Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gimme Shelter

Much of the film chronicles the behind-the-scenes dealmaking that took place to make the free Altamont concert happen, including much footage of well-known attorney Melvin Belli negotiating by telephone with the management of the Altamont Speedway. The movie also includes a playback of Hells Angels leader Ralph "Sonny" Barger's famous call-in to radio station KSAN-FM's "day after" program about the concert, where he recalls, "They told me if I could sit on the edge of the stage so nobody could climb over me, I could drink beer until the show was over."

The action then turns on the concert itself at the Altamont Speedway, the security for which was provided by the Hells Angels (armed with pool cues). As the day progresses, with drug-taking and drinking by the Angels and members of the audience, the mood turns ugly. Fights break out during performances by The Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane; Grace Slick pleads with the crowd to settle down. At one point Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin is knocked out by a Hells Angel; Paul Kantner attempts to confront "the people who hit my lead singer" in response. Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh arrive, but The Grateful Dead opt not to play after learning of the incident with Balin. (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young also performed at the concert but are not shown in the movie).
By the time The Stones hit the stage, it is evening, and the crowd is especially restless. The Stones open with "Jumpin' Jack Flash." They are also shown performing "Sympathy for the Devil" as tension continues to build. It is during the next song, "Under My Thumb", that a member of the audience, 18 year old Meredith Hunter, pulls out a revolver in the course of a melee near the stage, and is stabbed to death by Alan Passaro, a member of the Angels.
The late Baird Bryant, one of the many cameramen in the film, caught Meredith Hunter's stabbing on film. The film sequence clearly shows the silhouette of a handgun in Hunter's hand as a member of the Hells Angels enters from the right, grabs and raises the gun hand, turning Hunter around and stabbing him at least twice in the back before pushing Hunter off camera.
Amongst the camera operators for the Altamont concert was a young George Lucas, who went on to become a successful film director in his own right. At the concert his camera jammed after shooting about 100 feet (30 m) of film, and none of his footage was incorporated in the final cut

Ain't that a bitch?

"You know people have tried to put me off as being crazy," said Thelonious Sphere Monk. "Sometimes it's to your advantage for people to think you're crazy." He ought to have known. Monk was one of only a few jazz musicians to appear on the cover of Time magazine (others include Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Wynton Marsalis) and was celebrated as a genius by everyone who mattered. Bud Powell, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins could not have imagined (or transmuted) the language of jazz without him. Yet the pianist was also constantly underpaid and underappreciated, rejected as too weird on his way up and dismissed as old hat once he made his improbable climb. Performer and composer, eccentric and original, Monk was shrouded in mystery throughout his life. Not an especially loquacious artist (at least with journalists), he left most of his expression in his inimitable work, as stunning and unique as anyone's in jazz--second only to Duke Ellington's and
perched alongside Charles Mingus's.

He did leave a paper trail, though, and Robin D.G. Kelley's exhaustive, necessary and, as of now, definitive Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original offers a Baedeker of sorts
Kelley has created a lush portrait of the private, off-camera Monk, one it would have been difficult to paint without the unprecedented access he had to the Monk family, including Nellie, Monk's widow, who provided substantial information before her death in 2002, and their son, Toot (otherwise known as TS), who opened up the archives once trust had been established. Kelley shows us the man who, when he wasn't getting work in the early 1950s, played Mr. Mom. He shows us the musician who, when he wasn't at home, needed some sort of neighborhood watch to make sure he didn't drift in the wrong direction. It took a village. He had a family who tolerated his eccentricities and never pressured him to take a day job. Mingus had to work at the post office when freelance work was hard to come by; no matter how lean things got, Monk was
able to work at the eighty-eight keys in his living room.

Born in North Carolina in 1917 and raised in the predominantly African-American San Juan Hill neighborhood on what is now Manhattan's Upper West Side, Monk went from obscurity to notoriety to seclusion--from glorious, hard-fought music to inscrutable silence. At times he boomeranged from Bellevue to the Village Vanguard to Rikers Island to the 30th Street Studios of Columbia Records and back again. But one thing was for sure: in a certain scene, among a certain set, in boho corners of the 1950s, crazy was that year's model. "Crazy, man!" was the rallying cry of the Beats, parodied by Norman Mailer, who nevertheless believed, as a Bellevue alum himself, the hype about hip. Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath did stints in McLean Hospital; Allen Ginsberg, who saw the best minds of his generation starving, hysterical, naked, possessed a Bellevue pedigree; and John Berryman proclaimed himself a demented priest. Sanity was supposedly for squares.

