Sunday, 20 December 2009



Thanks to Declan McDaid for this.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Death Masks of the Famous

"The making of a death mask is a messy business – literally. They are difficult to make and the best position for the corpse is not lying down but sat up (as you can see in the picture). The shift from sculpture to masks came about in the Middle Ages when the art of waxwork and plaster casting became more sophisticated. The tradition evolved from royalty to eminent people and continues to this day. Another use, rather than in memoriam for an individuals was for the scientific study of human physiognomy. It was said that experts could tell criminals from the shape of their heads. Casts were also used to record and collect data on the racial differences in the human head."

- More

Friday, 4 December 2009



"Trimble made a grand total of two albums in his early 20s: the last was released in 1982. He never had a record deal. The albums were privately released in minuscule quantities: he can't remember whether there were 300 or 500 copies pressed of his debut, Iron Curtain Innocence, but either way, there weren't many takers for his brand of lush-yet-disquieting Beatles and Pink Floyd- influenced psychedelia in early-80s New England. He never performed live outside of the central Massachusetts area. "We just played Worcester County, we didn't even play Boston," he says.

The problem was Trimble's habit of employing backing bands largely staffed by schoolchildren: fearing for their liquor licenses, clubs were disinclined to book Trimble if he insisted on working with the Kidds, whose average age was 12, or the Crippled Dog Band, with their 15-year-old rhythm section. "A few places let us in that sold alcohol, but it was like pulling teeth, it really was, they told us to get the hell out when we were done," he says. He doesn't sound like he sees anything unusual about a 23-year-old man forming a band with a bunch of 12-year-olds, either, although the parents of the Kidds apparently begged to differ, pulling the plug on the band."

- "He's for real. Or should I say surreal?" - the forgotten world of Bobb Trimble.

The Wilhelm Scream



“He always used to joke about how he was so great about screaming and dying in films,” she said. “I did know that his scream had been in some films, the older westerns, but I did not know about Star Wars and all. He would have got such a kick out of this. He would say, ‘I may be old but I’m still in the movies’.”

- AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!

Arcade Expressionism

By Brock Davies

Thanks to Susan Tomaselli for this.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Mad Baron

"For the next six months, a surreal existence fell over Mongolia as the Baron and his army, now dubbed the Order of Military Buddhists, performed every type of atrocity imaginable including torture and cannibalism. He believed himself the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. He became a convert to the eightfold-path. Interpreting the Buddhist scriptures in his own manner, he believed that in the act of killing the weak he upgraded their position in the universe and they would be reborn as greater beings. He therefore felt that by washing Urga with the blood of innocent people he was saving the world in a cosmic sense, one bullet at a time."

Baron Ungern von Sternberg

Monday, 23 November 2009

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ekaterinburg, Russia

"The unusual graveyard in the industrial Uralmarsh area of Ekaterinburg, Russia, sits in a tree-lined reserve in what became one of Russia's most violent gangster zones following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Now the gangsters who operated around the nearby complex of military factories stare out at the world from a special area of the cemetery - reserved for mafia bosses and henchmen.

In true gangster style the showy tombstones display many of the men they symbolise wearing clothing preferred by mafia men during the bloody era...

"Some of them even had their speciality etched on the tombstones such as 'judo sixth dan' or an 'expert in the use of knives'."

- Russia's gangster graveyard

Saturday, 14 November 2009

William Hope spirit photographer

"At the very beginning of the 20th century, and after capturing the supposed image of a ghost while he was photographing a friend, carpenter William Hope became interested in spirit photography and founded the Crewe Circle. When archbishop Thomas Colley joined the group, the spirit photographers started to publicise their work.

As the grieving relatives of those lost to the Great War sought ways of contacting their loved ones, the Crew Circle became quite succesful and by 1922, Hope moved to London and started a professional medium business.

The Society for Psychical Research sent Harry Price to investigate the work of the Crew Circle, and he collected evidence that William Hope produced his spirit photographs with a little help from some glass plates and the spooky images on it. Price exposed Hope as a fraudster, but many of his supporters defended him fiercely. Among the most famous was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the spiritual father of Sherlock Holmes and an ardent spiritualist."


William Hope

More "Phantom" Photographs

Friday, 6 November 2009

"Machines were mice and men were lions once upon a time."



"I'm into swing. I get that from the American Indians like the Sioux, the Arapahoe and the Apache. They have this drum-beat, heart-beat. Bom, bom, bom... The beat is always in the background. I sit down at my desk and write as I get different ideas and phrases. I don't compose at a piano, it's mostly in my head. The classical masters, like Mozart and Hayden, would sit at their desk and write a string quartet like somebody would write a letter... I was in Hamburg in '75 and I was working on the overtones and I finally realized that I had something interesting here. It was a code. I didn't know it was a code but I cracked the code and found out how to develop it. Ten years later, I found out what it was. I wasn't looking for a code.

That code proves that not only whoever created the universe does exist but he, I call him the mega-mind, wants us to know he exists. Within this code, it also proves that contraction must come before expansion. It also proves that a cause can become an effect and an effect can become a cause. It proves the two-directionality of time. It proves that the past is the future and the future is the past. All this flys in the face of what Hubble did, saying that there was a big bang and an expansion of the universe. His is a theory but mine is a fact. A fact incontrovertable, as I call it. They talked about these theories of mine on National Public Radio." - Moondog

Courtesy of Adelle Stripe

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The BQE



The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is an incidental 12.7 miles of urban roadway built over the course of several decades (1939-1964), spear-headed by the master architect Robert Moses to accommodate for the increase of commercial and commuter traffic in New York City's outer boroughs. The roadway was a painstaking piecemeal project, poorly planned, badly built, and relentlessly encumbered by the obvious obstacles of the era: red tape, neighborhood protests, World War II, and a congested borough whose sequestering layout proved ill-fitting for the automobile. The resulting expressway-a pockmarked, serpentine, congested BQE-has become one of Brooklyn's most notable icons of urban blight. And, for Sufjan Stevens, an object of unmitigated inspiration.


