Monthly Archives: February 2007

Eye candy #1

Some recent Flickr uploads. Flickr is one of the most elegant content publishing platforms I’ve encountered in a long time. If you have a blog heavily involving pictures, it pays just to publish them there and write your blog entries over at Flickr, you can very easily include any kind of links to other pictures or outside of Flickr.

Click the pictures to find more info.

My mother’s favorite song

Steven Hall, whom I first met in 2000, is now on MySpace, under the moniker Buddhist Army. So am I, not as Jahsonic (somebody had beat me to it) but as MetaSoul. The similarities do not end there. We both feature his brilliant track — and also the favorite track of Steven’s mother — ‘Volleyball’. Click one of our spaces to listen.

One can easily recognize Steven’s guitar as the guitar on many a Arthur Russell track. Here is Steven Hall’s profile at Discogs.

‘Volley Ball’ sounds like nothing else I’ve heard in a while but to give you an idea it’s similar to:

  1. Padlock EP (1983) – Gwen Guthrie with Sly and Robbie, the ‘Padlock’ track can be heard here, unfortunately simultaneously with another choice Guthrie track: ‘Closer’, turn one off.
  2. Arthur Russell tracks, obviously, at MySpace here, here, and here are more.
  3. Josephine (La Version Francaise) by Chris Rea (here at Youtube, not the Version Francaise.), don’t be offended Steven, your song is way better.

Update: Steven notifies me that he doesn’t want to “take all the credit for the Volleyball song. Daniel Wang programmed and recorded the beat with that relentless bell–I used it readymade–I liked this beat so much I used it for another song that appears on the same live concert cd–“Go For The Night” which is one of only two songs that Arthur and I ever wrote together.”

The end of the sexual revolution

In the Cut (Unrated and Uncut Director’s Edition) (2003) – Jane Campion [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In the Cut, of course, continues Campion’s career-long examination of female masochism.

In the Cut (1995) – Susanna Moore
[FR] [DE] [UK]

I’m halfway through Susanna Moore’s 1995 novel In the Cut, the story of a thirty-something literature teacher in New York City with an interest in street slang who falls in love with a cop of whom she suspects he may also be a serial killer/psychopath. There are lots of similarities here with Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, which I read last year. Can both be categorized as chick lit? If yes, this kind of chick lit takes it upon itself to study men’s (sexual) behavior in an almost anthropological way. Moore describes how a post-coital man, Erica Jong described one of her lover’s post-toilet behavior.

So far I liked Jane Campion’s film adaption of In the Cut better, Moore’s prose is kind of trite and Moore lacks the philosophical breadth I liked in Fear of Flying.

What In the Cut and Fear of Flying also share is the concept of women’s sexuality after the sexual revolution, a topic I’ve first mentioned in my profile of Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977).

Speaking of the end of the sexual revolution which oficially arrived in 1984 (cfr. TIME cover) and which coincides with the arrival of AIDS (see Benetton AIDS ad) and of postmodernism: many writers of the pre- and sexual revolution era such as Gershon Legman, Wayland Young (Eros Denied), Gordon Rattray Taylor and Amos Vogel (Film as a Subversive Art) foreshadowed utopia as soon as we would get rid of our sexual inhibitions.

I quote from Jim Haynes’s website[1]:


Murder is a crime; describing murder is not. Sex is not a crime. Describing sex is. Why?” –Gershon Legman.

“If we were sexually liberated there’d be no president, no police force, no night sticks, no governments.” –Germaine Greer.

The utopia did not happen because of the aforementioned AIDS epidemic and what I suspect a whole range of reasons. Personally I like the concept of inhibitions, the concept of taboos, the concept of shame and guilt; not only are these inhibitions what makes sex exciting in the first place but I suspect that they are necessary to regulate a society. If these inhibitions would not be there life would be an eternal recurrence of the orgy in Perfume. Maybe I should read this?

The only writer that comes to mind who has dealt with this subject is Camille Paglia.

