Gods and Monsters: The haunting artwork of Shiki Taira
07:16 am

Room #3110 of the Park Hotel, Tokyo, has a large plate glass window with an impressive view of Mount Fuji. The view is one of the reasons for booking the room. The other, more important reason, is room #3110 has been designed and painted by artist Shiki Taira. It is room #30 in the hotel’s series of apartments designed by different Japanese artists. The hotel management’s intent is to offer guests a “fresh look at art”

To touch the beauty of the soul, surely a hotel which refreshes mind and body, and where more time is available for relaxation than in art museums, is an ideal venue for such an experience.

Taira’s room #3110 features a variety of Japanese gods flying across the walls, which when night falls, their reflection makes it appear as if these gods are flying over Mount Fuji. Taira adds:

I wanted to create a room where guests will be surrounded by auspicious Japanese motifs…They are lucky Japanese motifs such as the Fujin (Wind God), Raijin (Thunder God), Shichifukujin (Seven Lucky Gods) and Ichimoku-sama (One-Eyed God)...

Part of room #3110 designed and painted by Shiki Taira.
Born in Tokyo in 1990, Taira studied at the Department of Design, Tokyo University of Arts, where she graduated in Fine Art from the Department of Drawing and Decorative Art in 2013. Taira first exhibited her work at the 0+Ten Gallery, Tokyo, with further shows quickly following at the Sato Museum of Art, the ShinPA 10th, Gallery Art Morimoto, and the Seizan Gallery. She has been described as “a cutting edge artist” who is known for “her unique yōkai world that unfolds on silk with excellent brush works.”

Taira’s paintings incorporate traditional yōkai—the gods, ghosts, shape-shifters, and monsters from Japanese mythology who live in the half-light, the twilight area between between known and unknown, who prey on the unwitting and the lost—and reimagines them in a contemporary setting. Taira has said of her work that she likes to deform an individual’s distinctive features which then allows her to bring out images of the phantoms underneath. In Japan, she says:

We have an idea the gods dwell in various creatures and nature traditionally in Japan. Phantom is a part of these ideas and painted and printed in subject of Ukiyo-e in Edo-period by Hokusai Katsushika and others.

Her work suggests our lives are haunted by strange obsessions and superstitions which can sometimes shape our actions.
More beautiful, ghostly artworks after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:16 am
Take a tour of Hell with renowned Tibetan artist Pema Namdol Thaye
10:02 am

“Momo Drollo.” A painting by Pema Namdol Thaye featured in the book ‘A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir’ by Samuel Bercholz.

Pema Namdol Thaye is one of modern Tibet’s most important artistic creative forces. Namdol has earned worldwide praise for his mastery of three vital and challenging artforms; thangka painting, mural painting and the creation of 3D mandalas. In Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas (the Sanskrit word translates to “sacred center’) represent the place one seeks out during meditation. Contained in the mandala are objects or objectives which can be utilized to attain enlightenment or other types of spiritual/life guidance.

As a child, Namdol showed great artistic promise and was rewarded with a scholarship to attend a prestigious school in Kalimpong, India. There he surpassed expectations, becoming acutely proficient at skills associated with other disciplines of Tibetan art and Buddhism such as sculpture, architecture, and calligraphy. According to his biography, Namdol is one of only a few artists alive today who has the distinction of being a master of traditional Himalayan arts. His unusual talents and background made him the perfect choice to illustrate the 2016 book by Samuel Bercholz A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir. And this is where the relationship between Bercholz, a respected teacher of Buddhist philosophy and meditation for four decades, and Namdol gets very interesting.

After a heart attack, Bercholz underwent sextuple coronary bypass surgery during which he had a near-death experience that would change him forever. During the experience, Bercholz says he had vivid visions of what he believed was Hell or the “underworld.” He described seeing people getting karma served to them as payment for their scorched-earth lives—despots, killers, and other various scumbags were being horrifically punished before his eyes while he was in surgical limbo. Bercholz shared his story in detail with Namdol which he then translated into a series of paintings capturing Bercholz’s visit to the dark abyss. I know this isn’t the first time a person has come back from death’s door with a harrowing story about what they allegedly “saw,” however, given Bercholz’s background and Namdol’s stature, the images created by Namdol of Berchoz’s visions seem much more believable than a story about reaching out for God’s hand, seeing bright lights, or family members or beloved dead pets. Of course, it would be careless of me not to mention clinical studies of this phenomena have found it is most likely the result of brain function shutting down.

