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Totally Insane James Bond comic books from India
11.17.2016
12:13 pm

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Amusing
Art
Literature

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Diamond Comics are the largest comic book distributor and publisher in India. They’ve created a lot of original Indian comic book characters as well as publishing
foreign comic titles like The Phantom, Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. The Diamond superhero comics look more or less as we’ve come to know them. They don’t depart radically from the American versions.

But the James Bond comic books in Hindi are from another universe entirely. With eye-searing colors and primitive graphics, Diamond’s James Bond series completely lacks the elegance and style we associate with the suave superspy. Day-Glo 007 has been shaken, stirred and put up wet.

I was going to say that these covers are kind of lysergic. But really they’re not. This is what shit looks like after eating a handful of Datura or Amanita Muscaria. Double oh my God!
 

 

 
More double-0-WTF, after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Salvador Dali goes to Hell: Astounding illustrations for Dante’s ‘Inferno’
11.15.2016
12:10 pm

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Art
Books
Literature

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001divdaldelightfulmount.jpeg
‘The Delightful Mount.’
 
We are in Hell.

That’s how it begins.

We are in Hell and have to find our way out.

That’s the “tagline” for Dante’s epic allegorical poem the Divine Comedy.

The Divine Comedy tells of the poet Dante “midway upon the journey” of his life when suddenly he finds himself lost “within a forest dark” having strayed from his “straightforward path.” It’s like the opening of some grim horror story or even a disturbing pulp detective tale—where the hero awakes lost and menaced in a dark and foreboding place.

It was another great poet T. S. Eliot who once wrote “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them. There is no third.”

In terms of Europe, he was right—though some may now add Goethe.

Shakespeare with his poetry and plays changed the English language and offered an unrivaled insight into the human condition.

Dante certainly added to our language and literature and gave some insight into human understanding—but his greatest literary feat was creating our vision of Hell.

Hell with its gates and abandon all hope ye who enter here. Hell with its nine circles—its brutal, horrific punishments, fire and ice, mythical creatures and monstrous demons.

The Divine Comedy is an allegory about sin and redemption. Dante is led by yet another poet Virgil—chosen because he described Hell in his poem the Aeneid—through the Inferno (Hell) on towards Purgatory and Paradise.

Understandable therefore that Dante’s epic tale would appeal as a subject matter to an old superstitious Catholic like Salvador Dali. The fact that this poem had already been illustrated by William Blake and Gustave Dore only added to its attraction

In 1957, the Italian government approached Salvador Dali to produce a series of 101 watercolor illustrations intended to accompany a new edition of the Divine Comedy intended to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth in 1965. Dali set to work. But when the first of Dali’s paintings were exhibited at the Palazzo Pallavicini in Rome, a section of the Italian public were disgusted that a Spaniard had been hired to celebrate their country’s greatest poet rather than some Italian. The project was quickly dropped.

However, Dali seemed unperturbed. He finished the project.

In 1964, Dali approached his French publisher, Joseph Foret, who was then producing a volume of Dali’s illustrations to accompany a new edition of Don Quixote. Dali suggested the idea of publishing his illustrations in a new edition of Dante’s epic poem. Foret took a selection of Dali’s watercolors to the publishers Les Heures Claires—who were equally enthusiastic about the project.

Two engravers—Raymond Jacquet with his assistant, Mr. Taricco—were hired to hand carve the 3,500 wood blocks necessary to reproduce Dali’s watercolors. A limited edition of the book was published in Italian. Sets of Dali’s prints are still available to buy online for plenty of lucre.

Dali’s illustrations feature many of his trademark images—elongated limbs, melting faces, and disturbing unquiet. Though his paintings do not attempt to compete with the illustrations of Dore and Blake—Dali’s images do create a surreal interpretation of Hell and all its punishments. Below is the complete set of Dali’s illustrations for the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy—the Inferno—as recounts the poet’s journey from dark wood through the gates of the underworld onto the nine circles of Hell. The full poem can be read here.
 
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‘Reassurance.’
 

I was among those, in Limbo, in suspense, and a lady called to me, she so beautiful, so blessed, that I begged her to command me.


 
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‘Charon.’
 
More of Dali’s vision of Hell, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Kinky erotic portraits of Yukio Mishima
11.11.2016
10:00 am

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Art
Books
History
Literature
Queer
Sex
Unorthodox

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In 1961, a young photographer named Eikoh Hosoe was asked by writer Yukio Mishima to take his portrait picture. It was a humbling yet surprising commission. Mishima was then Japan’s greatest living novelist—the author tipped to one day win the Nobel Prize. Hosoe was relatively unknown. The commission made Hosoe deeply curious as to why the great Mishima had chosen him.

When they met in the small garden at Mishima’s house, the author anticipated Hosoe’s question:

“I loved your photographs of Tatsumi Hijikata. I want you to photograph me like that, so I asked my editor to call you.”

“Mr. Mishima, do you mean I can photograph you in my own way?” I asked.

“Yes, I am your subject matter. Photograph me however you please, Mr. Hosoe,” he replied.

