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‘Where’s Warhol?’: See if you can find the elusive white-haired pop art master
10:02 am



Little could cement Andy Warhol’s status as the world’s number-one free-floating, all-purpose signifier of “the art world” more convincingly than the recent publication of Where’s Warhol? by Catharine Ingram and Andrew Rae just a couple of weeks ago by Laurence King.

The playful, dense book is an obvious homage to the Where’s Waldo? series of books by Martin Handford that were an enormous sensation in the 1980s and 1990s. (In the U.K., where the books originated, the books were called Where’s Wally?)

A fact that was most likely not as easily apprehended as Waldo’s red-and-white winter hat was that Handford’s books represented a culmination of an artistic tradition known as the “Wimmelbilderbuch,” a German term that is roughly translated as “teeming picture book.” Richard Scarry was probably the most popular practitioner of the Wimmelbilderbuch, but the tradition has surprisingly deep roots, encompassing such visionary geniuses as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

The creators of Where’s Warhol? appear to be acutely aware of the Wimmelbilderbuch tradition, as one of their most enchanting spreads is a riff on Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, retitled simply “The Garden of Artistic Delights”:

The tableau is simply overflowing with references to the art world. Just in a few seconds I can spot references to Basquiat, Haring, Dalí, Koons, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Gilbert & George. I’d love to know what I’m missing!

In each panel, the task is to pore over the image and detect the acknowledged master of pop art, always wearing a white-and-blue striped shirt and always wearing sunglasses (you can usually tell the decoys because they aren’t wearing the sunglasses).

Here’s a marvelous panel with Warhol and some pals at Studio 54:

As Carey Dunne of Hyperallergic points out, the fun of detecting the well-known personages in the panels actually is a pretty decent analogue for Warhol’s own celebrity-drenched life.
Several more panels to look at, after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Bodily Fluids: A Visual Guide to Embalming from 1897
09:44 am



I attended a lot of funerals when I was a kid. A consequence of coming from a large extended Catholic family. My father was the eldest of nine children—he outlived them all. During my childhood, his brothers and sisters, and a few of their cousins and kin, died within a very short time of each other. My mother came from a small Protestant family. Her parents, uncles and aunts lived longer than my father’s kin, but when they died they fell within a year or two of each other.

At most of these funerals the body of the deceased was displayed in an open casket—either in a chapel of rest or at home where the family said decades of the rosary around the coffin. Seeing a corpse never seemed strange—death was part of life. The only thing that did seem odd was the strange almost pained expressions on the faces of the deceased. I put this down to their being embalmed—but never quite understood what this entailed or how the undertakers managed to keep the deceased’s eyes closed or their mouths shut.

When my beloved great aunt died, the undertaker left a few startling clues to the secret processes of making a corpse presentable.

Although she wore little make-up, someone had rendered her as an embarrassed spinster ashamed for causing such an unnecessary to-do. Her cheeks were flaming red, her lips fuchsia pink and her eyelids a cheapening smear of blue. This was a portrait of my great aunt by a Sunday painter overly influenced by Henri Matisse—it was garish and bright. Her eyes seemed wrong—flat and squint. I later found out eyelids are glued closed or covered with a flesh-colored plastic skin. Her mouth was pursed and I saw a telltale crimson thread with which her lips (her jaw) had been sewn or looped shut. Her hair was flat, as if she had been sleeping on her side. It wasn’t how my great aunt—ever meticulous and precise in her presentation—would have wanted to be remembered.

Embalming has been carried out by humans for some 5,000 to 6,000 years. The Egyptians made the greatest use of it—believing the preservation of a body somehow empowered the spirit after death. The brain and vital organs were scooped out and stored in jars. The interior of the corpse rubbed with herbs and preservatives before being wrapped in layers of linen cloth. Similar methods of embalming were carried out across Africa, Europe and China.

The modern methods of embalming developed as a result of discoveries made by the English physician William Harvey in the 1600s. Harvey determined the process of blood circulation by injecting fluids into corpses. Based on Harvey’s experimentation, two Scottish doctors William and John Hunter developed the process of embalming in the 1700s—offering their services to the public.

However, it was the slaughter caused during the American Civil War that led to embalming becoming popular with the public as families of soldiers killed on the battlefield wanted their loved ones’ bodies preserved for burial.

