Monthly Archives: February 2007



For more of these delightful images, check Casey’s post referenced below, this image from here

  1. gmtPlus9 (-15)
  2. Dennis Cooper has a William Gaddis special, I picked this profile of his novel The Recognitions of which Dennis says: “Though neglected for many years, this monumental, eclectic, and intertextually dense masterpiece is now regarded as one of the foundation stones upon which American literary postmodernism is built. ” Also note this beautiful cover image — which has the feel of a Northern Renaissance piece — anyone by whom the painting is?
  3. S. Casey reports on one of his books called Diableries, see image here, here and here. I am very much intrigued by S. Casey, and his C. V. adds to my curiosity.
  4. Both the music blogosphere and the literary blogosphere have articles about ‘the conventional press’ ridiculing bloggers.
    1. Woebot reports on “Paul Morley [who] is almost guaranteed to be having a pop at music bloggers. … The latest piece is almost entirely about online music criticism. It’s quite hilarious really.”
    2. Conversational Reading quotes Sam Tanenhaus, who says “I find [litblogs] write about us, but I don’t find they write about authors and have that many interesting things to say about literature. Maybe I’m missing them?”

Our society allows infinite aggressions

I am sort of reviewing my newly arrived copy of Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke, but thought I’d share the opening lines of the book with you:

“Under the mask of humor, our society allows infinite aggressions, by everyone and against everyone. In the culminating laugh by the listener or observer–whose position is really that of the victim or butt–the teller of the joke betrays his hidden hostility and signals his victory by being, theoretically at least, the one person present who does not laugh. Compulsive storytellers and joke-tellers express almost openly the hostile components of their need, by forcing their jokes upon frankly unwilling audiences among their friends and loved ones, and upon every new person they meet. Often they proffer this openly as their only social grace. the listener’s expected laughter is, therefore, in a most important but unspoken way, a shriving of the teller, a reassurance that he has not been caught, that the listener has partaken with him, willy-nilly, in the hostility or sexuality of the joke, or has even acceded in being its victim or butt.” (Rationale, 1st Series, first page.)

I’ve finished my analysis of the introduction here.

No index

Report obscene mail to your postmaster[1].

To Gershon Legman, what would his blog have been like?

Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor (1968) – G Legman
[FR] [DE] [UK]

My copy of Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke arrived in the mail today, I had ordered it somewhat “by accident” after finding out about Neurotica magazine (a magazine Legman was involved with in the 1950s) via Scott McLemee’s new blog Quick Study. My first impressions are: no index (I have a British edition of 1969, but I do not believe it is present in the American edition either) but also no bibliography, of which my version says it is available in the American edition.

One of the first things I check in a non-fiction book is the TOC — I’m always interested in a good ontology — Legman in this case confirms that he essentially relied on the ontological model Freud first set forth in Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious(1905).

I read about 13 pages in this 700+ page book and found it clear and amusing. There were favorable references to Games People Play , Children’s Humor : a Psychological Analysis (1954) by Martha Wolfenstein (who was analyzed by the art historian and lay analyst Ernst Kris) and The Mask of Sanity (1941) by Hervey Cleckley.

Only now do I find out that Taschen and Simon & Schuster have reprinted Rationale. Maybe they have an index?

Simon & Schuster reprint

[] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Links: Freud’s Legacy by Richard Webster.

See also: Our society allows infinite aggressions

Easy access to id material without being overwhelmed by it …

‘Groovy Age of Horror Curt”s third post in a series Horror, High and Low on the merits and theory of genre fiction comes just in time as he is about to delve into the depths of Nazi exploitation fiction in a series he announces as The Nazis Are Coming. Needless to say, I am a bit of a fan of this guilty pleasure genre myself and I am happy that he introduces this chapter (other chapters have included vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein, nurses) with the cautionary words: as long as it firmly remains fantasy.

“I hope this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I, a hardcore liberal, no more endorse Nazism politically than I, a hardcore atheist/naturalist, endorse belief in the supernatural elements in the horror novels I review here. Nazis are bad for real life, but they obviously resonate powerfully in the imagination as embodiments of evil, sadism, and power. Like so much else, they’re good for fantasy–as long as it firmly remains fantasy. “

The emphasis on fantasy reminds me of the cathartic theories on gruesome fiction and the aestheticization of violence that were en vogue in the sixties and seventies.