Or is it? Because I’m not going to be the one to dispute the experiences of a devout Buddhist and renowned academic. Nope.

The book has been widely acclaimed and tickets to a fascinating live chat between the author and actor Steve Buscemi about Heaven and Hell, sold-out within minutes. I’ve posted a short, animated clip of the pair discussing Berchoz’s experience. Also below are Namdol’s paintings documenting Berchol’s journey to Hell and back. Some are slightly NSFW. Giclée prints from A Guided Tour of Hell and other gorgeous artwork by Namdol can be purchased here.



Much more after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb
10:02 am
Audiences at the original run of ‘The Exorcist’ losing their shit
10:48 am

While I love The Exorcist and watch it at least once a year—wherever Penderecki is booming from big speakers, I’ll be there—I’m unable to see it without thinking about hype, suggestibility and mass hysteria. Most promotional campaigns for horror movies are more or less artful variations on the tagline Dudley Moore’s ad man comes up with in Crazy People: “It will fuck you up for life!” Rumors of a cursed set, damned celluloid and occult frames were for The Exorcist what $1,000 life insurance policies were to William Castle’s Macabre. Since its release, the movie has benefited from the outsize expectations first-time viewers bring to it.

When I was growing up, I regularly heard The Exorcist cited not only as the scariest movie ever made, but as the legitimate exemplar of subliminal techniques in filmmaking. The first time I saw the movie (on VHS), I remember noticing that at least some of these subliminal images I had heard so much about, the ones that had supposedly been engineered to make you puke and cry from abject terror, were plainly visible to the naked eye when the tape played at normal speed; seemed pretty superliminal to me. If you’re aware that you just saw a flash cut of a ghoulish face, is it your unconscious mind that’s being manipulated, or your fear of subliminal editing?

The widespread belief that the movie used modern techniques of mind control probably had more to do with the reaction it provoked in audiences than anything William “Fuck them where they breathe” Friedkin did in the editing room. As with The Blair Witch Project, an inferior movie similarly hyped, audiences were primed for terror by hyperbolic news reports and hours standing in line, anticipating the most traumatizing experience modern media could deliver.

Below, in local news footage, audiences at the original theatrical run of The Exorcist wait for hours to buy tickets. There is much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth among those exiting the theaters. An usher describes the crackups he’s seen, and some moviegoers step into the lobby to get some air mid-screening. Smelling salts are requested.

In other words, it’s a pop sensation! What’s more reminiscent of The Exorcist than the shrieks, sobs and streams of urine that greeted matinee performances by Frank Sinatra and the Beatles?


Posted by Oliver Hall
10:48 am
Terry Riley and La Monte Young in a documentary about their teacher, Pandit Pran Nath

Poster by Marian Zazeela for a raga cycle performance at St. John the Divine, 1991 (via The Hum)
William Farley’s In Between the Notes profiles the late Pandit Pran Nath, a singer and teacher in the Kirana school of Indian classical music. It features his most famous pupils, Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, and the late, great music scholar Robert Palmer sticks his head in, too.

Kicked out of the house at the age of 13 because he insisted on becoming a musician, Pran Nath made friends with the outdoors, as this short documentary illustrates. In Delhi, he demonstrates his keen ear for bird songs; on his return to the Tapkeshwar Caves, where, on the advice of his guru, he had lived for five years as a renunciant, Pran Nath shows how the sound of rushing water can stand in for the drone of a tambura when you are a homeless sadhu.

Pandit Pran Nath with Ann and Terry Riley (via Complete Word)
But if it was to be a tambura instead of a babbling brook, it had better be a “Pandit Pran Nath-style tambura.” Except in the caves, Terry Riley has his arm around one of these distinctive-sounding instruments every time he appears in the movie. Pran Nath’s New York Times obituary describes his specifications for the drone axe:

He secured the instrument’s upper bridge, changed the rounding of the resonating gourd and had instruments made without paint or varnish that might clog the pores of the wood, all to give the tamboura a richer tone.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
06:46 am
Meet the priest who was Oscar Wilde’s lover and partly the basis for ‘Dorian Gray’

The writer Max Frisch once wrote that an author does nothing worse than betray himself. In that, a work of fiction reveals more of a writer’s thoughts, tastes, and secrets than any work of biography.