Yet for all its colloquial power, crazy (or even "Crazy, man!") is not in the DSM-IV. We have not a shopworn adjective but a clinical diagnosis for what ailed Monk. He suffered, as Kelley explains, from bipolar disorder, although his illness was misdiagnosed and mistreated throughout the latter part of his career. Like other black jazz musicians (Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus), Monk was more likely to be called schizophrenic, or just plain nuts, than were blue bloods like Cal Lowell. Monk took "vitamin shots" from a "Doctor Feelgood" who dosed his patients with amphetamines. Kelley ventures that Monk, who alluded to his enigmatic psyche in songs like "Nutty" and "Misterioso," eventually stopped playing entirely a few years after he began taking lithium in 1972; after his final concert at Carnegie Hall (and an impromptu Fourth of July performance at Bradley's) in 1976, he hardly played or spoke until his death in 1982.

There is a much-quoted line in Charlotte Zwerin's 1988 documentary Straight, No Chaser in which Monk is told that he is in an encyclopedia alongside popes and presidents, and is therefore famous. As he absorbs this information he is patently aware that he is being filmed. His response? "I'm famous. Ain't that a bitch?"
It was indeed often a bitch to be Thelonious Monk. Because of a law that was eventually struck down by New York City Mayor John Lindsay in 1967, Monk repeatedly lost his "cabaret card." The card was a prized possession because it permitted musicians to play in establishments serving alcohol, and any cardholder who was arrested had to forfeit the golden ticket. Monk lost his repeatedly, once when he was arrested while sitting in a car with his dear friend Bud Powell, who was, according to Kelley, the one carrying heroin, but each was too loyal to the other to snitch; and once because he had the temerity, as a Negro in Jim Crow America, to demand service at a hotel in Delaware. (Monk took many police beatings for that one.) This was no way to treat a genius; it was no way to treat a human being.
"You know people have tried to put me off as being crazy," said Thelonious Sphere Monk. "Sometimes it's to your advantage for people to think you're crazy." He ought to have known. Monk was one of only a few jazz musicians to appear on the cover of Time magazine (others include Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Wynton Marsalis) and was celebrated as a genius by everyone who mattered. Bud Powell, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins could not have imagined (or transmuted) the language of jazz without him. Yet the pianist was also constantly underpaid and underappreciated, rejected as too weird on his way up and dismissed as old hat once he made his improbable climb. Performer and composer, eccentric and original, Monk was shrouded in mystery throughout his life. Not an especially loquacious artist (at least with journalists), he left most of his expression in his inimitable work, as stunning and unique as anyone's in jazz--second only to Duke Ellington's and perched alongside Charles Mingus's.
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
by Robin D.G. Kelley

And suddenly, it was over.Did he just go too far within himself and never return? Did his treatment for bipolar disorder somehow cure him of the music bug as well? Did he have new musical ideas trapped in a recal citrant body? Kelley suggests the more prosaic possibility that he was suffering from an enlarged prostate.
Monk had already moved into the spacious home of the Baroness Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter (Parker's old patron) in Weehawken, New Jersey, with a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and an even more spectacular number of cats. Monk had become too much for his wife to handle, and Nellie didn't object to his relocating to a mansion across the Hudson. Pannonica inspired a Monk ballad of the same name, but there is no evidence that they were lovers. Nica kept a piano by Monk's room, but Monk almost never touched it. "If his health improved and his manic-depressive cycles were under control," Kelley writes, "why did he stop playing? Having spent the better part of fourteen years tracing Monk's every step, I was not surprised by his decision. In fact, I wondered why he did not retire earlier." Kelley is a judicious biographer, but I find this conclusion difficult to accept. Monk told Sonny Rollins that when all else failed, there was always music. Music was not to be let go, no matter how unsteady things got, and by all accounts in the book, the later performances, except for the final one, were still filled with magic. Maybe with more equilibrium, though, Monk was not inspired to sit down at the piano and feign his most inspired moments--which came, at least in part, from a place of serious illness.
(from David Jaffe more}

Thelonious Monk : Straight, No Chaser (1988) is a documentary about the life of Thelonious Monk. Produced by Clint Eastwood, and directed by Charlotte Zwerin, it features live performances by Monk and his group, and posthumous interviews with friends and family. The film was created when a large amount of archived footage of Monk which was found in the 1980s.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Henry Miller Asleep & Awake in his Bathroom with Gurdjieff