The official album release of The BQE follows nearly two years after its original performance at BAM, providing the songwriter (and his various collaborators) ample time to wrestle out all the thematic incarnations of the project, and to attempt an appropriation of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work"). The resulting album might be best described as a grand creative franchise-incorporating movie, symphony, comic book, dissertation, photography, graphic design, and a 3-D Viewmaster® reel-in which a songwriter's interrogation of one of New York's ugliest landmarks expands athletically to forums and formulas outside of the song itself. In fact, the BQE is everything but a song...

Sufjan Stevens - The BQE (Asthmatic Kitty)

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Pompeii Graffiti

"Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!"

"We two dear men, friends forever, were here. If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus."

"Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog!"

"Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera."

"O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin."

A glimpse into the real Roman Empire.

Hobo Symbols

"To cope with the difficulty of hobo life, hobos developed a system of symbols, or a code. Hobos would write this code with chalk or coal to provide directions, information, and warnings to other hobos. Some signs included "turn right here", "beware of hostile railroad police", "dangerous dog", "food available here", and so on."

Hobo Alphabet.


Thanks to Susan Tomaselli for this.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Wednesday, 14 October 2009



On October 24, 1888, only ten days after being filmed in Roundhay Garden Scene, Sarah Robinson Whitley, featured actress and Le Prince's mother-in-law, died aged 72 and was buried nearby on October 27 at St. John's Church, Roundhay, Leeds.

On September 16, 1890, while about to patent his invention in London and to perform his first official public exhibition in New York, Louis Le Prince, director, mysteriously vanished in a train between Dijon and Paris.

In 1902, two years after testifying in the Equity 6928 brief, Alphonse Le Prince, featured actor and elder son of the inventor, was found shot dead in New York.

- Roundhay Garden Scene

American researchers have pieced together a 10-second audio clip of a French folk song which they believe is the oldest recognisable recording of the human voice.

The recording appears to be of a young woman singing a couple of phrases from the 18th century folk song Au Clair de la Lune. It was made in 1860 by Edouard Leon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and librarian, on a Heath Robinson-style device he called a "phonautograph"...

"Mr Giovannoni sent scans of the recording to the Berkeley Lab where they were painstakingly converted into sound by scientists using technology designed to salvage historic recordings.

That technology allows the voice of a young French woman, recorded in Paris in the months before Abraham Lincoln's inauguration as President of the United States, to be heard again."

- The Times

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Trapped in an Elevator for 41 Hours.



"The longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999. White, a thirty-four-year-old production manager at Business Week, working late on a special supplement, had just watched the Braves beat the Mets on a television in the office pantry. Now he wanted a cigarette. He told a colleague he’d be right back and, leaving behind his jacket, headed downstairs.

The magazine’s offices were on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building, an unadorned tower added to Rockefeller Center in 1972. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby and, waved along by a janitor buffing the terrazzo floors, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment White felt a jolt. The lights went out and immediately flashed on again. And then the elevator stopped..."

New Yorker article

Friday, 18 September 2009

"Look who's here..."

"One famously shot dead a fellow gangster in an East End pub for a verbal sleight. The other knifed to death another gangland member at a party.
But it appears Ronnie and Reggie Kray also had a more sensitive side as landscape painters..."

Via The Daily Hate.

Stooky Bill

"...then suddenly, one day in 1925, success. John Logie Baird transmitted the first ever recognisable TV image across his attic workroom. The image was of his ventriloquist's dummy Stooky Bill. It was a great day for both of them.. The machine, the screen. The opaque, the transparent. Fact as fiction, fiction as fact. First TV, first interruption, first illusion. Dummy illusion, double illusion. The grand illusion, dummy TV..."
DH, LVA Catalogue, 1991.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Beebe and the Bathysphere

"What Beebe saw on that trip—and reported with such vividness—was a glowing world of creatures so astonishing that for decades many doubted his veracity. The clear sea stretched endlessly, and was so full of luminescence that it sparkled like the night sky.

Cavalcades of black shrimps, transparent eels, and bizarre fish approached the descending sphere, and when Beebe used his spotlight to see them, great shadows and shifting patches of light hovered just out of view, leading him to postulate the existence of giants in the Bermudan depths. And below the bathysphere? There, said Beebe, lay a world that "looked like the black pit-mouth of hell itself."

Where Wonders Await Us

Thursday, 10 September 2009

"If we hadn't been forced to split up, we would be more famous today than The Beatles."



"They became stars. A great variety of audiences found them irresistable, and the Comedian Harmonists were at home in theaters all over Europe. In 1934 they were a huge success in New York. They were popular on radio and in recordings. Including the legendary hit comedy Die drei von der Tankstelle, they appeared in as many as 13 films in the early days of the movie industry; unfortunately, none of their films have been found since the war.

