follow us in feedly
Creepy ventriloquist dummies that look like they might want to kill you
11.30.2016
01:16 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Occult

Tags:
ventriloquists
ventriloquist dummies

01creepyvent.jpg
 
It wasn’t for nothing that the old parish priest used to warn us off demon ventriloquism. He knew those painted wooden puppets were evil little fuckers. You see, at school we’d all seen the ad for a book of “voice throwing courses” in the comics we shared round the yard. I dreamt of sending off any spare cash for a copy of this prized guide. Alas the ad wanted dollars and I was living in McButthurt, Scotland, where dollars were as rare as virgin births. Mind you, having said that, there was a girl in high school who used that excuse for her trouble. “It must be the second coming, Father.” “Ye mean ye did it twice? Ye filthy little….”

Sadly, no dollars. But maybe that was a good thing—for the old priest with the whisky breath said ventriloquism was a “dabbling in the occult” kinda thing—involving ne’er-do-wells gathering in a graveyard to communicate with the dead. When a voice projected from the stomach—he claimed—this was “yer actual dead speaking to ye.”

I nixed the plan for the voice projection book and signed-up for a visit to the local cemetery to speak with the dead. Unfortunately, when I tried, all I ever heard was gas and the rumble of a ravenous tummy.

It’s probably that once upon-a-time, long, long ago tenuous connection with the occult and all things strange that makes ventriloquist dolls seem so creepy. They exude evil. They exude menace. You know as soon as you turn your back they’re up to no fucking good. Just ask Candice Bergen. She knows. She grew up in a home with Charlie McCarthy—the evil-looking ventriloquist doll that her father Edgar Bergen made famous. When Candice was growing up, Charlie always had the bigger bedroom. When Daddy wanted to spend quality time with Candice he often give her a:

...gentle squeeze on the back of my neck [which] was my cue to open and shut my mouth so he could ventriloquize me. Charlie and I would chatter together silently, while behind us Dad would supply the snappy repartee for both of us.

When Daddy Bergen died he left Charlie $10,000. Candice? Candice got zip.

So you see, all those movies (Dead of Night, Magic) and episodes of The Twilight Zone are actually all true—ventriloquism is waaaaaay baaaaad juju—which is kinda evidenced by this short selection of various ventriloquists and their devil dolls.
 
02creepyvent.jpg
Leatherface as a child?
 
09creepyvent.jpg
Jules Vernon as a young ventriloquist with his extended family.
 
10creepyvent.jpg
Jules Vernon in old age. He went blind one Christmas during his stage act in 1920 but continued on until his death in 1937.
 
More creepy woodentops, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Blasphemy, Sex, Satanism and Sadism: The diabolic erotic art of Félicien Rops

005RopsPornokratès.jpg
‘Pornokratès’ (1896).
 
There are few nineteenth century artists as controversial or as profoundly shocking as Félicien Rops. Even more than a century after his death, his “blasphemous erotica” can still cause great offense in a world of safe spaces and trigger warnings.

Rops was born in Namur, Belgium in 1833, the son of a wealthy cotton dealer. He was home schooled by a private tutor before attending Jesuit college where he excelled at art. However, he hated the intense Catholic education and quit college at sixteen. He then went onto finish his education at Royal Athenaeum. His talent for art flourished and he achieved some early success as a caricaturist for the student magazine Le Crocodile and local magazines. But it was as a lithographer and etcher that he proved his technical brilliance and unparalleled artistic talent. He co-founded with Charles De Coste the satirical magazine L’Uylenspiegel (1856-1863). They mercilessly attacked Church and State, the bourgeoisie and artistic pretensions. The magazine made both men (in)famous—Rops was even challenged to a duel after one particular provocative attack.

He married, had two children (one dying in childhood), separated from his wife and moved to Paris in 1862. His arrival in the City of Lights changed Rops dramatically—he was like a wide-eyed yokel driven to excess by the thrill of the metropolis. He began to draw and paint with a fevered intensity the world he inhabited. He exhibited some of his work back in his hometown of Namur in 1865—in particular a portrait of a female absinthe drinker (La Buveuse d’Absinthe) which so outraged critics and civic figures that he was denounced by an official rebuke for prostituting his pencil in “the reproduction of scenes imprinted with a repellent realism.” The response pleased Rops—though he described it as akin to being spat upon—as it meant he had found his right subject matter: the dark and neglected and unacknowledged underworld of everyday life. This led Rops to co-found the Société Libre des Beaux-Arts—a group set up to promote “realism” in art in 1868.