This, of course, may not always be the case, but for many it is true. Like Oscar Wilde, whose novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) revealed more about his tastes and thoughts and secret lifestyle than he ever ‘fessed-up to in public—as he once admitted in a letter to the artist Albert Sterner in 1891:

You’ll find much of me in it, and, as it is cast in objective form, much that is not me.

The parts that were thought to be Wilde—the story’s homoerotic subtext—led the press to damn the book as morally corrupt, perverse, and unfit for publication.

As for the parts that were not Wilde, they revealed some of the people who in part inspired his story, in particular, a poet called John Gray (1866-1934), who was one of the Wilde’s lovers. Gray later loathed his association with the book and eventually denounced his relationship with Wilde and was ordained as a priest.
Wilde thing: A portrait of Oscar in his favorite fur coat.
The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a distinguished young man, Gray, whose portrait is painted by the artist Basil Hallward. On seeing the finished picture, Gray is overwhelmed by its (or rather his own) beauty and makes a pact with the Devil that he shall stay forever young with the painting grow old in his place. In modern parlance, consider it Faust for the selfie generation. Gray then abandons himself to every sin and imaginable depravity—the usual debauches of sex, drugs, and murder, etc.—in order to “cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul.” As to be expected, this has catastrophic results for Gray and those unfortunate enough to be around him.

Wilde disingenuously claimed he wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray “in a few days” as the result of “a wager.” In fact, he had long considered writing such a Faustian tale and began work on it in the summer of 1889. The story went through various drafts before it was submitted for publication in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. Even then, Wilde contacted his publisher offering to lengthen the story (from thirteen to eventually twenty chapters) so it could be published as a novel which he believed would cause “a sensation.”

It certainly did that as the press turned on Wilde and his latest work with unparalleled vehemence. The critics were outraged by the lightly disguised homosexual subtext, in particular, Wilde’s reference to his secret gay lifestyle:

...there are certain temperaments that marriage makes more complex…They are forced to have more than one life.

The St. James’s Gazette described the tale as “ordure,” “dull and nasty,” “prosy rigmaroles about the beauty of the Body and the corruption of the Soul.” And went on to denounce it as a dangerous and corrupt story, the result of “malodorous putrefaction” which was only suitable for being “chucked on the fire.”

One critic from the Daily Chronicle described the novel as:

...a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents—a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction…

While the Scots Observer asked: “Why go grubbing in the muckheaps?” and damned the book as only suitable “for the Criminal Investigation Department…outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys.”

The last remark related to the “Cleveland Street Affair” of early-1890, in which young telegraph boys were alleged to be working as prostitutes at a brothel on Cleveland Street. It was claimed the government had covered-up this notorious scandal as the brothel was known to be frequented by those from the highest ranks of politicians and royalty.

Little wonder that when Gray was publicly identified by the Star newspaper as “the original Dorian of the same name” he threatened to sue for libel. Gray asked Wilde to write a letter to the press denying any such association. Wilde did so, claiming in the Daily Telegraph that he hardly knew Gray, which was contrary to what was known in private. The Star agreed to pay Gray an out of court settlement—but the association was now publicly known.
John Gray: ‘The curves of your lips rewrite history.’
More on the life of John Gray, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
01:16 pm
Dead Babies: The Island of the Dolls
11:13 am

There are many stories about the Island of the Dolls. There is the story of the man who lived on the island who hung hundreds of dolls from the trees. Some said he hung the dolls because he thought they were alive. Others said he did it to appease the spirit of a dead girl who he had found drowned in waters near the island. Then there were those who said the dolls were possessed by evil spirits, whose voices could be heard at night calling for the living to join them.

