Posts Tagged ‘pseudo-intellectual claptrap’

Anaïs Nin November: Inaugural edition feat. harsh self-audits

November 1, 2012


Well, hell and goddamn, a month for the O.G. navel-gazer. It’s difficult not to admire a woman who lived with such spontaneity combined with introspection, a kind of fearless but reflective courage uncharacteristic of the time. Kind of a startling oversight that this Anaïs Nin November hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps she is too good of an example of the merciless self-audit, and I become shamed by my own inability to look unflinching in to the abyss the way she did. Or the sex talk. Does that make me uncomfortable? Not sure. If it does, like, okay, but why all the breasts and vaginas then, if the talky talk is a problem? Where are my lines?

So… Sorry? Spilled milk. And impetus for improvement.

Here we go: first entry in Anaïs Nin November.


Via modfetish on the tumblr.

What I like best about myself is my audacity,
my courage. The ways I have found to be true to
myself without causing too much pain or damage.


Ibid.

What I hate so much is my vanity, my need to shine,
my need of applause and my sentimentality.


Ibid.

I would like to be harder. I cannot make a joke, make fun
of anyone, without feeling regrets.

I can’t relate to any of this because I’m perfect and I adore myself. What is this bitch on about? Excuse me now, I have dust in my eyes and I don’t want to talk about it.

Take-two Tuesday — The Way They Were: Egon and Wally

July 5, 2011

This entry was originally posted March 1, 2010 at 11:50 am.

Yesterday I was reminded that I had a bunch of these “Way They Were” entries planned and had only followed through on one (Jayne and Mickey). That’s cowardly. I’m going to try to motor through more in the coming months.


“Sitzende Frau mit hochgezogenem Knie”/”Seated woman with bent knee”, 1917.

Although artist Egon Schiele had been separated from Valerie “Wally” Neuzil and married to Edith Harms for two years by the date of this painting, most everyone agrees this is from an earlier study of Wally. It looks too much like her not to be, and he uses the colors that are associated with the Wally work. It’s my favorite work by him. It was on the cover of the Schiele book that my husband, who is a painter, had at our house in Portland, and was the entire reason I found myself opening and reading the book one day. I was interested in Schiele’s work, which is provocative and weird and has many shockingly modern features, all things I like, but, because his life was tragically cut short by disease, his career arc is brief. Coming away from the slim book about his life and art, I felt that his work was dominated by the chief feature of his life, which is to say in a nutshell his time with the real love of his life, which he royally fucked up, and it was the story of that, of Egon’s eventually jacked-beyond-repair relationship with Wally Neuzil that really sucked me in.


“Das Modell Wally Neuzil”/”The model Wally Neuzil.” 1912.

Artist Egon Schiele and his model, Valerie “Wally” Neuzil, were together from 1911 to 1915. He met her in Vienna when she was seventeen and he was twenty-one. Supposedly they were introduced by Gustav Klimt. Supposedly she had been Klimt’s mistress before she got together with Schiele. These things are all conjecture because everyone involved is dead, and they happened before the Great War, which so influenced the German-speaking art world in the years just following it that anything which contributed to or influenced an artist’s work before the War kind of fell by the wayside until later generations resumed their scholarship of turn of the century artists. That’s fair. Such radical changes happened during and after the War that I imagine it seemed crazy, outdated, and irrelevant to really consider too deeply the little emotional outbursts and criminal trials that came before the dramatic political events of the 1910’s and 20’s that literally reshaped the landscape.


“Rothaarige hockende Frau mit grünen Strümpfen (Valerie Neuzil)”/”Crouching figure with green stockings” (Valerie Neuzil).” 1913.

Egon and Wally left Vienna because they considered it too oppressive. They sought an inspirational, romantic, and bucolic lifestyle of freedom in the countryside, moving to Krumia — which also had the more practical benefit of much cheaper rent than Vienna — where, though Schiele’s mother was born there, they were summarily run out of town not too long after for being a little too inspirational, romantic, and bucolic: they’d been using the town’s teenagers as “models”. There’s a Schiele museum there now, so I guess that, like cream cheese, their hearts eventually softened to a spreadable cracker topping. That analogy got out of control in a hurry. It’s almost time for me to grab lunch, sorry.


“Wally in roter Blouse mit erhobenen Knien”/”Wally in red blouse with raised knees.” 1913.

Essentially fleeing the angry mob in Krumia, Egon and Wally moved again, this time north to Nuelengbach, where it was apparently same shit, different day, as they were not there even six months and Schiele was arrested for seducing a minor. Once in custody, they dropped that charge (apparently the young lady changed her tune when the absinthe wore off?) and an abduction charge the parents had insisted be levied originally, and instead tried and found him guilty of displaying inappropriate art in a place where minors could see it. He was released from prison after serving twenty-four days in April 1912 — are you getting the idea of what an awesome prince he was? such the lucky girl, that Wally — and they moved back to the Vienna area.


“Auf einem blauen Polster Liegende mit goldblondem Haar (Wally Neuzil)”/”Reclining female figure with gold blonde hair on a blue pillow (Wally Neuzil).” 1913.

Settled with Wally in Heitzing, a Viennese suburb, Schiele wrote to a friend in early 1915 that he was going to marry one of the Harms sisters, two locksmith’s daughters named Edith and Adele who lived across the street from his studio, for money. I guess running around for three years painting erotic pictures and pissing people off while sleeping with teenagers and doing jail time had not turned out to be the lucrative life of luxury he’d anticipated; the cash flow was getting low, and, despite that he considered Wally his partner and soulmate, marrying for money was Schiele’s timeless solution to their financial woes. He followed through on this, marrying the older of the daughters, Edith, on June 17, 1915, exactly 91 years before my own wedding day.


“Frau in Unterwäsche und Strümpfen (Valerie Neuzil)”/”Woman in underwear and stockings (Valerie Neuzil).” 1913.

A few days after his wedding, Schiele was called to the war, but managed to always serve in Austria, so he was able to continue with his art and stay close to his ties in Vienna. Wally had broken up with him when he told her he was getting married. Schiele wrote to friends expressing shock and grief: he’d actually expected her to understand and stay with him. He wrote a letter to Wally asking her to meet him at a billiards parlor that he liked to go to. There he gave her another letter, proposing that every year they go on an extended holiday, without his wife. She did not write back or respond positively to this. Instead, she left him and never saw him again.


“Frau mit schwarzen Strümpfen – Valerie Neuzil”/”Woman with black stockings – Valerie Neuzel.” 1913.

I was furious when I read this. I still remember sitting in my little house in Portland and my jaw dropping, and my blood boiling, all this anger and resentment simmering in me, directed at people I never met who’d been dead nearly a century, but I couldn’t help it. I hate him for marrying someone else, I hate him and I hate the story of how they were because it reveals that through all that time they spent together, Schiele must have considered Wally lower than him, and though she stood by him , asshole though he could be, he thought her to be the unimportant one, expendable and suppressable, and he literally threw her away like garbage even though she was the best thing that had happened to him; his drawings of her are the best things he did. But that is how some stories are, and I deserve to feel angry because I need to accept that, I have to work through my sadness about the fact that nothing and no one has ever been perfect not even for a day or an hour or a moment, every joyful thing is secretly riddled through with the knowledge that this is so good now because there will be pain later and every lucky penny has a tail side of the coin, and if I have to search my soul and see if there is any gold in the dross of this love story that I in my infantile understanding of human nature found so devastating than I guess I must say that I do love that Schiele really loved Wally in an incredibly broken way, and had that time with her in which there must surely have been good moments.


Photograph of Wally and Egon from the Schiele Museum online.

Schiele died only three years after his breakup with Wally, on Halloween 1918, in an influenza epidemic which had several days earlier killed Edith and their unborn child. He passed away completely unaware that Wally Neuzil had herself succumbed to death from disease around Christmas of the previous year. She’d become a nurse for the Red Cross and, stationed at Split in Dalmatia, she caught scarlet fever from one of her patients and died in the same hospital at which she’d been working for over a year.

edit 7/6/11. Question for discussion: on a large enough timeline, aren’t we and all our petty passions and tragedies truly sound and fury, don’t we signify nothing after all? I want to think not — likely only because of vanity and childish fear of my own meaninglessness — but it seems so true.

Movie Moment: Secrets! Secrets! Secrets! — Brand Upon the Brain! A remembrance in 12 chapters

July 1, 2011

Brand Upon The Brain! A Remembrance In 12 Chapters (Guy Maddin, 2006).

