Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zahadolzhá (updated)

Edward Curtis navajo, native american, indian

Navajo man in ceremonial dress with mask and body paint (1904)

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Update: This picture was taken by Edward Curtis, a photographer famous for his pictures of the American West. Curtis has many great pictures worth seeking out, especially ones of Native Americans. [Note: According to Wikipedia, "Curtis has been praised as a gifted photographer but also criticized for manipulating his images by professional ethnologists.")

I've been eagerly awaiting Kent MacKenzie's 1961 film The Exiles -- due out on DVD in early 2009 -- and a friend of mine just told me that the film opens with a drumbeat over some of Curtis' photos.

Monday, August 18, 2008

the interval

I've been fairly busy recently, so here is a quick post to fill the void:

"In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by the censors, he tells his friends: 'Let's establish a code: if a letter you get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it's true; if it's written in red ink, it's false.' After a month, his friends get the first letter, written in blue ink: 'Everything is wonderful here: the shops are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, cinemas show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair -- the only thing you can't get is red ink.'" -- S. Žižek

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Video: a must see short film by Arthur Lipsett: 21-87

Fantastic article at the American Scholar: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

A man with Epidermodysplasia verruciformis... "Tree Man." And two more bizarre/fascinating pictures: 1 2

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The last flicker of heroism

Here are two excerpts from Lord Whimsy's wonderful and witty book, The Affected Provincial's Companion.

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chart nerval

"As is the case with all humans in our age, the PECULIAR (Fig. 6) -- the dandy, Affected Provincial, or artist-philosopher -- is born into captivity (a) and is soon indoctrinated into a regimen of received assumptions intended to enable it to endure a life of toil and docile servitude. For reasons known only to celestial potentates, the Peculiar soon reveals itself as it diverges course from the middling hordes (b) and thence embarks on a trajectory that over time removes it from the limited, default range of experience (see POSSIBILITY AXIS). It is not long after this that the Peculiar, induced by the reactions toward it by its native population, is made aware of its true nature, and thus a crisis point (c) soon manifests itself, forcing the Peculiar to permanently move to its next phase of development, its frame of reference never again able to fit back through the narrow aperture through which it emerges. Development after this crucial point is accelerated, the first step being a frantic, awkward period of exploration (d), internalization and generally reconciling itself to its new, infinite environs (e). After a period of time the Peculiar initiates a refining process (f) that allows the Peculiar to perceive connections and relationships that were not apparent during the previous developmental stages. The final stage of apotheosis is achieved (g) when the Peculiar, after much meditation, trials, and study, acts upon its knowledge and insight and charts a course into the unknown. A self-willed aristocrat of the soul brimming with a turbulent beauty, the newly reborn Peculiar may now assume a honorific title or name, some of which were once reserved for the languid, hemophiliac cadavers of Europe's royal courts, but are now employed as a hallmark of peculiarity."

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"...Accounts exist of high-ranking noblemen in fourteenth-century Europe being permitted to display their tackle below a short tunic; those noblemen who were not blessed with impressive lures had the option of donning a leather falsie called a braquette.

One can only imagine the seething envy those noblemen might have held toward the race of great sea-beasts known as the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), whose ithyphallic members grow an average of ten feet long and one foot in diameter! With this in mind, one wonders if the nineteenth-century whaling trade was caused in part by an uncontrolled jealousy veiled as peevish indignation on the part of mushroom-sporting puritan merchants who perhaps couldn't stand the sight of their wives' gazes turning longingly to the sea during uncomfortable pauses in conversation at the dinner table."

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Lord Whimsy: Mammal of Paradise

Short Audio Interview with Lord Whimsy

The Perils of Sportswear

The Chap


The Count!

And if you didn't laugh once at either of the excerpts, click here

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"Once, sissies were mistaken for gentlemen; alas, now gentlemen are mistaken for sissies." --Lord Whimsy

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Chinese originally invented gunpowder for creating fireworks to pay homage to the Gods

Cai Guo-Qiang, a multi-medium artist renowned for his firework displays ("explosion events"), is playing a large role in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics this year, and I must admit that I'm a little excited and curious to see what it's going to be like. Is it going to be noticably different than displays from previous Olympics? Is it going to be a little hokey and Disney-inspired like the ceremonies always seem to be nowadays? Please, no firework smiley-faces!