In 1897, Eliab Myers, M.D. and F. A. Sullivan wrote The Champion Text Book on Embalming. This book offered “Lecturers and Demonstrators in the Champion College of Embalming.” It was produced by the Champion Company from Springfield, Ohio, which manufacture equipment for use in embalming.

The Champion Text Book on Embalming gave the user a history of its subject and illustrated step-by-step guide to the process of successful embalming. From the draining of blood and bodily fluids to the dissection and removal of internal organs. The process explained in these atmospheric photographic plates is virtually the same as it is today.
Fig. 15 Raising the brachial artery.
Fig. 16 Injecting the arterial system through the radial artery.
Fig. 17 Aspirating blood from the heart.
More tips on dealing with corpses from 19th century embalming techniques, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Dying Words: Henry Miller’s last interview, 1980
11:25 am



Henry Miller was always looking for something though he never seemed to find it. Throughout his life the author of cult favorites Tropic of Capricorn and The Tropic of Cancer signed-up for various philosophies and crackpot ideas but inevitably canceled his subscription. He was always willing to believe any kook who claimed to have a knowledge of god, the afterlife, the cosmos or some esoteric wisdom. Miller was willing to give anything a go. At least for a little while.

He tried Madame Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society. He half-believed Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” of the seven planes of existence and the seven cycles through which everything moves—which she claimed came via a secret brotherhood of Mahatmas in Tibet—until Miller “discovered” Blavatsky had invented the whole thing and forged the correspondence with her spiritual guides Koot Hoomi and Mahatma Morya.

In his youth, Miller latched onto the teachings of the former Evangelist preacher Benjamin Fay Mills like “a drowning man.” Miller later explained the preacher’s teachings offered him was a brief respite from his “battle” with his own libidinous sexual desire.

In the 1950s, Miller was convinced “flying saucers” were about to invade Earth. He thought the US government was covering up their knowledge of UFOs and extraterrestrials. Miller corresponded with ufologists ‘fessin’ up his own experience of seeing flying saucers (two objects twinkling in the sky) and witnessing them “far out on the horizon, at dawn, and without aid of glasses.”

Miller was a “cosmic tourist.” He visited “...the Scientology of L. Ron Hubbard, the apocalyptic studies of the Essenes, Christian Science, Kahlil Gibran, White Witchcraft and the modern hinduism of Sri Ramakrishna.” He dabbled with astrology and Buddhism, and was suckered by the conman guru “Lobsang Rampa” who wrote a book titled The Third Eye describing his spiritual life and upbringing in Tibet—but Rampa turned out to be a plumber from Devon called Cyril Hoskin who had never once set foot outside England.

Yet Miller never felt cheated by these cranks. He was open-minded about everything and was never dispirited, disappointed or angered when he found out he’d been conned by yet another New Age charlatan. Miller’s view was simple:

Any theory, any idea, any speculation can augment the zest for life so long as one dies not make the mistake of thinking that he is getting somewhere.

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Armageddon Rag,’ George R.R. Martin’s rock-and-roll occult fantasy novel
12:13 pm



In 1983 Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin published a standalone novel drenched in classic rock that featured the following: a sorceress marshaling a menacing army of loyal warriors, a faithful direwolf cut down in the act of protecting its master, and a scary henchman of well-nigh mountain-ous stature.

The book is called The Armageddon Rag, and a perusal of the synopses of his other pre-Song of Ice and Fire output leads me to the conclusion that the book is Martin’s most realistic novel and surely represents his most sustained homage to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien—unless, of course, the still-uncompleted Westeros/Essos series qualifies.

It also doesn’t really work.

According to the author, The Armageddon Rag nearly sank Martin’s career—and also (HBO subscribers, rejoice) prompted the writer to investigate the possibilities of writing for television.

There aren’t that many successful novels about the rock and roll life, and Martin should be credited for writing one that is at least coherent and absorbing. The book, produced in the early 1980s, is suffused with love and nostalgia for the fallen heroes of Boomer rock and roll—Joplin, Hendrix, Morrison, etc.—and every bit as angry at the debasement of the original Sixties dream as, say, The Big Chill, with which it is almost exactly contemporaneous.