Contrary to the cathartic theory, Curt’s current piece recognizes — by way of the theories of Ernst Kris, presumably from Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art (1952) — the possibility of being overwhelmed by id material, of not being able to distinguish the line between fact and fiction. This shines a particular light on media effects studies where for several decades, discussion of popular media was frequently dominated by the debate about ‘media effects’, in particular the link between mediated violence and real-life aggression.

An excerpt:

A more mature critical attitude, one that has made that reconnection, rather manifests a healthy flexibility described by Ernst Kris as,

The capacity of gaining easy access to id material without being overwhelmed by it, of retaining control over the primary process [i.e., while indulging it], and, perhaps specifically, the capability of making rapid or at least appropriately rapid shifts in levels of psychic function . . .

I think this truly positive account of genre fiction is what’s needed to put Jahsonic’s “nobrow” position on its firmest footing. I’m no more interested in Danielle Steele than Jan is, but now we’re in a position to say something about her–at least to the extent that we’re in a position to say something about genre fiction in general. Likewise, when Jan likens exclusively highbrow critics to someone who “only know[s] two colors, let’s say green and blue,” we’re now in a position to complete that metaphor by filling in the blanks of what the other colors represent that are missing from that palette–the warm colors, appropriately enough! —source

On a more personal note, Curt’s post above is the most articulate response so far since I started posting in the nobrow category. Curt’s blog Groovy Age has reinforced my position that one can only come to the nobrow if you know both ‘brows’.

Groovy Age is the only horror blog I read precisely because it knows its way around in ‘high theory’, referencing Freud and Ernst Kris. Fortunately Curt’s high theory does not detract from the sheer fun and excitement that oozes from its pages. I am already on the lookout for his 2008 nunsploitation chapter.

They show no empathy, remorse, anxiety or guilt …

In search of psychopaths

They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable. They show no empathy, remorse, anxiety or guilt in relation to their behavior, in short, they truly seem devoid of conscience.

It has been shown that punishment and behavior modification techniques do not improve the behavior of a psychopath. They have been regularly observed to respond to both by becoming more cunning and hiding their behavior better. It has been suggested that traditional therapeutic approaches actually make them, if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior.

Charles Starkweather

Charles Starkweather (1938 – 1959) was a spree killer who murdered 11 victims in Nebraska and Wyoming during a road trip with his underage girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate. He became a national fascination, eventually inspiring the films The Sadist, Badlands and Natural Born Killers. Charles had an obsession with James Dean; he sympathized with Dean’s rebellion, believing that he had found a kindred spirit of sorts, someone who had suffered ostracization similar to his own.

The Sadist (1963) – James Landis []

The Sadist is a 1963 black and white American exploitation film written and directed by James Landis, based on real life serial killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate.


Peter Kürten

Peter Kürten (1883- 1932) was a German serial killer dubbed The Vampire of Düsseldorf by the contemporary media. He committed a series of sex crimes, assaults and murders against adults and children, most notoriously in the year1929 in Düsseldorf. As he was awaiting execution, he was often interviewed by Dr. Karl Berg. Later Berg’s book The Sadist (pictured above) was written on the account of Kürten’s murderous career. Kürten gave his primary motive to Berg as being one entirely of sexual pleasure. The number of stab wounds differed due to the simple fact it took longer to achieve climax. It was the sight of blood that was integral to his sexual ejaculation.

Peter Lorre in M (1931)

M – (1931) – Fritz Lang [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In 1931, Fritz Lang’s movie M was released. It told a fictionalized story of a serial child killer. Some feel it was in part based on Peter Kürten’s crime spree, primarily concerning itself with the atmosphere of hysteria surrounding the case. Lang fervently denied that he drew from this case. The film could just as well have been based on the stories of Jack the Ripper.