Well, um, what I’m saying is that I’m part of the sexual revolution, um, and I feel that the…in one of my most controversial sentences is “Everybody who preached free love in the 60’s is responsible for AIDS.” I mean by that the Mama’s and the Papa’s and all of us, so, the price of that revolution has been paid by gay men, primarily. I think that what we’re understanding is the enormous power of nature. Even Larry Kramer is starting to talk like this now: that nature apparently did not want us to be promiscuous and that it puts a thousand obstacles in our paths such as these diseases. OK. I feel that procreation is nature’s law, and that’s why I defy nature, I resist it, I oppose it. OK. I think that women certainly are in, you know we were the first generation to have the birth control pill, OK, which frustrates nature. […] –Camille Paglia interviewed by Jack Nichols, 1997

But of course there must be other literature out there, and if you know of any, I’m looking forward to your recommendations.

American Psycho redux

Patrick Bateman: Do you know what Ed Gein said about women?
David Van Patten: The maitre ‘d at Canal Bar?
Patrick Bateman: No, serial killer, Wisconsin, the ’50s.
Craig McDermott: So what did he say?
Patrick Bateman: “When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things. One part wants me to take her out, talk to her, be real nice and sweet and treat her right.”
David Van Patten: And what did the other part think?
Patrick Bateman: “What her head would look like on a stick…”


It’s American Pyscho Day over at Dennis Cooper’s blog courtesy of SYpHA_69. Patrick Batemen would, I believe, be proud, says The Laughing Bone, who adds:


“After many years working in bookstores, I found there were a few titles that inspired a certain “persistent interest”: Naked Lunch, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Secret History, Perfume and Gravity’s Rainbow, … “obsessive fanaticism” such as Catcher in the Rye, Dune and Lord of the Rings. American Psycho, perhaps endemic to the current cultural climate, holds a tenuous middle ground between such interest and fanaticism. In the late 90s, I met quite a few budding Patrick Batemans who would use lines from the book like a secret language for the initiated. Little Holden Caufields gone all the way through the rye.”


My first exposure to American Psycho was a newspaper article mentioning that the original publisher had declined to publish the book after reading the manuscript. Enough to pique my curiousity and read it as soon as it came out. I haven’t re-read the book since but once started reading the 19th century version of it, Against the Grain by French writer Huysmans; which I stopped reading because of the overly long description of material goods — just like in American Psycho.

Here are links to all Cooper’s posts:


The 2000 film

I haven’t seen the film yet, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever see it unless catching it on television. In the meanwhile here is the trailer and here is a mash-up of the same. In case you’re wondering what a mash-up (actually a détournement in this case) is, it’s a musical genre which, in its purest form, consists of the combination (usually by digital means) of the music from one song with the a cappella from another. Technically a mash-up is a remix. Video can also be ‘remixed’, only it’s usually called ‘re-edited’ or ‘re-cut’. Another video mash-up is this version of Scarface, with only the fuck segments. Pulp Fiction underwent the same treatment.

100 records that set the world on fire (while no one was listening)

Tired of being reminded by other magazines that the best albums in the world were made by The Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones? So was The Wire magazine. In 1998 they polled their writers to come up with a guide to 100 records that should have ignited the world’s imagination, except that everyone else was fiddling.

Here is the text and here are the scans.

I quote the Arthur Russell (World of Echo) entry by LG (Louise Gray?) and the one on Lee Perry (Revolution Dub) by WM ( Will Montgomery?) because both feature highly in my personal fave list:

One of the least-honoured links between disco and the avant garde, Russell, a cellist whose experiments were too much for the Manhattan School of Music, was making connections between the formats as soon as he hit New York in the mid-70s. Though not his first release, World Of Echo – for solo cello, voice, effects and electronics – encapsulated many of his ideas for loose-limbed music that kept curiosity at its heart. Echo remains an extraordinary record: sonar rhythms and melodies drift through various layers of sound and meaning, like a metaphor for the unconsciousness. Russell, who died in 1992 from AIDS, is remembered for his disco singles – “Kiss Me Again”, “Is It All Over My Face“, “Go Bang”, the latter resurrected by Todd Terry’s “Bango” – and co-founding Sleeping Bag Records; but this record, categorized as just plain weird when it was released, should be re-examined closely. LG

