Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Gavin Bryars - The Sinking of the Titanic

All the materials used in the piece are derived from research and speculations about the sinking of the "unsinkable" luxury liner. On April 14th 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg at 11.40 PM in the North Atlantic and sank at 2.20 AM on April 15th. Of the 2201 people on board only 711 were to reach their intended destination, New York. The initial starting point for the piece was the reported fact of the band having played a hymn tune in the final moments of the ship's sinking. A number of other features of the disaster which generate musical or sounding performance material, or which 'take the mind to other regions', are also included. The final hymn played during those last 5 minutes of the ship's life is identified in an account by Harold Bride, the junior wireless operator, in an interview for the New York Times of April 19th 1912

"...from aft came the tunes of the band..... The ship was gradually turning on her nose - just like a duck that goes down for a dive. I had only one thing on my mind - to get away from the suction. The band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down. They were playing "Autumn" then. I swam with all my might. I suppose I was 150 feet away when the Titanic, on her nose, with her afterquarter sticking straight up in the air, began to settle slowly.... The way the band kept playing was a noble thing. I heard it first while we were still working wireless, when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing "Autumn". How they ever did it I cannot imagine."

- Gavin Bryars

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Day in the Circus

"Good Move!"

A collection of Blue Note covers.
Classic computer games reimagined as books.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Friday, 30 April 2010

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Far Side

Outsider art enjoys little favor these days in the professional art world, where the right to be crude, weird, and nasty is reserved for artists with master’s degrees from leading art schools. Sophisticates caricature a taste for outsider art, with some empirical justice, as a sign of patronizing sentimentality and populist resentment. But the intransigent grandeur of a Wölfli calls everybody’s hand. He seems to be at least as troublesome for outsider fanciers as for vocational élitists. Besides having an immensely complicated and subtle technique, Wölfli is scary. Trying to make a pet of him could get your hand bitten off.

The New Yorker on Adolf Wölfli

Sunday, 21 March 2010

"Manuscripts don't burn"

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

In the Realms of the Unreal

"Much of what we know about the life of the reclusive writer and artist Henry Darger comes from his memoir, The History of My Life, which at just over 5,000 pages was one of the shortest things he ever wrote. The first 200 pages relate the story of his troubled childhood. Born in 1892 on Chicago's north side, he loses both of his parents at an early age, and a sister, whom he never meets, is given up for adoption. At the age of twelve, due to his unruly behavior (many believe that he was caught masturbating at Catholic school), he is sent to the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children, an institution which later attained local notoriety for its staff's abusive treatment of its patients, in a town over 100 miles south of Chicago. At age 17, Darger escapes the asylum and sets out for Chicago--by foot. He is on this trek home when, on page 206, he observes "a most singular and unbelievable phenomenon," his account of which tells us more about his personality and his art than any autobiographical detail ever could. The "phenomenon" that Darger sees is a giant tornado tearing across the plains. He does not try to contain his excitement:

It had far more wallop than even a powerful atomic bomb. However stupendous and shocking the many different catastrophes of the past may be, none of them can compare to this storm. It was a wind convulsion of nature tremendous beyond all man's conception, immeasurable beyond all man's conception, immeasurable beyond measure.

His description of this tornado, and the destruction it wreaks across southern Illinois, occupies the rest of his memoir--all 4,878 pages of it.

Although he never explicitly mentions it in the pages of his memoir, a different kind of storm did overtake Darger at this time in his life, a torrent of creativity that was itself a most singular and unbelievable phenomenon. Upon returning to Chicago after his cross-state trek he began work on The Story of the Vivian Girls, In What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, as caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. At 15,000 pages, it is by far the longest novel ever written.

- Nathaniel Rich on the outsider artist and writer Henry Darger.

(Full documentary above available on youtube).

Friday, 12 March 2010

Albert Robida, the man who dreamt the future

"Albert Robida, like Jules Verne, enjoyed to fantasize about the future, but his was a much more lively and tongue in cheek approach, full of humor and grotesque ideas. The illustrations were stunning in their accuracy. There it was, circa 1870, and the man had conceived of the Telephonoscope, a screen on which spectators could see events taking place at another far away location, in real time. He apparently was the first human being to conceive of television in such a specific manner...

Perhaps had Robida’s work not been discounted in its day as mere flights of fancy by an overproductive imagination, and relegated to disposable cartoon art of the epoch, we’d have had TV, maybe even Web TV, and sadly biological warfare, generations before they materialized in real life."

- the prophetic steampunk genius of Albert Robida

(click images for full size)

the 'cursed bread' of Pont-Saint-Esprit

One man tried to drown himself, screaming that his belly was being eaten by snakes. An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother. Another man shouted: "I am a plane", before jumping out of a second-floor window, breaking his legs. He then got up and carried on for 50 yards. Another saw his heart escaping through his feet and begged a doctor to put it back. Many were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets.

Time magazine wrote at the time: "Among the stricken, delirium rose: patients thrashed wildly on their beds, screaming that red flowers were blossoming from their bodies, that their heads had turned to molten lead."

- CIA spike French bread with LSD

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Fall of Detroit

"Approaching the derelict shell of downtown Detroit, we see full-grown trees sprouting from the tops of deserted skyscrapers. In their shadows, the glazed eyes of the street zombies slide into view, stumbling in front of the car. Our excitement at driving into what feels like a man-made hurricane Katrina is matched only by sheer disbelief that what was once the fourth-largest city in the US could actually be in the process of disappearing from the face of the earth. The statistics are staggering – 40sq miles of the 139sq mile inner city have already been reclaimed by nature."

Julien Temple on the last days of a city.