All my questions and anxiety faded.

The photographs Mishima so greatly admired were the ones Hosoe had taken of the dancer Tatsumi Hijikata. 

Hijikata was an originator of Butoh—an apocalytpic dance form developed in Japan after the Second World War in opposition to western influence. Mishima had similarly broken away from the prevailing western influence that had altered Japan after the war and during the 1950s. Mishima wanted a return of the Emperor and the ancient samurai traditions.

Mishima had been a puny kid. As he matured he changed his body through rigorous exercise and weight-lifting to become toned and highly athletic. His books often deal with the theme of the split between intellectual ambitions and the man of action.

His first novel Confessions of a Mask examined the “reluctant masquerade” between the perceived and actual life. Mishima was bisexual. He was married with two children but had an intense and active gay life. He was a sadomasochist, who believed in the living of a life through force of will. A life that he claimed adhered to the strict codes of the samurai. His books were fixed in this tradition—though his subject matter was preoccupied with sex and death. This led many critics in the west to misunderstand Mishima. One of my collegues here label him as a cross between “Proust and Jeffrey Dahmer.”

That fine day in September 1961, Hosoe quickly realized Mishima did not want a banal author portrait:

In offering himself as the “subject matter” of my photographs, I thought he might have wanted to become a dancer himself. I was still in my twenties then, so I was naïve. I did not make the distinction between an international literary figure and a dancer.

Mishima’s father happened to be watering the garden, so I grabbed his hose, and I wrapped Mishima’s entire body in the hose and kept him standing in the center of the zodiac, where he was planning to erect a statue of Apollo.

I asked him to look up and concentrate on my camera, which I was holding from a ladder above. I shouted, “Keep looking at my lens very intensely, Mr. Mishima! Okay, that’s great, keep going . . .” He never blinked while I shot two rolls of 35mm film. “I am proud of my ability to keep my eyes open for minutes,” said Mishima.

“I have never been photographed like this,” he said. “Why did you do it in this way?”

“This is the destruction of a myth,” I replied.

“You should wrap the hose around Haruo Sato,” he laughed. Haruo Sato was considered to be a literary giant at that time. But what I really meant was that I wanted to destroy the preconceived ideas about Mishima’s image in order to create a new Mishima.

After the shoot, Hosoe thought he may have gone too far. Two days later, Mishima phoned him to say he loved the photographs and wanted to collaborate with Hosoe on some more.

Over a period of six months Hosoe worked with Mishima on a series photographs which he hoped would capture the writer’s soul. These were eventually published as a book—with text by Mishima—called Ba-ra-kei or Ordeal by Roses.

In November 1970, Mishima together with four members of his secret army attempted a military coup. They broke into the eastern headquarters of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces taking the commanding officer prisoner. Mishima demanded 800 soldiers gather outside the offices to hear a speech and a list of demands he had written. Mishima hoped this speech would inspire the troops to rebel against the corruption of western influence and join his rebellion. Mishima wanted an end of democracy and a return of the Emperor. His rebellion was a literal union of the artist and man of action changing history.

The troops laughed and jeered as the author spoke. The coup failed. Mishima returned inside where he committed seppuku (self-disembowelment) before one of his soldiers attempted to decapitate him. After several blows failed to remove his head, another of his soldiers eventually managed to decapitate Mishima.

Mishima’s biographer John Nathan suggested this military coup was only a pretext for Mishima’s ritual suicide—something he had long dreamed about. In his short story “Patriotism” Mishima described an idealized seppuku where the central character pulls a blade across his abdomen cutting himself open:

The vomiting made the fierce pain fiercer still, and the stomach, which had thus far remained firm and compact, now abruptly heaved, opening wide its wound, and the entrails burst through, as if the wound too were vomiting. . . . The entrails gave an impression of robust health and almost disagreeable vitality as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over into the crotch. . . . A raw smell filled the room.

Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima taken in 1961 and 1962 capture the author’s terrible beauty, eroticism and conflicted sadomasochistic nature.
 
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More of Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
William Burroughs: ‘When Did I Stop Wanting to Be President?’
11.08.2016
11:59 am

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Literature
Politics

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The March 1975 edition of Harper’s featured an interesting essayistic gallery culled from the American populace to answer the question, “When Did You Stop Wanting to Be President?” The group of respondents included Theodore Sorensen (advisor to President Kennedy), George Romney (former governor of Michigan and father to Mitt), Kevin Phillips (author of The Emerging Republican Majority), and Eugene McCarthy (longtime Congressman from Minnesota).

But there were two writers in the group that merit special attention, in part because one can scarcely imagine them sharing the same editorial space: Ronald Reagan and William S. Burroughs!!!

At that moment Reagan was a year away from a failed attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from sitting president Gerald Ford and five years away from being elected president as a reactionary fuckwit.

Reagan uses his space to spout a lot of aw-shucks baloney about not wanting to be president (“I never started”), to throw out a few potshots at FDR and government in general, and to express confidence that public confidence in the presidency is likely to go up in the future (hasn’t happened).

