintings and an outpouring of thousands of words describing her conversations with the High Masters and the meaning of her paintings. Her work depicted the symmetrical duality of existence like male/female, material/spiritual, and good/evil. Blue represented the feminine. Yellow the masculine. Pink signified physical love. Red denoted spiritual love. Green represented harmony. Spirals signified evolution. Marks that looked like a “U” stood for the spiritual world. While waves or a “W” the material world. Circles or discs meant unity. Af Klint believed she was creating a new visual language, a new way of painting, that brought the spiritual and scientific together.

These paintings were often over ten feet in height. Af Klint stood around five feet. She painted her pictures on the floor—the occasional footprint can be seen smudged on the canvas. Af Klint worked like someone possessed. She believed her work was intended to establish a “Temple.” What this temple was or what it signified she was never exactly quite sure. All af Klint knew was that she was being guided by spirits:

The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.

All through this, af Klint continued her own rigorous investigation into new scientific and esoteric ideas. This brought her to the work of Rudolf Steiner who was similarly following a path towards creating a synthesis between the scientific and the spiritual. When af Klint showed her paintings to the great esoteric, Steiner was shocked and told her these paintings must not be seen for fifty years as no one would understand them.

Steiner’s response devastated af Klint and she stopped painting for four years. Af Klint spent her time tending to her blind, dying mother. She then returned to painting but kept herself and more importantly her work removed from the world. After her death in 1944, the rented barn in which she kept her studio was to be burnt by the landlord farmer. A relative quickly decanted all of af Klint’s paintings and notebooks into wooden crates and stored them in a tin-roofed attic for the next thirty years.

In 1970, af Klint’s paintings were offered to the Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art) in Stockholm which was surprisingly (some might say foolishly) knocked back. Thankfully, through the perseverance of her family and the art historian Åke Fant, af Klint’s work was eventually exhibited in the 1980s. In total, Hilma af Klint painted over 1,200 abstract paintings and wrote some 23,000 words, all of which are now owned and managed by the Hilma af Klint Foundation.
 
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‘The Ten Largest #3’ (1907).
 
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‘The Ten Largest #4’ (1907).
 
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‘The Ten Largest #7.’ (1907).
 
More Abstract art from Hilma af Klint, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.30.2017
10:27 am
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Elvis Presley’s adventures in yoga and Eastern mysticism
08.11.2017
07:44 am
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Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley and Larry Geller on the set of ‘Spinout’ (via Bodhi Tree.com)
 
In the spring of 1964, Elvis’ hairdresser, Larry Geller, introduced him to the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. The founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship had a lasting impact on Elvis, who often visited the SRF’s Mt. Washington headquarters and Pacific Palisades retreat during his Hollywood years, and developed a close relationship with Yogananda’s successor, Sri Daya Mata.

Priscilla did not welcome the arrival of cosmic consciousness in her life with the King:

Larry was a total threat to us all. He would spend hours and hours and hours with Elvis, just talking to him, and he wasn’t anything that Elvis represented; he didn’t represent anything that Elvis had believed in prior to that time… [Elvis] read books studiously for hours and hours. He had conversations with Larry for hours and hours — he was going on a search for why we were here and who we were, the purpose of life; he was on a search with Larry to try to find it. You know, Larry would bring him books, books, books, piles of books. And Elvis would lay in bed at night and read them to me. That was the thing when you dealt with Elvis: if he had a passion for something, you had to go into it with him and show the same love he had for it. Or at least you had to pretend to.

Of course, these new enthusiasms were amplified by Elvis drugs. Not acid, so much—during the one trip Geller and Elvis took together, they ordered pizza and watched The Time Machine on TV—but friends observed troubling interactions between the King’s diet pills and his Kriya Yoga practice. From the second volume of Peter Guralnick’s Elvis biography:

He felt a new serenity in his life. To the guys it seemed more like madness, and they felt increasingly alienated, resentful, bewildered, and angry all at once. Elvis appeared to be leaving them with his almost daily visions, his tales of going off in a spaceship, his delusions of being able to turn the sprinkler system of the Bel Air Country Club golf course behind the house on and off with his thoughts, his conviction that he could cure them of everything from the common cold to more serious aches and pains by his healing powers.