The man was called Don Julian Santana. He moved to the island some sixty years ago. The island is a small area of land located in the canals of Xochimilco, to the south of Mexico City. One day Santana found the body of a young girl who had drowned in one of the canals. This grim discovery obsessed Santana. Whenever he returned to the canal where he had found the body he discovered discarded dolls in the water. He began to hang these dolls from the trees. It was said the girl’s ghost haunted the island and Santana offered up these dolls as a way to appease the girl’s troubled spirit and to protect the island from evil. But no one really knows why he did it.

Over the next five decades, Santana covered the trees with hundreds of dolls—dirty, broken, discarded—that hung like corpses from the branches. The place was called Isla de Las Muñecas—Island of the Dolls.

In 2001, Santana was found drowned at the very spot of the same canal where he had found the girl’s body. Now Santana’s family look after Santana’s eerie shrine which is open to the public—details here.
More gruesome things, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:13 am
Holy Diver: Pat Boone goes metal, Christians go berserk

Pat Boone and Alice Cooper on stage at the American Music Awards on January 27th, 1997.

“I describe myself as the midwife at the birth of rock & roll.”

—Pat Boone on his decision to record an album full of heavy metal covers in 1997

On January 27th, 1997, ABC aired the 24th Annual American Music Awards—an early 70s creation of the Dick Clark which determines its winners by tabulating votes from the public and album sales. Contrary to the less-than-riveting nominee list the ‘97 AMAs had a few cool moments such as Tupac Shakur’s posthumous win for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and D’Angelo scoring an award for Favorite Soul/R&B Artist. The most memorable moment of the show, and perhaps the year, depending on how riveting your own life was in 1997, was the appearance of conservative Christian crusader, actor, writer, and musician Pat Boone. Boone was about to release his latest record In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. The album was full of swing/big band-style covers featuring the vintage crooner’s adaptations of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” Judas Priest’s “You Got Another Thing Comin’,” “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” by AC/DC among other metal classics. Boone also procured musical contributions from Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow), Dweezil Zappa, and drummer Sheila E. Ronnie James Dio even provided backing vocals on Boone’s cover of “Holy Diver” calling Boone “a really cool guy who really loves metal music.”

To help promote the album set for release the following day, Boone walked the red carpet of the AMAs looking super buff in a leather vest and pants, no shirt, covered in fake tattoos which he accessorized with a studded leather dog collar around his neck, and a dangling silver earring. Later on the show, Boone would show up on stage with Alice Cooper to present the award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist. People in the audience went fucking NUTS at the sight of Boone looking like he would now be worshiping exclusively at the altar of Satan. At least that’s what Boone’s rather devout followers thought when they saw photos of their squeaky-clean idol looking like he had run away with Mötley Crüe or worse (if there is something worse than that). Perhaps the best part of the very un-Christian caper is that it sprang from the imagination of Dick Clark himself who proposed that Boone and Alice Cooper “switch images” for their award presentation moment. Initially, Cooper was all for it but shortly before the show decided that it was too corny and showed up looking exactly like Alice Cooper. To his credit, Boone kept his side of the Clark-brokered bargain and his seeming transformation into a heavy metal heathen would become a huge media story.  Unless you didn’t have a television in 1997, you most likely saw the then 63-year-old shirtless Boone and probably wondered “WTF” yourself. Which is precisely what Boone’s employers over at the Trinity Broadcasting Network thought—minus the F-bomb naturally.

Feel the BOONE!
As it turns out, Trinity Broadcasting Network—the massive Christian faith-based television company, considered Boone’s appearance on the AMAs a pretty serious misstep, and after fielding thousands of complaints from their viewers, they pulled the plug on Boone’s popular weekly show, Gospel America. Did this send Boone off to work on his hysterical crying game to ensure his apology to his fans would be as dramatic as hooker-loving Jimmy Swaggart’s 1988 “I have sinned!” sob-fest? Nope. Sure, Boone apologized but was also quick to say that Christians needed to “lighten up.” Here are a few more words from Boone on the death-rock debacle that cost him his show:

“Little did I dream that the media and a lot of Christians would take it seriously. I was really stunned that Christians, evidently by the thousands, having known me for 35 to 40 years, would think that overnight I just radically changed my orientation and all my priorities. Just because I wore some leather pants and fake tattoos and non-piercing earrings doesn’t mean that I’m a fundamentally different person.”