But the picture-book career of the apolitical Comedian Harmonists did not survive the changing political climate in Germany. Their songs -- most were by Jewish composers -- were criticized by the Nazis as early as 1932, when they were not yet in power, as "Jewish-marxist noise." Indeed, three of the group -- Frommermann, Collin, and Cycowski -- were Jews. Cycowski's wife Mary had converted to Judaism, and Bootz's wife Ursula was Jewish. The popular, politically naive musicians ignored all the warning signs. But then in 1934 the unapproved Jewish members of the group were forbidden to perform, and the Comedian Harmonists were given Auftrittsverbot by the Reichskulturkammer. The Comedian Harmonists split up. They gave their last concert in Munich on March 25, 1934."
- Carol Traxler, Quarter Notes.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Devil's Note

"There shouldn't, theoretically, be anything scary about a musical interval. Just as turning round three times with your eyes closed while reciting the Hail Mary probably won't make the devil appear before you, despite generations of schoolchildren believing otherwise, so playing the note of C followed by F sharp shouldn't encapsulate the essence of evil - but somehow it does. The movement from the first tone in a scale to the fifth, known as the perfect fifth, was the first accepted harmony of the Gregorian chant after the use of the octave. It was discovered in the 11th century that moving down a semitone to the diminished fifth created dissonance, and a nasty feeling of foreboding and dread. The church of medieval Europe quickly banned it, reputedly relying on torturous methods to ensure that the ban was upheld...


The Devil's Interval does, however, have a foreboding history. The 18th-century violinist Giuseppe Tartini claimed that he composed his Devil's Trill Sonata after Satan himself gave him instructions on how to do it, which might help explain why this piece of music is so incredibly difficult to play. In Wagner's Götterdämmerung, the diminished fifth illustrates a scene of pagan excess; Camille Saint-Saëns used it to tell the story of skeletons coming alive at Halloween in his Danse Macabre. Jimi Hendrix nailed it in the intro to Purple Haze to bring home the message that hallucinogenic drugs may be exciting but they're scary, too..."


Will Hodgkinson on the diabolical Tritone.

Monday, 10 August 2009

1960s Shrine Parade



An 8mm home movie of an African-American Shrine Parade from the early 1960s (filmed in Pittsburgh, PA).

The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, commonly known as Shriners and abbreviated A.A.O.N.M.S., established in 1870 is an appendant body to Freemasonry, based in the United States. The organization is best-known for the Shriners Hospitals for Children they administer and the red fezzes that members wear.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Fordlandia

"Prohibition was supposed to be rigorously upheld, but after a day spent hacking at the encircling jungle, the workers headed to the bars and bordellos that sprang up around the site. Knife fights erupted; venereal disease was rife. Along with prohibition, Ford’s other rules were also resented, particularly the imposed diet of brown rice, whole-wheat bread and tinned peaches. When a new cafeteria was introduced in place of waiter service, the men rioted, destroying the mess hall and wrecking every vehicle on the property.

Meanwhile, some of the Americans brought in to run the project went mad. One man hurled himself from a boat into a nest of crocodiles. The wife of one official recalled the flying bugs with “claws just like lobsters.”

Grandin paints a Conradian portrait of Einar Oxholm, the Norwegian ship’s captain appointed manager of Fordlandia. We see him sipping rum (in defiance of company policy) as the fledgling community disintegrated. Oxholm was honest, but otherwise entirely unsuited to his task, knowing nothing whatever about cultivating rubber or managing men on land. He would finally return to the United States, leaving behind the graves of four of his children.

Indeed, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” resonates through every page of this book, as the white men struggle and succumb to the jungle. In 1929, two Ford employees, Johansen, a Scot, and Tolksdorf, a German, headed upriver with orders to collect rubber seeds. Instead, they went on an alcoholic bender, marooned their cook on a deserted island and ended up in the tiny town of Barra. There Johansen, the self-proclaimed “rubber seed king of the upper rivers,” bought some perfume from a trading post and was seen chasing goats, cows and chickens, attempting to anoint the animals with perfume and shouting: “Mr. Ford has lots of money; you might as well smell good too.” A drunken man spraying perfume into the jungle is an oddly fitting image for the entire enterprise."

- New York Times

The Ruins of Fordlandia article.

Monday, 20 July 2009

American Beauty - the world of William Eggleston





"Both the opening of Lynch's Blue Velvet and Van Sant's Elephant are homages to Eggleston, the first in its use of saturated colour to highlight the surrealism of small-town America, the second a shot of a blue sky straight out of Eggleston's Wedgwood Blue series, where he pointed the camera directly up at the wispy clouds.

'It was the beauty of banal details that was inspirational,' Coppola said of Eggleston's influence on her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides, in 1999, and it is this ability to record, and illuminate, the mundane that is his stock in trade.

His most famous photograph, entitled Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973, but always referred to as The Red Ceiling, is of a bare light bulb from a crimson ceiling, three white cables snaking across the glossy surface like arteries. It is taken from an angle that suggests he may have stood on a chair, or simply held the camera above his head. In its apparent casualness, it is emblematic of Eggleston's art, being both ordinary and loaded with meaning, utterly simple and yet endlessly complex. A mundane image, maybe, yet one that carries within it some indefinable sense of menace. 'It is so powerful,' he once said, 'that I have never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction. When you look at the dye transfer print, it's like red blood that's wet on the wall. It shocks you every time."

(From The Observer interview)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

It Felt Like a Kiss


New blog from the visionary film-maker Adam Curtis (includes the introduction to his stunning It Felt Like a Kiss).

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Scorpio Rising



"Scorpio Rising was denounced — and this was ironic — at its first screenings by some members of the American Nazi Party. They thought I was insulting their flag, which was very true, not that you see very much of it. They phoned up anonymously to the vice squad in LA and denounced it as porn or obscene or something and in those days in '64 the police had to investigate if they got a complaint. They went there and without even watching the film, they just seized it and the poor manager of the theatre was arrested and had to be bailed out. But then it went to the California Supreme Court and a famous ruling came down which applied to all films: if it has redeeming social merit then it's acceptable, and of course this label has been used for all kinds of things."

"And from Christians? You used images of Jesus as well as Nazi flags."