For his part, Burroughs spins a funny alternate vision of himself as “Commissioner of Sewers” (as the item is sometimes known) of Los Alamos. Turned off by the notion of the president “pawing babies and spouting bullshit,” Burroughs engages in a reverie of being able to use his exalted position as an opportunity to engage in wide-ranging graft and shenanigans, including pressuring the sheriff “for some mary juana he has confiscated and he’d better play ball or I will route a sewer through his front yard.”

Eventually Burroughs (or his fictional stand-in) realizes that he’s “simply the wrong shape” for that kind of position, noting that plenty of his “plump” boyhood friends had gone on to pull down hefty salaries in similar roles.

You can read Burroughs’ original article in the pages of Harper’s (click on “Download PDF”) or you can read a slightly different version of it in the Google Books preview of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader.

More amusing, though, is to hear Burroughs read it himself, as he does after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Live animals are known to be devoured’: Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles’ Sufi recordings
10.20.2016
09:08 am

Topics:
Belief
Dance
Literature
Music

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Part of Ira Cohen’s layout for the Jilala sleeve (via Granary Books)
 
Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was not the first album of Moroccan music inspired by the kif-smoking literary expats in Tangier. In 1964, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles taped the Jilala brotherhood, a Sufi order whose ritual dance and music were supposed to exorcise evil spirits and heal the sick. The LP Jilala, released a year or two later by Ira Cohen, brought these recordings into limited circulation and preserved them for posterity.

Poet, musician, traveler, author of The Hashish Cookbook, and director of The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, Cohen was another Olympian of the arts who had joined Burroughs, Gysin, and the Bowleses in Tangier in 1961. (My old employer Arthur Magazine brought out Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda on DVD ten years ago, with new scores by Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of the Man supplementing the original soundtrack by founding Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise.) Years before his psychedelic photo experiments with Mylar, Cohen edited the literary magazine Gnaoua, named after a form of North African religious music that’s related to but distinct from the Jilala’s. 

It’s not entirely clear how Jilala is connected to another Paul Bowles recording project involving the same collaborators, time, and place. Bowles wrote Cohen in 1966 about donating the profits from something called the “Hypnotic Music record” to the Timothy Leary Defense Fund. In a footnote, the editor of Bowles’ letters says this refers to a compilation of Hamatcha, Jilala, Gnaoua, and Aissaoua trance music that was put together from tapes made separately by Bowles, Gysin, and Cohen and released by Cohen. However, the Independent reports that the Hypnotic Music record was an unrealized project, so perhaps Bowles’ editor has conflated it with Jilala, which Discogs lists as the sole release on Cohen’s Trance Records.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong about this. Does anyone have a copy of the Hypnotic Music record?
 

The cover of the original issue of Jilala
 
Before putting Jilala in your gym playlist, you should probably read Cohen’s liner notes (reprinted in full at Big Bridge and Discogs) so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The Jilala knew how to pitch a wang dang doodle with their flutes and drums. The bath salts of their day, these religious tunes have been known to make listeners eat live animals, slash themselves with knives, and drink boiling water straight from the kettle, as Cohen tells it…

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Shock And Awe’: How platform shoes, mascara and glitter saved rock ‘n’ roll
10.12.2016
10:13 am

Topics:
Literature
Music
Pop Culture
Punk

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In 1972 rock music rolled out of the 60s as pale and cold as a corpse on a hospital gurney. There was the occasional death twitch but rigor mortis had set in and for most of us rockers there was a sense of hopelessness as we listened to vapid shit coming out of our radios.

How bad was it? Here’s the top ten tunes of 1972 according to Billboard magazine:

1 “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Roberta Flack
2 “Alone Again (Naturally)” Gilbert O’Sullivan
3 “American Pie” Don McLean
4 “Without You” Harry Nilsson
5 “The Candy Man” Sammy Davis, Jr.
6 “I Gotcha” Joe Tex
7 “Lean on Me” Bill Withers
8 “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” Mac Davis
9 “Brand New Key” Melanie
10 “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” Wayne Newton

That list is completely devoid of anything that remotely could be called “rock and roll.” With the exception of Joe Tex’s “I Gotcha,” virtually every song falls into the easy listening/pop category. Sentimental, corny, goofy, maudlin and over melodramatic, none of this stuff rocks. The closest the top 20 got to rock that year was Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold.” And as lovely as that song is, it’s one of Neil’s most middle-of-the-road creations and still more folk than rock. In the entire Billboard top 100 of 1972 there are two songs that could be categorized as hard rock with some bonfide badass attitude. They were Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”  and T.Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” Elton John, Derek And The Dominoes, Badfinger and The Hollies all had hits with power ballads or top-forty schlock. The Hollies aping Creedence Clearwater with “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” may be memorable, but it also could have been recorded by just about any half-decent band. Completely unidentifiable as a Hollie’s song. 1972 was also the year that arguably the greatest rock composer of all time, Chuck Berry, released “My Ding A Ling.” This was the kind of shit that made a rock fan like myself weep.
 

