Monday, February 15, 2010

Peter Murphy: dancing Nijinsky style

Yesterday I went through various files on my computer and came across some older things I posted back when I was using Myspace... And since I haven't updated this blog in a week (and don't feel like creating something right now), I decided to share the following post even though it probably won't be interesting to anyone who isn't a fan of the band Bauhaus or Peter Murphy (click HERE to listen to one of his songs). Originally posted May 16, 2005.

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peter murphy colorful
The concert was much better than I expected yet nothing at all like I expected. There was a long (5-6 foot) thin wooden object onstage. A kind of flute? Peter Murphy came out wearing a long (nearly to the floor) corduroy coat, fastened around his waist. It was turquoise. His hair was fluffy white with tiny hints of the original black beneath (and glimpses of his balding scalp). Most of it was sticking up against its will like he'd recently stuck his finger in an electrical outlet or just left Dr. Frankstein's lab. He walked to the edge of the stage and bowed. A moment later he was twirling his coat around like a cape and dancing in the open space center stage (both guitarists were far off to each side). The first song was over and I wasn't quite sure what had just happened. More twirling, more dancing. I noticed he had a pencil thin mustache and a thin triangle patch on his chin.

Second song. He went over to the wooden "flute" and picked it up quickly, swinging it over his head and then over the crowd. He placed it vertically and posed off of it, one leg in the air. It wasn't a flute after all — it was his dancing staff! And it had its own holder. By song three he had taken off his coat and beneath it he was wearing a green, yellow, white, and black silk shirt with a flower design. Now he looked as if he had stepped out of an early John Waters film.

Peter Murphy is a tyrant. The roadies were constantly running onstage to fix things: the mic stand he knocked over because it was in his way and he didn't feel like moving; his earpiece, which was constantly falling out; and someone even came onstage to button up his shirt after he accidentally flung it wide open. Someone from the crowd gave him something... He took it and then threw it into the corner where his roadies raced to catch it. He tossed the mic behind him and into the drums. At one point his "dancing-staff" rolled off the stage and a back-up staff was quickly brought out to replace it. He was often telling his people what to fix with his finger, pointing at various things while he sang. (All of this was going on at a completely different, much more subtle level... describing it in detail gives a somewhat false impression of the atmosphere.) He yelled at the light man. He pretended to sing some Bowie. The whole time he was dancing and full of energy.

Two Encores. He came out looking completely different: his hair was wet and combed back and he was wearing a new shirt that appeared to be plastic but wasn't (brown with purple frill). This time he played an acoustic guitar. The next song didn't involve the guitar so he danced around with it strapped to his back. He left after three songs and then came back again wearing yet another shirt. Two more songs and then a final good-bye.

peter murphy staffpeter murphy staff

Sunday, February 07, 2010


nabokov gregor samsa metamorphosis sketchnabokov butterfly hunting
                        left: Nabokov's sketches of Gregor Samsa; right: Nabokov the entomologist catches a

Nabokov believed in details. He believed the smallest things mattered most when attempting to uncover the larger picture, and he applied this not only to literature — with his careful examination of words, descriptions, and fictional space — but also to lepidoptery — with his rejection of genetics as an accurate way to distinguish butterfly species (he preferred the traditional method of carefully examining their genitalia under a microscope, often for hours a day).

While working as a professor at Cornell, Nabokov once asked his students to name the color of the wallpaper in a fictional character's bedroom, a detail mentioned only once in the novel they were reading. (Such a question, I imagine, forced his students to read in ways they previously had not — especially since he asked it on an exam!) Applying this detail-oriented approach to The Metamorphosis allowed Nabokov to confidently determine what sort of "gigantic" (Nabokov preferred "monstrous") insect Gregor Samsa had become. Some people had said he was a cockroach, but Nabokov pointed out that cockroaches are flat and have large legs, while Gregor was "convex on both sides" with small legs. "He approaches a cockroach in only one respect: his coloration is brown. That is all." Nabokov concluded with certainty that Gregor Samsa must be a beetle, but what did this yield? Well, Gregor never realized he had wings! Nabokov: "This is a very nice observation on my part to be treasured all your lives. Some Gregors, some Joes and Janes, do not know that they have wings."

nabokov butterfly sketchnabokovia faga blue
left: a sketch by Nabokov; right: a Nabokovia faga.

nabokov butterfly

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Prompted by the passing of Rohmer, Salinger, Zinn, and the final strands of fair elections (democracy) in the United States, I updated my blog unexpectedly a few times last month with some quick and temporary, newsy posts, all of which can now be found filed under my "recent links & discoveries," for anyone curious who might have missed their hiatal hatch (though their news value by now, I suspect, is nil).

Meteorologists are informing people in my region that something big is brewing, possibly the most snow ever to fall in these parts (on record). Starting tomorrow. So, for those who still drop by, I'm going to resume posting and updating the "recent links & discoveries" at some point this weekend while I'm marooned. My time away worked; I feel eager once again to sound off some echoes in the voiceless void.

Here I stand before my weather machine
preparing to cover the azure globe in endless white.

edit (02/06/10): it worked!