I once saw a short film on Cai Guo-Qiang when he was creating a project in Shanghai (I believe it was the largest fireworks display ever produced). The footage I saw from this was amazing and all other fireworks I've seen were instantly downgraded by comparison. One of the most unique things about it was how he paid attention to the smoke formations and played with the way the light reflected off them at certain points. (There is a huge difference between randomly shooting fireworks into the sky and making an art of it; Cai designs the individual rocket explosions as well as orchestrating their complete symphony.) The entire city looked like it was on fire.

And hopefully he's involved with more than just the pyrotechnics.

8/08/08 at 8PM. Might be worth watching.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What's it going to be then, eh?

Here are some comments from an essay in favor of omitting the 21st chapter of A Clockwork Orange as done in the original American edition.

But first, here is what Burgess had to say in his introduction to the 1986 edition:

"...Those twenty-one chapters were important to me. But they were not important to my New York publisher. The book he brought out had only twenty chapters. He insisted on cutting out the twenty first. I could, of course, have demurred at this and taken my book elewhere, but it was considered that he was being charitable in accepting the work at all, and that all other New York, or Boston, publishers would kick out the manuscript on its dog-ear. I needed money back in 1961, even the pittance I was being offered as an advance, and if the condition of the book's acceptance was also its truncation--well, so be it."

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"If Burgess found the writing so painful, he had his reasons. During the Second World War, in London, a group of drunken American soldiers ("four deserters" according to Burgess) attacked him and his wife, causing her to miscarry their child. Afterward she became depressed and attempted suicide. This trauma lay dormant for more than a decade until 1959, when he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and given only a year to live. Frantically he wrote five novels so that his widow would have something to live on, of which A Clockwork Orange was merely one. Crossing the incident of the soldiers with that of disenfranchised gangs he'd recently seen running rampant around England, he cast himself as the unpleasant hypocritical liberal author targeted by the first-person narrator of this sci-fi prophecy of engulfing urban lawlessness (a horrible joke played on his own experience that makes the mind reel with admiration)."

"The novel is not really the work of a "Christian humanist," as Kael thought, but the white-hot satire of an inebriated nihilist on the verge of the void. Feeling he had nothing left to lose, he cobbled together a furious "fuck you" to humanity. Only the whole thing is slightly out of balance and muddled, no doubt an effect of having written the book almost entirely under the influence of alcohol in a couple of months... In the last chapter, when Alex decides to "grow up," it's so abrupt one has the feeling Burgess suddenly thought, oh I'm not going to die after all, so I had better give all this some acceptable purpose. Not to mention that the notion that Alex could simply hit the off-button on his sociopathy is ridiculous."

"We've all thought from time to time the only good thing about people is they die, and it's fun reading a book that tests this Truth by letting it out of the box to play, as Kubrick's film version does with such spectacular fullness."

"Reading Burgess' supercilious disapproval of his publisher's desire to put out a book "sneering" at all religions and idealistic institutions, it's difficult not to think he was either putting us on or was caught in an iron state of denial, since here precisely he puts his finger on the novel's well-chiseled structure. One by one, the book pits Alex against civilization's pillars: the family, education, law, religion, science, art — and, one by one, their representatives are either impotent to stop Alex or just try to exploit him for their own ends. The whole thing has been cast as a biblical parable about doing unto others, except that Alex cheerfully refuses to learn the lesson. Unlike other works that say everything's empty, pointless and ugly, though, Burgess' book is no existential wail. Gleefully jeering, its narrator Alex enthusiastically revels in the fun of breaking things, and Burgess' attempt to reinstitute a moral compass at the end where before he had been operating quite nicely without it is more than a letdown; it's a travesty."

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Link for today:

Smot this, it's good for the gulliver.

Monday, August 04, 2008

New Law:

It is legal to kill your parents.

Aside from occasionally extinguishing old ways of thinking, this, more than anything that would actually infringe upon anyone's freedom, would cut down on population as more and more prospective parents, for the first time ever, give deep consideration to the thought of never having kids.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"Yea, foolish mortals, Noah's flood is not yet subsided; two thirds of the fair world it yet covers."

I saw this cartoon on IFC when I was about 15 and I've remembered it ever since. When I first watched it, I remember thinking it was mostly about the plight of the individual under communist rule, but after seeing it today I realized that it obviously has a deeper meaning that can be more broadly applied. How naive I was!

Island (1974; 9min 38sec) - Fyodor Khitruk. (from Masters of Russian
                                    Animation vol. 2)