At the time, Kirkus Reviews found it to be “simpleminded, heavy-going nostalgia for the Sixties-rock counterculture with a murky mixture of psycho-whodunit, conspiracy-thriller, and ... vague occultery,” which is certainly somewhat accurate. The Armageddon Rag reads like an uneasy mashup of Don DeLillo’s Great Jones Street and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, without being as good as either. The book it really reminded me of is Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy, which is an essential read but in truth, a very flawed model for fiction.

The full title of the book is The Armageddon Rag: A Stereophonic Long-Playing Novel. On top of its disappointing initial sales totals, the book had the bad luck to come out at a time when post-punk and MTV were redefining the rock and roll landscape—and by definition permitting frustrated Boomers to redefine their relationship to the rock and roll dream, a possibility of which seems never to have occurred to Martin. (He’s too busy castigating his protagonist for driving a fancy Mazda and wringing his hands over the sellout of Hedgehog, a counterculture magazine modeled on Rolling Stone.)

The protagonist is Sandy Blair, a counterculture journalist who came of age at Northwestern during the Vietnam protests. The pivotal band of the book is called the Nazgûl, whose galvanizing career was abruptly cut short in 1971 in a JFK-style assassination of its lead singer at West Mesa, New Mexico—kind of like Altamont times a hundred. Several years later their avaricious Allen Klein-esque manager is brutally murdered, prompting Sandy to give up his dreary novel-in-progress and track down the killer in the guise of a correspondent for Hedgehog, a decision that eventually brings him into the fold of Edan Morse, a sinister figure from the world of radical underground politics. Morse’s plan is to reunite the Nazgûl—including the slain singer—for a truly millennial concert tour that will (somehow) permit all the original revolutionary Sixties ideals to finally reach their most realized form.

George R.R. Martin as a younger man
Along the way we meet, in addition to the members of the Nazgûl and Morse’s intimidating squad, many of Sandy’s old protest-era chums, each of whom has given up on or failed to embody those original ideals in various ways.

The novel is dedicated to a loooong list of Boomer rock heroes, and every chapter starts with an epigraph from a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead, and so on.

Much like Stephen King, whose blurb adorns the cover, Martin is blessed with a writing style combines great strengths and great weaknesses—it’s terrifically legible and vivid while also riddled with cliches and clunkiness. Here’s a representative passage:

“Yeah,” Sandy said. “Maybe that’s all. Maybe I’m just going through a mid-life crisis, right? Mourning my lost youth. Sharon thinks so.” He looked at Maggie stubbornly. “I don’t buy it, though. It’s more than that. I remember ... I remember, hell, I know things were shitty then, we had the war, and racism, and Nixon and old Spiro, but you know, we also had ... I dunno ... a kind of optimism. We knew the future was going to get better. We knew it. We were going to make it so. We were going to change things around, and we had the youth, right, so time was on our side. We knew what was right and what was wrong, and we knew who the bad guys were, and there was a sense of belonging.” His voice got quieter as he spoke, winding down of its own accord. “It was the dawning of the goddamned fucking Age of Aquarius, remember? When peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars. Only peace and love sort of went out with bell-bottoms and long hair and miniskirts, and I sure as hell can’t tell who the bad guys are anymore.” He grimaced. “I think some of them are us.”

Fans of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire who recall the bloodbath of the Red Wedding and the prolonged sadism of Ramsay Bolton will find familiar Martin’s inherent pessimism and taste for brutality, but even I was unprepared for the obsessive recurrence of images of people “sweating blood” or otherwise being “drenched” in blood. It’s the strangest damn thing, it comes up again and again.

As for Tolkien, it won’t surprise anyone that Martin is a huge fan of his work. Not only are the main Doors-ish act called the Nazgûl, after Tolkien’s memorable Black Riders, but there are many other references strewn about. For instance, the dog mentioned above is called Balrog, and Sauron and the Eye of Mordor both get a few mentions. This book is marinated in a deep love of Tolkien’s visionary worlds.

Ultimately, setting an occult novel in something like the real world didn’t really work for Martin—Neil Gaiman is far better at that sort of thing. The failure of The Armageddon Rag may have led Martin to realize that he needed to create a fake-Earth all his own to play with, and we are all grateful for that.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Essential Paul Laffoley’ is the most mind-boggling coffee table art book of 2016 (or any year)
04:12 pm



Okay, okay so although I could probably definitely be accused of bias—the volume in question here is about a dear friend of nearly twenty years and edited by another close friend of exactly the same vintage (plus I blurbed it)—I strongly feel that the recent University of Chicago Press book The Essential Paul Laffoley: Works from the Boston Visionary Cell edited by Douglas Walla is a “document of seismic cultural importance.” I’m quoting myself here, but fuck it: I’m right.