Now that you know all you ever wanted to know about Pat Boone (or read this to sum up his last few decades), let’s take a listen to a few sweet jams from In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy.
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb
11:04 am
‘Bare-ass naked’: The KLF and the live stage production of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Illuminatus!’

Prunella Gee as Eris in ‘Illuminatus!’ (via Liverpool Confidential)

In 1976, the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool mounted a 12-hour stage production of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was a fateful event in the life of the show’s set designer, Bill Drummond, for reasons he’s detailed in the Guardian: for one thing, it was in connection with Illuminatus! and its director, Ken Campbell, that Drummond first heard about the eternal conflict between the Illuminati, who may secretly control the world, and the Justified Ancients of Mummu, or the JAMs, who may be agents of chaos disrupting the Illuminati’s plans. (Recall that in Illuminatus!, the MC5 record “Kick Out The Jams” at the behest of the Illuminati, as a way of taunting the Justified Ancients—or so John Dillinger says.)

Before they were known as the KLF, Drummond and Jimmy Cauty called themselves the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, appropriating the name for the eschaton-immanentizing hip-hop outfit they started in 1987. Over the next few years, they seized the pop charts and filled the airwaves with disorienting, Discordian hits, until a day came when you could flip on the TV and find Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By The JAMs,” or Martin Sheen narrating the KLF’s reenactment of the end of The Wicker Man.

Bill Drummond in Big in Japan, live at Eric’s (via @FromEricsToEvol)
After the Liverpool run of Illuminatus!, Drummond rebuilt his sets for the London production, but he suddenly bailed on the show, walking out hours before it was to open. I guess he missed the nude cameo appearance Robert Anton Wilson describes in Cosmic Trigger, Volume I:

On November 23, 1976—a sacred Discordian holy day, both because of the 23 and because it is Harpo Marx’s birthday—a most ingenious young Englishman named Ken Campbell premiered a ten-hour adaptation of Illuminatus at the Science-Fiction Theatre of Liverpool. It was something of a success (the Guardian reviewed it three times, each reviewer being wildly enthusiastic) and Campbell and his partner, actor Chris Langham, were invited to present it as the first production of the new Cottesloe extension of the National Theatre, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen.

This seemed to me the greatest Discordian joke ever, since Illuminatus, as I may not have mentioned before, is the most overtly anarchistic novel of this century. Shea and I quite seriously defined our purpose, when writing it, as trying to do to the State what Voltaire did to the Church—to reduce it to an object of contempt among all educated people. Ken Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe). The thought of having this totally subversive ritual staged under the patronage of H.M. the Queen, Elizabeth II, was nectar and ambrosia to me.

The National Theatre flew Shea and me over to London for the premiere and I fell in love with the whole cast, especially Prunella Gee, who emphatically has my vote for Sexiest Actress since Marilyn Monroe. Some of us did a lot of drinking and hash-smoking together, and the cast told me a lot of synchronicities connected with the production. Five actors were injured during the Liverpool run, to fulfill the Law of Fives. Hitler had lived in Liverpool for five months when he was 23 years old. The section of Liverpool in which the play opened, indeed the very street, is described in a dream of Carl Jung’s recorded on page 23 of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The theatre in Liverpool opened the day Jung died. There is a yellow submarine in Illuminatus, and the Beatles first sang “Yellow Submarine” in that same Liverpool Theatre. The actor playing Padre Pederastia in the Black Mass scene had met Aleister Crowley on a train once.

The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” under the patronage of Elizabeth II, Queen of England, and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by Crowley before I was even born.


Robert Anton Wilson (via John Higgs)
In 2017, 23 years after they split up, Drummond and Cauty reunited as the JAMs. Instead of a new chart-burning house record, they released their first novel…

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
10:08 am
‘Out There’: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg

Scene: A medical facility in California, December 1960. Dr. Oscar Janiger, a research professor at the University of California-Irvine, carries out a series of investigations into the impact of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide 25, or LSD to you and me, on the creative processes. Janiger enlisted a variety of artists, writers, and actors as test patients, tasked with discovering the drug’s potency. Among those who signed-up for the trials was an artist named Burt Shonberg who had two sessions with Janiger. During his first session, Shonberg received an injection of 100ml of LSD. This led him to see a hidden structure to the universe where “Humanity is literally hypnotized by the Dream Reality of momentum caused by life (meaning external influences).”