“Today, I think it’s the ugliest, filthiest, shittiest city in the world. When I was a kid, there was hardly anything that we have today - no telephones, no nothing, really. It was rather quaint. There was color even, in the buildings. But as time went on, why, it got more horrible to me. When I think of the Brooklyn bridge, which was the only bridge then in many times I walked over that bridge on an empty stomach, back and forth, looking for a handout, never getting anything...selling newspapers at Times Square, begging on Broadway, coming home with a dime maybe. It’s no wonder that I had these goddamned recurring nightmares all my life. I don’t know how I ever survived, or why I’m still sane.”
Filmed when the author was 81, HENRY MILLER ASLEEP & AWAKE is a voyage of ideas about life, writing, sex, spirituality, nightmares, and New York that captures the warmth, vigor and high animal spirits of a singular American artist. The man is Henry Miller and the room is his bathroom. It's a miraculous shrine covered with photos and drawings collected by the author over the course of his long and fruitful life. Graciously, in his raspy, sonorous voice, he points out the highlights of his improvised gallery, speaking of philosophers, writers, painters, mad kings, women, and friends.

Tom Schiller grew up in LA and met Henry Miller when he was 18 assisting another filmmaker shooting at the author's home. Schiller's other works include documentaries on Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller and Anais Nin, before joining Saturday Night Live as an original writer. There, he won three Emmy's and created the short film segments "Schiller's Reel" and "Schillervision" and worked with John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner among others. Schiller later wrote and directed an MGM/UA feature film entitled "Nothing Lasts Forever" and has been directing television commercials for over a decade.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Felines perform tricks on giant balls

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more unusual circus, or father-daughter performing duo. The Moscow Cat Theatre is just that: a travelling show of cats that perform amazing tricks for the owners who love and train them. Everybody in Russia may be used to seeing cats perform tricks, as the theatre’s manager explains in this funny, charming film, but felines walking tightropes, crossing the stage on giant balls and walking upside down is not a common sight in most countries. As a balalaika and accordion circus score plays in the background, Creative Director Vladimir and his daughter Maria combine their love of cats and stage to create a captivating act and illustrate the tricks of the trade – giving new meaning to the expression ‘herding cats’.

Freaks and SPURS

The film's climax—the night in which the freaks wreak their justice upon the strong man and trapeze artist, followed by the epilogue showing the horrendous hen-creature—have long been touted as supreme examples of screen horror, and are

unquestionably a major reason why FREAKS has remained a cinematic legend. They are indeed highlights of the film, the torrential downpour being a Browning tour-de-force in which the only sounds are assorted groans, screams and the elements of nature. Nevertheless, for all that can be said of it, the chase sequence is far too brief. We must be content with the one glimpse of Cleo's face and the freaks in pursuit the camera affords us, although a longer series of shots, with Cleo racing . . . falling . . . struggling to make her way through the forest with various innocent shadows playing amongst the trees and undergrowth, climaxing in a similar way, would have made the sequence even more memorable. There remain, admittedly so, the couple of marvelous close-ups of the freaks propelling themselves through the mire towards the mortally wounded Hercules (there appears to be some footage missing here, for the strong man's fate is never actually explained in action or dialogue; an original plan was to have him emasculated, but as the film exists now, it is assumed that the freaks murdered him). Had Browning chosen to insert additional shots such as these, the result would have been even more satisfying.
(read more...)

Rachel and the Dragon

After creating their first ever African American princess, Disney breaks new ground with a Jewish American Princess.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tel Hai Pottery Symposium 2009

Akira Satake with a little banjo tune Sandy Brown through 400 kilos of clay and Tim Andrews at Tel Hai Pottery Symposium 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shamba Boo and Zurich Deserters

Igor Satanovsky (b.1969, Kiev, Ukraine) is a bilingual Russian-American poet/translator/visual artist who moved to the United States in 1989. Satanovsky's work in both the visual arts and poetry has appeared on both sides of the Atlantic: his Russian poetry, as well as translations of Allen Ginsberg, E. E. Cummings and Antonen Artaud appeared in Zerkalo magazine (Israel, 1996-2000). Other works have appeared in Koja, Blackbox, Riverrun, and Urban Spaghetti. He also edited the Rush-ins Poetry Reader (Koja Press, 2000) and contributed notes to the Dictionary of the Avant-Garde (Schirmer, 1999).

and from 1916
Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Richard Huselbeck, Tristan Tzara - "L'amiral Cherche Une Maison a Louer"