 

 
Geller’s spiritual counsel did not endear him to Colonel Tom Parker. Guralnick reports Larry’s contention that one terrible number in 1967’s Easy Come, Easy Go was a clear message from the King’s manager:

The inclusion of the musical number “Yoga Is As Yoga Does,” which Elvis performed as a duet in Easy Come, Easy Go, was no accident, Larry felt, but intended, rather, as a direct insult to Elvis’ (and Larry’s) beliefs — but Elvis went ahead and recorded it anyway. Only after the scene in which it was included was shot did Elvis finally react. It was then, in Larry’s account, that Elvis “stormed into the trailer, shouting, ‘That son of a bitch! He knows, and he did it! He told those damn writers what to do, and he’s making me do this.’”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.11.2017
07:44 am
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Naughty Nuns: Vintage nun porn from the classic tale ‘The Nun’ & more (NSFW or church)

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Denis Diderot might sound like the name of some superstar French soccer player but it is in fact the name of a famous Enlightenment writer, philosopher, and playwright, who might do you good getting to know.

Diderot (1713-84) had the smarts. Apart from all his fancy writing, Diderot was also co-founder, editor and contributor of Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts), or the Encyclopedia. His intention was to make information and knowledge available to all—well, at least to all those who could read that is. Diderot and his buddies wanted to break the superstitious rule of religion over their fellow citizens. To this end, he was always asking difficult questions of religious believers, gently poking fun, and writing controversial philosophical tracts on the question of God, belief, design, and all that.

Take, for example, his book The Skeptic’s Walk which featured a deist, a pantheist, and an atheist out on convivial perambulation together where each offered up their thoughts on God, the universe, and so forth. Due to its content, the book was not published in Diderot’s lifetime. It was long believed the only copy of Diderot’s original handwritten text had been confiscated by the police not long after its completion in 1752. Thankfully, it turned out that Diderot had another copy (told you he was smart) which was eventually published in 1830.

Anyway, you’re not here to read about Enlightenment philosophy, you’re here to see naughty nuns, and we’ll get to that shortly, well, unless of course you’ve already scrolled past all of this and are getting an eyeful below. Good luck with that. That’s kinda like people who “Like” things on Facebook but never click the fucking link. But let’s get back to Diderot.

You see, Diderot was also a bit of a scallywag and a wit. He had a propensity for pranking his buddies which on one occasion led to his infamous work of literature, La Religieuse or The Nun.

The Nun all started when Diderot was miffed over the loss of one of his drinking buddies who had moved out of Paris and back to some big fancy country estate in Normandy. To draw him back to Paris, Diderot started writing his pal (Marquis de Croismare) a series of letters purportedly from a nun called Suzanne Simonin. This young lady had been forcibly sent to a nunnery by her greedy and ungrateful family—a common occurrence at the time—where she found herself preyed upon by sadistic lesbian Abbess of Ste-Eutrope.

The Marquis on receiving these missives from such an unfortunate young woman, wrote back offering his help. Diderot continued the ruse until the Marquis demanded to meet with the young lady to get her free from her imprisonment in the convent, at which point Diderot wrote a final letter from another fictional character claiming the young girl was dead. Later, when all was revealed, the Marquis found the whole prank “hilarious,” as he had acted honorably throughout. (I’m guessing that this was expressed with more of a nervous titter than an outright LOL-style guffaw.)

The correspondence started an idea in Diderot’s head to write a book based on his letters and this became La Religieuse. Published twelve years after his death in 1796, The Nun became a scandalous hit. Obviously tame by today’s standards, the book’s notoriety continued right up to the 1960s when filmmaker Jacques Rivette made a movie of The Nun which was banned by French authorities after the Catholic Church ran a letter-writing campaign to have the film stopped. Rivette’s rather dull movie went on to be nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

I’ve never quite got the whole nuns as sex objects thing—maybe the attraction for some is the frisson of deflowering someone who is supposedly betrothed to the Son of God. Or simply a manifestation of “hot for teacher” for lapsed Catholics? Many nuns were forced into convents against their will (like the character in Diderot’s book), and many (even today ) had the sexual attentions of priests and bishops forced upon them against their will. When Aldous Huxley pointed out that the grounds of some convents were littered with the skeletons of dead babies it is as if he is landing the blame solely with the women. This kind of selective blindness never equates male desire and sex with the consequences of pregnancy or disease.

In 1947, Paul-Émile Bécat produced a series of illustrations for Diderot’s The Nun. DM’s featured Bécat’s work before, and he had a highly respected reputation as an artist and for illustrating some of the most infamous and famous books of French literarture—see more here. This small selection mainly features on the nuns Bécat drew for Diderot’s book and some other works.
 