"I once used clips from a Lutheran Sunday School film called The Last Journey to Jerusalem. It was delivered to me accidentally while I was cutting Scorpio Rising and left on my doorstep because of a mistaken address and I just kept it and cut it into my film. It was serendipity from the 'other' powers or what ever you want to call them, not necessarily the gods but maybe the prankster gods. After the film was shown all around the country, I got a letter from the Lutherans — "Aren't you using our Sunday school film?" — and I said "Yes, it's called 'fair use'" and said, "You should be ashamed of showing this kind of cliche stuff to children. Showing a simpering Jesus is not really helpful". So much of the iconography of Christianity has become so sanitised that you wonder, who was this person way back when?"

The Quietus interview Kenneth Anger.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The Man Who Never Was

"Early in the morning on the 1st of May 1943, a fisherman on a beach in Spain discovered a waterlogged corpse which had washed ashore during the night. The dead man was clothed in British military attire and a life preserver, and he had a briefcase chained to his lifeless body. Apparently a casualty of an airplane accident at sea, the body was transported to the local port, where its discovery was reported to the Nazi officials stationed in the city of Huelva...

Wary of a ruse, German intelligence examined the officer's personal effects in great detail. His possessions included numerous benign items such as a photograph and love letters from his fiancée, a set of keys, recently used ticket stubs for a theater performance, a hotel bill, etc. A close inspection and investigation strongly suggested that these items were genuine, indicating that Major William Martin and the documents on his person were authentic. A second letter in the dead man's possession– this one from the Chief of Combined Operations to the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean– contained text indicating that Major Martin was carrying a letter too sensitive to be sent through normal channels, hence the need for him to fly.



By all appearances, the Axis powers had stumbled upon extremely valuable intelligence, unbeknownst to the Allies; a letter which indicated exactly which beaches the Axis powers would need to reinforce in order to repel the Allied invaders. The document discussed key details of "Operation Husky," a secret Allied plan to invade Nazi Europe by way of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. It also described a plan to prepare a false attack upon Sicily– the location where Germany expected the Allies to attack– as a way of drawing German forces away from the true invasion site.

Upon learning of the letter, Adolph Hitler took decisive action based on the information it disclosed. On May 12, he sent out an order: "Measures regarding Sardinia and the Peloponnese take precedence over everything else." He diverted significant defenses away from Sicily to the indicated points of hostile ingress, including an extra Waffen SS brigade, several Panzer divisions, patrol boats, minesweepers, and minelayers. But when the day of the attack came, all was relatively quiet on the beaches of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. The Germans had fallen for an elaborate deception designed to draw Nazi defenses away from the true Allied target: Sicily. Major Martin– the dead man the fisherman found on the beach– never existed..."

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Bridge



"Golden Gate Bridge officials are seething that a moviemaker who told them he was working on a "day in the life" project about the landmark was, in fact, capturing people on film as they jumped to their deaths.

Eric Steel initially told officials he planned to spend a year filming the "powerful and spectacular interaction between the monument and nature" and that his work was to be the first in a series of documentaries about national monuments such as the St. Louis Arch and the Statue of Liberty. That's how he got the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's permission to set up cameras on parkland overlooking Fort Point.

Now, however, Steel has revealed in an e-mail to bridge officials that the cameras -- which were operating almost continuously during daylight hours for all of 2004 -- filmed most of the 19 jumpers who went off the bridge last year plus a number of attempted suicides.

Apparently, that was the point all along. Steel says his goal is to "allow us to see into the most impenetrable corners of the human mind and challenge us to think and talk about suicide in profoundly different ways."

- San Francisco Chronicle

The Bridge documentary Part One (viewer discretion advised)
(Part Two)
(Part Three)
(Part Four)
(Part Five)
(Part Six)
(Part Seven)
(Part Eight)
(Part Nine)

New Yorker article.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

"Now Equal Footing Mermaids Stop"



"He drifted deep into depression, refusing to sail, and took to his logbook. As he lolled in the mid-Atlantic, Crowhurst wrote a 25,000-word treatise on time travel and divinity. He counted down his remaining hours on Earth, believing death would not only be "the mercy" but that it would transform him into a "cosmic being". On 29 June 1969, after 243 days at sea, Crowhurst made one last entry into his logbook. His self-allotted time had come. This was "the mercy" he had been praying for. His boat was found 12 days later, with logbooks recording his genuine position and grainy sound and video recordings unharmed. It has since been assumed Crowhurst took the logbook of his fraudulent positions with him as he threw himself overboard..."

Deep Water site

Drama on the Waves

Times article

"Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius"

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Monday, 15 June 2009

Kinski is Christ



"He did strange things when we were filming Aguirre 12 years ago. He wanted us to do suicidal things. but he didnt count on me. i wouldnt get trapped like the others."

- Klaus Kinski (PDF)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek

"They're known simply as the "blue people" in the hills and hollows around Troublesome and Ball Creeks. Most lived to their 80s and 90s without serious illness associated with the skin discoloration. For some, though, there was a pain not seen in lab tests. That was the pain of being blue in a world that is mostly shades of white to black.

There was always speculation in the hollows about what made the blue people blue: heart disease, a lung disorder, the possibility proposed by one old-timer that "their blood is just a little closer to their skin." But no one knew for sure, and doctors rarely paid visits to the remote creekside settlements where most of the "blue Fugates" lived until well into the 1950s. By the time a young hematologist from the University of Kentucky came down to Troublesome Creek in the 1960s to cure the blue people, Martin Fugate's descendants had multiplied their recessive genes all over the Cumberland Plateau.

Madison Cawein began hearing rumors about the blue people when he went to work at the University of Kentucky's Lexington medical clinic in 1960. "I'm a hematologist, so something like that perks up my ears," Cawein says, sipping on whiskey sours and letting his mind slip back to the summer he spent "tromping around the hills looking for blue people."