"L'amiral Cherche Une Maison à Louer" is one of the best known examples of Dada tonal poetry, in which several voices speak, sing, whistle, etc. simultaneously in such a way that the resulting combinations account for the total effect of the work. The simultaneous poem demonstrates the value of the human voice and is a powerful illustration of the fact that an organic work of art has a will of its own. The piece was written in 1916 as a performance piece for the Caberet Voltaire by Tristan Tzara, Richard Hulsenbeck and Marcel Janco.
Janco (1895-1985), a Romanian painter and engraver, had become acquainted with Tzara in 1912, working with him on the magazine "Simbolul." Whilst studying architecture in Zurich in 1915, he met Tzara again and became involved in the Cabaret Voltaire, for which he made woodcuts and abstract reliefs, posters, costumes and masks.
The version featured here is not an original recording but one made by the Italian Trio Excoco: Hanna Aurbacher, Theophil Maier and Ewald Liska.
Some verses of Tristan Tzara, for example "nfoünta mbaah mbaah nfoünta", inspired by African singsong, seem to be analogous to Hugo Ball's work, but in general Tzara's poems consisted of absurd encounters of meanings, and not of sounds, such as the famous "La première aventure céleste de M.Anitpryine" (1916) and the poem that he composed in collaboration with Marcel Janco and Richard Huelsenbeck "L'amiral cherche une maison à louer" (The admiral looks for a house to rent). Tzara's dadaism is not phonic but semantic.
Tristan Tzara, pseudonym of Sami Rosenstok, born at Moinesti, Rumania, in 1896, died in Paris in 1963. Poet and writer in the French language. Took part in the foundation of the dadaist movement at Zurich. In 1917 he published the magazine "Dada" and, in the third numbe, the first dadaist manifesto. At the end of 1919 he moved to Paris. Contributed to almost all the dadaist publications in Zurich, New York, Paris, Berlin, Hanover and Cologne.

(from UBU)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's Public Enemy, Number One!

Reefer Madness is a 1936 cult film about a group of young students whose tragic downfall is apparently caused by their marijuana use.
Directed by Louis Gasnier. Written by Arthur Hoerl.

Mae: What time is it?
Jack: Time to get up and give this place the goin' over. It looks like the Marines have landed.
Mae: Well, that bunch last night was high enough to take over the Marines and the Navy!

Jimmy: How about driving over to the... Joe's place with me? I'll buy you a soda!
Bill: I never drink the stuff!

[Jimmy finishes a reefer before driving.]
Jimmy: Let's go, Jack. I'm red-hot!
Jack: Better be careful how you drive, or the first thing you know you'll be ice-cold.

Bureau Official: Here is an example: A fifteen-year-old lad apprehended in the act of staging a holdup — fifteen years old and a marijuana addict. Here is a most tragic case.
Dr. Carroll: Yes, I remember. Just a young boy... under the influence of drugs... who killed his entire family with an axe.

Marc Hauser, Fat Man and The Trolley

For many, living a moral life is synonymous with living a religious life. Just as educated students of mathematics, chemistry and politics know that 1=1, water=H2O, and Barack Obama=US president, so, too, do religiously educated people know that religion=morality.
As simple and pleasing as this relationship may seem, it has at least three possible interpretations.
First, if religion represents the source of moral understanding, then those lacking a religious education are morally lost, adrift in a sea of sinful temptation. Those with a religious education not only chart a steady course, guided by the cliched moral compass but they know why some actions are morally virtuous and others are morally abhorrent.
Second, perhaps everyone has a standard engine for working out what is morally right or wrong but those with a religious background have extra accessories that refine our actions, fuelling altruism and fending off harms to others.
Third, while religion certainly does provide moral inspiration, not all of its recommendations are morally laudatory. Though we can all applaud those religions that teach compassion, forgiveness and genuine altruism, we can also express disgust and moral outrage at those religions that promote ethnic cleansing, often by praising those willing to commit suicide for the good of the religious "team".
None of my comments so far are meant to be divisive with respect to the meaning and sense of community that many derive from religion. Where I intend to be divisive is with respect to the argument that religion, and moral education more generally, represent the only — or perhaps even the ultimate — source of moral reasoning. If anything, moral education is often motivated by self-interest, to do what's best for those within a moral community, preaching singularity, not plurality. Blame nurture, not nature, for our moral atrocities against humanity. And blame educated partiality more generally, as this allows us to lump into one category all those who fail to acknowledge our shared humanity and fail to use secular reasoning to practise compassion.
If religion is not the source of our moral insights — and moral education has the demonstrated potential to teach partiality and, therefore, morally destructive behaviour — then what other sources of inspiration are on offer?
(read more...)
Take a moral test HERE

The Delta Blues

The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale exists to collect, preserve, and provide public access to and awareness of the blues. Along with holdings of significant blues-related memorabilia, the museum also exhibits and collects art portraying the blues tradition, including works by sculptor Floyd Shaman and photographer Birney Imes.
The museum is located in the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Passenger Depot, also known as Illinois Central Passenger Depot or Clarksdale Passenger Depot, which was built in 1926 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
The museum has been visited by many notable artists such as Eric Clapton and Paul Simon. The Texas-based rock band ZZ Top, especially front man Billy Gibbons, have made this museum their pet project and have raised thousands of dollars in support. The museum also focuses on educating young people interested in learning to play musical instruments.
(read more...)