I don’t often do this, because I’m not keen when people force me to watch videos and I don’t like inflicting that on others, but here’s the full trailer. It’s only about a minute and a half long and there is boobs.

That’s Isabella Rossellini’s voice repeating “The past, the past,” like a bad French student film (in Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World, 2003, she played a tragic baroness who has two glass legs filled with beer).


The thing with Maddin is that there is nearly always a point, usually 20 or 30 minutes in, while I’m watching his stuff that I’m like, “Oh, come on,” because I’m over the striking visuals that sucked me in to begin with and I’m beginning to be irked by how it’s become over-the-top or maudlin in its cult precosity, like on-purpose cheesily cult or derivative, and I become uncertain.

Are these overtly contrived, look-how-symbolic-I-am moments and their anachronistic cinematic dialogue part of an abstract ironic technique made to make me question the tropes of arthouse garbage, or is this straight arthouse garbage? So often with other deliberately unusual movies I go with “straight arthouse garbage,” because I get like that due to dramatic over-exposure to pretentious hipsters in my short life (I’m looking at you, Portland), but with Maddin I pull back from that judgmental jump. There’s a third category: (1) parody of overwrought indulgent nonsense, (2) actual overwrought indulgent nonsense, or (3) … something else? better? deeper? more effective?


Because right when I’m supressing the urge to roll my eyes and spoil any avant garde cognescenti cred I have accidentally accrued, suddenly some really great moment will have a huge impact on my emotional experience of watching the film and I’ll be sucked in and by the end just sure it’s my new favorite.


But then the next time I pop it in to show some friend, I’m back to thinking I’ve been duped by either the ultimate sly hipster or a genuine savant who sometimes falls flat, and I’m initially embarassed for us both. But then — TUG — in to it again.

It’s a rapid, repetitive cycle, like an awkward date with your own gynecologist — you both have an idea of what’s going to happen but you don’t know what to expect. Or watching a really close friend fuck the lines to a scene badly in a drama class, but totally sell it with their eyes, and you worry that only you can see that though it looks messy it’s probably headed somewhere amazing. Uncomfortable and anticipatory. That’s Guy Maddin movies for me.

I kind of love him.

Uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable, yeah, but it’s so often just right because it’s the truth.

Anyway, I recommend Brand on the Brain!, is the upshot.

(All the caps came from the trailer because I do not [yet] own this movie.)

Take-two Tuesday — William Blake Month: the torments of Love and Jealousy

February 1, 2011

This entry originally appeared on June 12, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.


Why wilt thou Examine every little fibre of my soul
Spreading them out before the Sun like Stalks of flax to dry
The infant joy is beautiful but its anatomy
Horrible Ghast & Deadly. Nought shalt thou find in it
But Death Despair & Everlasting brooding Melancholy



Thou wilt go mad with horror if thou dost Examine thus
Every moment of my secret hours. Yea I know
That I have sinned & that my Emanations are become harlots
I am already distracted at their deeds & if I look
Upon them more Despair will bring self murder on my soul



O Enion thou art thyself a root growing in hell
Tho thus heavenly beautiful
to draw me to destruction

(William Blake, excerpt from “Part I: Enmion and Tharmas,” in Vala, or, The Four Zoas: the torments of Love and Jealousy in the death and judgment of Albion the Ancient Man.)

All photos are screencaps from a collaborative short film put out by Lula magazine and the ubiquitous UK-and-now-THE-WORLD clothing store Topshop. Here is a linky to the video, which is unusual and beautiful and freaky, but as you are watching this artistic short film remember it is designed to sell faux-Bohemian low-quality overpriced clothes that will be out of style in six months to impressionable and likely self-loathing young women with eating disorders and disposable income. The fashion industry is so cruel with its kindness that I go back and forth on appreciation and hate.

I’m sorry, I went to the mall earlier to pick up some comfortable summer shoes with my grandmother and now I’m in a low mood. Nothing puts me out of sorts like that snake nest. Like, everyone is slithering over the top of each other and accidentally biting their own tails and dropping money on shit they don’t need, finances they have gained from the jobs they keep specifically to make a weekend trip to a goddamned mall and drape shiny fabrics over the viper shitpit of the system so it looks all pretty and coordinated while they sip complacently from some kind of frapped coffee bullshit drink packed with sugar and empty calories that they store in the cupholder of their child’s stroller. Their kids are with them, of course, because children must be taught to want made-up food like chicken nuggets and aspire to own over three pair of shoes. Seriously, I want to watch it burn, burn, burn.

I know that my Emanations are become harlots.

I think I’m going to go take ten and paint with the kidlet or something.

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Twelve Monkeys

December 22, 2010

The Freedom For Animals association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas!

12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995). All-time favorite film, all-time favorite director.

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

(the imdb)


So as I said, this is my favorite movie of all time, in any genre — all other comers are just vying for second — and I screencapped the everloving Gilliamic crap out of it last week.


Filled with glee that this qualified as a holiday picture, I innocently thought, “Surely everyone who ever planned to see this film has seen it by now, so it’s okay for me to put up all my pictures.”

But if the internet has taught me anything in the past year on this here thought experiment, it is above all else that it is possible for people to get mad at you for anything, so, at a certain point, this post will have a jump/cut. You will be able to click and be taken to a standalone page with only this entry, so that those sensitive surfers who I think must actually go searching pop culture blogs specifically for spoilers will not be able to yell at me for said spoilers. I’ll also be able to prove why this is a holiday movie.


That point is now. Click below to go to the full-page entry, with trivia, analysis, lines, and tons more pictures.

“I am mentally divergent, in that I am escaping certain unnamed realities that plague my life here. When I stop going [to Ogo], I will be well. Are you also divergent, friend?” Click here if you qualify for bunny slippers at the monkeyhouse. (Be honest.)

edit: I took the jump out. Screw the small minority of spoiler-haters. Sorry, guys. Rail away if you must.

Still with me? Great!



Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s — that’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s discretion. Uh-uh. Look, if all of these nuts could just … make phone calls, they could spread insanity! Oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all those poor, sane people — infecting them! Wackos everywhere: plague of madness.



Hence the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it. …

Surely there is very real and very convincing data that the planet cannot survive the excesses of the human race: proliferation of atomic devices, uncontrolled breeding habits, the rape of the environment. In this context, wouldn’t you agree that “Chicken Little” represents the sane vision and that homo sapiens‘ motto, “Let’s go shopping!” is the cry of the true lunatic?

(That last was Dr. “Actual Bad Guy” Peters. He says it to Kathryn after her lecture when he’s getting his book signed.)


The lion James sees at the beginning is echoed by the camel perched on the top of the hotel in 1996. The image also shows up in a frame of a statue of a lion atop a stone as they search for Goines, and by the giraffes running across the overpass in Philadelphia many frames down.

No detail is too small to be necessary to the mise en scene of this film. Kathryn watches this Woody Woodpecker cartoon as she waits for James to get back in 1996 to the Oasis hotel. In the asylum in 1990, the movie on the television in the background as Goines rants is the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business.



I get it! This is your old plan, right?

Plan? What are you talking about?

Remember? We were in the dayroom, watching television, and you were all upset about the–the — desecration of the planet, and you said to me, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a germ, or a virus, that could wipe out mankind and leave the plants and animals just as they are?” You do remember that, don’t you?

Bulishit! You’re fucking with my head!

And that’s when I told you my father was this famous virologist and you said, “Hey, he could make a germ and we could steal it!”

Listen, you dumb fuck! The thing mutates — We live underground! The world belongs to the — the fucking dogs and cats. We’re like moles or worms. All we want to do is study the original!

Chris Meloni of Law & Order: SVU in a lovely little dickish part, a totally Terry Gilliam character: an individual given all the facts who refuses to acknowledge the possibility that the truth suggested by those facts could possibly be. Gilliam thrives on the absurd, and I think throws these Doubting Thomases in to the works to demonstrate how ugly a reception his credulous character constructions would receive in the world we all agree to be “real.”



Women will want to get to know you.

For me this is the creepiest Scientist line in the film. Even in the future, when the plague has driven everyone underground, a guy who considers himself “hep” will try to use the allure of poontang to bring a poor guy down. So unfair and underselling for the Cole character, like that is a carrot that can be held out before him in the face of what he’s endured.