Another key event was his meeting with the writer Baudelaire, whose work confirmed many of Rops’ personal beliefs. He illustrated Baudelaire’s banned volume of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal and became one of the resident artists of the Decadent Movement—though he also had a place in the Symbolist camp.

The Decadent Movement was a loose collection of artists and writers who came to prominence in the last two decades—or fin de siècle—of the 1800s. The term Decadent was originally intended to be disparaging—but Baudelaire and Rops considered it a suitable description of their lifestyle and work. The Decadents were in revolt against the constrictive and petite bourgeoise morality of the day. But even this doesn’t quite tell the complete truth. Though Rops had rejected much of his Catholic upbringing—he had some religious beliefs. He was also a Freemason. Some of his work was highly anti-Catholic—take a look at his pornographic re-imagining of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa being “penetrated” by the lance of the seraphim. He had a fear of women but was for a time happily married and then lived in a menage a trois with two sisters. He was rational but was superstitiously obsessed with the occult—in particular the power of the Devil. He railed gainst the petite bourgeoisie and against fame but harbored a desire for respectability—on his own terms.

The novelist Péladan said of Rops in La Plume (1896):

Three hundred subtle minds admire and love him, and this approbation of thinkers is all that matters to this master; if a man of the middle classes, one of those for whom popular works are written and who actually read them, should happen to show a liking for one of his works, he would immediately destroy it.  As a patrician of art, he wishes for no other judges than but his peers, and not out of pride.  The best token of his modesty is the fact that he is so little known and that is how he wants it, because he knows that Art is a druidic cult which receives into its ranks all minds that rise high enough.

While the author JK Huysmans described Rops as:

...not confined himself, like his predecessors, to rendering the attitudes of bodies swayed by passion, but has elicited from flesh on fire the sorrows of fever-stricken souls, and the joys of warped minds; he has painted demonic rapture as other have painted mystical yearnings. Rops has not confined himself, like his predecessors, to rendering the attitudes of bodies swayed by passion, but has elicited from flesh on fir the sorrows of fever-stricken souls, and the joys of warped minds; he has painted demonic rapture as other have painted mystical yearnings.

Rops described his work as “structured mainly around the themes of love, suffering and death, with the central unifying theme of the woman, la femme fatale in the full meaning of the word.” According to Rops the la femme fatale is:

Satan’s accomplice, [a woman who] becomes the supreme attraction which provokes the most extreme vices and torments in Man, a mere puppet.

This image is repeated throughout Rops work—and even when man attempts to repress his desire—as in his painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony—where (as Sigmund Freud notes) he has “placed Sin in the place of the Savior on the cross”

He seems to have known that when what has been repressed returns, it merges as the repressing force itself.

Rops’ work has been described as blasphemous, sadistic, sexist, misogynistic, pornographic, debased and even cruel—but that strikes me as responding to the effect or the surface rather than the substance of his work—which is far more complex and far more telling of Rops’ own fears and anxieties.
 
000ropsLatentationSaintAntoine.jpg
‘La tentation de Saint Antoine’ (‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony’) (1878).
 
002malefactorum.jpg
‘L’Incantation’ (‘The Incantation’) (1878).
 
More of sex, sadism and satanism, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Lucifer Rising live in concert: Watch Bobby Beausoleil perform his Kenneth Anger soundtrack, 1978


You can buy a signed replica of this jacket on Kenneth Anger’s website

After Kenneth Anger fired Jimmy Page from his long-delayed Lucifer Rising film project and then publicly bad-mouthed the Led Zeppelin guitarist during a bitchy press conference, the magus of cinema turned again to imprisoned Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil, who had been his original choice to record the film’s music. This was before the two had a falling out in 1969 and before Beausoleil was charged with the murder of music teacher Gary Hinman over a drug deal gone bad. He’d been in prison since 1970, but when he’d heard that Anger had sacked Page, Beausoleil contacted Anger to inform him that he had the means (and the latitude from a liberal warden at Tracy Prison) to be able to record the soundtrack.