Anarchism, Trotskyism, American Labor & Radical History, and Social Movements

Sorry, you have to allow pop-up...

Ok, so this place isn't for everybody. Don't expect leather bound Rudyard Kipling or dogeared copies of Dune. What you will find (if you can find the is well hidden, and you have to be buzzed in to get inside, but don't let that deter you) is a wonderland of subversive literature, non fiction mostly. Don't be will be among your kind, here. John and Mike and Rocky are all funny and smart and helpful. One trip here and you'll be "one of them"!
Bolerium Books is the wiser older sister of some other, more irritating radical bookstores we could name. You won't stumble into Bolerium on your way to the touristy head shop, for example. In fact, you might miss it altogether. It's up three flights of narrow stairs above a paint shop, and you have to buzz to get in. (Hint: Say something intelligent into the intercom, like "Uh, bookstore?") Once you find it, though, you're in a nerdy left-wing page-turner's paradise. S.F. Communist detective fiction writer Mike Quinn, 1930s pen name Robert Finnegan? You'll find him here. "Father of the beatniks" Kenneth Rexroth's novels? Bolerium usually stocks them. Ask for San Francisco history, and the sardonic but friendly people who work there may show you across the hall to another room holding soaring shelves of rare finds. Far from a flashy shock shop, Bolerium is a place to think and read: It's very San Francisco that way. (from SFweekly)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

מבט אישי

גלריה לבנדל – בלוך

מתכבדים להזמינכם לתערוכה
ענת גולן , מילת דוויק , מירון כספרי , בוריס פוליצ'וק
אמן סאונד, אורח מיוון - לוקאס מסינזיס
מבט אישי
הפתיחה: יום שישי 11.12.09 בשעה 12:00
כ"ד כסלו תש"ע , נר ראשון של חנוכה
נעילה : מוצ"ש 19.12.09 בשעה 19:00
התערוכה מתקיימת ביוזמת דרך הלב , יוזמה צפונית

פרטים : 0544546530 , 0506316514

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pink Flamingos : פינק פלמינגוז

"How can anyone sit through the entire length of a film, especially a European film, without smoking??" Thus, John Waters, self-righteously breaking that invisible fourth wall, shoots his opening volley in a full frontal royal 'up yours' to the establishment and anyone else who cares to be watching. In Pink Flamingos he uses and abuses just about every taboo known to bourgeoise society in an, at times, puke-inducing tirade. Hermaphrodites, cross dressers, a man with a two-foot sausage penis extension, incest and white slavery - it's all here, so roll up, and come and get it.
Perhaps the most apt log line for this film would be "The battle for the title of 'Filthiest Person in the World' is on; dog shit eater Divine against the self-proclaimed 'filthiest couple in the world', the Marbles (had they lost them?), masters of going from one fuck to $5,000 in nine months (go figure)." As Divine declares, "Filth is my politics; filth is my life!"
More a series of vignettes than anything else, any attempt to encapsulate some sort of storyline is, in my opinion, rather pointless; anyone coming out of the movie will not be thinking about the great sense of closure they feel after it ends, but more about where the nearest vomit pit is. For the faint of stomach this is not, and beyond a middle finger to the "more crime-conscious areas of the city," there seems to be little point to this film. But don't take that as a negative - I laughed my head off.
(read more...)

ווטרס ביים מאמצע שנות הששים שישה סרטים שונים, אולם ההצלחה המיוחלת הגיעה רק עם פינק פלמינגוז (1972), סרט מזעזע בכוונת מכוון, העוסק במשפחה שופעת גילוי עריות המתגאה בתואר "האנשים המטונפים ביותר בעולם". המשפחה המורכבת מאם המכורה לביצים, פושע הנוער קרקרס ומציצן בשם קוטון. משפחה, החיה בקרוואן שבחזיתו זוג פלמינגואים וורודים, ומתעמתת עם זוג מריר המנסה לגזול מהם את כתר "האנשים המטונפים ביותר בעולם". הסרט, שצולם בסופי שבוע ובתקציב של $10,000, הוא בעל סגנון מחתרתי במובהק, סצינות קשות במכוון לצפיה, והרבה הומור שחור וטעם רע. הסצנה הקלאסית והידועה לשמצה ביותר מהסרט היא הסצנה האחרונה שבה השחקן הטרנסוויסטי האגדי דיוויין, המפורסם שבשחקניו הקבועים של ווטרס, אוכל גללי כלב טריים. ווטרס עצמו כינה את הסרט תרגיל בטעם רע. בשני סרטיו הבאים המשיך ווטרס ביצירת קולנוע פרובוקטיבית 
ומחתרתית וחתם בכך את מה שמכונה טרילוגית הטראש.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't Loose Your Head:Full Movie (El Topo)