Until I was screencapping, I never really noticed how much screen time the so-called “Apocalypse Nut” and true villain, David Morse playing Dr. Peters, Jeffrey’s father Dr. Goines’ lab tech, is given.



When I was institutionalized, my brain was studied exhaustively in the guise of “mental health.” I was interrogated, I was x-rayed, I was examined thoroughly.

Then they took everything about me and put it into a computer where they created this model of my mind. Yes! Using that model they managed to generate every thought I could possibly have in the next, say, ten years, which they then filtered through a probability matrix of some kind to — to determine everything I was going to do in that period.

So you see, she knew I was going to lead the Army of the Twelve Monkeys into the pages of history, before it ever even occurred to me. She knows everything I’m ever going to do before I know it myself. How’s that?


Who cares what psychiatrists write on walls?

I say this when a Thing matters and we are trying to diminish it.




Hey! Is that the police? I’m in here, I’m an innocent victim! I was attacked. By a coked-out whore and some fucked-up dentist!

I love how deranged Kathryn is in this scene, screaming at James to get Wallace’s wallet before they skedaddle. “We need cash!” But moments before, so tender when she touches his scalp with her curiously ugly hands. Madeline Stowe is the bomb.


Oh, hey, what’s a holiday movie? This is! Besides taking place during the Christmas season, we got some straight-up Santa action goin’ right here. Hope you can handle how very “holiday” this movie is.


James! James! It’s okay. We’re insane! We’re crazy! It’s a carpet cleaning company —

A carpet cleaning company?

No scientists — no people from the future! It’s just a carpet cleaning company. They have voice mail; you leave a message telling them when you want your carpet cleaned.

You … you left them a message?


Yeah, I couldn’t resist. I said, “The Freedom For Animals Association on 2nd Avenue is the —”

“— ‘is the secret headquarters of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. I can’t do anymore, I have to go now. Have a Merry Christmas.'”


I’m not crazy.


I think I’ve seen this movie before. When I was a kid. It was on TV.

The Vertigo moment. This movie’s plot was inspired by Chris Marker’s La jetée, which also, in its turn, refers to the film Vertigo. While in the past, the protagonist of La jetée visits a Museum of Natural History with the blonde object of his affections, who points to the trunk of a cross-sectioned tree, the same way Kim Novak does in Muir Woods in Hitchock’s Vertigo, as shown in this scene from Twelve Monkeys. “Here I was born, and here I died. But it was only a moment for you — you took no notice.” Kathryn wears a blonde wig in this scene.

The lion I referred to further back, part of the recurring theme of wilderness which has been kept in captivity, let loose. Like the camel, like the giraffes, like the lethal virus, like James Cole released from his future underground incarceration to try and make time turn back and stand still.



It’s not just my dream. I was actually here! I remember now. … About a week or two before — before everybody started dying. I think you were here, too. But you — you looked just like you look now.

The exterior shots for the crucial airport scenes were done at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, while the interiors are from the Reading Terminal at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.



Today, you gotta take in to account your Army-of-the-Twelve-Monkeys factor.

Wh–what? What did you say?

The Twelve Monkeys, honey. … Bunch’a weirdoes let all the animals out of the zoo last night.

This cabbie’s name is Annie Golden. You can also catch her in the soon-to-be-justly-famous I Love You, Phillip Morris.


That’s what they were up to! Freeing the animals!

On the walls — they meant the animals when they said, “We did it.”

Only assholes write on walls.




Excuse me, sir. I’m going to need to have a look at the contents of your bag.

Me?



Biological samples. I have the paperwork right here.

I’m going to have to ask you to open this, sir.

Open it? … Of course.

The curious, diffuse wash that bathes these final scenes was acheived with Fresnel lensed lights. Fresnels, a favorite tool of Gilliam’s, are a beveled lighthouse-and-old-car-headlamp-style lens.

The entire instrument consists of a metal housing, a reflector, a lamp assembly, and a Fresnel lens. Fresnel instruments usually have a convenient way of changing the focal distance between the lamp and the lens. The Fresnel lens produces a very soft-edged beam, so it is often used as a wash light. A holder in front of the lens can hold a colored plastic film (gel) to tint the light or wire screens or frosted plastic to diffuse it. … The Fresnel lens is useful in the making of motion pictures not only because of its ability to focus the beam brighter than a typical lens, but also because the light is a relatively consistent intensity across the entire width of the beam of light.

(the wiki)


I remember reading a review when this film came out which criticized the inconsistency between Cole’s memory of this moment from dream to dream and what happened in actuality. The reviewer said it took away from the original inspirational idea in La jetée, where Marker’s narrator saw himself die as a child but, they felt, moved more definitely toward that moment as events unfolded in the short film. The supplanting of an unseen “Watch it” man in a yellow jacket with first Goines and then Dr. Peters was, the reviewer claimed, too foggy.


Well, excuse me, Mr. Super-brilliant reviewer, but the fogginess is kind of the entire point. The weirdly symmetrical plot of Twelve Monkeys is a cyclical rumination on the subjectivity of memory and identity. Put that in your cool-guy pipe and smoke it. Asshat.

I went to this film probably a few months after its release, when it hit the $2 second-run theater we had in town at that time, and I ended up going back almost every night that week, taking different friends. I remember very clearly that one of my friends said when it was over, “That’s so weird that in the future the insurance lady that sits by the bad guy on the plane is a scientist.”

“Um — I’m pretty sure she’s from the future in that scene.” Like, maybe it’s too late for Philly, but she’s going to stop Peters from going to San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, et al. She says she is in insurance. Right? I mean, we’ve seen her in 2035, looking exactly the same, a highly placed physicist. I sincerely doubt that in 1996 she was an insurance agent who planned to survive the plague and not age.

Is this even up for debate? I’m serious, does someone have an alternate interpretation of that scene?

Daily Batman: A naked leg being the invitation, or, “Who’s your Dada?”

December 3, 2010


Photographed by JonWilksBeyond on the d.a.

To impose one’s A.B.C. is only natural — and therefore regrettable. Everyone does it in the form of a crystalbluff-madonna, or a monetary system, or pharmaceutical preparations, a naked leg being the invitation to an ardent and sterile Spring.


Photographed by brutalb4rbie on the d.a.

The love of novelty is a pleasant sort of cross, it’s evidence of a naive don’t-give-a-damn attitude, a passing, positive, sign without rhyme or reason. But this need is out of date, too. By giving art the impetus of supreme simplicity — novelty — we are being human and true in relation to innocent pleasures; impulsive and vibrant in order to crucify boredom.

(Tzara, Tristan. “Second Dadaist Manifesto”. Cabaret Voltaire. Zurich, Switzerland. March 23, 1918. Speech.)

Is a drawing from a comic printed on underwear anti-art enough to be Dadaist? Oh, but how angry the capitalist product tie-ins might make them. Best not to ask.

Burroughs Month: Hieroglyphs, ROSE, and thought control

November 26, 2010


Les Liens Invisibles via defacedbook on the tumblr.

The study of hieroglyphic languages shows us that a word is an image … the written word is an image. However, there is an important difference between a hieroglyphic and a syllabic language. If I hold up a sign with the word “ROSE” written on it, and you read that sign, you will be forced to repeat the word “ROSE” to yourself.


via lemonlove on the tumblr.

If I show you a picture of a rose you do not have to repeat the word. You can register the image in silence. A syllabic language forces you to verbalize in auditory patterns. A hieroglyphic language does not. I think that anyone who is interested to find out the precise relationship between word and image should study a simplified hieroglyphic script. Such a study would tend to breakdown the automatic verbal reaction to a word. It is precisely these automatic reactions to words themselves that enable those who manipulate words to control thought on a mass scale.

(Burroughs, William S. Interivew: “Prisoners of the Earth Come Out.”)


Burroughs photographed by Allen Ginsberg, 1953. Coilck to enlarge.

I’m not certain about this. A lot of the time I think in words. At least, I think I do. I read such a great deal and speak to my family and friends and students so much, that I know I find myself wandering the house thinking in full sentences. I’m almost positive of this. I do not consider this style of thought, nor words being the necessary articulators and wives to my thoughts, as inferior to a purer thought absent of words. I understand the function of language and the theories of Mssrs. Lacan and Derrida, with which Mr. Burroughs’ theory would seem to agree and from which it sort of shoots off, but the thought control parts and the ability to divorce one’s own thoughts from words in to a language of pure image is shakier ground for me. I get it, I think. I’m just not sure I agree. Whether I disagree that it is possible, or disagree that it is important, I’m not sure.