The extraordinarily weird music Beausoleil produced with his Freedom Orchestra (which also included another imprisoned Manson Family member Steve “Clem” Grogan on guitar) matched Anger’s occult vision perfectly, producing a stunning masterpiece. Additional music recorded by Beausoleil and the Freedom Orchestra was released as a box set in 2005 as The Lucifer Rising Suite (Original Soundtrack and Sessions Anthology) and is highly recommended.

Yesterday some video appeared on Bobby Beausoleil’s YouTube channel of an astonishing live performance by the Freedom Orchestra at Tracy Prison contemporaneous to when they were actually recording the Lucifer Rising soundtrack. Some of what was performed here, I believe is exactly what we hear on the soundtrack. Last month, Beausoleil, currently serving his life sentence in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, had another bid for parole denied by the California Parole Board. He’s now 69 years old.

If you are a Kenneth Anger fan, prepare to have your fucking mind blown, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The Love Witch’: Sex magick meets pussy power in occult movie mindbender
11.11.2016
02:07 pm

Topics:
Feminism
Movies
Occult
Pop Culture

Tags:
Anna Biller


 
On its beautiful 35mm Technicolor surface, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch appears to be a spot-on replication of horror and sexploitation movies of the 1960s and 70s. Imagine a Hammer film directed by Radley Metzger or Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls featuring witches instead of an all-girl rock band. Biller’s film also recalls devilish delights like Juan López Moctezuma’s Alucarda, Jimmy Sangster’s Lust For A Vampire and just about anything directed by Jean Rollin. But Biller’s cinematographer M. David Mullen eschews shooting in the ocher and crimson hues of the Hammer films or soft focus of Rollin and goes for a luminescent style that evokes Frank Tashlin’s use of primary colors with their cartoon clarity, or one of Aleister Crowley’s paintings. Though Biller herself would tell you she wasn’t influenced by the movies that The Love Witch seems to be paying homage to there is an undeniable aesthetic connection between The Love Witch and dozens of Italian giallos as well as the films and directors I’ve already mentioned. If Biller hasn’t seen those films or is reluctant to spend time discussing her influences in interviews it’s because, in my opinion, she doesn’t want The Love Witch to be classified as some kind of camp artifact but seen as a very modern take on pussy power. In her movie, no one grabs these witches by the pussy and lives to joke about it.
 

 
The Love Witch is a perfect film for these times. As we’ve seen women rising to political power and female artists dominating the music charts and directing major films, we’ve also seen a sexist backlash that hasn’t been this virulent in decades. Our culture still demonizes women who are unafraid to assert themselves through their politics, art, bodies and minds. Strong women are called loud, shrill, bitches. The perception on the part of many men (and some women) is that these successful women got to where they are because they’re good at manipulation, skilled in using their female powers, their cunning. That their success isn’t earned. That they fucked their way to the top, using their feminine wiles to get what they wanted. The classic depictions of women in film noirs of the forties and fifties are back in the form of modern day femme fatales who scheme like Hillary Clinton and beguile like Beyoncé. [For some bone-chilling sexism and racism check out the ‘net response to Beyoncé‘s appearance on the Country Music Awards.]
 

 
The Love Witch is feminist fairy tale that uses the past to reflect on the moment. Within its B-movie trappings, it poetically probes the backlash that occurred when women broke free from sexual oppression during the go-go sixties and how that freedom resulted in a whole new set of problems. Every gesture of openness and sexuality could be misread as a come-on, a seduction, an unspoken “yes.” The Love Witch takes place in 1971 and I remember well when women started going bra-less and wore mini-skirts and let their hair grow long and free. Sexual liberation was fine in theory. But in practice women who expressed their new-found freedom by wearing what they wanted, walked and talked like they wanted, sent a message to men that was misread. Suddenly liberated women were perceived as easy targets. Outside of communities of young, intelligent and sensitive people, free sex wasn’t free. It often carried a high price. The Love Witch is not a horror movie in the conventional sense. But it is horrifying to be reminded of how women have been persecuted since Biblical days right up until now for enjoying their bodies and sexuality. They’re dangerous, they’re from Hell, they’re witches and must be burned on the stake of religion, fear and cultural oppression. A free woman is a threat to the fragile male sense of superiority. Men have done everything they can to keep women under control. Even demonizing them to the point that executing them was acceptable. Male strength is predicated on the subjugation of women. And when women rise up, men become desperate and in desperation they reveal their weakness. The woman who resists male dominance is evil, possessed, a witch.
 