 
In 1972, I was 21 and writing record reviews for a newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. At the time, record companies were very generous in sending out review copies of LPs to just about anyone claiming to be a rock critic. As a result, I was receiving well over a hundred copies of new record releases each month. Every day the postman would drop a load of vinyl on my front porch and I was like a kid at Christmas. Unfortunately, most of the freebies were real shit. But some good stuff would squeak through and occasionally the good stuff would be better than merely good. There were records among the dross that would eventually change my life.

From ‘72 to ‘75, when I did most of my reviewing, the albums that blew my mind were coming from reggae artists like Bob Marley and Toots And The Maytals followed by Brit rockers T.Rex, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Cockney Rebel and American outliers Lou Reed, The New York Dolls, Sparks, Alice Cooper and Suzi Quatro, among a handful of others. What these performers shared in common was an energy that recalled some of the best of 60s garage bands, British Invasion, doses of psychedelia and a theatricality that was eccentric, fresh and provocative. Their songs tended to be short and to the point, with strong hooks and infectious beats. And they were sexy! This was the beginning of what eventually became known as glam rock. I know calling Marley glam is a stretch but let’s face it, Bob was glamorous and songs like “Lively Up Yourself” could be dropped into a mix with Bowie and Marc Bolan without missing a beat. Even if the twain does meet, we’ll still keep reggae out of the mix for sake of argument.
 

 
Glam rock blew open the doors for the punk scene that quickly followed on its heels. There’s not a single rock band that emerged in 76/77 from CBGB, Max’s, or The Marquee Club that weren’t inspired by glam bands. A few hate to admit it, but most know it’s true. From Johnny Rotten to Joey Ramone to Patti Smith, the visionaries in platform shoes with glitter in their hair like Marc Bolan, Bowie and The Dolls turned budding punks’ heads around and pointed them in a direction that would change them forever… just as they did for me.
 

 
Glam rock was fun at a time when rock wasn’t. The music I loved had become too self-important or too inconsequential to capture my heart and gut. Easy listening “elevator music” on MOR radio tossed with the pompous orchestral rock of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes and the blowhard power ballads of Kansas and Styx created a mind salad that was all cellulose and little fiber. Even bands I had once looked to for some hard-edged three-minute rockers, The Who, for instance, were creating pretentious rock operas that were large-gestures but intellectually feeble. I wanted plain old pinball machines without the wizards. When rock songs started taking up entire sides of an album, I found myself dragging out my old Seeds and Music Machine albums. Few rock artists could sustain the longform song for me. Only the Doors, Jimi Hendrix and The Velvet Underground could pull that off.
 

 
So glam put the fun back into rock. It also put sex back into rock and returned some color, glitter and style to a musical culture that had turned to faded denim, faux blues and pretentious bluster. It was bigger than life, but as light as moonbeams. While Rick Wakeman and Mike Oldfield were pumping hot air into the balloon of pop culture, Sparks and Roxy Music were sticking needles in it. Underneath their wild threads and crazy hair, the glam rockers were smirking at the artifice of it all, using the theater of rock and roll to remind us that rock music was as silly as it is essential.
 

 
Simon Reynolds book Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-first Century is the definitive book on the music and pop culture explosion that put style, extravagance and a sense of—yes—absurdity back into rock and roll. Written from a place of genuine love for his subject, Reynolds’ 700 page history is formidable in its research and thoroughly entertaining. It’s smart without being academic and contains none of the “hey look at me” smarty pants rock crit that focuses more on the writer than the subject at hand. Reynolds is passionate about what he’s writing about and it’s truly infectious. From the big lights of Bowie, Roxy and Bolan to lesser known, but equally amazing, groups like Wizzard, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Tubes, Reynolds covers dozens upon dozens of artists starting with proto-glamster Jerry Lee Lewis, The Stooges, through the rock scenes impacted by glam including punk, new wave, hair metal and techno. Like with his terrific book on post-punk Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984,  Reynolds obviously knows what he’s talking about. As well-researched as his books are, they’re never larded with too much minutiae or footnoted to death. They move like rock and roll moves. Shock And Awe has the energy and exuberance of a tight chugging Marc Bolan guitar riff. You can dance to it. Buy it here. Really, buy it. At 12 bucks it’s a fucking steal. Thank me later.
 

 
After the jump, a special video mix inspired by ‘Shock And Awe’ containing songs from Marc Bolan, Mott The Hoople, Slade, Roxy Music, Suzi Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Sweet, Wizzard, Sparks, Mud, The Osmonds and Jook….

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
A young Patti Smith and Jonathan Miller star in a 1971 BBC doc about New York City
10.07.2016
09:05 am

Topics:
Literature
Music
Punk
Television

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Jonathan Miller became famous in the cast of the great 1960s comedy show Beyond the Fringe, sharing the stage with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and—I can’t tell if a heart emoji would be out of place here—playwright Alan Bennett. To this day, Dr. Miller is well-known in the UK as a public intellectual, prominent atheist, TV documentarian and opera director. (During the early 1980s, Miller was briefly famous in America, too, as the host of the popular PBS history of medicine, The Body in Question, and as the author of the best-selling book of the same title. He was often a guest on Dick Cavett’s talk show for an entire week at a time.)