69 Days of Wonder Woman, Day 8: Super Dictionary, “I am against the people who make trouble.”

November 25, 2010

It’s interesting how quickly, even before the infamous code descended and cut out some of the popular gory lines, comics became dominated by superhero/crimefighter stories, due of course to the mad success of Superman. Sure, there have always been pulp adventure and horror comics, but when most people even think of comic books, it’s the heroes with which they associate the genre. The writers are driven by the publishers, who are driven by sales, which are driven by readers — so the natural conclusion is that a story about a badass goodhearted hero who fights crime is what the audience wants to read.


Drawing by Anthony Tan via fyeahww on the tumblr.

Comics are such manifestly wish-fulfillment-meets-folktale, flimsy-and-touching paper myths, that I think there’s a beautiful lesson here: we want to read about the hero who fights crime, who is “against” troublemakers and waiting with her golden lasso to show them what real trouble is, because we, ourselves, wish to do that. We wish to have a secret identity and fight for those who have no voice, to put a stop to injustices against our fellow men. All these generations of readers have wished to make the world better, not just for accolades or girls but because it is the right thing to do. And that’s really a great and inspiring thing. It’s sweet and charming and kind of triumphant, isn’t it?

69 Days of Wonder Woman, Day 7: Why then, o brawling love, o loving hate, o anything of nothing first create?

November 23, 2010

(This was all news to me. So the theories advanced here are kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.)

Wonder Woman’s archnemesis Cheetah was apparently introduced in No. 6.1 of the original, Marston-penned Wonder Woman line (1943). The original Cheetah was Priscilla Rich.


via the wiki, Cheetah’s first appearance, 1943. Cover art by Harry Peter.

Priscilla Rich was depicted as a young, insecure debutante who suffered from a split personality developed because of her inferiority complex. Following a benefit dinner, Ms. Rich’s alternate personality became dominant, triggered by an encounter with Wonder Woman, whose superiority to earth women activated Ms. Rich’s coping mechanism for her low self-esteem. This other self, Cheetah, continues to come out from time to time to try and kill Diana, foil her plans for good, etc.

I noted with interest in researching her that, in a lot of the panels I read, it seems that Ms. Rich’s alter ego, Cheetah, actually hates the Priscilla personality almost as much as she dislikes Wonder Woman.


Priscilla retreats to her room and collapses before her makeup mirror. There she sees an image of a woman dressed like a cheetah. “Horrors!” she cries, as she gazes at her evil inner-self for the first time.

(the wiki.)


“Don’t you know me?” replies the reflection. “I am the REAL you — the Cheetah — a treacherous, relentless huntress!” The image commands her to fashion a Cheetah costume. “From now on,” intones the reflection, “when I command you, you shall go forth dressed like your TRUE self and do as I command you…”

(Ibid.)

It is not terribly difficult to see metaphors here for female cattiness. I think it goes back to what I wrote about earlier, the empty need for women to best each other. Ms. Rich and Wonder Woman had no actual beef: why did Ms. Rich create one? Because she felt insecure.

And why does Cheetah hate herself almost as much as she hates Wonder Woman?

I think because she despises her own weakness, and, as Cheetah, she sees her Priscilla personality as hampering her goal to become the greatest woman alive.

So a) she makes something out of nothing because b) she feels badly about herself, doubly over. That’s crazy and yet so true and typical.

She does not want to, but she must. Why? It is so unnecessary, just as it is unnecessary for women to gang up on one another in real life, too. But they always do.

Final note: the IGN ranked Cheetah in 2009 as the 69th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time, which is great synchronicity for our 69-day project.

69 Days of Wonder Woman, Day 4: Tools of the trade

October 28, 2010


“Wonder Woman is actually a dramatized symbol of her sex. She’s true to life — true to the universal characteristics of women everywhere. Her magic lasso is merely a symbol of feminine charm, allure, ‘oomph,’ attraction. Every woman uses that power on people of both sexes whom she wants to influence or control in any way. Instead of tossing a rope, the average woman tosses words, glances, gestures, laughter, and vivacious behavior. If her aim is accurate, she snares the attention of her would-be victim, man or woman, and proceeds to bind him or her with her charm.”


“Lasso of Truth” by Samurai Pet.

“Woman’s charm is the one bond that can be made strong enough to hold a man against all logic, common sense, or counterattack. The fact that many women fail to make strong enough lassos for themselves doesn’t deprive the lasso material of its native magic. The only thing is, you have to use enough charm to overcome your captive’s resistance.”

(William Moulton Marston, creator, qtd. in girlfriend Olive Richard’s Family Circle article “Our Women Are Our Future,” August 14, 1942.)


Michael Turner.

Disagree. Dislike. First of all, if I think someone is not as in to me as I am to them, I soundly give up: I really never expected them to be reciprocally interested in me to begin with and I hate admitting to having feelings, let alone letting those feelings make a fool of me. Nothing I hate more. I am supposed to be impervious and deflect all attention. Upping my game and maybe getting shot down again is the absolute last thing I would ever do. So the idea that I need to re-aim and throw my lasso again is round bullshit to me. No way am I going to tip my hand like that and risk that people know I Feel Ways About Things.

But, my sad and complicated shit aside, secondly and more widely applied, I also dislike the idea of telling chicks that you have all the charm you need, you just need to work harder because it sets up false expectations in women, who probably have enough going already without further blaming themselves for what they perceive to be failures in romance, and redoubling an effort that may be toward a pointless cause to boot. I believe the expression is “He’s just not that in to you,” yes? So what? Glance down the bar and see if someone is looking at you and quickly looks away. Oh, no, his collar isn’t popped and he does not know the cool jam on the jukebox? Talk to him anyway. You will be surprised.


“Old School Wonder Woman” by Lauren Montgomery.

I also don’t like the idea that I got to use some elusive yam-fried set of feminine tricks to get my way. What’s wrong with walking up and honestly asking for what I want from a man or woman? Why does it have to be couched in some charmy little game where I snare someone with an invisible rope? Why can’t I be like a man and straightforwardly address my needs in business and in social settings?


By quasilucid, via fyeahww.

Now how about this: “Woman’s charm is the one bond that can be made strong enough to hold a man against all logic.” Whoa, so even if my idea, the thing for which I’m campaigning and slinging my golden wily lasso, is crazy and illogical and against “common sense,” as long as I’m feminine enough, it’ll still work because by god and the grace of my “charm” I’ve roped that guy? Hell, no. No. Why would I a) want to do something illogical; b) decide to dishonestly employ a feminine wile instead of forthrightly putting a plan in motion; and b) use this imaginary “power” for evil, in a dishonest way that does wrong by some poor dude and the laws of logic? I don’t like any of that. I highly resist and even resent that.

The weird thing is, I don’t think, from the comics I’ve read, that Wonder Woman is like that at all. Marston says she’s the dramatized symbol of this binding feminine charm that he perceives, but I think he’s wrong. She’s straight-up, in the main, and an almost always equal player on a male-dominated planet. Wonder Woman is not walking around this world with a water bra and a bunch of batty-lashy tricks up her sleeve. And if by some shady necessity she is going about her business sidewise or in disguise, she is a bit by the seat of her pants and obviously unaccustomed to artifice. And the Lasso of Truth seems to run counter to the tricky charm lasso to which Marston analogizes non-wonder-women’s apparent powers. Truth, not some murky invisible binding charm that stickily works despite logic and sense. So, no. I realize that Marston was Wonder Woman’s creator, but it doesn’t make him right in my eyes. He said a lot of bullshit: why should I accept his interpretation of anything?

Seems I’m in the surprising position of defending Wonder Woman, from her own father.

Done for today.

69 Days of Wonder Woman: Day 2

October 15, 2010


via fyeahww on the tumblr

“Wonder Woman — and the trend toward male acceptance of female love power which she represents — indicates that the first psychological step has actually been taken. Boys, young and old, satisfy their wish thoughts by reading comics. If they go crazy over Wonder Woman, it means they’re longing for a beautiful, exciting girl who’s stronger than they are. By their comics tastes ye shall know them! … Wonder Woman satisfies the subconscious, elaborately disguised desire of males to be mastered by a woman who loves them.

… Normal men retain their childish longing for a woman to mother them. At adolescence a new desire is added. They want a girl to allure them. When you put these two together, you have the typical male yearning that Wonder Woman satisfies.”