 
Now I realize that I’m making The Love Witch sound like a diatribe against men. It isn’t. It’s a very sly comedy that uses the idea of witchery as a metaphor for pussy power unleashed. The whole movie is as nutty and fruity as a bag of Freudian trail mix. Interpretation is more than welcome, it’s almost obligatory.  Magic potions are created by combining female urine with used tampons—Trump’s worse menstruating Megyn Kelly nightmare. Smoking beakers filled with witches brews of day-glo chemicals could be the bubbling components for birth control concoctions, abortifacients and hallucinogenics. Keys to open the castle doors. After all, wasn’t it the pill and psychedelics that helped free our bodies and minds? Wouldn’t a love witch want to spread the good vibes? Oh, those devilish witches with their magic elixirs.

New age homilies and hippie dippy black magic circle jerks are wonderfully skewered on Biller’s sardonic pitchfork. Scenes have the drug panic of a Dragnet episode. And at times the movie’s like what you’d get if The Wicker Man was a Wicker Woman and lived in Topanga Canyon next door to the Mod Squad. But that’s just part of it. Imagine Hitchcock’s Marnie starring Anton LaVey and The Shangri-Las as Marnie’s multiple personalities. No, that’s not it either. Maybe if Hogtied magazine had sex with an Archie comic and gave birth to a slew of demonic Barbie Dolls dressed in leather and latex? Or maybe just a frugging Anaïs Nin bobblehead?
 

 
What happens when the power between yin and yang shifts and sugartits pulls a metaphoric gun on the guy with his hands on the steering wheel? Biller is both playful and deadly serious in scenes where burlesque dancers bring howling men helplessly to their knees with a mere thrust of the pelvis and witches with Bobby Gentry bouffants reduce men to sobbing little boys who quiver in the wake of the all powerful energy of the sorceress. In these moments of masculine meltdowns I can hear the pathetic voice of Frank Booth sobbing the word “mommy” between each inhalation of his witch’s brew. And off in the distance where the sun bleeds into the desert, Tura Satana is going Jackie Chan on a truck driver with a porn ‘stache.

The film is deep and deeply twisted. There’s a renaissance fair in The Love Witch that looks like the commune scene in Easy Rider directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky while tripping on Orange Sunshine. It’s fucking out of this world wacky. I think there’s even a Unicorn. Or was I hallucinating?
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
The earliest known depiction of a witch flying on a broomstick
10.25.2016
11:46 am

Topics:
History
Occult

Tags:
witches
broomsticks


 
The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) possesses countless treasures, but one of the most intriguing is certainly the first known depiction of a witch flying on a broom. As with the trope of a stork bringing a family a newborn baby, the image has embedded itself so deeply in our culture that we seldom stop to ask what it means or where it originally came from.

The marginal illustrations of the 1451 edition of French poet Martin Le Franc’s Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies), a manuscript of which currently resides in the BNF, include an image of two women levitating, one on a stick, the other on a broom. In Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History, history professors Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters assert that this edition of Le Champion des Dames contains “the first such illustration in the pictorial history of witchcraft.” Elsewhere they call it “the first known illustration of women flying on broomsticks.”

Le Franc’s lengthy poem on virtuous women (I almost wrote “nasty women”) features a section on witches, alongside of which the broomstick illustration appears. Fascinatingly, the two women have no physical deformity whatsoever and cannot be visually singled out as witches—but for the broomstick. Their covered heads is a sign that they are Waldensians, a kind of precursor to the Protestant Reformation.

But why broomsticks?
 

Definitely NOT the first depiction of a witch on a broomstick—it’s from 1910—but it was just too good not to use here.
 
Busting out his Freudian playbook, Dylan Thuras at Atlas Obscura muses that the “broom was a symbol of female domesticity, yet the broom was also phallic, so riding on one was a symbol of female sexuality, thus femininity and domesticity gone wild.” Furthermore, pagan rituals of the day often incorporated phallic forms, and the image of a broomstick between a woman’s legs would have been quite unsettling to Catholics.

The engine behind the power flight lay not in the stick, however, but in the “ointment” or “potion” that was applied to it, which might have included nightshade, henbane or fly agaric magic mushrooms. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber found this reference in the 15th-century works of Jordanes de Bergamo:
 

The vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.