In 1971—YouTube says ‘72, but I’ll take Miller’s biographer’s date—Miller returned to New York, a city he’d first visited when Beyond the Fringe played Broadway a decade before, and he brought a BBC camera crew. West Side Stories: Two Journeys into New York City juxtaposed his impressions of New York City and those of a very young Patti Smith.
 

 
She looks and sounds like Rimbaud if he just stepped away from a stickball game, which is to say she’s already, as Oliver Stone made Ray Manzarek say, “making the myths.” Patti talks Godard, rock journalism, “slopping the hogs,” spending the whole day on 42nd Street for fifty cents, and the first porno double feature she watched (Orgy at Lil’s Place and Blonde on a Bum Trip), all with unusual verbal facility and charm for a 24-year-old.

In my whole life, no matter where I lived—Chattanooga, Chicago, South Jersey—I was always an outcast. Y’know, even in my own neighborhood, even in my own family. I looked different than my whole family. I always felt alien. Not that I wasn’t loved, but people thought I was weird-lookin’ and skinny and all that. I had an eyepatch which I’ve since got rid of. And I never had no friends or boyfriends. When I came to the city, my whole life changed.

The uploader of this footage, YouTube user Pheidias Ictinus, claims it was the cameraman’s idea to interview Patti:

This film was made by the director Tristram Powell. At the suggestion of his cameraman he went to meet Patti and she ended up as an integral part of the film he was making with Jonathan Miller. The decision was made on the fly, during filming in New York, it was not part of the original concept. That’s what you call creative freedom.

Who would Jonathan Miller’s cameraman tell him to interview in today’s Manhattan? Some tech guy? I can’t wait to turn on the TV in 2047 and hear some tech guy reminisce about New York on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Lord, take me now. . .
 
Watch after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
The 13th-century ‘thinking machine’ of Ramón Llull
09.22.2016
09:17 am

Topics:
Books
Literature
Occult
Science/Tech

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Ramón Llull, via Alchetron. The ribbon in his mouth says Lux mea est ipse dominus, “My light is the Lord himself”
 
There’s an exhibition at Barcelona’s CCCB called “The Thinking Machine: Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria,” up through December 11. Including work by Arnold Schönberg, Athanasius Kircher, Giordano Bruno, Leibniz, Italo Calvino, John Cage, and Salvador Dalí, the show makes its case for the influence of the Catalan philosopher Ramón Llull (1232-1316, sometimes anglicized “Raymond Lully”), who might be credited with inventing the first computer, or its primitive ancestor.
 

via inexhibit.com
 
I first became aware of Llull and his contraption in Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Non-Fictions, which reprints “Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine,” an article Borges wrote for El Hogar Magazine in 1937. Borges gives the most lucid description of the machine I’m aware of, starting with its simplest, two-dimensional form, a circle divided nine times:
 

 

It is a schema or diagram of the attributes of God. The letter A, at the center, signifies the Lord. Along the circumference, the letter B stands for goodness, C for greatness, D for eternity, E for power, F for wisdom, G for volition, H for virtue, I for truth, and K for glory. The nine letters are equidistant from the center, and each is joined to all the others by chords or diagonal lines. The first of these features means that all of these attributes are inherent; the second, that they are systematically interrelated in such a way as to affirm, with impeccable orthodoxy, that glory is eternal or that eternity is glorious; that power is true, glorious, good, great, eternal, powerful, wise, free and virtuous, or benevolently great, greatly eternal, eternally powerful, powerfully wise, wisely free, freely virtuous, virtuously truthful, etc., etc.

I want my readers to grasp the full magnitude of this etcetera. Suffice it to say that it embraces a number of combinations far greater than this page can record. The fact that they are all entirely futile—the fact that, for us, to say that glory is eternal is as rigorously null and void as to say that eternity is glorious—is of only secondary interest. This motionless diagram, with its nine capital letters distributed among nine compartments and linked by a star and some polygons, is already a thinking machine. It was natural for its inventor—a man, we must not forget, of the thirteenth century—to feed it with a subject matter that now strikes us as unrewarding. We now know that the concepts of goodness, greatness, wisdom, power, and glory are incapable of engendering an appreciable revelation. We (who are basically no less naive than Llull) would load the machine differently, no doubt with the words Entropy, Time, Electrons, Potential Energy, Fourth Dimension, Relativity, Protons, Einstein. Or with Surplus Value, Proletariat, Capitalism, Class Struggle, Dialectical Materialism, Engels.

Then, Borges moves on to the more elaborate version of Llull’s thinking machine—the one with three revolving disks, illustrated below: 
 

 

If a mere circle subdivided into nine compartments can give rise to so many combinations, what wonders may we expect from three concentric, manually revolving disks made of wood or metal, each with fifteen or twenty compartments? This thought occurred to the remote Ramón Llull on his red and zenithal island of Mallorca, and he designed his guileless machine. The circumstances and objectives of this machine no longer interest us, but its guiding principle—the methodical application of chance to the resolution of a problem—still does.