(Marston, William Moulton qtd. in “Our Women Are Our Future.” Richard, Olive.* The Family Circle. August 14, 1942.


Art by Phil Noto.

Marston was Wonder Woman’s creator, but that’s a story for another day. Also he lived in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and the author of this article, Ms. Richard, but that is also a story for another day. I’m pleased that this brief dive into psychology has already uncovered an aspect of Wonder Woman that leaves me cold, or that I feel I do not share. I don’t mind taking initiative (especially in certain aspects of the relationship), but I hate being the stronger one.


Denise Milani.

I dislike getting pushed in to the corner and forced to make decisions and ask repeatedly for a thing to be done that has to be done and can only be done by my partner. It makes me feel like a nagging bitch, which I fear and hate, and it’s not fair. I want to be equals, I want to feel like we can rely on one another. I don’t even necessarily want to be total equals; I don’t know that I’d want to completely submit to a partner, but it would be nice to relax and feel taken care of. Not to always worry, not to be the only one tuned in to the big picture — not to feel alone.


Art by quasilucid via fyeahww on the tumblr

And it starts out all nice-guy like, “No, you pick a restaurant. I don’t care where we go,” or, “Let’s get something you want to see,” but it builds in to this passive-aggressive thing where it turns to this slow-simmering resentment on both sides. Mine because I don’t want to be in charge, at all, ever, I hate feeling that way and I hate being forced to lose respect for someone I love; the other person’s because even though they have put me in this position of power it was really to avoid responsibility and now they’re feeling mutinous, the immaturity of which makes me see that they really are, in fact, weaker than me and makes me lose even more respect. When I can’t respect someone, then I don’t feel like I have a partner, and when I don’t feel like I have a partner, I don’t feel safe, and when I don’t feel safe, I am out of love.

I hate, hate, hate that aspect of a relationship. I hate being more powerful. There might actually be literally nothing that I hate more than that when it comes to love.

Cheese blintzes, looks like Day 2 was pretty damned educational for me. I’m going let that make up for the week and some odd days in between Days 1 and 2.

Take-two Tuesday — When art influences life: Sam Haskins Month, Day 2

June 29, 2010

This post orginally appeared in a less illustrated and much rant-freer form on December 2, 2009 at 9:46 am.

Today I am thinking about Sam, but still pretty upset to find out he was dead. So I thought I’d use this below shot of him and Leni Riefenstahl as a springboard to discussing a little bit about propaganda (obviously entire books and brilliant essays are devoted to this topic, I just want to think out loud a bit). So. Sam and Leni. They were not any type of friends, but they of course knew one another, because of the international stature both held as artists.


This picture with Leni was taken in Munich in the early 70’s. We were serving on the jury for a photographic competition organised by Der Spiegel. A friendly argument developed during a break in the judging activities. Postal sacks filled with the competition entries swamped the corridors leaving little room for chairs. (“Leni Riefenstahl,” Sam’s blog, entry dated 3/15/07)


Still from Leni’s Olympia, 1938. She was a brilliant, bold pioneering female photographer who had a keen instinct for shapes and the human body — and she was a National Socialist in Hitler’s Germany.

Leni Riefenstahl is a divisive and problematic figure for me to wrap my brain around: while her career has been largely brilliant, and I suppose each piece of art ought be considered an entity unto itself? — ought it? a debate for a different day maybe? — she is a photographer and cinematographer from whom for me it is difficult to separate the facts of her life and her art. See, her body of work is great, but besides such feats of human architecture as Olympia, that body of work also contains within it The Triumph of the Will, a handy piece of pure propaganda which launched her to forever-infamy and helped sway many to the National Socialist way of thinking.


Leni Riefenstahl with Heinrich Himmler at Nuremberg, 1934.

Yeah, that’s Heinrich Himmler and her at Nuremberg, 1934, setting up a cozy little scene for the camera. It’s significant and somewhat ironic to me and, you likely too, because, of course, she and Himmler and Joseph Goebbels, spinmeister, were busy here trying to launch some Nazi ships of popularity, and ultimately the career of many a Nazi ended there, eleven years later at the trials. Riefenstahl was arrested after World War II, but was not tried at Nuremberg, nor ever convicted of any crimes. Fair or unfair?

It has recently become popular to exonerate Leni Riefenstahl for her part in Goebbels’ games on either a) the strength of her large body of striking and unique work or b) the reasoning that she did what she must during a time when a lot of people swallowed their true opinion to avoid persecution by the National Socialist party.


Leni with some asshole.

I do not believe there is any way of ever knowing for certain about (b). I simply think people are shoehorning their own opinions in to those years of her life so that they can excuse loving her later work. In fact, I have got to say that fearfully holding one’s tongue to avoid losing a job as a bank teller when one’s boss rants against Jews, versus being an artist of international stature who can reasonably leave a country and travel to another with little fear of detention — and then maybe even announce her repatriation to a place where they do not abduct and murkily displace citizens based on religion, a course chosen by many artists and scientists during this time — but not doing that and instead turning around and shooting The Triumph of the frigging Will, thank you very much, are two totally different situations, pressure-and-force-wise.


l to r: Joseph Goebbels, Leni Riefenstahl, and Adolf Hitler.

So the lukewarmly advanced “oh, but she had to do it” part of the argument is fishsticks in my book, I’m sorry. Bull-fucking-shit. Until I see hardcore documents that Leni was told something like, I don’t know, that her mother was being held and she would be whipped and her teeth would be pulled from her head and force-fed back to her every day unless Leni continued churning out propaganda, oh, and that P.S., all the anti-Semitic things she said and did in the 1920s and early 30s before the Third Reich had seized power and employed her at her own request were just for funsies, because she is totally not a hater!, then I will not ever, ever support that specious (b) argument.


Leni and crew filming those all-important ’36 Olympics.

There’s keeping your frightened mouth shut and half-heartedly going along with a thing with a constant eye to getting away, and then there is willful participation in that same thing in order to benefit socially, artistically, and financially. Painting Leni with that brush of reluctance is shameful and disgraces the good people who were placed by circumstance and fear for their loved ones in that hellish and untenable position, which they no doubt regretted to the end of their days. I say again: it is shameful and disgraceful to humanity to claim Leni belongs in that camp. Period.


“Sielspringen.” Jumpropers. Leni Riefenstahl. Not sure of the date.

I tried to be neutral but I got worked up even attempting to sound nice about it. Whoops. Blarg, it’s all slipping away from me, I get so nuts about WWII. I’m sorry.

So … this was supposed to be about propaganda, both the first time and on this retread. I wanted to figure out what I think about art and propaganda, and it would seem that I think some pretty angry shit, but is that necessarily right or well-reasoned? Like, okay, Leni was arrested but not tried for her participation in the National Socialist campaign to conquer — you know … the globe. Leni won 50 cases of libel against her from people who said she had knowledge of war crimes like the concentration camps — which is weird, because if she was so innocent of this knowledge then I wonder why, when she was asked why she went along with the propaganda plans, she claimed it was out of her fear of being sent to a camp … a camp that she did not know existed. fascinating, yes? — and also claimed she would lament forever that people would associate her with Nazism. Can’t think why. But enough ranting, god, the main thing is: she was let go. So she never got a trial or did time. Ought she have?


via peternicholson, Leni was shooting establishing-shot footage for a rally documentary and was caught by a friendly cameraman on the ground beneath one of her striking set designs in front of which a horribly real not-a-play-at-all went on.

Question for discussion: is propaganda a crime? A con of the highest order, making it a physical and emotionally abusive crime of course, as any manipulative act must be, but also, and perhaps more strangely, a crime against art itself? A violation of its core function? If the purpose of art is to express yourself, and we see that for some being provocative is how they do it (I do not believe the work of shock artists violates or upheaves what I’ve just advanced as the core purpose of art; I believe their work still falls beneath the aegis of self-expression, whether they understand that or not), then is propaganda a gross perversion of the core purpose, forcing a perspective on the viewer rather than expressing one’s own, muscling and manipulating and violating the relationship between seer and seen?


Olympia series by Leni Riefenstahl, 1938, via bodypixel. Do check the piece out.

We talked about what happens when art imitates life, and when art imitates art, but what about when life imitates art because art influences life? What would Leni’s dear friend Goebbels, great-grandfather of the spin and the catchy slogan, answer, if he had not been killed himself rather than face trial (or death at the hands of Dönitz) in the liberated Germany? What are the implications of how art as propaganda was used politically, with our historical understanding, when we look now at modern instances of using art to increase the popularity of a product or idea, from advertising of food and beverages and clothing to much more volatile and animate subjects such as people and philosophies and lifestyles?