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More sacrilegious nun action, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.04.2017
10:42 am
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The Doors’ last charting single, ‘The Mosquito,’ as marketed by Presbyterians on Christian radio
06.15.2017
09:54 am
Topics:
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One hears a lot of contrary opinions, spending year after year in the orbit of musicians, record collectors, and resentful nerds. That the Beatles “sucked” before they started dropping acid; that the Sex Pistols weren’t a “real” punk band; that Robert Plant or Jimmy Page (!) or John Bonham was the “weak link” in Led Zeppelin; that Henry Rollins ruined Black Flag; that Bill Ward did not play the drums well in Black Sabbath; that Robert Fripp can’t take a solo; that the Doors would have been great if not for Jim Morrison. It feels so good to hold contrary opinions, and it feels best when they are incorrect! “Fuck you, the truth, my will is very big!”

Anyone who’s worked in a record store for even a few weeks should have a ready answer to the complaint about the Doors. “Right this way! I’ve got just the thing for the sophisticated palate of a discerning head such as yourself. Sir or madam, you are going to love these albums the Doors made after Jim took his terminal bath, Other Voices and Full Circle. Really paved the way for Robby and John’s later work in the Butts Band! Now let me show you our $100 wall copy of the Velvet Underground’s Squeeze...”

Robby Krieger is a supremely gifted guitarist and songwriter. He wrote “Wishful Sinful,” one of the Doors’ loveliest songs, all by himself. So I imagine it was kind of disappointing when, the Lizard King having abdicated his fleshly throne, it was Krieger’s turn to sing, and out came such sub-Jimmy Buffett entertainments as “Variety Is the Spice of Life” and “I’m Horny, I’m Stoned.” Then again, there was probably plenty of disappointment to go around in 1972.
 

 
“The Mosquito” was a worthy sequel to those efforts. Krieger’s Latin-inflected update of “Wake Up Little Susie” made it to #85 on the Billboard Hot 100 with lyrics that flatly contradicted “Break on Through”:

No me moleste mosquito
No me moleste mosquito
No me moleste mosquito

Why don’t you go home?

No me moleste mosquito
Let me eat my burrito
No me moleste mosquito
Why don’t you go home?

(They also contradict a significant line in Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Jim wants all of “us” to go out and “get some tacos”; Robby wants to be left alone with “his” burrito. Why are you trying to close the stable doors of perception when the horse of subjectivity has already bolted, dude???)

Incredibly, just three years after Miami and a single year after Jim’s death from la bebida and la droga, the “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!” band was endorsed by the Presbyterians. Ray Manzarek gave an interview to TRAV, the Television, Radio and Audio-Visual Committee of the U.S. Presbyterian Church, which produced “What’s It All About?”, a series of “religious public service programming” promo records profiling musicians. (Can’t wait to hear the one they made with DEVO.) In ‘72, TRAV issued discs promoting the Doors’ pretty “Ships with Sails,” from Other Voices, and Full Circle‘s “The Mosquito.”

I’ve only heard the episode of “What’s It All About?” embedded here, and it’s weird…

Listen after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.15.2017
09:54 am
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From comic book to art gallery: The brilliant and beautiful art of James Jean
05.08.2017
03:00 pm
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‘Bouquet’ (2016).
 
My closest, kindest and best friend has a family motto, “Per ardua surgo.” “I rise through difficulties/difficult things.” It’s a sentiment that could easily apply to the brilliant artist James Jean, who has risen through his own personal difficulties to achieve incredible success as an artist and designer. What could be more personal than an unnecessarily long, painful, and acrimonious divorce where a spouse refuses to settle? This is what apparently happened to Jean. His ex-wife refused to settle, leaving the artist allegedly penniless, homeless, utterly depressed and “neutered.” Eventually, Jean had to move overseas where he lived on “subsistence and barter.” Yet, even when his art was being commodified by lawyers as potential future assets, Jean kept drawing, kept painting, and kept illustrating his way through.

Jean first came to prominence as a commercial artist and cover illustrator for comic books like Batgirl, the Green Arrow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and most spectacularly Fables. His awe-inspiring work earned Jean a sackful of prizes including seven Eisner awards, three consecutive Harvey awards, and a row of gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators in both Los Angeles and New York. He has also collaborated on designs for Prada.

With such a prodigious and prolific talent it was perhaps inevitable that Jean made the switch from comic books to art galleries in a series of beautiful and brilliant prints and paintings in mixed media and oils which he has been exhibited in group and solo shows since 2001.

James Jean was born in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1979, and raised in New Jersey. As a youngster, he has said he was more interested in playing the trumpet than making art. This changed under the tutelage of his high school teachers, Steve Assael, Thomas Woodruff and Jim McMullan, who recognized his artistic talent. Their encouragement inspired Jean to enroll at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1997, where he engaged with various different techniques before developing his own intricate and recognizable style. He graduated in 2001 and then began his career with DC Comics.