[~snip]

Let us select a problem at random: the elucidation of the “true” color of a tiger. I give each of Llull’s letters the value of a color, I spin the disks, and I decipher that the capricious tiger is blue, yellow, black, white, green, purple, orange, and grey, or yellowishly blue, blackly blue, whitely blue, greenly blue, purplishly blue, bluely blue, etc. Adherents of [Llull’s] Ars magna remained undaunted in the face of this torrential ambiguity; they recommended the simultaneous deployment of many combinatory machines, which (according to them) would gradually orient and rectify themselves through “multiplications” and “eliminations.” For a long while, many people believed that the certain revelation of all the world’s enigmas lay in the patient manipulation of these disks.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Prostitutes, mannequins and street traders: The flâneur who photographed Paris, 1890s-1920s
09.09.2016
12:49 pm

Topics:
Art
History
Literature

Tags:

001atgetrueasselinprostitute_.jpg
Prostitute, rue Asselin.
 
Eugène Atget first tried his hand as sailor, actor and painter before discovering his true vocation as a documentary photographer on the streets of Paris.

Documenting city life combined Atget’s passion for photography with his life as a flâneur. A flâneur is someone who strolls aimlessly through a city with no particular place to go—the route steered only by curiosity and chance. A flâneur dwells between the twin poles of private reverie and public space.

Novelist Charles Baudelaire first described a flâneur in an essay titled “The Painter of Modern Life” in 1863:

For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world…

Paris has long been hailed as the city of the flâneur. Its streets and boulevards invite perambulation and drift. Its arrondissements are filled with hidden beauty that trigger involuntary memory. Marcel Proust—the writer who coined the term “involuntary memory”—lived and worked in Paris. Like one of Proust’s characters, a flâneur wanders a city’s streets open to their “madeleine moment.”

Atget (1857-1927) wandered through Paris dressed in a large dark cloak, his camera and tripod in hand. He strolled, sauntered, until something triggered a response which he stopped to photograph. A chance encounter with a prostitute idling by her front door; a hawker selling wares from a cart; a maitre d‘s face at the door of a restaurant; a shop window filled with mannequins; or the empty cobbled street still fresh with the impression of activity.

Atget’s street photography captured a Paris that was fast changing. Its once golden age of the flâneur was being opened up to the motorcar and a system of signage, roads and roundabouts.

Atget lived in direst poverty throughout his life. For twenty years, it’s said, he lived on a diet of milk, bread and sugar. All other foods, he declared, were a poison. According to the American photographer Berenice Abbott who literally discovered Atget and his voluminous collection of photographs—or documents pour artistes:

In art and hygiene he was absolute. He had very personal ideas on everything which he imposed with extraordinary violence.

He applied this intransigence of taste, of vision, of methods, to the art of photography and miracles resulted.

 
015AtgetLaVillettefillepubliquefaisantlequart1921.jpg
Prostitute waiting at her front door, 1921.
 
rueasselinprostitute
Soldier with prostitute.
 
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Three prostitutes, rue Asselin.
 
More of Atget’s Paris street life photography, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Dangerous Minds interview with Little Annie (Annie Anxiety Bandez)
09.09.2016
09:14 am

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Heroes
Literature
Music
Punk
Reggae

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Photo by Clinton Querci
 
The strange and fabulous career of Little Annie, also known as Annie Anxiety and Annie Anxiety Bandez, is like an index of Dangerous Minds’ musical obsessions. We wriggle in the web she weaves. Some connections are personal: DM’s own Howie Pyro was the bassist in her first band, Annie Anxiety and the Asexuals—Annie says below, “Howie is the reason I ended up on stage”—and DM chief Richard Metzger has mentioned his friend’s encounter with Annie at an Islington anarcho-punk festival in 1984. But then, consider that she’s worked with Crass, Coil, Marc Almond, Current 93, Nurse With Wound, Adrian Sherwood and the On-U Sound crew, Youth, Kid Congo Powers, ANOHNI (formerly Antony Hegarty), Keith Levene, Swans, et al.—and then, consider what a shame it is that every article about Little Annie has to mention all these associations in its opening paragraphs, when her own performances, her own powers, are so extraordinary. That’s why all those people wanted to work with her in the first place.

On Little Annie’s latest album, Trace, she is both the torch singer she claims to be and the streetwise narrator of “Bitching Song,” who patiently explains why, no matter your profession, location, or standing in this world, you’re just another bitch. Her wonderful memoir, You Can’t Sing The Blues While Drinking Milk, published in 2013, is scarce in hardcover (this looks like your best bet), but the Kindle version is a steal at $4.99.

When I called Annie last week, my first question was about Hermine, the hurricane then approaching her current base of operations, Miami. Thanks to Julian Schoen and On-U Sound for putting me in touch with this great artist.
 

Trace (2016)
 
Annie: I haven’t seen the news all day. I was out shooting. It’s like the rest of the planet; it’s getting gentrified, Miami, so I was out shooting some of these Darth Vader buildings that are going up about ten miles up the road.