Further: Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Silent Noise Of Sinister Clowns

"The Zoot-Suit was a refusal: a subcultural gesture that refused to concede to the manners of subservience... It was during his period as a young zoot-suiter that the Chicano union activist Cesar Chavez first came into contact with community politics, and it was through the experiences of participating in zoot-suit riots in Harlem that the young pimp 'Detroit Red' began a political education that transformed him into the Black radical leader Malcolm X. Although the zoot-suit occupies an almost mythical place within the history of jazz music, its social and political importance has been virtually ignored. There can be no certainty about when, where or why the zoot-suit came into existence, but what is certain is that during the summer months of 1943 "the killer-diller coat" was the uniform of young rioters and the symbol of a moral panic about juvenile delinquency that was to intensify in the post-war period."

- The Zoot Suit & Style Warfare

Further: The Zoot Suit Riots

Monday, 8 March 2010

"Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"

"The Hatter is focused on time, understandably, since the Queen of Hearts has accused him of being a time-murderer. This has added heft to the theory that a top-hat wearing inventor, Theophilus Carter, was the inspiration. Mr. Carter had displayed his Alarm-Clock-Bed — which was supposed to tip the sleeper out at the correct time — at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851.

Next we come to the notorious “hatters’ shakes,” a result of poisoning from mercury used in the early days of hat manufacturing. At a recent news conference, Johnny Depp suggested that that was where “mad as a Hatter” came from. The Hatter is “this guy who literally is damaged goods,” he said. In the British Medical Journal in 1983, however, H.A. Waldron concluded that the Hatter did not have mercury poisoning. The principal psychotic features of this type of poisoning are “excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self confidence, anxiety and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive.” The Hatter, he states, was “an eccentric extravert.”

- The origin of the Mad Hatter.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Woman Who Shot Mussolini

"The Hon Violet Gibson shot two people at point-blank range, herself and Benito Mussolini. Both survived. After the first (attempted-suicidal) shooting, Violet, alive because the bullet had bounced off a rib, lived quietly in a convent in Rome, doing jigsaws with her Irish maid, until the day she set off for the Capitol with a gun in her pocket. After the second shooting Mussolini, alive because he turned his head just as Violet fired, set out for a triumphal visit to Libya with a sticking plaster on his nose. Meanwhile Violet was half-lynched, then dragged, badly battered, into a room containing the colossal marble foot of the Emperor Constantine, there to be revived with brandy before being dispatched to prison. It was the end of her life in the world."

- the unlikely assassin Violet Gibson

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Self-Mummified Monks of Japan

For three years the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, which contains Urushiol (same stuff that makes poison ivy), normally used to lacquer bowls. This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed...

- the cult of Sokushinbutsu.

Friday, 19 February 2010

From Battleship Potemkin to a chip shop in Dublin

"We remained outside the port for three days. We needed supplies, water and coal, and the people of the city had given these to us. The nobles, against whom we were fighting, had fled from the city. There was no point therefore to bomb and kill our working brothers”.

We arrived at Odessa by the Black Sea, returning from the mutiny on the Potemkin which in part reflected the conditions of Tsarist Russia. This first mutiny woke up the people who were sleeping. The revolt started at lunchtime, at 12 o’clock. There were maggots in the food. The meat was rotten and the bread was hard. The officer had ordered the cooks to cook it nevertheless. At that time no one could speak up or contradict an order. They would be immediately arrested and put shore, where they would be sentenced to 30 days in prison. But Varukinciuk, a sailor friend of mine, had the courage to protest against these living conditions to an officer whom he found on the bridge at the time.

This man, a real tyrant, a Polish man, suddenly took out his pistol and left Varukinciuk laid out on lifeless. This was the beginning of the rebellion and the crew mutinied. Matiuscenko took command of the mutineers and ordered them immediately to force open the armory on board and to take possession of the arms and munitions. Some officers opposed this and a scuffle broke out with continuous gunfire in which the some ended up in the sea, alive or dead."

- the extraordinary life of the late Ivan Beshoff, last surviving sailor of the Battleship Potemkin Revolt.

A brief history of pretty much everything (via flipbook)

50 Stunning Political Artworks via the wonderful ampere's and.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Paris Drowning

He made his way to L’Opéra, where the pavements were like jelly. A chasm had opened up in the square in front of the opera house. Before the police roped it off, people could look down at the drowned world of a work-in-progress destined to become the Opéra Métro station. ‘Would whole pieces of Paris collapse?’ Jerrold wondered. Perhaps the whole of Paris really was doomed...

- London Review of Books

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Saw a clip of this gentleman on the tv recently. Note Patrick Moore's resemblance to the guy from Eraserhead. The whole thing isn't a million miles from David Lynch as it goes.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Man with the Rubber Head

- The Genius of Georges Méliès

The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi

"Joey Grimaldi, the greatest clown of the 19th century, made his debut at the age of four in The Triumph of Mirth. The triumph was hard-won. His father, a fine and original clown himself, was a monster Dickens would have been proud to have invented, a savage brute (known as the Signor, but more generally referred to as Grim-All-Day) whose idea of training children for the theatre was to put them in the stocks or suspend them in a cage 40ft above the stage. He routinely beat his wife and terrified the household with his obsession with his own death. The devil had informed him in a dream that he would die on the first Friday of the month, whereafter the Signor kept vigil on that day, every month, in a room filled with clocks, gibbering till dawn. His favourite reading was The Uncertainty of Signs of Death; his dread of being buried alive led him to stipulate in his will that when he died his children should sever his head from his body, a task duly performed by his daughter, who kept a hand on the saw worked by the surgeon hired for the purpose."

Sunday, 10 January 2010

"For Poetry, This"

A tribute to for the forgotten writer Delmore Schwartz by the poet Tony Curtis and Tim Phelan.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Sunday, 3 January 2010