Jodorowsky's life reads like a picaresque, or the plot of a magic-realist novel. He was born in Chile, of Ukrainian Jewish descent, but abandoned his family at an early age "because my father was a monster, and my mother was as well." Alighting in Paris in the 1950s, he studied mime with Marcel Marceau and directed Maurice Chevalier in music hall. Relocating to Mexico, he founded an avant-garde theatre group and scandalised the Catholic priests, who believed he was holding black mass orgies in the cathedral. "In Mexico they want to kill me!" he exclaims. "A soldier held a gun to my chest!"

In 1970 he directed El Topo, a deranged peyote western that some have interpreted as a metaphor for the Old and New Testaments. It starred himself as a cold-blooded gunslinger in rabbinical black and his son Brontis, buck naked beneath a Stetson hat. El Topo eventually came to the attention of John Lennon who hailed it as a counter-culture masterpiece. Lennon introduced the film in New York, where it later played in special midnight screenings for almost a year. He also convinced Klein to stump up $1m for Jodorowsky's ambitious next production. And that's where the trouble began.
(read more...)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eco : Ugly

In “History of Beauty,” Umberto Eco explored the ways in which notions of attractiveness shift from culture to culture and era to era. With ON UGLINESS, a collection of images and written excerpts from ancient times to the present, he asks: Is repulsiveness, too, in the eye of the beholder? And what do we learn about that beholder when we delve into his aversions? Selecting stark visual images of gore, deformity, moral turpitude and malice, and quotations from sources ranging from Plato to radical feminists, Eco unfurls a taxonomy of ugliness. As gross-out contests go, it’s both absorbing and highbrow.

In every century, philosophers and artists have supplied definitions of beauty, and thanks to their works it is possible to reconstruct a history of aesthetic ideas over time. But this did not happen with ugliness. Most of the time it was defined as the opposite of beauty but almost no one ever devoted a treatise of any length to ugliness, which was relegated to passing mentions in marginal works. Hence, while a history of beauty can draw on a wide range of theoretical sources (from which we can deduce the tastes of a given epoch), for the most part a history of ugliness must seek out its own documents in the visual or verbal portrayals of things or people that are in some way seen as "ugly." Nonetheless, a history of ugliness shares some common characteristics with a history of beauty. First, we can only assume that the tastes of ordinary people corresponded in some way with the tastes of the artists of their day. If a visitor from space went into a gallery of contemporary art, and if he saw women's faces painted by Picasso and heard onlookers describing them as "beautiful," he might get the mistaken idea that in everyday life the men of our time find female creatures with faces like those painted by Picasso beautiful and desirable. But our visitor from space might modify his opinion on watching a fashion show or the Miss Universe contest, in which he would witness the celebration of other models of so-called called primitive peoples we have artistic finds but we have no theoretical texts to tell us if these were intended to cause aesthetic delight, holy fear, or hilarity. To a westerner an African ritual mask might seem hair-raising -- while for a native it might represent a benevolent divinity. Conversely, believers in some non-European religion might be disgusted by the image of Christ scourged, bleeding, and humiliated, while this apparent corporeal ugliness might arouse sympathy and emotion in a Christian. In the case of other cultures, with a wealth of poetic and philosophical texts (such as Indian, Chinese, or Japanese culture), we see images and forms but, on translating their works of literature and philosophy, it is almost always difficult to establish to what extent certain concepts can be identified with our own, although tradition has induced us to translate them into western terms such as "beautiful" or "ugly." Even if the translations were reliable, it would not be enough to know that in a certain culture something that possesses, for example, proportion and harmony, was seen as beautiful. Proportion and harmony. What do we mean by these terms? Even in the course of western history their meaning has changed. It is only by comparing theoretical statements with a picture or an architectonic structure from the period that we notice that what was considered proportionate in one century was no longer seen as such in another; on the subject of proportion, for example, a medieval philosopher would think of the dimensions and the form of a Gothic cathedral, while a Renaissance theoretician would think of a sixteenth-century temple, whose parts were governed by the golden section -- and Renaissance man saw the proportions of cathedrals as barbarous, as the term "Gothic" amply suggests. Concepts of beauty and ugliness are relative to various historical periods or various cultures and, to quote Xenophanes of Colophon (according to Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 110), "But had the oxen or the lions hands, or could with hands depict a work like men, were beasts to draw the semblance of the gods, the horses would them like to horses sketch, to oxen, oxen, and their bodies make of such a shape as to themselves belongs."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Funny, You Don't Look Chinese...