That everyone can learn to read will ruin …

Friedrich Nietzsche

Two superb sentences in the ‘Of Reading and Writing’ chapter of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, presented here in a 1961 translation by R.J. Hollingdale. The second quote confirms John Carey’s stance in Intellectuals and the Masses that Nietzsche was a philosopher to the cultural elitist and pessimists, the first quote shows Nietzsche as a great prose-poet:

  1. Of all writings I love only that which is written with blood.
  2. That everyone can learn to read will ruin in the long run not only writing, but thinking too.

More from the same page:

Of all writings I love only that which is written with blood. Write with blood: and you will experience that blood is spirit.

It is not an easy thing to understand unfamiliar blood: I hate the reading idler.

He who knows the reader, does nothing further for the reader. Another century of readers — and spirit itself will stink.

That everyone can learn to read will ruin in the long run not only writing, but thinking too.

Once spirit was God, then it became man, and now it is even becoming mob.

He who writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read, he wants to be learned by heart….

You tell me: ‘Life is hard to bear.’ But if it were otherwise why should you have your pride in the morning and your resignation in the evening?

Life is hard to bear, but do not pretend to be so tender! We are all of us pretty fine asses and assesses of burden!

What have we in common with the rosebud, which trembles because a drop of dew is lying on it?….

The juvenile delinquents — not the pop artists —

King Asa of Juda Destroying the Idols () – Monsù Desiderio

I was looking for info on Media Burn (1975) [Youtube] and [Youtube] and [Photo] by the Ant Farm collective and I happened upon Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes blog. Daniel Flahiff introduces the top five American buildings blog-a-thon:

In response to Tyler Green’s challenge to choose your five favorite American buildings (okay, structures)–which is itself a response to the AIA list–here are my five [a list that could, of course, change tomorrow], in no particular order. What are yours? No, really, I want to know…

The reason I was searching for Media Burn in the first place was a previous search for American radical and activist Charles Radcliffe, the image of the Cadillac smashing into the wall of television turns up when you Google for Radcliffe.The reason I was looking for Radcliffe is that I wanted to introduce you to The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution, an essay published by the British arm of the Situationist International and co-authored by T. J. Clark, Christopher Gray, Charles Radcliffe and Donald Nicholson-Smith. This essay, which I’ve hosted for a while now (most if not all of the SI texts are copyleft), resurfaced to my consciousness following the comments by Muli Koppel to my recent post on social realism and anarchism in 19th century French art.

Of the essay the most potent quote is:

THE JUVENILE delinquents — not the pop artistsare the true inheritors of Dada. Instinctively grasping their exclusion from the whole of social life, they have denounced its products, ridiculed, degraded and destroyed them.

A smashed telephone, a burnt car, a terrorised cripple are the living denial of the ‘values’ in the name of which life is eliminated. Delinquent violence is a spontaneous overthrow of the abstract and contemplative role imposed on everyone, but the delinquents’ inability to grasp any possibility of really changing things once and for all forces them, like the Dadaists, to remain purely nihilistic.

They can neither understand nor find a coherent form for the direct participation in the reality they have discovered, for the intoxication and sense of purpose they feel, for the revolutionary values they embody. The Stockholm riots, the Hell’s Angels, the riots of Mods and Rockers — all are the assertion of the desire to play in a situation where it is totally impossible.

All reveal quite clearly the relationship between pure destructivity and the desire to play: the destruction of the game can only be avenged by destruction. Destructivity is the only passionate use to which one can put everything that remains irremediably separated. It is the only game the nihilist can play; the bloodbath of the 120 Days of Sodom proletarianised along with the rest.The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution

Some info on Asa King of Judah of whom the destructions are pictured above:

Asa, King of Judah purged the land of pagan cults; all the sites of idolatrous worship were completely destroyed and the worshippers persecuted. The Queen Mother was also deposed for having been involved with same. There was also a large-scale crackdown on prostitutes.