Golden Globe and Academy Award winner Charlize Theron for Christian Dior, “J’Adore” parfum.

Or am I all backward. Is the opposite so? Is all art propaganda of some kind? One of my favorite movies, The Cradle Will Rock, written and directed by Tim Robbins, which is set during the 1930’s, draws consistent symbolic parallels between artists and whores, and even has a line where William Randolph Hearst says, not sneeringly, but simply with a practical confidence, “And artists are whores — like the rest of us.” Has the relationship between art and advertising and commercialism and pop cultural consciousness come so far that there is no way to ever go back? And, fuck, what do I know, like is that so wrong?


“Tommy Hilfiger Celebrates Sam Haskins.”

“We have burnt our bridges. We cannot go back, but neither do we want to go back. We are forced to extremes and therefore resolved to proceed to extremes.” (Joseph Goebbels, 1943)

I do not have answers. I’m frustrated and bummed and totally confusing myself. I quit! I’ll regroup and come back to this a different day.

Movie Moment and answer to yesterday’s Blake trivia question: Manhunter (part 1) and nominal review of Red Dragon

June 22, 2010

ATTN: Spoilers like a bat outta hell. Stop if you’ve never seen nor read Red Dragon and Manhunter and are the kind of person who yells at people on the internet for posting spoilers of things that have been out for decades.

I was relaxing after dinner and I suddenly remembered yesterday’s random Blake trivia — forgot about that!

Okay, soooo, I used this picture yesterday in the “Tyger” post …

… because it comes from Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986). This is part 1 of its Movie Moment because I need to cover technical aspects a different day. Today I want to just sort of compare Manhunter and a more recent adaptation of the same fucked-up and riveting material. Manhunter is the original filmed adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon (1981), in which the writer William Blake plays a very large part of the dissociative disease that leads the antagonist to kill and sets off the action of the novel/film.


Manhunter, the original Red Dragon screen version.

In 2002, a different adaptation, whose title was the same as the book — Harris’s novels have a weird and haphazard history of screen-arrival in Hollywood — was released in light of the success of the year before’s screen adaptation of Hannibal (novel: Thomas Harris, 1999; film: Ridley Scott, 2001), a rather late-breaking sequel to the infamous film version of Silence of the Lambs (novel: Harris, 1988; movie: Jonathan Demme, 1991).


Red Dragon, second adaptation.

A totally different animal, not even attempting to remake in part the cinematic masterpiece that is the color-drenched, painstakingly-framed Manhunter, the alternate more recent film is what I consider a sloppy adaptation of Red Dragon. It is nothing like the very-admirable entry into the Harris genre that is Hannibal, which despite the replacement of Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster with Academy Award-nominee Julianne Moore as the infamous “[Hello,] Clarice” Starling managed, I think by virtue of Sir Anthony Hopkins’ reprisal of the sensationalist character of Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter combined with Scott Free productions’ attachment to the project in the wake of smash-hit Gladiator, to make quite the box office splash. As it ended up, that success was deserved.


Check out Vegetarian Times in the background. No. 1 favorite Hannibal still with A Bullet.

The Red Dragon revamp that followed it the next year, on the other hand, falls short of its predecessors due to cocky casting and the hasty pudding nature of the picture. It is almost unfair to stack it against such a stunning piece of eye candy and psychological discourse as Manhunter. But I’m going to anyway.


“The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun” — William Blake. Blake’s illuminated print-making process is actually still partially guessed at, as he never troubled to write down most of how he did it. Another post — I promise.

The novel Red Dragon, the first in the Hannibal Lecter series of books by Thomas Harris, has as its main detective not Clarice Starling, but rather a young FBI mindhunter named Will Graham. The book and 2002 film take its title from the antagonist’s personal inspiration (and devil with whom he dances) for his transformation to what he views as a higher being. This is a highly detailed, uniquely gnostic series of ritual murders which the “bad guy” bases around Blake’s work, particularly his illuminated manuscript print “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun.” The killer calls this multiply murderous, cleansing-by-blood process “Becoming.”

This antagonist is called the Tooth Fairy by the press, a name he loathes, but he’s tipped to the reader early on — by his preferred nomenclature as the Red Dragon — to be a shy and cleft-palated industrial photographic-development-expert named Francis Dolarhyde. Francis is an abused and orphaned soul with an unfathomably deep dark side due to psychosexual torture in his upbringing.

Meanwhile, young Will Graham is a bummed-out “good guy” chilling in Marathon, Florida with his family on the beach, trying to get his mojo back after unhappily closing the toughest case of his career as a profiler with the FBI: arresting former friend and consultant, reknowned psychiatrist, classical music fan, and noted long pig gourmand one Dr. H. Lecter — M.D., Ph.D., hella murderer.

As the action unfolds, the already tightly-strung Dolarhyde — who, as the Red Dragon, writes in supplication to Dr. Lecktor/Lecter appealing for help in his quest to purify his weak flesh and Become, further enmeshing the good doc in the plotohs — finds his demon not only hunted by highly-skilled semi-retired agent Will Graham and the FBI, but also must elude his own dark side’s brutal orders when he suddenly finds himself in an unlikely and empathetic mutual attraction with a plucky handicapped co-worker and falters in his faith in “Becoming.”

This complex character is played equally well by Tom Noonan in Manhunter and Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon. Noonan gets the edge for creepy wordless scenes such as rasing his head to the sunlight like an animal drinking in vital and engrammed diurnal directives; Fiennes has the advantage in the all-important following tattoo-revelation scene and Red Dragon cry of chagrined triumph at tabloid reporter and luckless human torch Freddy Lounds (Steven Lang, 1986; Philip Seymour Hoffman, ’01: winner Hoffman on that one — ♥ that dude’s freaky energy 4eva-evah).


YOU OWE ME AWE.

Totally disturbing scene.

Tormented by the demon with which he wrestles, Dolarhyde attempts to steal and eat the original Blake painting which has been, in his mind, masterminding his murders. He believes that by consuming the painting, he will stop the voices, visions, and impulses torturing his brain with which he valiantly argues.

He finds himself particularly rising in opposition to the Red Dragon’s orders that he murder Reba (infinitely worthy and perpetually underused Joan Allen plays her in Manhunter while shiny-eyed dope Emily Watson —I know it’s an unpopular opinion but this chick bugs the hell out of me — got the role in the revamp), the outspoken, sexually bold blind woman from the photo labs with whom he has fallen in love.


Punch Drunk Love, Cradle Will Rock, me shaking my head and saying “Boo.” (limited theatrical release)

Dolarhyde is a sadder, sympathetic and strangely more touching, conflicted character than the early Lecter (or even his later and in my book cheaply slapped together Hannibal Rising incarnation) and much more relatable than Dolarhyde’s equally compulsive 1988 series successor, Buffalo Bill — “it puts the lotion on its etc” — are ever portrayed to be, yet because of Dolarhyde’s disorderly mind and act-driven kills, the Red Dragon as a predator has scenes that are in some ways more resonantly chilling than any of the often-quoted histrionics hailing from either star of Silence of the Lambs‘ gruesome sideshow.

As an example, in the above screencap, the Red Dragon side of Francis’s beaten, slavish personality makes the nervous newly-dating Dolarhyde give blind Reba McClane a drink of water from a glass with not only ice floating it but also the anciently misshapen and hideously rotting false teeth of the author of his schizophrenia, Dolarhyde’s dreadful dead grandmother, which dental implements he fits in to his own mouth and bites his victims in a frenzy during his kills. (Hence the hated nickname.) That part is not a-okay with me.


Forensic expert showing an FBI-Atlanta PD task force meeting a plaster mold of Gramma Dolarhyde’s choppers.

Um. Yeah. All that biting and teeth stuff? And the yells from the Red Dragon and his grandmother to murder Reba before he accidentally tells her how they have him trapped in his own mind? That’s fucked up. And oh, god. When those teeth knock against the glass as Reba thanks him, raises it to her lips, and sips, there is not a cringe-free face in the room.

So. In Manhunter, the first jump of Red Dragon from novel to screen, Will Graham is played by William Petersen, and Brian Cox plays Lecktor — not a typo. The film spells it this way. (You may recognize my darlingest dearest awesome Mr. Cox, pictured below as “Lecktor,” from Rushmore, The Ring, or Supertroopers — he is a personal fave from Way Back).