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

"Nine young students go on a skiing holiday in Russia’s Ural Mountains but never return. Eventually, their bodies are discovered – five of them frozen to death near their tent, four more bearing mysterious injuries – a smashed head, a missing tongue – buried in the snow some distance away.

All, it seems, had fled in sudden terror from their camp in the middle of the night. Casting aside skis, food and warm coats, they dashed headlong down a snowy slope toward a thick forest, where they stood no chance of surviving bitter temperatures of around –30º C (–22º F).

At the time, seemingly baffled investigators offered the non-explanation that the group had died as a result of “a compelling unknown force” – and then simply closed the case and filed it as Top Secret."

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Nazca Lines



"The Nazca Lines are different shapes on the floor of the Nazca Desert. Some of these shapes include animals, parallel lines, and completely random lines that seem to have no purpose whatsoever. The lines can only be seen from the air, so they were not discovered until the invention of the airplane. They were first spotted when commercial jets flew over the area in the 1920’s. People had no idea what they were: some people called them “primitive landing strips”. The Nazca Lines were made by removing the top layer of earth to expose the lighter colored soil underneath."

Friday, 5 June 2009

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet



"In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism."

- Gavin Bryars .

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Chronicle of Severe Days - The last film of Vladimir Shevchenko



"When, at 9:00, an engineer climbed up to the roof of the building, peered in at the wreckage and reported what he saw - a white-hot glare in a pile of rubble and billowing smoke, Bryukhanov refused to believe it.

Chiefs, directors and engineers from agencies involved in atomic energy boarded a jet to Kiev and from there took a helicopter to Chernobyl. By noon they were hovering 650 feet over the plant. Gazing into the gaping wound of pipes, girders and rubble in the central hall, they saw the lid of the reactor, cherry-red with heat, tilted up like the damper of a flue. Abandoned tangles of fire hose hung into the crater. A black circle of graphite lay a hundred yards around the plant. Though they had no radiometric equipment, it was clear they were looking at a very serious problem. They were also gaining a nice tan as the radiation seared their faces.

The cauldron below was brewing up every element and isotope in the periodic chart. As uncountable billions of neutrons shot around in chaos, they smashed into atoms, breaking them up and sending off more neutrons. Some isotopes existed for nanoseconds. Others boiled out into the sky to live for tens of thousands of years. Many of the elements and molecules, such as lead, were deadly for their chemical properties, let alone their radioactivity.

Communist Party leaders in Pripyat reported the town still calm. Teams were practicing for the May Day games. Several weddings were taking place. Fearing panic more than radiation, the leaders began to discuss the pros and cons and possibilities of evacuation. A roadblock was set up to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the town.

Firemen, unaware of that they were fighting an unquenchable atomic fire, assaulted the roof and aimed hoses into the flaming crater. They peered over the edge into the deadly abyss. Within seconds they absorbed enough radiation to kill them. They assumed that their violent nausea and overwhelming fatigue were caused by the smoke of burning chemicals. They assumed the toasted brown of their skin was from thermal heat.

The fire itself was no ordinary fire. At first, it was mostly burning tar on the roof. At some point, however, the thousand tons of graphite from the core ignited. Graphite is often used in industry because withstands temperatures in excess of 2,500 degrees centigrade. Once it starts burning, however, it is very hard to extinguish. Water turns to steam before it reaches the flames. If there happens to be a white-hot core of melted nuclear fuel nearby, the steam decomposes into hydrogen and oxygen. As the hydrogen rises away the heat, it ignites. In effect, the firemen were literally killing themselves to feed the fire.

The local defense militia was called in. Young soldiers were given gauze masks and cloth jumpsuits. And estimated 3,400 were assigned to clean nuclear fuel and graphite from the roof. They had no idea that they would be running through an environment of 10,000 to 20,000 rad per hour. They were allowed ninety seconds there, enough time to grab a chunk of something and toss it into the crater. After that minute-and-a-half shift, they could retire on a disability pension and take home a cash bonus to ease the consequences.

The world had never coped with such a disaster. No one had any idea what to do. The logical thing was to bury the fire and the tons of radionuclides that remained in the ruins of the reactor. The air force sent a fleet of helicopters. One by one they landed on the bank of the Pripyat River. Nuclear engineers, physicists and deputy ministers shoveled sand into bags as if doing penance in hell. Later they were helped by a hundred local farmers who had volunteered without knowing the kind of fire they were supposed to put out. Eventually someone thought of spreading out parachutes, filling them with sand and having the helicopters lift them by their cords.

Helicopter pilots had to fly low so the sand bombs wouldn't stir up so much radioactive material or punch through the floor of the reactor. They also dropped loads of boron, to absorb neutrons, lead, to shield the radiation, and dolomite, which would break down into carbon dioxide and help smother the flames.

The pilots and crews received radiation at a rate of several hundred rad per hour. Crew members had to lean out the doors into the upward flood of radionuclides to see when to release the loads. In a single flight they would take in several years of allowable dosage. They flew until they were too weak and nauseated to hold the controls of their helicopters."

(Glenn Alan Cheney - PRIPYAT.COM)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Howard Finster - God's Last Red Light on Planet Earth

"One of 14 children, Howard Finster was born in Valley Head, DeKalb County, Alabama, on December 2nd, 1916, to Samuel William Finster, a sawmill lumberjack, and Lula Alice Henegar. At age three, Finster received the first of what would be many visions—his deceased sister, Abbie Rose, came to him on a floating stairway and told him that visions and other religious experiences would continue to play a vital role throughout his lifetime. At age 15, while riding on the back of a wagon, Finster received another vision in which God called on him to become a preacher. He soon began preaching at tent revivals all over Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. In 1940 he became pastor of Rock Bridge Baptist Church near DeSoto State Park and also preached at other small country churches, baptized new members, and washed the feet of churchgoers...

