“Places that cannot be left” (2)

Furthering my previous post on “places that cannot be left” (“The Captives of Longjumeau” and The Exterminating Angel), I remembered the book Krabat which I read as a child, about a young boy who winds up in a mill from which it is impossible to escape. Everyone who tries to run away wades through swamps all night, only to find himself (at dawn) back at the gates of that very same mill.

And by coincidence, yesterday, I watched the absurdist/surreal film Woman in the Dunes. Its male protagonist is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.

It’s an excellent film, one of my World Cinema Classics.

P.S. : I cancelled my cable and bought this gadget, Google ChromeCast, which allows you to play YouTube films from your smartphone or PC.

“Places that cannot be left” and other tropes of the fantastique

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Borges’ “Kafka and His Precursors” mentions Léon Bloy’s story “The Captives of Longjumeau“, which, in the words of Borges “relates the case of some people who posses all manner of globes, atlases, railroad guides and trunks, but who die without ever having managed to leave their home town”.

This reminded me of Luis Buñuel‘s film The Exterminating Angel, in which the guests of a posh dinner party are, for some inexplicable reason, psychologically, but not physically, trapped in a house.

Wondering if someone else had noticed the similarity between these two plotlines, I googled “The Captives of Longjumeau” and “The Exterminating Angel” and found A Reading Diary, a book by Alberto Manguel which lists fiction in which “time is suspended”, where “places cannot be left” (what I was looking for) and the opposite, “places cannot be reached.”

Catch the Beat: The best of Soul Underground 1987-91

Catch the Beat: The best of Soul Underground 1987-91

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Dave Lubich[1] of Soul Underground[2] was kind enough to send me a copy of Catch the Beat: The best of Soul Underground 1987-91 (2010). This 440-page book contains a selection of features, interviews, charts and news stories from each of Soul Underground’s 38 issues.

The book is a blast for lovers of black music and electronic dance music.

I especially like the charts.

Dave Lubich first came to my attention when he wrote ” Too Blind To See It: Discovering The Roots Of House Music”[3] an excellent article on homophobia in black music.

Sniper cinema

Both The Phantom of Liberty (Luis Buñuel, 1974) and God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976) feature a scene in which a sniper shoots innocent strangers from a highrise. Both scenes are probably inspired by Charles Whitman‘s spree killing in Texas in 1966.

In Buñuel’s film, the sniper randomly kills people in the Parisian streets below.

Phantom of Liberty as featured in Blixa Bargeld’s cover of “Soul Desert“, sniper scene starts at 0:42

In Cohen’s film, the sniper is perched on a water tower in New York and opens fire on the crowded streets below, killing fifteen pedestrians.

God Told Me To, the sniper scene starts at 1:26

See stranger killing by snipers in seventies cinema.

The Loving Trap

I recently met a woman who is into conspiracy theories. I’m not fond of conspiracy theories (think the Zeitgeist rubbish). Why invent injustice when the world is riddled with very real injustice already? By coincidence (or was it? haha) a week later, I stumbled upon “Living in an Unreal World[below] by famed and brilliant documentary maker Adam Curtis, whose The Trap,The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares I had seen and admired. So I decided to check some of his more recent work.

And so it came about that yesterday I watched Bitter Lake and for the first time I was disappointed by Curtis’ work. It struck me as a conspiracy theory film lacking a culprit. Arty and well executed, but a conspiracy theory nonetheless.

So I googled “conspiracy theory” and “Adam Curtis” and found “The Loving Trap[above], a Bitter Lake spoof by a certain Ben Woodhams who described Bitter Lake as the ‘televisual equivalent of a drunken late night Wikipedia binge with pretension for narrative coherence’.

I see Woodhams’ point but remain a loving fan of Curtis’ work.