I think James Jean is one of the major artists of the twenty-first century who is in a direct line from Warhol, Hockney, and Koons, and further back to Dali and Picasso. The range of Jean’s work—in its diversity of technique, style, and subject—is virtually unparalleled. His oeuvre includes minutely detailed almost hallucinogenic sketches like “Samurai” to more traditional portraiture and Surreal digital work like “Aides Lapin,” to his progressive pop art of canvases like “Sprinkler” or “Bouquet.”

When once asked what advice to give young, budding artists Jean replied:

“Keep making work even if you don’t know what you have to say. You’ll only find your voice through the struggle.”

Jean has found has certainly found his voice.

See more of James Jean’s work here.
 
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‘Good Lord’ (2016).
 
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‘Flip’ (2006).
 
See more fabulous art by James Jean, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.08.2017
03:00 pm
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‘A flying saucer landing in Heaven’: The ecstatic music of Alice Coltrane is revealed
05.03.2017
10:25 am
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Photo by Sri Hari Moss

Filled with sorrow after the death of her husband in 1967, Alice Coltrane experienced visions, weight loss and insomnia before beginning on a path of Eastern spirituality. First she sought out the famed Woodstock festival-opening yoga adept Swami Satchidinanda (who’d begun on his own spiritual journey after the young death of his wife) and later the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. Largely leaving the secular world and the music business behind by the mid-70s, Coltrane established her Vedantic Center spiritual community as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1976. She took the name Turiyasangitananda (Sanskrit for “the bliss of God’s highest song”) and performed the swamini duties as the spiritual leader of the Sai Anantam Ashram which was established in Agoura Hills, California in 1983.

Encouraged by her children to buy a synthesizer, Coltrane performed devotional music during formal and informal Sunday morning ceremonies at the 48-acre monastery. It was also the first time that she would sing, because God had told her to. Solo and group chanting with community members was accompanied by her harp, organ and synthesizers, Eastern and African percussion, and handclaps. Over time this evolved into complexly structured compositions—traditional Vedic and Sanskrit mantras filtered through the sensibilities and nervous system of a great female African-American musical genius from Detroit who’d been raised on gospel—which Coltrane laid to tape with the assistance of her longtime studio engineer Baker Bigsby, who she’d worked with since 1972’s World Galaxy. Four cassettes—Turiya Sings, Divine Songs, Infinite Chants, and Glorious Chants—were privately released to members of the ashram from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. The music heard on these tapes was not made with any sort of commercial purpose in mind—apparently only a few hundred were ever duplicated—but solely for use by the members of the ashram, so that they could tap into the divine by way of the Swamini’s music—-described as sounding like “a flying saucer landing in Heaven”—any time they wanted to, just by popping a tape into their SONY Walkmans.

Tomorrow David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label will release a compilation culled from these rarely heard cassettes The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, the first installment in their World Spirituality Classics series. In my household, this is an event. When the album advance arrived in the post over the weekend, I’d already been impatiently looking forward to it for over a month. I’ve been an Alice Coltrane fanatic for many years—I’ve even been to the ashram, twice—and I’d already been all over the extensive press website that Luaka Bop had prepared for the release, but I didn’t want to listen to any of it before the record was in my hands. I’d requested a vinyl copy as I wanted to smoke a big fat joint, kick back in the dark with headphones on and fully absorb this epic bounty.
 

Photo by Sri Hari Moss

The packaging is stunning and sturdy—befitting and respectful of what’s waiting inside—with a gorgeous colorful photo of the matriarch Turiya, looking wise and beautiful in her orange robes, surrounded by members of the community, many of them children. The liner notes are exceptional, featuring quotes from several people who were involved with the ashram including her children and her great-nephew Steven “Flying Lotus” Ellison, a musical visionary in his own right. The vinyl pressing is particularly noteworthy, with Baker Bigsby having supervised the tape transfer from the original recordings and the exquisite 1/2 speed mastering done by Paul Stubblebine. You know how you can hold certain platters in your hands and just look at the grooves and know for certain you’re about to hear something that will sound really, really good? This is one of those records. If The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda doesn’t get nominated for all kinds of Grammy awards, then these awards would be meaningless. On every level—including, or even especially, the religious one—it’s an achievement.

Even if you are not a spiritually-minded person, it’s plain to see that this isn’t bullshit.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.03.2017
10:25 am
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