Lee Perry’s “Yehol Evol” – B-side of a tune called “Honey Love” which ran the vocal track backwards over the backing track – had served notice as far back as 1967 that the producer was prepared to take his music beyond the bounds of the merely sensible. Besides some wildly eccentric vocals, Revolution Dub, from 1975, contains material completely foreign to popular music – snatches of television dialogue. I am Doctor on the Go”, proclaims Perry to a chorus of canned laughter, and so on. The collision of the British sitcom with the rhythm from Junior Byles’s aching “Long Way” took reggae into retaliatory culture-shock experimentation. Also, this album had some of the most potent dubs ever recorded by Perry. There’s the ultra-heavy version of Bunny Clarke’s “Move Out Of My Way,” the rock-hard reworking of Jimmy Riley’s take of Bobby Womack’s “Woman’s Gotta Have It”; and a juddering dub of “Bushweed Corntrash”. Fierce and funny. WM

Awe of nature, taste for the bizarre, thirst for knowledge

I found some excellent plates of the Monstrorum historia cum Paralipomenis historiae omnium animalium by the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522 – 1605) at the Universidade de Coimbra. You can view full sized versions by clicking the thumbnails. In the same collection are also plates by Ambroise Paré, Conrad Gessner, Bartolomeo Ambrosinus, Olaus Magnus, Giovanni Cavazzi da Montecuccolo.

Here are the Wikipedia links: Ambroise Paré, Ulisse Aldrovandi, Conrad Gessner, Bartolomeo Ambrosinus, Olaus Magnus, Giovanni Cavazzi da Montecuccolo.

Il Giornale Nuovo has two posts on Aldrovandi: Aldrovandi’s Watercolours and Aldrovandi’s Herbal. Mr. Aitch adds:

Plants, sea-creatures, serpents, birds, domestic beasts, exotic creatures, ‘monsters’ (deformed animals, freaks of nature, conjoined twins, etc.) are all depicted in these watercolours, as are fantastic fauna, such as dragons, whose existence one supposes had not yet been altogether disproved. Many of the paintings are very beautifully and vividly executed. I’m particularly impressed by the pair of entwined snakes which, whilst I can hardly vouch for their zoological verisimilitude, appear very much alive.

Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia

Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia3


Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia8


Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia9

Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia6

Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia7


Aldrovandi Monstrorum Historia4


Stuffed Animals & Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums (2001) Stephen T. Asma [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The natural history museum was a place where the line between “high and low” culture effectively vanished–where our awe of nature, our taste for the bizarre, and our thirst for knowledge all blended happily together. The first natural history museums were little more than high-toned side shows, with such garish exhibits as the pickled head of Catherine the Great’s lover.

Eye candy

Various visuals, discovering the pleasures of Flickr

Work by Tivadar-Kosztka-Csontvary, sourced here, it reminds me of this painting.

Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry (1853-1919) was a Hungarian painter. He was one of the first Hungarian painters to become well-known in Europe.

Work by Ulisse Aldrovandi, sourced here.

Work by Ulisse Aldrovandi, sourced here.

Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522 – 1605)

Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522 – 1605) was an Italian naturalist, the moving force behind Bologna’s botanical garden, one of the first in Europe. Carolus Linnaeus and the comte de Buffon reckoned him the father of natural history studies. He is usually referred to, especially in older literature, as Aldrovandus.

Work by Jean-Louis Alibert. Ilness illustrated is Haematoncie framboisée, painted by Valville and engraved by Tresca.

Jean-Louis-Marc Alibert (1768 – 1837) was a French dermatologist.

Before (1736) – William Hogarth

After (1736) – William Hogarth

Inspired by Gershon Legman’s book Rationale of the Dirty Joke, in which Legman tells of a joke where a woman and a man are window shopping and the man promises the woman everything she likes. After having made love, the man refuses everything he’d promised saying: “When I am hard I am soft, when I am soft I am hard”. Like John Currin today, Hogarth was an excellent portraitist of the condition humaine.