Klimt and Loos

While researching Gustav Klimt, I thought it was a good idea to watch the film Klimt (2006). It’s a truly silly film, take for example the scene where Gustav Klimt smears a piece of cake in the face of Adolf Loos to solve a dispute over ornament:

Gustav Klimt, responding to Loos’s claim that ornament is crime and having covered the face of Loos in cake:

“What you were just saying is merely ornamental.
Therefore it’s useless and therefore it’s ugly.
However this cake has allowed me to shut your mouth.
Therefore it’s useful, it’s expressive, and above all it’s beautiful.”

Loos:

“You, Herr Klimt, I forgive.
And you know why I forgive you?
Because at least your paintings are sexual, as all art should be.
The crucifixion for example.
Now what could be more sexual than the crucifixion?”

I’m not sure Loos and Klimt met. But I’m quite certain Loos would not have allowed to be pied like that.

The Jahsonic 1000, from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng”

Over the last seven years I have been compiling the Jahsonic 1000, a list of thousand songs I would put on a mixtape if mixtapes were that big. I finished the list a while ago but I only recently made it into a YouTube playlist you can listen to here.

Blurb:

The Jahsonic 1000 (2007-15) is a list of 1000 songs compiled by Jan Willem Geerinck. It was started early 2007 as the World music classics category and concluded in November 2015. Every time Geerinck heard or remembered a recording which he thought fit to be in the Jahsonic 1000, he added it to the category. There were no second thoughts.

The list is not hierarchical and needs to be listened to as a gigantic mixtape put on shuffle, or alternatively, played alphabetically.

Neil Young and Lee Perry are the artists with the highest frequency: both are featured 8 times; they are followed by Serge Gainsbourg (6), Stevie Wonder (5), Herbie Hancock (4), James Brown (4), Kraftwerk (4), Nina Simone (4), Peggy Lee (4), Sylvester (4), The Kinks (4), The Rolling Stones (4) en The Velvet Underground (4).

Notes:

The first song is “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and the last song is “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng”.

The alphabetical arrangement makes for some interesting juxtapositions. “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc is followed by “I’m Still In Love” by Alton Ellis and there are four songs which start with “California”: “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & the Papas, “California Love” by 2Pac, “California Soul” by Marlena Shaw and “California Über Alles” by the Dead Kennedys.

Three songs start with the phrase “Baby I”: “Baby I Love You So,” “Baby I’m Scared of You” en “Baby, I Love Your Way”. “I Want You Back” and “I Don’t Want You Back” are not far apart, as they are in real life and “Hurt So Bad” and “Hurt So Good” are neighbours. Other neighbours are “Soul Cargo”, “Soul Drummers”, “Soul Finger”, “Soul Fire”, “Soul Makossa”, “Soul Man” and “Soul Sauce.”

Enjoy!

RIP Umberto Eco (1932 – 2016)

Umberto Eco was an Italian novelist, essayist and philosopher. He is best known for his bestselling 1980 historical mystery novel The Name of the Rose (which I have never been able to finish, although I did see the film).

The only one of his novels I read was Foucault’s Pendulum, in the summer of 2013 in Turkey, which was great for many reasons, not in the least for mentioning the subject matter that would later make it to the cacopedia.

I’m a big fan of his non-fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed The Search for the Perfect Language, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition, Inventing the Enemy and The Infinity of Lists.

On On Ugliness deserves special mention, it’s a wonderful book.

And oh yes, I would hate to see the Bibliotheca semiologica curiosa, lunatica, magica, et pneumatica, Umberto Eco’s library which consists entirely of books that describe falsities, dispersed.

Eco’s voice will be missed.

Who is the new Umberto Eco? Who’s the new nobrow genius?

Above is an excerpt from the 2013 documentary Signs & Secrets: The Worlds of Umberto Eco.

P. S. The last survivors of 1932 (in my canon) are Robert Coover, Dušan Makavejev, Dieter Rams, Ernest Ranglin, Paul Virilio, Fernando Arrabal and Stéphane Audran.