When Paul Laffoley died last November at the age of 80, he left behind a vast archive of mind-boggling, awe-inspiring work. Huge paintings, elaborate drawings, models, handwritten journals, architectural blueprints, sci-fi inventions, essays. He was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, although few people are aware of this fact. An eccentric genius to be sure, but a true Mount Olympus-level genius is what he was, make no mistake about it. This isn’t merely my opinion, it’s more a matter of objective fact. In due course—and I’m certain of this—the rest of the world is going to figure it out, too. I say this in all seriousness: The man was the Leonardo of our time. History will bear my bold statement out. (If you disagree, you just don’t know what you are talking about. See what I did there?)

But don’t worry, in the coming years the human race is going to figure this all out—of this I have complete confidence—and The Essential Paul Laffoley: Works from the Boston Visionary Cell will be the cornerstone of all future academic scholarship about the man, it’s both “Paul Laffoley 101” and the graduate level course in one volume. It was put together—a product of pure love and admiration—by the world’s #1 undisputed authority on the great artist’s work. Over the course of the past three decades, Paul Laffoley has been represented by Douglas Walla at Kent Fine Art in New York City. In a career going back to the 1970s, Walla has worked with artists like Francis Bacon, Richard Artschwager, Dorothea Tanning and Llyn Foulkes. He’s brokered deals for Giacometti’s, Picabia’s, Richter’s, Duchamp’s and even a few Rodins. In the cutthroat business of the New York art world, you couldn’t find a finer man than Doug.

The world isn’t always kind to the type of eccentric individual that Paul Laffoley was. History will record how very lucky he was to have met Douglas Walla when he did because otherwise he might have died in obscurity, instead of seeing vast museum-level surveys of his work mounted in London, Berlin and Paris during the final years of his life.

I sent Douglas Walla a few questions via email over the weekend and he sent them back to me this morning

Richard Metzger: How long did it take to prepare the book? 

Douglas Walla: The short answer is 27 years.

When I made the first studio visit to Paul’s Bromfield Street studio—the Boston Visionary Cell—in 1986, he was already working on Thanaton III. The lettering as such was not yet added, but it was certainly well underway.  I arrived at 10 am, and Paul immediately launched into a major—and almost trance-inducing—meditation on the manifestations of the painting. The next thing I knew, it was 2:00 pm, and thinking I had a plane to catch back to NYC at 6, I said, “How about that other painting?”  He simply said, “I’m not done yet” (meaning he wasn’t done with his explication of Thanaton III). So flying home, I thought, I need to do a book.  As a postscript, Thanaton III appears in the book published in 1989, but the lettering still had not yet been added.

I returned with a tape recorder, and I recorded “The Dream as the Initiation” which became chapter one of The Phenomenology of Revelation.  In all, between Paul, myself, and Jeanne Marie Wasilik, we recorded about 25 hours of dialogue with Paul, and that was edited down to eight chapters that would become the first book on Paul for which I acted as photo editor vetting the subjects touched upon, and Tony Morgan took a free hand in designing the final publication.

In the process, I developed a template we called a “thought form,” believing that the understanding of each individual work would be enhanced by a linguistic text plate to help the viewer more easily see what Paul was thinking. A complicated caption.

After the book was finished, I continued to work with Paul over the next twenty years compiling a thought form for each work we discussed.  So the archive progressed, and we paid particular attention getting good photography for each work, in that there was mounting interest in READING the paintings as they appeared in reproduction.

Paul and I collaborated for over 25 years building this archive, with the hopes of printing (analog) a catalogue raisonne of his work, and not placing it on the internet. I had the misfortune of posting 80 entries several years ago only to have it all copied, posted to another website unknown to me, and having the carefully edited texts violated and changed, and having his work reduced to collage, snippets, montages, wallpaper, etc.  So a book stands as a valid authority on the topic of Paul’s work without alterations by others.

Richard Metzger: How many additional paintings and drawings didn’t make the cut?