Still-Life with Partridge and Iron Gloves (1504) – Jacopo de’ Barbari

Jacopo de’ Barbari, sometimes known or referred to as: de’Barbari, de Barberi, de Barbari, Barbaro, Barberino, Barbarigo or Barberigo etc., (c. 1440 – before 1516) was an Italian painter and printmaker with a highly individual style. He moved from Venice to Germany in 1500, making him the first Italian Renaissance artist of stature to work in Northern Europe. His few surviving paintings (about twelve) include the first known example of trompe l’oeil since antiquity. His twenty-nine engravings and three very large woodcuts had a considerable influence. —Wikipedia

Anna P., who lived for many years as a man in Germany, was photographed for Magnus Hirschfeld’s book Sexual Intermediates in 1922. Today, Anna would probably be considered to be transgender.

Surrealism avant la lettre

Bizzarie di varie figure

Bizzarie di varie figure (1624) – Giovanni Battista Bracelli

Bizzarie di varie figure (1624) – Giovanni Battista Bracelli

Bizzarie di varie figure (1624) – Giovanni Battista Bracelli

Bizzarie di varie figure (1624) – Giovanni Battista Bracelli


Bizzarie di varie figure (1624) – Giovanni Battista Bracelli

I quote the Giornale Nuovo:

I’ve mentioned Giovanni Battista Bracelli’s book Bizzarie di Varie Figure before. It was originally published in Livorno, in 1624. One would assume the book was not a success, as it exerted no influence, and attracted very little notice until its rediscovery in Paris ca. 1950. Its rediscoverer, Alain Brieux, published a limited facsimile edition of the book in 1963, with a preface by Tristan Tzara. –source

More on bizar here.


Monsters are not signs of God’s punishment

In search of Custos and Liceti and the representation of monstrosities in general.

A “colonel of the Tartars (des Turqs) and a soldier”, captured in 1595, drawn by Domenicus Custos [1]

Dominicus Custos (1550/60–1612) was a copper engraver in Antwerpen and Augsburg.

Don’t forget to check the rest of [this page].


De Monstrorum (1616) – Fortunio Liceti

For the Italian physician Fortunio Liceti, true monstrosity inspired wonder and not horror. He criticized the association of monsters with divine wrath, and pointed out that the word ‘monster’ came from the Latin verb ‘monstrare,’ meaning ‘to show.’ Hence, Liceti argued, monsters were not signs of God’s punishment, but rather, they were creatures to be displayed because of their rarity. —source

In 1616 Liceti published De Monstruorum Natura which marked the beginning of studies into malformations of the embryo. He described various monsters, both real and imaginary, and looks for reasons to explain their appearance. His approach differed from the common European viewpoint of the time, as he regarded monsters not as a divine punishment but rather a fantastical rarety. He also supported the idea of transmission of characteristics from father to son. —Wikipedia

Elephant-headed man from Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris (1665).

Amorphous Monster (Fortunius Licetus, De Monstris, 1665).

Pope-ass and other monsters from Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstrorum causis natura (1665).


 These are some of the many oddities pictured in a treatise simply entitled De Monstris, by Fortunato (or Fortunio) Liceti (1577-1657), an Aristotelian scholar who also published works on hieroglyphics, spontaneous generation and astronomical controversies. —Il Giornale Nuovo


For those of you unfamiliar with this masterpiece of the genre:

Old Woman. (The Queen of Tunis). c. 1513. Oil on panel. National Gallery, London, UK

Old Woman. (The Queen of Tunis)., Quentin Matsys, c. 1513. Oil on panel. National Gallery, London, UK