 
“Other hairy places”—sounds like a veiled reference to genitalia, to which the levitating stick of course comes into close proximity.

Matt Soniak found a 1477 reference from Antoine Rose, who, after being accused of witchcraft in France, confessed that the Devil had given her flying potions; she would “smear the ointment on the stick, put it between her legs and say ‘Go, in the name of the Devil, go!’”

Now there’s that crazy witchcraft!
 
Note: The information in this article derives from a better and longer post written by Allison Meier at Hyperallergic, posted yesterday. Highly recommended.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Limited edition Alejandro Jodorowsky ‘El Topo’ figurine
10.19.2016
10:45 am

Topics:
Art
Movies
Occult

Tags:
Alejandro Jodorowsky
toys
El Topo


 
For a certain type of person, the announcement of four figurines based on characters from the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky—and created in consultation with the director himself—will be cause for much fanboy and fangirl rejoicing. If you are the significant other of one of these certain types of people, then this is the part where you cross them off your Christmas list, he wrote chuckling to himself, knowing fully well that his own wife would be reading this post…(!)

With pre-orders starting this Friday, October 21, ABKCO Films and Unbox Industries are unleashing the first in a series of licensed limited edition figurines based on the work of Jodorowsky, specifically characters from his films El Topo and Holy Mountain:

The first figure released is El Topo (“The Mole”) from the landmark cult film of the same name that began the Midnight Movie phenomena of the counterculture 1970s.  Classic Americana and avant-garde European sensibilities meet Zen Buddhism and the Bible as master gunfighter and cosmic mystic El Topo, played by Jodorowsky, must defeat his four sharp shooting rivals on an ever increasing path to allegorical self-enlightenment and surreal resurrection. The statue, made of polystone, a full 14 inches in height and distress brown in color, features exquisite detail and is packaged in a specially crafted wood embossed box. Each piece bears the replica signature of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The highly respected sculptor Andrea Blasich worked closely with ABKCO and Jodorowsky to ensure the figurines are as realistic as possible to their characters from the films.

As you can see, it looks very nice.

Unbox Industries will be releasing future figurines based on Jodorowsky’s 1973 masterpiece The Holy Mountain later this year and in 2017. I doubt they’ll do this, but imagine what it would be like if they did the famous Christ statue from the film and you obtained dozens of them for display in your own home. It would be expensive, sure, but just think how impressed the guy reading the gas meter would be!

Pre-order yours from the Unbox Industries website.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘A Message from the Temple’: First peek at upcoming documentary on Genesis P-Orridge cult looks GOOD


 
As there is just 23 days—ahem—left of their already half-funded Kickstarter campaign, I wanted to call your attention to a new film, already in production titled A Message from the Temple.

As a close observer/fellow traveler—I was never myself a member or direct participant, I’ve never been much of a joiner—of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth in the 1980s, I was pleased to hear that a feature length documentary was being planned on Genesis P-Orridge’s fanclub/cult and really impressed by their excellent trailer. The truly inside story of a cult is seldom an easy one to tell, but when it’s done right—like Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos 2012 “cult classic” The Source—it can be the very most fascinating sort of documentary. Sure, films about crazed loners are good too, I’ll grant you that, but there’s something about a group of outcasts deciding to do something oddball or unorthodox together that’s just too interesting, cinematically speaking, in my opinion. The groupthink, the leaders, philosophies, the motivations, jealousies, schisms, etc, etc., are so richly dramatic in a situation like that.

Adding harassment by the authorities—often the case for outlaw communities—only tends to heighten that drama.


Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth has been convened in order to act as a catalyst and focus for the Individual development of all those who wish to reach inwards and strike out. Maybe you are already one of these, already feeling different, dissatisfied, separate from the mass around you, instinctive and alert? You are already one of us. The fact that you have this message is a start in itself.

Conceived in the aftermath of the punk and industrial countercultures, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY) was an “anti-cult” that drew on the tenets of provocation, transgression, and the DIY ethos to form an internationally reaching network bound together by an esoteric sensibility.

With experimental pop group Psychic TV serving as the public’s access to Temple doctrine (shattering a Guinness World Record for musical output in the process), the decade long spiritual, intellectual, and sexual revolution that TOPY would instigate, for tens of thousands of members worldwide, represented an unprecedented model for radical communion.