In 1961 Finster began to construct what would become his most famous accomplishment, the Plant Farm Museum House, or Paradise Gardens, as it is more popularly known, near his home in Chatooga County, Georgia. Finster filled the space, previously used as a community dump, with multifaceted constructions made with items he rescued from the trash.

These "found-object" sculptures and mosaics filled his new "Garden of Eden," as he termed the space. Structures include the Mirror House, Hubcap Tower, Bicycle Tower, Bible House, and the World Folk Art Church and feature items such as bicycles, old jewelry, shoes, medical equipment, and anything else he could salvage. All of the themes in Finster's garden environment are evangelical in nature and express his desire to bring his religious message to the public. He thus included hundreds of Biblical texts and mini-sermons in every space in the garden and its artworks. The garden quickly became a popular local tourist destination.

Finster continued preaching and working odd jobs until 1976, when he saw a vision of a face in a dab of paint on his thumb that commanded him to paint sacred art. He thereafter devoted his working life exclusively to painting and creating works of folk art. Many scholars and critics of art have compared his religious work to nineteenth-century tent-revival posters..."

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Lonesome Death of Takako Konishi



"Cult film sparked hunt for a fortune," was the small headline that attracted my attention that morning back in December 2001. "A Japanese woman searched a remote area of America during a quest to find a briefcase containing almost $1m buried by a fictional character in the cult film Fargo."

According to the article, a 28-year-old woman had left Tokyo a month earlier to travel to North Dakota, in America's midwest. The police were called after she was spotted wandering around the outskirts of the state capital, Bismarck. When officers interviewed the woman, she showed them a "crude map" that was supposed to show the location where the money was hidden in the movie. A perplexed spokesman for the Bismarck police was quoted saying: "We tried to explain to her that it was a fictional movie, and there really wasn't any treasure."

But whatever the police said apparently didn't deter Takako Konishi from her strange quest, which ended with her pointless death. "A hunter later found her body in woodland," the story concluded, "near the village of Detroit Lakes, which lies on a road between Fargo and Brainerd."

(Part Two)
(Three)

Can - Vitamin C

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Boston Corbett - The Man Who Killed John Wilkes Booth

"One vivid example of Boston Corbett's eccentricity took place on July 16, 1858. Perhaps as a tribute to the loss of his late wife, Corbett took a pair of scissors and castrated himself. He then went to a prayer meeting and ate a full dinner. He took a walk...

In 1878 Corbett moved to Concordia, Kansas. There Corbett lived in a dugout a few miles outside town; the site has been marked by a local Boy Scout troop. His home was nothing more than a hole in a steep hill with a brown stone front and a roof made of brush, clay, and clapboards...

In Concordia Corbett slept on a homemade bed and kept a variety of firearms. He purchased a flock of sheep. He won local respect for his ability to bring down crows and hawks. Sometimes he gave religious lectures which often turned into wild incoherencies...

On May 26, 1888, Corbett jumped on a horse that had been left at the entrance to the asylum’s grounds and escaped. He went to Neodesha, Kansas, and stayed briefly with Richard Thatcher, a man he had met during his imprisonment at Andersonville during the Civil War. He said he was heading for Mexico..."

Canals on Mars



"Some people went so far as to propose the idea that the canals were irrigation canals built by a supposed intelligent civilization on Mars. Percival Lowell was a strong proponent of this view, pushing the idea much further than Schiaparelli, who for his part considered much of the detail on Lowell's drawings to be imaginary. Some observers drew maps in which dozens if not hundreds of canals were shown with an elaborate nomenclature for all of them. Some observers saw a phenomenon they called "gemination", or doubling - two parallel canals.

Other observers disputed the notion of canals. The gifted observer E. E. Barnard did not see them. In 1903, Joseph Edward Evans and Edward Maunder conducted visual experiments using schoolboy volunteers that demonstrated how the canals could arise as an optical illusion,[1] since when a poor quality telescope views an object with many point-like features (e.g. sunspots or craters) they 'appear' to join up to form lines...

During the oppositions of 1892 and 1894, seasonal color changes were reported. As the polar snows melted the adjacent seas appeared to overflow and spread out as far as the tropics, and were often seen to assume a distinctly green colour. The idea that Schiaparelli's canali were really irrigation canals made by intelligent beings, was first hinted at, and then adopted as the only intelligible explanation, by Lowell and a few others. Newspaper and magazine articles about Martian canals captured the public imagination."

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Poor Edward



"The story always begins the same way. Edward Mordake is said to have been heir to one of the noblest families in England. He was considered a bright and charming man – a scholar, a musician and a young man in possession of profound grace. He was said to be quite handsome when viewed from the front – yet, on the back of his head there was a second face, twisted and evil...

It has been said that the eyes would follow spectators and its lips would ‘gibber’ relentlessly and silently. According to legend it would smile and sneer as Edward wept over his condition. While no voice was ever audible, Edward swore that often he would be kept awake by the hateful whispers of his ‘evil twin’.

The story has always concluded with young Edward committing suicide at the age of twenty-three. The method of his death also differs, sometimes poison does him in and in other versions a bullet ‘between the eyes of his devil-twin’ puts him out of his misery. In both versions Edward leaves behind a letter requesting that the ‘demon face’ be destroyed before his burial, ‘lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave."

Friday, 22 May 2009

JR in Rio

"JR’s Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches) exhibit is part of JR’s ongoing WOMEN project, where he documents the faces of women across the globe. JR has been highlighting the challenges and violence faced by women in troubled countries across the world from Sierra Leon and Cambodia, to Brazil, Morocco and India. Armed with his 28mm camera, JR directly confronts issues often pushed aside and rarely documented, especially in such a unique and visually arresting manner. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe JR’s effect."