In 2002’s adaptation of Red Dragon, Edward Norton performs the part of Agent Graham with Sir Anthony Hopkins reprising his role as Dr. Lecter. Hopkins did get to have a little fun, for once off of his familiar smug game of “fava beans” and psychological bullshit, because this whelp of a wolf among the lambs has just recently been chained in the Red Dragon storyline.

The Lecter of Red Dragon is still a young and relatively vengeful Lecter, pacing a gym on a harness and leash for mandatory exercise to keep the other prisoners of his psychiatric facility safe (no mask just yet), unthinkably pissed at Graham for having caught him several years earlier, even lunging for him in an unguarded moment of rage — Lecter is not yet completely at home in the role of Fucking With the Po-lice as is the maturing character encountered in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.

In spite of Hopkins’ fun stretching his wings, I still feel that Brian Cox plays him with a hair more dignity and better-hinged chilliness than Hopkins does, which gives Lecktor, vs. Lecter, that slender shoot of a just-germinating seed of polish-mixed-with-go-for-broke-ruthlessness which is so necessary for the character’s believable development in to who he is by Hannibal. I think Hopkins saw the chance to finally show the less-controlled, animalistic side of a character he’d been at home playing as an after-the-fact “tyger” — caged and angry but a careful planner — for a long time and jumped, maybe too high, at the opportunity for this gamier potrayal. Just an opinion.


“You think I’m stupid?”
“No, Dr. Lecter. I don’t think you’re stupid.”
“But you still caught me.”
“You had certain … disadvantages.”
“Disadvantages? Such as … ?”
“You’re insane.”

You are correct to recognize Petersen from the original, Las Vegas-set television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Fun fact: for Halloween 2002, the producers deliberately teamed William Petersen up in his role as Gil Grissom, the brilliant but troubled detective able to get in to killers’ minds, in pursuit of a nemesis freaky killer performed in the October 31st episode by Tom Noonan (Francis Dolarhyde, aka the Tooth Fairy) as a nod to their parts opposite one another in Manhunter. Noonan played a demented illusionist, escape artist, and master magician known as Zephyr. Near retirement, the Zephyr still had some scores to settle and a lot of pyrotechnic sleight-of-hand tricks up his sleeve before he was ready to call it a day. The episode actually ends in delightful ambiguity, but I will not spoil it.


Special thanks to wetpaint, a CSI: fansite, for the screencaps.

I used to wonder with great conflict why, having lost someone special to me to a real life version of this type of shit, I am okay with fare such as the Lecter film and novel shenanigans, CSI:, and the like when I am so vehemently opposed to so-called “true crime” and often even discussions of such stuff in company or on the news. I will leave the room on certain topics and I don’t consider that burying my head in the sand — I have seen all I want to see for now of what people will say “needs to be reported” like as some kind of lesson.


Fiennes and Watson in Red Dragon; my professor friend and I looked nothing like this during our deep conversation (below) — I just felt like I had not shown enough stills from it as opposed to Manhunter.

Not too long ago, I wound up one day in deep, private conversation after a where-am-I-going-in-life conference with a former professor I dearly love about Harris’s novels and perhaps Patrica Cornwell’s, or some line very similar, and I confessed that I felt conflicted about my reading of that type of material because of things I’d dealt with in the past. He surprised me by saying he’d also lost a friend to violent crime growing up and despised, as I did, the cult of violence and serial-killer-admiration that seems to grip the tabloid television shows and bestselling non-fiction shelves. Yet he, too, read with genuine enjoyment many series of fictional genre crime thrillers. He said that, like me, he’d often disgustedly questioned himself as to how he kept both opinions in balance, and why he differentiated between hating the one and being all right with the other.


We need this hero.

He said he’d read a great scholarly article just a few years earlier, and I cannot remember the writer he quoted because I am garbage and frankly slugging a margarita on the rocks right now (it’s hot where I live), which forever answered our question for him.

This psychological scholar and literary critic posited that the murder mystery — all the detective thrillers and suspense novels and cop vs. boogeyman films the genre spawns — even with a detailed portrayal of a base, disturbed and seemingly random monster like Lecter or Dolarhyde as their antagonist — far from the feeding of dark fantasy that we anxiously supposed, serves instead a need in humanity to see our fears realized (as we had already done in reality) but the conflict then resolved.


Couldn’t go the whole post without a Silence of the Lambs scene.

What he basically said was that every time he and I watched CSI: and Grissom caught the Bad Guy, or read a James Patterson book on the beach and cheered as Alex Cross brought in his latest nemesis, we were solving our friends’ murders and seeing the people who disrupted our lives brought to task for their wrongdoing. We were gaining our much needed closure. Even people who have not suffered loss but empathetically and logically fear it because they love people in their own lives and understand that the possibility of these lives being taken by cruel injustice is never far away, seek and enjoy that same positive resolution to this basic human anxiety as it plays out in genre crime fiction.


Lecter caged and contained, kept in by the Forces of Good and therefore shut up like a witch in a well of a fairy story. (temporarily in this case but you get my drift) The people of the village are Safe.

It blew my mind, and I almost wanted to reject it because it was so far from my self-loathing castigation, but it felt very true. I know he was right. I am no longer so guilty nor constantly probing myself for some latent and despicable, prurient interest in fictional depictions of things that in real life have caused me pain. I understand now that I am actually acting out in my mind, against a cathartic and safe backdrop, the conflict and agonized anxieties from which I shy away in real reports on the news, and deliberately seeking through a book in my hands a satisfactory resolution which will lay my mind at ease that justice has been reached — and, by extension, that justice can and will be reached in reality.

That strayed pretty far afield from Blake and Manhunter but I’m kind of not sorry.

All of this entry’s screencaps come from kpannier and thewadingegret on the lj; rottentomatoes forums; and personal grabs here and there over the years.

William Blake Month: the torments of Love and Jealousy

June 12, 2010


Why wilt thou Examine every little fibre of my soul
Spreading them out before the Sun like Stalks of flax to dry
The infant joy is beautiful but its anatomy
Horrible Ghast & Deadly. Nought shalt thou find in it
But Death Despair & Everlasting brooding Melancholy



Thou wilt go mad with horror if thou dost Examine thus
Every moment of my secret hours. Yea I know
That I have sinned & that my Emanations are become harlots
I am already distracted at their deeds & if I look
Upon them more Despair will bring self murder on my soul



O Enion thou art thyself a root growing in hell
Tho thus heavenly beautiful
to draw me to destruction

(William Blake, excerpt from “Part I: Enmion and Tharmas,” in Vala, or, The Four Zoas: the torments of Love and Jealousy in the death and judgment of Albion the Ancient Man.)



All photos are screencaps from a collaborative short film put out by Lula magazine and the ubiquitous UK-and-now-THE-WORLD clothing store Topshop. Here is a linky to the video, which is unusual and beautiful and freaky, but as you are watching this artistic short film remember it is designed to sell faux-Bohemian low-quality overpriced clothes that will be out of style in six months to impressionable and likely self-loathing young women with eating disorders and disposable income. The fashion industry is so cruel with its kindness that I go back and forth on appreciation and hate.

I’m sorry, I went to the mall earlier to pick up some comfortable summer shoes with my grandmother and now I’m in a low mood. Nothing puts me out of sorts like that snake nest. Like, everyone is slithering over the top of each other and accidentally biting their own tails and dropping money on shit they don’t need, finances they have gained from the jobs they keep specifically to make a weekend trip to a goddamned mall and drape shiny fabrics over the viper shitpit of the system so it looks all pretty and coordinated while they sip complacently from some kind of frapped coffee bullshit drink packed with sugar and empty calories that they store in the cupholder of their child’s stroller. Their kids are with them, of course, because children must be taught to want made-up food like chicken nuggets and aspire to own over three pair of shoes. Seriously, I want to watch it burn, burn, burn.

I know that my Emanations are become harlots.

I think I’m going to go take ten and paint with the kidlet or something.

Liberated Negative Space o’ the Day: Donnie Darko edition

June 11, 2010


via thechocolatebrigade on the tumblr.

I know this guy who claims controversially when drinking in a crowd that he doesn’t like the film Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001). This guy will say he happens to think that it’s a dumb, boring, pretentious piece of crap that tries too hard, and people only pretend to like it because they’re afraid of looking not-hip. I geniunely love the film Donnie Darko, but it’s okay, because I happen to think that this guy is a dumb, boring, pretentious piece of crap who tries too hard, and people only pretend to like him because they’re afraid of looking not-hip.