Douglas Walla: In that Paul never kept records of what he finished, when presented with the invitation by the University of Chicago Press to publish a monograph on Paul, I realized that a “Complete Works” book was almost impossible. There would always be other works coming to the surface, although I would state that only about 10 such works have come to my attention in the last decade. The format that was workable, conceptually as well as intellectually, was The Essential Paul Laffoley chronicling 100 works. 

What was left out were many of what Paul termed “nudes,” which were paintings without text. Further, there were commissioned works such as Hank Williams, and the Elvis series which do not appear, and many of the architectural three dimensional models he made which were in disrepair.  There was also Rubaiyat (75 sketches) that I only became aware of after death, and his uncompleted tarot deck which he worked on to the end, along with what would have been a major work entitled The Garden of Earthly Death.  There were ten large scale canvases unfinished at his death, and approximately 27 paintings that were unsigned, untitled, undated and never shown, all of which are omitted from the publication.

Richard Metzger: How would you describe your relationship with Paul? Obviously you were his gallerist and representative for decades, his close friend, his patron and #1 fan—you not only told the world about him, you actually invested a lot of money in his career, publishing his book when he was a complete unknown and so he that wouldn’t have to work and could produce more work. I’ve never said this to you before, but I always saw you as being the father figure in the relationship. Despite Paul being many years older than you, there was something childlike about him. The way you looked after him always seemed very paternal to me, but I want to hear your take on it.

Douglas Walla: The thing we all learned about Paul was his extreme generosity in terms of patience, good humor, and intimidating intellect.  Always pushing the outside of the envelope so to speak, I was endlessly challenged and stimulated by our association. He was a friend, and a pleasure, and gracious.  As his physical health began to deteriorate (and I think I was in denial that he was on a path to his final congestive heart failure), I became his travelmate certainly by 2009. When he injured himself in 2001—he fell off a ladder—I became his medical proxy sorting through extremely complicated medical issues concerning his diabetes and the impact it had in devastating his cardiovascular system.  Of course one of his legs was amputated. So by 2009, I tried to get him to all the things he longed to see and visit including Neuschwanstein, Dornach, Eiffel’s Apartment at the top of the Tower, the Space Needle—his bucket list. 

The only thing on that list he never saw was the completed book.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
An 18th century guide to sex positions
09:58 am



I Modi or The Ways was a book of engravings depicting sixteen sexual positions. Think of it as The Joy of Sex for Renaissance times. The book, also known as The Sixteen Pleasures, was published by the engraver Marcantonio Raimondi in 1524. Raimondi based his explicit illustrations on a series of erotic privately owned paintings by Giulio Romano. The book was widely circulated. It led to the first prosecution for pornography by the Catholic church. Raimondi was imprisoned by Pope Clement VII. All copies of the book were destroyed.

Our story doesn’t end there, as the poet and satirist Pietro Aretino heard of the book and wished to see Romano’s original paintings. Interestingly, Romano was not prosecuted by the Pope as his paintings (unlike Raimondi’s book) were not meant for public consumption. Aretino decided to write a series of erotic sonnets to accompany the paintings. He also successfully campaigned to have Raimondi released from prison.

In 1527, a second edition of I Modi was published with Aretino’s sonnets. Once again the Pope banned the book and all copies were destroyed—only a few small fragments of I Modi or Aretino’s Postures survive which are held at the British Museum.

In 1798 a completely new version of I Modi was published in France under the title L’Arétin d’Augustin Carrache ou Recueil de Postures Érotiques, d’Après les Gravures à l’Eau-Forte par cet Artiste Célèbre, Avec le Texte Explicatif des Sujets (The ‘Aretino’ of Agostino Carracci, or a collection of erotic poses, after Carracci’s engravings, by this famous artist, with the explicit texts on the subject) based on engravings by Baroque painter Agostini Carracci was published.

These 18th century engravings mixed classical myth and history within a contemporary setting—though their intention is still the same—to arouse and “educate” users to the joys of sex.
The frontispiece to the book the goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility Venus descending on a chariot.
Husband and wife Paris and Oenone try out penetration side-by-side.
Angelique and Medor—two characters from the opera ‘Roland’—perform the ‘reverse cowgirl,’ although they probably had a different name for it back then.
More sex positions of the 18th century, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
That time Jack Kerouac asked Marlon Brando to make a movie of ‘On the Road’ 1957
11:55 am



It’s fair to say most writers would like a movie made of their books—it’s a way of reaching a far greater audience and pegging a stake on fame, fortune and celluloid immortality. To this end, some writers often dream up a cast list of their favorite actors who they think are best suited to play the fictional characters they’ve created. Though of course this rarely happens as box office clout always beats artistic sensibilities when it comes to casting.