Dangerous Minds: So you’re taking pictures, you’re documenting the gentrification of Miami?

Well, you know what it is, a friend of mine, she said—because I love buildings—she goes, “These are really ugly, you’ve got to shoot them” [laughing], you know? And they really are, they’re really sinister-looking skyscrapers. I love skyscrapers, but we’re below sea level here as it is, and they’re really like… gunmetal gray. Like, everything you wouldn’t do in this kind of light, just really ugly. Almost so that they’re beautiful. They’re so sinister, they almost have a kind of eerie beauty to them. I just got a high-definition camera finally so I could shoot and print for online stuff, and I thought, “Oh, that’s a good place to start. Let me get my chops going on some ugly.”

Man, it did not disappoint. They’re using all these gunmetal grays; it looks like either it’s the Church of Scientology or Masons, there’s something really… like prisons for the very rich, you know? Really grim.

So how did you wind up in Miami, Annie?

That’s a good question. You know, it was a place I had no interest in whatsoever. I’d been down here with some friends of mine whose father used to live down here; I came down in ’93, you know, and really it was only a place I ever went to go somewhere else.

New York, I had to move, and all of a sudden I realized, even if it was possible to live anywhere, I realized I wasn’t interested in any of it. So I don’t drive—I’m a confirmed non-driver—and I couldn’t think of where I could live on the East Coast that was near an airport for work, or where I could get away without a car. Miami, it’s difficult, but you can be a non-driver down here. And then, I kind of fell in love with it… one morning I woke up and said “Miami.” I was thinking about that today, I was trying to figure out how that happened.

’Cause I could picture you in Cuba somehow.

In my neighborhood? You could be anywhere in Central America or South America. I would say it’s around 90 percent Spanish-speaking, and there’s French. You hardly ever hear English in my neighborhood. You could walk down one street and it looks like Rio, and another street will look like the West Indies. It’s all new for me.

I guess I was starting to dislike myself. I was starting to become one of those perpetually angry [New Yorkers], “This is gone, and this isn’t like this anymore,” so I wanted somewhere where I didn’t know what it was like, so I have nothing to compare it to. I can’t get nostalgic over it because I don’t know what it was.

Sure, I can imagine. I’m from Los Angeles, and that’s changed so much over the last 20 or 30 years. And New York was so fabulous at one point.

Some of it here feels like New York in the ‘80s. Not always in a good way, too. What I do love about it is what I hate about it. It’s very corrupt. You know, like, I love this: their idea of gentrifying one area was to put a strip joint in it. [laughs] And that’s what I love about it. Literally, like New York used to be, like you could walk a few blocks and you were in a different world? Miami still has that flavor. Not so much the beach, but the inland. My neighborhood’s the last old neighborhood which hasn’t been fucked with yet. They want to, but you’ve got a mixture of, like, millionaires living next to Section 8. It’s really like an eclectic, wonderful little neighborhood two blocks from the beach. But because it hasn’t been gentrified, people don’t want to move here, which is why I wanted to move here. I really do love this area.

But L.A., I’ve got a little crush on Los Angeles from the last time I went there. I was with Baby Dee and we played downtown L.A. and it’s so beautiful, the light! The way the light hits things and the buildings.

There’s something special about the light here, for sure.

It was just gorgeous. We played in a place where Charlie Chaplin had a fistfight with Buster Keaton or something, and the upstairs place, it was some kind of—not three-quarter housing, but some kind of housing association… 

But then you go out, by the same token, I would be there all day, and like, thinking like I’m walking through Calcutta to get home, because I’ve never seen homelessness and pain like that! You’ve got these beautiful buildings, and then the homeless thing in downtown L.A., I just felt so bad for people.

Oh, it’s disgraceful. It’s kind of like what I imagine happened in New York under Giuliani. As the city becomes gentrified, they’re just shoving homeless people into different quarters of town where they’re getting more and more pressed together. There are blocks that are just covered with tents.

Yeah! That’s what I’m—I couldn’t believe it. I was outside having a cigarette. I must have had—in less than 20 minutes, ten people came up and asked me for money, you know? Which I would have gladly given. If I knew I was going into that, I would have gone in with food or something.

Miami is terrible. There’s no safety net for people. There’s no social services as such. They blame the homeless—‘cause we are fighting, they want to gentrify this area—and people will say things like, “If we let the developers in, then it will solve the homeless problem, and the rapes will go down.” And I go, “Wait: unload that sentence. You just called homeless people rapists.”

There’s this way that they deal with the homeless, is to criminalize them. New York is terrible, but Miami… and L.A., I love it and hate it.
 

State of Grace (with Baby Dee, 2013)
 
You’re singing my song, Annie. You know Howie Pyro writes for Dangerous Minds?

I love Howie! You know that I’ve known Howie since I was sixteen years old.

He was in the Asexuals, right?