There is an illusion of movement in life which is not the truth. This all relates to so-called time. Time is motion—is evolution. One might say that the Big Criminal in all this is identification. To be apart from the form is the answer to real vision—consciousness. To be awake is to be really alive—to really exist.

March 1961: Janiger carries out a second experiment with Shonberg upping the dose of LSD to 150ml. At first, the artist didn’t think the trip was working but suddenly he was propelled into an experience that led him to believe he had left the clinic and had witnessed an undiscovered world where giants danced in the sky. He quickly understood that this “psychedelic experience” could “possibly reach to actual magic and beyond.”

There are, of course, certain things that one experiences in the transcendental state that are not possible to communicate in the usual way, so new types of parables would have to be created to get the message through. These discoveries I refer to could be insights or revelations into various aspects of the world we live in, nature, the mind itself, the universe, reality, and God.

The experiments radically altered Shonberg and his approach to painting. He continued his own experiments with LSD which eventually led him to believe he was, in fact, a living embodiment of Baphomet—“a divine androgyne, a unification of light and darkness, male and female and the macro and microcosm,” or Aleister Crowley’s pagan, pre-Christian deity, or “the Devil in all his bestial majesty.”
‘Waking State Consciousness’ (1965).
Burt Shonberg was born on March 30, 1933, in Revere, MA. He had a talent for art and started his artistic studies before enlisting in the U.S. Army. After his discharge in 1956, he continued his studies at the Art Center of Los Angeles. He had interest in the occult, UFOs, and horror movies, in particular, Frankenstein’s monster which was a suitable avatar for his life and work as a creature made from disparate elements with no understanding of his true significance. His paintings drew various admirers including Forrest J. Ackerman who signed him to his talent agency and introduced him to the film world. He gained respect and began painting murals for a selection of hip nightclubs and coffee houses including Theodor Bikel’s Unicorn Cafe, the Purple Onion, the Bastille, Cosmo Alley and Pandora’s Box, eventually opening his own venue Café Frankenstein in 1958 at Laguna Beach, CA, where he decorated the walls and windows with startling imagery of his favorite movie monster.

As his reputation grew, Shonberg started a relationship with Marjorie Cameron—widow of the notorious rocket pioneer, occultist, and Crowley-devotee Jack Parsons. Cameron believed she was Babalon incarnate and initiated Shonberg’s interest in magick and the occult. Together they started an artist’s colony called ERONBU—a name composed from “camERON+BUrt.” But Cameron was a “Lady Macbeth figure, with hooks in Burt that penetrated deep,” and their relationship was doomed to failure.

His mural work drew the attention of independent movie-maker Roger Corman who hired Shonberg to paint the family portraits for his film version of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher starring Vincent Price. Corman and Price (an avid art collector) were deeply enamored of Shonberg’s work, which led to more movie, magazine, and album cover commissions in the sixties and seventies.
Vincent Price in front of two of Shonberg’s portraits for Roger Corman’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’
Biographer Spencer Kansa was hipped to Burt Shonberg when writing his biography of Marjorie Cameron. Kansa is an acclaimed novelist, writer, and outsider maverick who is ideally positioned to write the first major biography of Shonberg, Out There: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg.

Spenser Kansa: I discovered Burt’s work while I was researching my biography of Marjorie Cameron, Wormwood Star, in Los Angeles in the mid-2000s. I knew they’d been lovers but I got to meet two of Burt’s chums who raved about him and showed me some examples of his incredible artwork. And the more I got to know about him, the more I realized I just had to chronicle his life story once the Cameron biography was completed.

DM: Why do you think Shonberg is important?

SK: Firstly, he’s the pre-eminent psychedelic artist of the 1960s. Plus he’s an intriguing figure who straddles a mid-century cultural nexus that encapsulates the rise of alternative religions, the UFO phenomenon, the Beat Movement, the popularity of monster movies, sixties counterculture and psychedelia. 

DM: How did he meet Marjorie Cameron?