In September 1957, Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road was published to great and immediate acclaim. Film studios clamored to option the book. Warner Brothers expressed an interest as did Paramount, but Kerouac had his own ideas.

The Beat author wanted Marlon Brando to make a movie of On the Road. He thought Method actor Brando was perfect for the central role of Dean Moriarty. Kerouac was ambitious enough to consider himself for the role of his fictional alter ego and Moriarty’s sidekick Sal Paradise. Brando was a hot property. He was considered perhaps the greatest actor of his generation and had been nominated five times for an Academy Award—winning one for his performance in On the Waterfront in 1954. It was a big ask, but Kerouac was hopeful.

“Dear Marlon,” his letter began:

I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it. Don’t worry about the structure, I know to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give a perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak. I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I’ll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I’ll show you how Dean acts in real life, you couldn’t possibly imagine it without seeing a good imitation. Fact, we can go visit him in Frisco, or have him come down to L.A. still a real frantic cat but nowadays settled down with his final wife saying the Lord’s Prayer with his kiddies at night… as you’ll see when you read the play BEAT GENERATION. All I want out of this is to be able to establish myself and by mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go roaming around the world writing about Japan, India, France etc… I Want to be free to write what comes out of my head & free to feed my buddies when they’re hungry & not worry about my mother.

Incidentally, my next novel is THE SUBTERRANEANS coming out in N.Y. next March and is about a love affair between a white guy and a colored girl and is a very hep story. Some of the characters in it you know in the Village (Stanley Gould etc.) It easily could be turned into a play, easier than ON THE ROAD.

What I wanta do is re-do the theater and the cinema in America, give it a spontaneous dash, remove pre-conceptions of “situation” and let people rave on as they do in real life. That’s what the play is: no plot in particular, no “meaning” in particular, just the way people are. Everything I write I do in the spirit where I imagine myself an Angel returned to the earth seeing it with sad eyes as it is. I know you approve of these ideas, & incidentally the new Frank Sinatra show is based on “spontaneous” too, which is the only way to come on anyway, whether in business or life. The French movies of the 30’s are still far superior to ours because the French really let their actors come on and the writers didn’t quibble with some preconceived notion of how intelligent the movie audience is, they talked soul from soul and everybody understood at once. I want to make great French Movies in America, finally, when I’m rich… American theater & Cinema at present is an outmoded dinosaur that ain’t mutated along with the best in American Literature.

If you really want to go ahead, make arrangements to see me in New York when next you come, or if you’re going to FLorida here I am, but what we should do is talk about this because I prophesy that it’s going to be the beginning of something real great. I’m bored nowadays and I’m looking around for something to do in the world, anyway — writing novels is getting too easy, same with plays, I wrote the play in 24 hours.

Come on now, Marlon, put up your dukes and write!

Sincerely, later, Jack Kerouac

This letter was only discovered after Brando died in July 2004. Helen Hall was tasked by auction house Christie’s to visit the actor’s home on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles and select property to include in an auction of his estate.

Hall spent around ten days at Brando’s house sifting through his personal effects “with a fine tooth comb.”  The most valuable thing she had found was an annotated copy of Brando’s script for The Godfather tucked away with all his other movie memorabilia in a bunker in the garden. Hall thought this was the best she would find. On her tenth day at the house, Hall and her team searched through the very last room on their list—Brando’s office.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Criterion of shit movies’: Arrow Video’s lionization of lowbrow
10:25 am



“Take a little piece of my heart”—Still from “Bride of Reanimator”
My primary job here at Dangerous Minds is to essentially say “Here, look at this cool thing”—a job I’m well-suited for because it’s something I generally find myself doing anyway. Lately, I find that when I’m telling friends about whatever cool new thing that’s fascinating me at the moment, more and more often it’s some cool new thing that came down the pike from Arrow Films.