When photographer Chen Haiwen tried to take pictures of the Jingpo ethnic group in Yunnan province for his ambitious photo album featuring all of China's 56 ethnic groups, he ran into a problem.
The locals said the Jingpo had many branches, and only the leader they recognized could gather them all for the photographs. But the leader was dead and his younger brother now lives abroad. His daughter was the only one the group recognized as their chief.
Chen invited her to a banquet and explained his project. To his dismay, she remained silent and expressionless. Then she gestured to three cups of wine placed on the table.

Though unsure of what she meant, Chen downed all three cups and earned her smile. They then chatted as old friends and Chen vaguely remembers some five empty wine bottles left on the table. The next day, Chen's crew was greeted with a grand reception. People from far and wide gathered in their festive costumes. The young girls even put on fashionable make-up. No one wanted the money Chen offered for their time.
"I realized that each ethnic group has its own characteristics. The Jingpo people are frank and loyal to their friends. But if they don't know you, they can be very cautious," says Chen.
Since last August, Chen has led his crew of 14 Chinese photographers through some 190,000 km in roughly 554 counties and cities. They have taken 57,228 pictures of the 56 Chinese ethnic groups. His album Harmonious China: Glimpses of 56 Chinese Ethnic Groups is on display, along with 800 other photos, at Beijing's Wangfujing until Monday. Around 450 photos from the exhibition will be compiled into another album, to showcase the nation's unity and development.
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Stalker (Сталкер)

When the British Film Institute launched a survey on “the film you would like to share with future generations”, behind Blade Runner in first place was a surprise second place entry: Andrei Tarkovsky’s science fiction film Stalker, in which a guide leads two clients to a site known as “the Zone”, which has the supposed potential to fulfill a person’s innermost desires.

Directed by: Andrei Tarkovsky; Produced by: Aleksandra Demidova; Written by: Arkadi Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky; Starring: Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko; Music by: Eduard Artemyev; Distributed by: Mosfilm; Release date: August 1979 (Soviet Union); Running time: 163 min; Language: Russian; Subtitle: English; Description: Near a gray and unnamed city is the Zone, an alien place guarded by barbed wire and soldiers. Over his wife's numerous objections, a man rises in the dead of night: he's a stalker, one of a handful who have the mental gifts (and who risk imprisonment) to lead people into the Zone to the Room, a place where one's secret hopes come true. That night, he takes two people into the Zone: a popular writer who is burned out, cynical, and questioning his genius; and a quiet scientist more concerned about his knapsack than the journey. In the deserted Zone, the approach to the Room must be indirect. As they draw near, the rules seem to change and the stalker faces a crisis

Those damn beatniks...

Wizz Jones, one of the first British Beatniks, and noted folk-blues musician, performs two of his songs and talks about his life in this documentary from 1960, which provides an illuminating glimpse of the media's view of alternative lifestyles at that time. The interviews are conducted by veteran reporter Alan Whicker, looking very much like a Monty Python parody of himself. Wizz's two songs in this clip are interesting. Both were versions of older songs, but rewritten by Wizz to mock the Burgermeisters of Newquay. The first was based on "Down on Penny's Farm" by the Bently Boys, a white country duo who recorded it in 1929. The track was reissued on Harry Smith's groundbreaking "Anthology of American Folk Music" LP set put out by Folkways Records in 1952. This was one of the most influential releases in the history of folk music, and spread like wildfire through the folk communities on both sides of the Atlantic. So it's no surprise that Wizz Jones knew of the original recording in 1960 and used it as the basis for a protest song of his own. The other song Wizz sings is based on Elizabeth Cotten's "Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie", which appeared on another Folkways LP release "Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar" in 1958. Elizabeth Cotten used the same kind of alternating bass finger-picking style, complicated by the fact that she played a standard six-string guitar left-handed, i.e. upside-down!
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Saragossa Manuscript ( Полный пиздец )