Haters to the left.

William Blake Month: “The Divine Image”

June 10, 2010


Robert Demachy. “Mignon.” 1900.

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is man, His child and care.


via smokeandacoke on the tumblr.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.


Cairo, Egypt, photgraphed by Philip-Lorca diCorcia for W.


And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.


(William Blake, “The Divine Image.”)

“All must love the human form — there God is dwelling too.” We say things like this all the time, but consider that Blake wrote in the 1700’s. He prefigured all the poseur Romantics and social reformers, but transcended their work, too. And he really was disgusted by the inequities of life on earth in the Western world at that time.


Ryan McGinley, “Jake.”

Blake writes all the time about how his visions lead him to see that people truly, genuinely, are the same beneath, that plants and animals and even handmade objects hold a universal grain of likeness to people, being all made directly or indirectly by God and inhabited by a hierarchy of spirits, demons, and angels — that everything around us, ourselves and nature and all the things we make, are reflections of God because of our being made in His image.


Ryan McGinley, “Hysteric Fireworks.”

Logically, it followed to him that to raise your hand against these fellow creations was wrong and could not be God’s will; therefore all systems that enforced human governance over one another or intrusion in to nature was against God’s plan and was a sinful conception of man which had nothing to do with redemption — this included most organized religion, education, and politics, all of which he felt were offensive, grasping human attempts to control and oppress one another, which was the same as to try to bully God.


McGinley again — a Morrissey concert.

He really saw with the eyes of his heart: and almost more than anything else he truly did not understand why there would be starvation, child abuse, and especially war. And he knew well enough that he was unlike his countrymen in that way to write poems reminding them that violence and injustice were not the right paths. They all assumed he was crazy, of course. But look at his message, especially his emphasis on religious tolerance (an easy jump for him since he believed all people were equal plus his visions told him all religions had it all jacked up to begin with). It pretty obviously is still relevant and resonant today.


Ryan McGinley, “Fireworks.” He’s my new fave, if you couldn’t tell.

It is a reasonable enough message. If God created us and all things, then we must be peaceful and loving to one another and the animals and natural resources around us, and love them for being reflections of God. It is the only right way to be. So why is it such a challenge, again and again? Everyone claims to want it, so why it is always out of reach is depressing and mystifying. Kind of like how “the one thing we’re all waiting for/ is peace on earth and an end to war” to quote Queen’s “The Miracle.” I know I just went from Blake to Freddie Mercury, but I’m a maverick! Good people quote the Beatles. Great people quote the Beatles, Billy Joel, and Queen. Take it to the bank.

Langston Hughes Month: “To Artina”

May 27, 2010


I will take your heart.
I will take your soul out of your body
As though I were God.
I will not be satisfied
With the touch of your hand
Nor the sweet of your lips alone.
I will take your heart for mine.
I will take your soul.
I will be God when it comes to you.

(Langston Hughes, “To Artina.”)

Synecdoche and possession in the eye of the male observer — murdering the Object: it is a Thing.




Photographer unknown, picture comes from a vintage Pirelli calendar shoot. Kind of a Jane Birkin Inspiration Station thing happening. I approve.

Talk nerdy to me: Star Wars propaganda edition

May 25, 2010

“Truth is always the first casualty of war.” — Aeschylus.


“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

— Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928).



“It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.” –Joseph Goebbels.


“[In] Democratic societies … the state can’t control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it’s much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think.” — Noam Chomsky, Chronicles of Dissent, 1992.



“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.” — Adolf Hitler.


“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. ” — Joseph Goebbels.

“Propaganda must confine itself to very few points, and repeat them endlessly.” — Adolf Hitler.

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” — George W. Bush.


“The intelligent, like the unintelligent, are responsive to propaganda.” — H.L. Mencken.


“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” — Chomsky.


“Intellectual activity is a danger to the building of character … Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the state can play.” — Goebbels.


“[The propaganda system] recognizes that the public will not support the actual policies. Therefore it is important to prevent any knowledge or understanding of them.” — Chomsky.


“The truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” — Goebbels.

“Propaganda must never serve the truth, especially not insofar as it might bring out something favorable for the opponent.” — Hitler.


“One cannot wage war under present conditions without the support of public opinion, which is tremendously molded by the press and other forms of propaganda.” — Gen. Douglas MacArthur.


“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” — John F. Kennedy.

Is that so? I think I disagree, but I’ve debated this before, during Sam Haskins month, when I went off on Leni Riefenstahl. It is a damned tangled web, and the propaganda flows from all sides.




Some of those posters are by Cliff Chiang and some by Joe Carroney, and some by unknown others; see, the sources from which I gathered all these images were kind of slipshod in their own sourcing so if you know specifics please do shoot them my way because I am dissatisfied with the low-class credit attribution job I’m turning in on this one so far.

Talk nerdy to me: Wesley Crusher’s Mommy Issues edition

May 9, 2010

In honor of Mother’s Day. After all, “A boy’s best friend is his mother” (Mr. N. Bates, Psycho).


The child’s relation to his mother, as the first and strongest object of love, becomes the prototype of all subsequent love relationships. The character of all later relationships is established by that first unparalleled love relationship. Whether the child is breast-fed or bottle-fed, whether he receives all the tenderness of a mother’s care or not, the development is the same.


No matter how long a child is fed at his mother’s breast, he will always feel that his feeding was cut short too soon.

These considerations of the relationship between mother and child prepare us for the intensity of what Freud has called “the Oedipus complex.”

(Hollitscher, Walter. Sigmund Freud, An Introduction. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd. 1947. 33-34. Print.)

Yes, Wesley. You should think about this.





PSA: Actor, writer, and renaissance man Wil Wheaton is awesome and hilarious and this is his website. If you merely think of him as Wesley Crusher or Gordie LaChance, you are missing out — check him out!

Just another Monocle Monday: Ms. Carolyn Wells edition

March 22, 2010

“A cynic is a man who looks at the world with a monocle in his mind’s eye.” — Carolyn Wells (1862-1942): librarian, mystery writer, poet, absurdist, Jersey girl, baseball aficionado; heroine.


Via timbravo on the tumblr. Hell and goddang if that is not just about the g’est picture of a little kid I have ever seen.

Ms. Well’s famous limerick abount canny canners:

A canner exceedingly canny
One morning remarked to his granny:
“A canner can can
Any thing that he can
But a canner can’t can a can, can he?”


Illustration from Such Nonsense.

The awesome Ms. Wells, who began her literary career as a librarian in Rahway, NJ, had a binary-brained love of both words and wordplay, resulting in the kind of mind that invents riddles and complex, skillful patterns out of what appears to be nonsense. She compiled and published an anthology of clever verses by herself, some friends, and great absurd poets of the past who she admired called Such nonsense! an Anthology through George H. Doran Company, New York, in 1918. Some of the authors included in the anthology are G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, William Makepeace Thackeray, Carroll, and W. S. Gilbert. You can read the entirety of the volume on the googlebooks, one of the seemingly last bastions that values lit without lumping it alongside lattes and shitty cd samplers of some Juilliard sophomore covering Bessie Smith. You know the kind of horrible CD sampler I am talking about:


Via officineottiche on the tumblr.

All black and white picture of the skinny blonde singer playing piano on the cover with her eyes closed, all you push the button on the screen to hear a sample and it sounds immediately like she has grown up on at least a quarter acre with probably a pony that she rode in jodphurs until she decided she wanted to be a ballerina instead but she was never so vulgar or interesting as to imagine combining the two interests and she is presently dating a trust fund guy with dreads who was obsessively checking his iTouchPhonesALot thingy the entire time she was in the studio making what we are broadly defining as a “record,” the record apparently being a record of the time some flat chick from upstate New York saw a homeless guy pawing through the trash in front of the Dean and Deluca and decided that because she had Feelings about it, she now had the right to perform herself some blues and has now come at the undertaking metaphorically wearing goggles and carrying a graduated cyllinder. (“Blues, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me.”)

Like so many times with me, that got way out of hand. I’m not sorry, but I am a little disappointed in myself. Seriously, though, dudes. Fuck the megabookstores: save the libraries.


Seen in several places. I choose not to credit until I can find an original source.

That last shot reminds me — PSA: I have pretty eyes. In fact, I have the prettiest brown eyes. Did You Know? Established fact, suckas. [citation needed]