SK: My educated guess would be that they probably met at the Unicorn, L.A.’s first beatnik-era coffeehouse, which stood next door to what became the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. Burt designed its décor and menu and Cameron was known to frequent the place, as well as the bookshop upstairs.
‘Self Portrait’ (1958).
DM: What was Shonberg’s relationship to drugs? How important were they to him?

SK: His mural work was often quite time-consuming and laborious, and amphetamines helped fuel the necessary energy he needed to complete such undertakings, without losing his concentration. He would stay up for days at a time working on pieces, and his speed usage helps explain why he was so industrious and prolific. His use of hallucinogens, firstly, peyote then LSD, sparked his inner visions, and on canvases like “Seated Figure and a Cosmic Train,” he captured his transcendent state in such a moving and powerful way that many of his contemporaries, who’d also experienced such altered states, instantly related to it. Also, it’s important not to forget that he was able to translate onto the canvas, not only the occult and Crowley-inspired themes he’d been exposed to by Cameron but some rather weighty metaphysical concepts, particularly those deriving from his deep interest in Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way system.
More from Spencer Kansa talking about Burt Shonberg, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
12:40 pm
‘The Good Morty’: Pitch-perfect ‘Rick and Morty’-themed Chick tract parody

I’ve been a big Rick and Morty fan ever since the show debuted on Adult Swim in late 2013. (For the big Science March last year I carried a sign emblazoned with the image of Rick Sanchez—who is a scientist and genius.) I was a big Community nut and continue to be a Harmontown devotee, and so I was eager to see where Dan Harmon would land after the lengthy demise of Community. In addition to creating that Joel McHale vehicle for NBC, Harmon was one of the main minds behind the legendary failed 1999 TV pilot Heat Vision and Jack, which a young Jack Black teamed up with a young Owen Wilson in a parodic reworking of Knight Rider directed by a young Ben Stiller.

Harmon’s heart always lay more with visionary sci-fi (à la Robocop) and not the relatively sober sitcom trappings of Community, so Rick and Morty represented a return to subject matter like Heat Vision and Jack as well as a chance for him and show co-creator Justin Roiland to have a shit ton of fun. Reflecting the evident creative fulfillment that Harmon and Roiland have enjoyed, the show has found a solid cult following.

Purhasers of the box set of season 1 (Blu Ray version only) of Rick and Morty, which came out in 2014, received an odd little pamphlet with the title “The Good Morty.” The 14-page story was a pitch-perfect parody of the Chick tracts once unleashed by the millions by evangelical nut case Jack T. Chick. “The Good Morty” made a brief appearance in the season 1 finale “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind.”

“The Good Morty” tells the story of the “good” Morty and the “bad” Morty—the latter makes the poor decision to join Rick for an adventure that is identical to any number of Rick and Morty episodes while the “good” version of Morty stays home and obeys the strictures laid down in Sacrimortys 4:23 to worshipfully kiss his own toes and so on. Meanwhile, Morty’s sister Summer becomes a heroin addict and eventually the “bad” Morty is transformed into a cockroach by a vengeful deity. Such are the risks in deviating from the true path of Morty!

The tract ends with a little list of things to do in order to avoid getting transformed into a cockroach:

1. Draw five scantily-clad or fully nude girls every day.
2. Kiss your toes three times each night before bed. Imagine each toe is a crying Morty who needs love.
3. Say Jessica’s name seven times each morning. Never above a whisper. Never above audible levels. Use your “six inch voice.”
4. Play with toys daily. Action figures, building blocks, remote control type toys. Bonus points for yo-yos. They’re a classic that holds up. Just be careful with them. No fancy tricks in crowded rooms.
5. Refuse all calls to adventure from Rick. Be like your dad. Be like Jerry. A simple life.
6. Play video games. Bonus points for handheld games. Never play freemium games.
7. Don’t worry about homework. You’ll be fine. The global economy is going to collapse soon anyway. Learn survival skills if anything.

Anyone who has listened to Harmon discourse on Joseph Campbell will recognize the Campbellian note in the phrase “calls to adventure.”

“The Good Morty” was written by Roiland and Ryan Ridley, and the art was created by Erica Hayes. You can read the entire thing below:


Read the whole thing after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider
12:26 pm
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