TOPY strove to transcend the normative constructs of culture, sexuality, order, and reason, examine and undermine systems of power, and reach ecstatic states of being. In doing so its members often hurdled past the outer limits of propriety, arousing the moral wrath of “Satanic Panic” era British authorities and causing the subsequent Scotland Yard raid and political exile of the group’s central figurehead, artist and provocateur Genesis P-Orridge.

A Message from the Temple is the first authorized documentary about Thee Temple Of Psychick Youth (years 1981-1991), tracing its influences and inception to its dramatic downfall and enduring legacy.

Told with unprecedented access through the eyes of its members, collaborators, and persecutors via contemporary interviews, personal archives, and historical accounts from the mainstream media, A Message from the Temple will provide an intimate portrait of the artists, occultists, and rock stars that surrounded Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth.

It is our belief as filmmakers that stories such as this must be told if human history is to survive, progress, or have any meaning whatsoever.

 

 
This weekend in Brooklyn, the film’s producer’s Unclean Pictures will mount a benefit for the documentary. “Ritual Cuttings” is a symposium of Temple related videos and a discussion with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and other participants in TOPY. Tickets available here.
 
Watch the excellent trailer for ‘A Message from the Temple’ after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Number 666: The Aleister Crowley issue of Flexipop!


 
I learned many things during my recent conversation with David Tibet (Current 93 and related projects) and Youth (Killing Joke, the Orb, the Fireman, Brother Culture, Pink Floyd, et al.) about their fabulous new album as Hypnopazūzu. One of these was that during the early 80s, a British pop magazine had, at Tibet’s urging, numbered its final issue 666 and put Aleister Crowley on the cover. Tibet had written the cover story, too, about the Beast and his influence on pop musicians.

Both Youth and Tibet seemed to think the magazine in question was Smash Hits, but in fact Flexipop! was the one that employed Mark Manning/Zodiac Mindwarp as art editor and concluded with the Crowley issue. Though I wasn’t there, Flexipop! seems much hipper than Smash Hits from my vantage point: Every issue came with a flexi disc, and alongside the shit (and not) pop stars of the day, they profiled quality bands like the Birthday Party, Pigbag, Motörhead, Bauhaus, and Killing Joke (Youth dropped his pants in the pages of No. 19).

Having reached the kabbalistically significant number 32 with their second-to-last issue in June 1983—featuring both Killing Joke sans Youth and Brilliant, Youth’s new band with Jimmy Cauty—Flexipop! made a daring editorial decision at its perch atop the Tree of Life. For the cover of their valedictory number, instead of Paul Young or Sting, they took a chance on this fresh-faced, golden-voiced up-and-comer with a song in his heart and an Enochian key on his lips.

More after the jump…

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


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
That ‘Star Trek’ episode where Jack the Ripper takes over the Enterprise so everyone gets super high
09.16.2016
09:08 am

Topics:
Drugs
Occult
Television

Tags:
Star Trek
Jack the Ripper


 
I didn’t want to write this post, but the burden of TV history weighs heavy on my shoulders. The 50th anniversary of Star Trek came and went, and in all the fanfare, I saw no mention of the original series’ single most bizarre episode. Forget the one where they’re back in the 1920s, or the one where they’re at the O.K. Corral with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, or the one where Kirk and Spock fight Genghis Khan alongside Abraham Lincoln; this right here is the goods.

Before last night, I hadn’t seen “Wolf in the Fold” for about 30 years. I watched it again to make sure my memory was accurate, and I can confirm that this is without a doubt the most insane episode of Star Trek that ever made it to the screen. It is actually even weirder than I remembered. A space séance is involved.

I don’t want to give away much more of the plot, but you’ll see what I mean if I set it up briefly. Kirk, Bones, and Scotty go whoring on the “hedonistic” planet Argelius II, which looks just like foggy London town. Next thing you know, Scotty’s standing over a dead belly dancer with a bloody knife in his hand. Kirk asks what kind of legal process they have in this jerkwater, when the Prefect, making a grand entrance, declares: 

The law of Argelius is love.

Then comes the Jack the Ripper business and the whole crew getting messy on tranks. And there is so much more I’m deliberately leaving out.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 28  1 2 3 >  Last ›