The U.K.‘s Arrow Films has been making a name for itself the past few years with their tricked-out DVD and Blu-Ray issues of cult horror films, westerns, science fiction, sex comedies, yakuza epics and neo-noirs.  Arrow sits alongside Grindhouse Releasing and Mondo Macabro as the holy trinity of digital video companies specializing in genre films. All three companies go above and beyond the call of duty with attention to detail in their transfers and bonus materials. Arrow has very quickly become my favorite, though, and I recently described them in conversation as “The Criterion of Shit Movies.”

To be perfectly honest, some of their packages put Criterion’s fine work to shame.

I wrote here recently about one of my favorite ‘80s slasher movies, The Mutilator, which just got the deluxe treatment from Arrow. For a relatively unknown (outside of cult horror-fan circles) low-budget splatter film, Arrow went totally balls-out on the double-disc release with a beautiful 2K restoration of the unrated version of the film (from the only surviving intact print that they managed to track down at the Library of Congress) and a slew of extras, including a feature-length documentary on the making of the film. The amount of love poured into this single release is remarkable when you consider that fans of the film (which had been previously unreleased on a digital format) would have bought the thing whether or not they had produced a documentary or recorded audio commentaries, or loaded it up with behind-the-scenes footage. They didn’t have to go the extra-mile, but they DID.
Much more on Arrow Films after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
J.G. Ballard: The first published profile of the author as a young student in 1951
09:57 am



J.G. Ballard was a 20-year-old medical student in his second year at Cambridge University when he jointly won a crime story competition organized by the local student newspaper Varsity.

Ballard’s story “The Violent Noon” recounted the events of a violent and gory terrorist attack on a British officer and his family during the Malayan War. It has been described as a “Hemingwayesque pastiche” allegedly written to please the judges. According to “an an unsigned summary of the judges’ reasons for picking” Ballard’s story:

‘Violent Noon’ was the most mature story; it contains patches of high tension, the characters come to life, and the ending is brilliant in its cynicism. The author should, however, avoid a tendency to preach.

The Violent Noon” was Ballard’s first published work. When it appeared in Varsity on Saturday 26th May, 1951, the paper printed a profile of the author—which included Ballard’s first ever published interview:

J. Graham Ballard who shares the first prize of ten pounds with D. S. Birley in the “Varsity” Crime Story Competition is now in his second year at King’s and immersed in the less literary process of reading medicine.

He admitted to our reporter yesterday that he had in fact entered the competition more for the prize than anything else, although he had been encouraged to go on writing because of his success.

The idea for his short story which deals with the problem of Malayan terrorism, he informs us, he had been thinking over for some time before hearing of the competition.

He had, in addition to writing short stories, also planned “mammoth novels” which “never get beyond the first page.”

What these “mammoth novels” were about one can now only imagine. It was four years since Ballard had returned to England from internment at a Japanese P.O.W. camp—the horrors of which were filtered through his work as he later said:

The experience of war is deeply corrupting. Anybody who witnesses years of brutality can’t help but lose a sense of the tragedy and mystery of death. I’m sure that happened to me. The 16-year-old who came to England after the war carried this freight of ‘matter-of-factness about death’. So spending two years dissecting cadavers was a way of reminding me of the reality of death itself, and gave me back a respect for life.

Ballard harbored plans to become a psychiatrist. But this was quickly dropped after his success with “The Violent Noon.” He quit his medical studies at Cambridge and enrolled at Queen Mary University, London to study English Literature.
More on young Ballard plus full documentary, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Peter Max’s groovy pop art paper airplanes
12:58 pm



I take it as a given that the work of Peter Max isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’ve always been a fan. When I was a kid, this nifty green coffee pot was a fixture in my family’s kitchen, and what can I say, that insidious infiltration of my psyche must have left some residue, because I usually find that Max’s colorful, playful psychedelia has the effect of raising my spirits. I like his stuff.

I learned recently that Max published a book of paper airplanes in 1971 for Pyramid Books. What a marvelous idea! The cover of the book features a plea to treat the environment with care, and Max’s infectious positivity makes its way into the design of the planes, which are emblazoned with cute messages like “HA HA” or “I’M A BIRD” or “I CAN’T TALK, ‘CAUSE I’M LAUGHING.” The book sold for $1.50 at the time.

If you want to try making these at home, obviously a good color printer will help, but the used editions of the books are surprisingly affordable.

I haven’t seen any pictures of completed planes yet—I’m dying to see some examples!

Some of the images here will spawn a larger version if you click on them.


More groovy airplanes after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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