"Head movies" — those mind-bending epics like 2001 or El Topo that are supposedly best viewed under the influence — frequently require drugs just to get through them. In the case of The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), the equation is reversed; anyone going into this three-hour mind-fuck straight may well come out feeling stoned. Those who like a challenge and can handle a dizzyingly dense structure that’s more puzzle than plot will be well rewarded. A great score by Krzystof Penderecki and gorgeous cinematography (black-and-white Cinemascope) keep the ear and eye riveted even while the brain is in meltdown.
Directed by the well-regarded Wojciech Has, the film is an adaptation of at least part of a legendary, massive novel by Count Jan Potocki (1761-1815). Potocki’s resume would take almost as long to read as the film takes to watch. Sources say he was a noted travel writer, "novice king of Malta" (whatever that is), Egyptologist, occultist, historian, balloonist, linguist, melancholic, and eventual suicide at age 54. The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (1813) was his crowning work, favorably compared by aficionados to The Decameron and The Arabian Nights for its rich folkloric elements, supernatural motifs, bawdy humor, and surreal touches. It also contains heavy doses of Jewish mysticism and scientific theory of the day (including discussions of mathematics and philosophy). Like its predecessors it has a very modern, labyrinthine, story-within-a-story structure, but it’s even more multilayered, so much so that a slide rule and a scratch pad are advisable for keeping track of who’s who and what’s what. If the movie is any indication, there are as many as five levels of drilldown in some sequences, with one person telling a story about another person, who then tells another story about someone else, who then — you get the idea.
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Part one

The painter and portraitist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), whose folkloric depictions of the horrors of witchcraft, warfare and a host of non-supernatural but thoroughly evil human tendencies were an inspiration to the Impressionists, hailed from the countryside around Saragossa, capital city of the former Kingdom of Aragon in northeast Spain. Although Goya has never been cited as a direct influence on Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse (A Manuscript Found in Saragossa), the novel by Jan Potocki (1761-1815) is Goyaesque in the extreme. Goya knew Potocki and was commissioned twice to paint the Polish aristocrat and career soldier’s portrait.

Part two

Sorry,no english dub for few minutes)
Perhaps during those long and tedious sittings, the local artist and the world traveler swapped tales of the grotesque and arabesque, with the result leading to what is now commonly referred to as The Saragossa Manuscript.
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Будучи офицером французской армии, я принимал участие в осаде Сарагосы.
Через несколько дней после завоевания этого города, оказавшись в одном из
отдаленных его кварталов, я обратил внимание на домик довольно изящной
архитектуры, который - это было сразу видно - французские солдаты еще не
успели разграбить.
Подстрекаемый любопытством, я подошел к двери и постучал. Она оказалась
незапертой, - я слегка толкнул ее и вошел внутрь. На мой зов никто не
откликнулся; поиски не дали результата: в доме не было ни души. Казалось,
что из дома вынесли все ценное; на столах и в шкафах остались одни
ненужные безделицы. Только в углу на полу я увидел несколько исписанных
тетрадей. Перелистал их. Рукопись была испанская; хоть я очень слабо знал
этот язык, но все же понял, что нашел что-то интересное: рукопись
содержала повествование о каббалистах, разбойниках и оборотнях. Чтение
необычайных историй казалось мне прекрасным средством рассеяния среди
походных трудов. Решив, что рукопись навсегда утратила законного
владельца, я без колебаний взял ее себе.

Ян Потоцкий
Рукопись, найденная в Сарагосе

אלפונס, קצין בלגי בצבא הספרדי, נקלע לפונדק בעיצומה של המלחמה ומכאן ואילך שוקע לתוך שלל של הרפתקאות פנטסמגוריות המוליכות אותנו עימו בשובל של קסם. הוא מתאהב בשתי נסיכות מגרות, פוגש בקבליסט ובמתמטיקאי המנסים להשתלט על נפשו - הראשון בשם האמונה והשני בשם ההיגיון - ועובר עוד כהנה וכהנה עלילות קסומות ופיקארסקיות. וויצ'ך האס מתרגם לשפת הקולנוע את הרומן שכתב יאן פוטוצקי ב־1814. האקסטרוואגנצה הזו היתה להצלחה גדולה בארה"ב של אמצע שנות ה־60‘ בזכות המסרים החתרניים, חוסר הכניעה למגבלות ההיגיון, ההומור השחור והאבסורדי; משהו שמזכיר ברוחו שילוב בין ‘אלף לילה ולילה‘ לבין ‘עליסה בארץ הפלאות‘ (היו גם מי שבחרו לאפיינו כשילוב של מונטי פייטון ו‘בארי לינדון‘). את הפסקול המוסיקלי תרם כז‘ישטוף פנדרצקי. בעיות של זכויות ועריכה מחודשת העלימו את ‘כתב היד מסרגוסה‘ מעין הציבור למשך שנים ארוכות עד שג‘רי גרסיה, איש ה‘גרייטפול דד‘ - זמן לא רב בטרם מותו - החליט לתרום מממונו כדי לשחזר את העותק ולהפיץ את הסרט מחדש בגירסתו המקורית. למותר לציין שבשנות האלפיים הצליח ‘כתב היד מסרגוסה‘ למצוא דור חדש של אוהדים.

"What we want is rest," said Harris

HERE were four of us - George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were - bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.
We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.
(read the book...)