- Juxtapoz Magazine.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

HMS Erebus & HMS Terror

"The fate of Franklin in 1845, his two superbly equipped ships carrying two years' worth of supplies, including barrels of lemon juice to ward off scurvy, his 129 men who starved, froze and were poisoned to death in the ice, and the suggestion that some survived for a time by cannibalism, haunted the Victorian imagination.

A record 32 rescue expeditions were sent, spurred on by his formidable widow, Jane.

Inuit witnesses described Englishmen dying where they fell in the ice, apparently without ever asking how the natives survived such extreme conditions.

Rescue expeditions brought back papers recording the death of Franklin, abandoned clothes and equipment, caches of supplies including poorly sealed tins of meat that may have killed many of the men, and eventually skeletons..." - The Guardian

Franklin's Lost Expedition (Part One)
(Two)
(Three)
(Four)
(Five)
(Six)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Kowloon Walled City

"1966 saw the Cultural Revolution in China and the Communist flag was briefly raised in the city. Official attempts to remove it were met with more rioting. British policy came to regard the Walled City as something of a hornets nest — best not to be kicked unless absolutely necessary. In the meantime, the Kowloon Walled City continued to develop and regenerate within itself. Buildings twelve stories high sprouted up without any adherence to planning law. Businesses blossomed — without the slightest concessions to legislation or taxation. Every nook and cranny within its tiny acreage was expanded out, and crammed into, until its intricate labyrinth of thoroughfares and pathways received not a ray of sunlight, even at high noon. The health authorities kept away. So the City just developed its own legion of ad-hock clinics and dental surgeons. In the absence of telephone and utilities companies, the City’s inhabitants just by-wired their own electricity and connections. The same nick-it-yourself approach applied to plumbing and water. As a result, a tangled network of pipes and wiring dripped and hissed above the city’s dark, dank walkways. Cheap amenities for the residents, and, considering the extremely limited access, either in or out of the compound — a potentially catastrophic fire-hazard.

For years, the Kowloon Walled City became a no go area. In the control of Triads and drug dealers, with an estimated population in excess of 30,000. Many residents were illegal immigrants; exempt from extradition, encased within its walls. A lone European venturing into its midst would most probably never be seen again, no Chinese went in without appropriate reason. Only after Margaret Thatcher had signed away Hong Kong’s sovereignty did its future landlords, the communist Chinese, have the ability to finally evacuate the Walled City’s stubborn population between 1988-92 and then destroy its derelict, decrepit, rat infested shell. It was only in these final years of gradual abandonment that a few journalists, photographers and investigators were able to wander unchallenged, around the Walled City’s uncharted labyrinths and give embellished accounts. Two of them were photographers: Greg Girard and Ian Lambot, who spent four years exploring the City. The vast collection of photographs they amassed during this time can be seen in their book City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City."

Spring-Heeled Jack - Terror of London

"It was at 1 Bearbinder Lane, on the 21 February around 8:45 in the evening, at the home of one of the areas most well to do families, that the most infamous Spring Heeled Jack encounter occurred.

Jane Alsop, the 18 year old daughter of the then invalid John Alsop and his wife, was at home with her two sisters, when she heard an urgent ringing of the bell at the gate. On investigating it, a black cloaked figure in the path exclaimed, "I'm a policeman. For Gods sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring-heeled Jack here in the lane". Jane went to fetch a light for the man. She returned with a candle and as she was handing the light to the man, it shone on his face and she 'realised that it was Spring Heeled Jack'. The man is then said to have grabbed the candle and cast off his cloak, revealing him to be wearing a white oilskin-like coverall and large helmet which fitted him very tightly. His face was 'most hideous and frightful' according to Jane, and his eyes glowed a fiery red. Without warning he spat balls of a blue and white fire into her face, stunning her, before grabbing her neck and proceeding to assault her with his metallic claws. She attempted to run back into the house but he held her firmly in head lock and began tearing into her flesh and clothes with his claws...

Later in the 1840s came the first Penny Dreadful to feature Jack, also entitled 'Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London' which appeared in weekly episodes and was written anonymously; it too made Jack a villain, and drew as much from the play as it did reality. A Penny Dreadful from 1843,'The Old Tar and the Vampire' had featured a mysterious fiend called 'Jack' who leapt around the streets of the east end of London, and set at least one person alight with his pyromaniacal skills, but he was not overtly identified with Spring Heel Jack.

In 1863 another play, 'Spring-Heel'd Jack: or, The Felon's Wrongs', was written by Frederick Hazleton. Between 1864 and 1867 'Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London' was reissued in a rewritten version. 1878 saw the third Penny Dreadful which appeared in 48 weekly instalments, probably written by George A. Sala or Alfred Burrage under the pseudonym of Charlton Lea. It kept the same title, but totally transformed the story. Jack is no villain in these stories; he uses his powers to right wrongs, and save the innocent from the wicked. Here he is in fact a nobleman by birth, cheated of his inheritance, and his amazing leaps are due to compressed springs in the heels of his boots. He is dressed in a skin-tight glossy red outfit, with bat's wings, a lion's mane, horns, talons, massive cloven hoofs, and a sulphurous breath; he makes spectacular leaps, easily jumping over rooftops or rivers, and is immensely strong.

One interesting aspect of the later fictional stories is how they arguably manifest the first notion of the 'superhero'.The basic image survives in the prototypes of the spooky 'masked crimefighters' of a later age, such as the Shadow, and even more so in their more famous culmination. As an heir of a wealthy family, who initially seeks revenge for some wrong done, disguising himself in a tight jumpsuit with a bat like cape and a pointy eared cowl, and using sophisticated gadjets he has invented to give him superhuman abilities, Jack is not too dissimilar to another well known character of almost exactly a century later, who appears to have been particular influenced by him."