To jump-start your thinking

I’ve been thinking about something meaningful to say about the negative stir caused by Camille Paglia’s return to on-line writing at Scott McLemee at Quick Study introduced her comeback with the lines “Is Anybody Out There Eagerly Waiting for Volume Two of “Sexual Personae”? No, I Didn’t Think So….” When I read the actual piece, I found more than 400 comments, more than 90% negative. Today, as I check the backward links to her, I see more than hundred blog entries mentioning her comeback. I haven’t checked the positive/negative in those yet.I was enormously intrigued when I read my first interview with Paglia in Belgian magazine HUMO; I was increasingly intrigued when I read her in techno-utopian Wired magazine; I was rewarded when I finally read Sexual Personae (1990); she introduced me to the Lovecraftian Chthonic, to the Nietzschean Dionysian and Apollonian, she said strange things on date rape, her quotes were funny, she compared Meryl Streep (who I disliked at the time, I’ve since seen Adaptation and changed my mind, which reminds me that I have to re-watch Sophie’s Choice.) to I believe a horse and mentioned her nasal tone. I liked it. I had been raised on a Freudo-Marxist diet and her biased politics were refreshing. In short, I loved her, and I still do; my page on her is even referenced at the Camille Paglia checklist:

Camille Paglia , another dictionary entry in a network of illustrated cultural references, with quotes illustrating various points Paglia is known to occasionally make.”

Over the last few years, I’ve come to understand what her limits are, that she is indeed often only a provocateur (but what a flattering ToA), this sentiment was best described by Lee Siegel who wrote two years ago:

To invoke two other writers from the past, Paglia used to come on like Byron; now she is like some cynical version of Dickens’s Oliver Twist, trampling on her very own standards, stooping as low as she can go in order to get a second helping of attention from the public that has forgotten her. But bullies always end up being reduced to their inner weakling. It’s called poetic justice. –Lee Siegel in Look at Me [June 13, 2005 ]

So there I was, trying to defend someone and not knowing how. Until today when Scott Mclemee, in a fascinating post paralleling Zizek and McLuhan, provides the vocabulary I was looking for: “to jump start your thinking”. According to the American Heritage Dictionary to jump-start means to “start or reinvigorate (an activity, system, or process).”

Jump-start my thinking is exactly what Paglia did. Philosophers who are quotable. Philosophers who read like poets. Philosophers who write prose poetry. Philosophy as eternal recurrence repackaged in beautiful words.

And now for the Marshall McLuhan / Slavoj Žižek parallel:

By coincidence, I see that Jonathan Goodwin has noticed an interesting parallel that certainly squares with my own impression:

Žižek reminds me much of McLuhan. Facts don’t matter for either. In the space of a few pages, Žižek has claimed that Martin Luther King made a radical anti-capitalist turn in the last few weeks before his death and that the Japanese Army relied on a Zen mantra similar to “the sword that kills is the sword that saves” to justify their actions in Korea and Manchuria. These are not even the kinds of claims that can be checked. As with McLuhan, Žižek just wants to make as many connective gestures as possible. That’s what make both, generally speaking, fun to read but dangerous to the untutored.

This is exactly right. McLuhan liked to refer to some of his writing as “probes” — a very space race-era locution (let’s not even get into the Legmanian implications) meaning, in effect, “I am totally making this up as I go along.” —Scott Mc Lemee via Legman and McLuhan With Zizek Along the Way.

Speaking of Adaptation and eternal return, I caught Eternal Sunshine on TV, and I was slightly amused but not impressed. In the category experiment in cinematic time it did not strike a chord as much La Jetée or Back to the Future. As Charlie Kaufman script I was more impressed with Adaptation and Being John Malkovitch.

One last word on film, I got to see Destricted, and was only slightly taken by Matthew Barney’s opening vignette, and found the rest of the film quite literally masturbatingly boring. I was especially bored with Noé’s ‘strobed’ entry. Larry Clark had put up an ad for young men to apply to perform with an adult actress. After Clark and his team had chosen the male candidate, the male candidate interviewed the actresses and made his pick. He then proceeded to ‘get it on’. Very sad, just as sad as the Lasse Braun documentary I watched a while back. Final verdict for Destricted: to be avoided, try catching the Matthew Barney ‘s Hoist (and here) at Youtube and you’ve had the best.