Yeah. Howie is the reason I ended up on stage. Because we were hanging out, we really were like punk kids in the sense of like punk, juvenile delinquent, like little silly kids—we used to put “KICK ME” signs on people’s backs. We were totally juvenile. They asked me to support them, the Blessed, and I’m like, “Yeah!” And I didn’t know what “support” meant. So I had to throw a band together or something. Howie and them really kind of were the ones who—I was writing poetry and doing little bits of I don’t know what, but I didn’t have any direction, I was just being a kid, you know? And it was really because of the Blessed that I ended up in show business. I love Howie; I love those guys so much.

When did you have a sense that you had this voice? I know you didn’t set out to be a performer, and they encouraged you to go on stage. But when did you realize that you had this talent? I just read your memoir, so all this stuff is fresh in my head, you singing at the park in the a cappella group as a teenager…

You know what? It was funny, because I really didn’t realize I had a voice until… actually, very recently. Like, I knew I had a very good sense of… I’m very percussive, so I’ve always had like a sense of cadence. I mean, I was told not to be in the choir, because I was basically a contralto when I was a child. I had this voice—I was a belter, and I could belt like an old gospel singer when I was a little kid, you know? I could belt out old blues songs, and I sounded like I’d been drinking whiskey at age seven, you know what I mean? I had that kind of voice.

It’s only in the last couple of years where I’ve realized the ability I have, you know, like the physicality of singing? I realize that it’s not something that everybody has. ‘Cause I didn’t know what I was doing, I would luck into things, but I never knew how I got there, from point A to B. I just did it because it had to be done. I think it was on the Swans tour: I go, “Wow, now I’m understanding what people say, singing from the diaphragm, and the rest.” I actually didn’t realize what I was born with, you know? I’m shaped like a singer. Some of it actually happens from singing, you get a wider ribcage just from singing. But it was only really recently, I go “Wait, I could do that!” Or that I actually trusted my abilities. I always kinda knew my abilities as a writer, and to keep time: I write like a drummer or a conga player. But it was only really recently that I knew I had something.

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Make it all the way through a career [laughs] before you start realizing. Because I’ve never had a pretty voice. I can do that, but if it was pretty, it was by accident. So now I go, “Oh wait, when I do this, this happens. Oh wait, I can get from this octave to another octave.” I’m only just starting to grasp what I’ve been blessed with. Yeah, so, just recent! [laughing] Last few months.

Well, you had an instinctive sense probably of how to work an audience, right?

That, yes. Live, I’m able to… hear people. Even if it’s silent, there’s something I hear from them, a dialogue that I’ve always kind of tapped into. And I don’t know why…

That’s why acting was so hard for me. Acting, I’m starting to learn, you’ve got to access a different part of you. But where there was something on stage, maybe it was what people get from gospel or something—I go into the zone, and when I’m in the zone, I’m able to supersede any ideas of myself, or anything. It’s probably the only time in my life I’m not in my head. I’m totally not in my head. I’m totally not conscious. It’s the safest place in the world, the stage, and it’s because it’s a dialogue, and I don’t know what it is but that’s something I’ve always had, which is why the stage felt so good. You know, to look straight in people’s eyes on stage. 

I mean, recording, I spent my On-U Sound years really getting into the technical side of, not the machinery, but of sound and of craft and the music part. But that other part, that was something that was always there. And it was a problem acting, because I’m so much myself on the stage, and when you go onstage and act, it’s not about being yourself. I mean, I’ve lost parts because I go in and I start rewriting the script in my head. And they want an audition, and you go in, you start going, “That doesn’t feel honest,” and acting isn’t honest. It’s about being believable.

When you’re singing with an audience, it’s absolutely about trusting that they can be themselves and you can be yourselves, because you have a moment of—fuck, it sounds really pretentious, but it’s almost like Zen—you’re so in the moment. Your mind can’t wander; if it does, you’re not in it. You don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks. You know when it’s right. It doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but fortunately, most of the time, where you’re absolutely in this kind of weird communion with other people. It’s such a gift to be able to go there.
 

Songs from the Coal Mine Canary (2006)
 
You’re an ordained minister now, Annie?

Yeah. I became ordained basically because I did needle exchange for a while. My main function was, I was outreach, so I’d be on the stroll with sex workers at night, like if they need condoms or syringes or something. But it almost became your beat, where anything that happened within a certain mile radius, I felt like, I gotta deal with—you know, you get a drunk that would fall down, break their arm.

What happened was, I had to call 911. I got the ambulance, and I asked where they’re taking the guy, ‘cause a lot of time with drunks, they would drop them off around the corner, and I wanted to make sure. And they go, “Why, who are you?” And I was standing in front of a church, so it just came out of my mouth, I go, “I’m his minister.” And they go, “Is that your church?” And it was St. Mark’s Church, which is huge, and I go, “Yeah, that’s my church.” And their tone totally changed. It was like, “You don’t understand, we get so burnt out, we pick up the same people day after day, and then they’re right back in the street again,” and all of a sudden they wanted to confess. So I go, “Wow, this could work, you know? Maybe this minister thing isn’t a bad idea.”

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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