- Steve J Ash

Dylan Thomas - Under Milk Wood



"To begin at the beginning:

It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless
and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched,
courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the
sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.
The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night
in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat
there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock,
the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds.
And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are
sleeping now..." - Under Milk Wood - Play for Voices

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Lost World of Doggerland














"Pilgrim Lockwood, the skipper of a British fishing trawler named Colinda, wasn’t quite sure what to make of the thing his nets had scraped up from the bottom of the North Sea. Just over 21 centimetres long, it was made of antler with a set of barbs running along one side. Back on land, Lockwood gave the artefact to the ship’s owner, and it eventually made its way to a museum in Norwich, UK. It turned out to be a prehistoric harpoon point dating to the Mesolithic period, between about 4,000 and 10,000 years ago.

That was 1931, and archaeologists studying the artefact, which became known as the Colinda point, began to realize that hunter-gatherers would once have roamed across a vast plain that connected Britain to the rest of Europe. But they had no idea what the plain looked like or what life would have been like for the harpoon’s makers. Now researchers have drawn the first map of that lost world, sketching out a 10,000-year-old landscape filled with marshes, rivers and lakes. It turns out that the region they call Doggerland may have been a sort of paradise for Mesolithic people." - Laura Spinney, Nature.com

Also: Reclaiming Doggerland.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put A Spell On You



"Well we partied and we partied, and somewhere along the road l blanked out. Then ten days later, they told me, he says, "Here, learn this. It's on the market, it's selling, you've got a hit record." So l said, "What's it called?". He said, "It's 'Spell'". l said, "Oh, oh, 'Spell'". So I played it and I listened and I said, "No that wasn't me." He said, "Yes it was". Then he showed me weird pictures which l destroyed right quick and l got the negatives and I destroyed them. And I'm glad, because it was horrible. I made parts of "I put a spell on you" laying on my back on the floor, with the microphone in one hand and a bottle in the other. And everybody was going crazy. Mickey "Guitar" Baker was on guitar - he lives in Paris, France now - he was stoned out of his head. Sam "The Man" Taylor was on tenor sax and you've never seen a drunken saxophone player who couldn't put his lips on his own mouthpiece; you should have seen that, it was really a comical thing. But nonetheless, we did that and the other side, "Little demon", then we made "You made me love you" and "Darling please forgive me". Then we came back the next day, and we did that album called AT HOME WITH SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS."

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Sun Ra - Space is the Place (1974)



"Shortly after the tape ran out, Sun Ra began asking the Denver Post reporter about Denver. Specifically, he wanted to know about "breatharians": people who exist solely by breathing pure air; Sun Ra had heard that some such people supposedly lived in or near Denver where the high altitude made for particularly good air. Sun Ra said he was considering asking certain members of the Arkestra who ate too much to become breatharians. I mention this because, as most readers will suspect by now, Sun Ra had a dry sense of humor, and it was - and is - difficult to know how he meant some of his remarks."

Full Interview

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Fantomas Lives!



"He carries out the most appalling crimes: substituting sulfuric acid in the perfume dispensers at a Parisian department store, releasing plague-infested rats on an ocean liner, or forcing a victim to witness his own execution by placing him face-up in a guillotine. Fantômas is the master of a thousand disguises and the leader of a vast army of "apaches" (street thugs). His spies and henchmen are everywhere, spreading the seeds of chaos and terror. Fantômas is anyone and no one, everywhere and nowhere, waging an implacable war against the very bourgeois society in which he moves with such ease and assurance.

Fantômas's crimes are scenes of sublime horror: a rebellious henchman is hung in a huge bell as a human clapper, smashing from side to side and raining blood, sapphires and diamonds onto the street below. Masked bandits brandishing revolvers crash a city bus through the walls of a bank, sending money flying everywhere. Under grey Parisian skies, a horse-drawn cab gallops down the road, a wide-eyed corpse as its coachman. Fantômas strips the gilded gold from the Invalides dome each night; he poisons his victims with deadly bouquets; he crashes passenger trains and destroys steamships. And he escapes justice every time."

"and mothers' mothers..."

The Disappearing Poet

"It is almost half a century since San Francisco police found a 1954 Plymouth Savoy on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. On Tuesday, July 19, 1955, a highway patrol reported that the car, belonging to a Weldon Kees, had been discovered with the keys in the ignition. Two of Kees’s friends, Michael Grieg and Adrian Wilson, went to search the apartment of the missing man. There they found, among other things, his cat, Lonesome, and a pair of red socks in a sink. His wallet, watch, and sleeping bag were missing. So was his savings-account book, although the balance, which stood at more than eight hundred dollars, would remain that way. There was no suicide note.

Nobody has seen or heard from Weldon Kees since Monday, July 18, 1955..."

(From The New Yorker)

The Tunguska Event



"At around 7:15 AM, Tungus natives and Russian settlers in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal observed a huge fireball moving across the sky, nearly as bright as the Sun. A few minutes later, there was a flash that lit up half of the sky, followed by a shock wave that knocked people off their feet and broke windows up to 650 km (400 mi) away. The explosion registered on seismic stations across Eurasia, and produced fluctuations in atmospheric pressure strong enough to be detected by the recently invented barographs in Britain. Over the next few weeks, night skies over Europe and western Russia glowed brightly enough for people to read by. In the United States, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Mount Wilson Observatory observed a decrease in atmospheric transparency that lasted for several months.

Had the object responsible for the explosion hit the Earth a few hours later, it would have exploded over Europe (most probably Scandinavia) instead of the sparsely-populated Tunguska region, producing massive loss of human life and changing the course of human history..."