Jan Jonston (Wikipedia)

Some good posts sitting in my favourites :

  1. The Laughing Bone on Diableries
  2. GmtPlus9 (-15)Jackie Mittoo’sChampion Of The Arena
  3. Scott McLemee on Robert ‘King Crimson’ Fripp with added Youtube clip.
  4. Marginalia reports on Jan Jonston’s fantastic beasts (also reproduced below).
  5. GmtPlus9 (-15)reports on jahsonic favourite French erotomaniacs Gilles Berquet and Mïrka Lugosi who are currently exhibiting at Air de Paris.
  6. Curt at Groovy Age of Horror picks up on my nobrow posts in a series of posts titled Horror, High and Low on the merits of genre fiction in which he refers to Freud’s primary and secondary ways of thinking. To be continued at this blog.

Illustration by Jan Jonston

Illustration by Jan Jonston

Illustration by Jan Jonston

Contrarianism blog-a-thon; taste is a kind of prison for oneself

“This weekend we’re saying to hell with the conventional wisdom,” announces Jim Emerson, author of the blog Scanners and notable Amazon critic. “We usually say that anyway, but consider the Contrarianism Blog-a-Thon an excuse to express how you really feel.”

More importantly, there is a poll: “Which of these ‘great directors’ [Altman, Antonioni, Godard, Fellini, Ford, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Welles, Wilder] do you think is not-so-great?” 

My problem with this list is that I feel nearly all the directors listed are overrated with the exception of Hitchcock and Altman.

From where I stand the most underrated directors are:

Woody AllenPedro AlmodóvarCatherine BreillatLuis BuñuelRoger CormanDavid CronenbergMichael HanekeJuzo ItamiPatrice LeconteSpike LeeDavid LynchRadley MetzgerFrançois OzonRoman PolanskiNicolas RoegJacques TatiAlex van WarmerdamMichael Winterbottommore …

Nevertheless, Jim Emerson’s post offers some interesting quotes:

“For serious critics … the second-best thing to perfection is often the near-miss, the disreputable and even the despised. Next to discovering a new director, planting a flag in an uncharted national cinema or sitting next to Zooey Deschanel at an event, few things please a critic more than polishing a tarnished career or taking on a dubious cause, particularly if everyone else really hated it.”
Manohla Dargis, New York Times, February 14, 2007

“I deeply believe that taste is a kind of prison for oneself – when a critic finds himself or herself always rigidly repeating the same opinions, the same positions, the same likes and dislikes (that is the kind of bad posture which Pauline Kael bequeathed to criticism). Critics should feel free to bring in their own emotional reactions to films – it is hard to keep them out of writing – but the phenomenon known as the ‘gut feeling’ or gut reaction can become a terrible end in itself: ‘this film makes me angry or it makes me happy, so it’s a rotten film or a great film, and I’m not going to discuss it any further.’ The important thing is always argument, analysis, logic. I have an irrational side (critics need it), but my rational side believes in logical demonstration: if you can prove to me that what are saying about a film makes internal sense, if you can marshal the evidence from the film itself to back up what you say, then I too can be persuaded to disregard my own first gut reaction and explore that film again in a new, more open way.” — Adrian Martin, Cinemascope, January – April, 2007

Also an interesting submission to this blog-a-thon:

Steve Carlson @ Blogcritics: “I Spit on Your Grave”
“As it turns out, ‘I Spit on Your Grave‘ is not the hateful nadir of cinema. It is, instead, the ‘Unforgiven’ of the rape-revenge genre, in that it is simultaneously the perfect expression of and the eulogy for the genre. It’s as brutal and confrontational a cinematic work as I’ve yet seen; Zarchi reduces the genre ito its barest elements and in doing so asks the audience to consider why they are there in the first place.”

The two men had an elective affinity to each other


Meryon’s engraved views of Paris. No one was more impressed with them than Baudelaire. To him the archaeological view of the catastrophe, the basis of Hugo’s dreams, was not the really moving one. … Meryon brought out the ancient face of the city without abandoning one cobblestone. It was this view of the matter that Baudelaire had unceasingly pursued in the idea of modernism. He was a passionate admirer of Meryon.

The two men had an elective affinity to each other. They were born in the same year, and their deaths were only months apart. Both died lonely and deeply disturbed — Meryon as a demented person at Charenton, Baudelaire speechless in a private clinic. Both were late in achieving fame. Baudelaire was almost the only person who championed Meryon in his lifetime. –Walter Benjamin [1]