Monthly Archives: March 2009

Nikolai Gogol @200

Nikolai Gogol @200

Poprishchin (protagonist of the novel by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol “Diary of a Madman”.  by Ilya Yefimovich Repin by you.

Poprishchin, protagonist of Nikolai Gogol‘s “Diary of a Madman” painted by Ilya Repin

Nikolai Gogol will be 200 tomorrow morning (that’s the day after tomorrow, I skipped a day here). Like so many of us of the internet generation, we stumbled upon Gogol via Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.

He is an icon of 19th century literature, Russian literature, grotesque literature and fantastic literature.

“What an intelligent, queer, and sick creature!” —Ivan Turgenev

“I don’t know whether anyone liked Gogol exclusively as a human being. I don’t think so; it was, in fact, impossible. How can you love one whose body and spirit are recovering from self-inflicted torture?” —Sergei Aksakov

Gogol wrote in the literary tradition of E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Sandman) and Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy), often involving elements of the fantastic and grotesque. In addition, Gogol’s works are often outrageously funny. The mix of humor, social realism, the fantastic, and unusual prose forms are what readers love about his work.

Gil Scott-Heron @60

Gil Scott-Heron @60


The Bottle

Gil Scott-Heron (born April 1 1949) is an American poet and musician known primarily for his late 1960s and early 1970s work as a spoken word performer. He is associated with African American militant activism, and is best known for his songs “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and  “The Bottle” (see above).

The Vampyre @190

The Vampyre @200

The Vampyre @200 by you.

On the cover Fuseli‘s The Nightmare

The Vampyre” is a short story written by John William Polidori and is a progenitor of the romantic vampire genre of fantasy fiction.

“The Vampyre” was first published on April 1, 1819, by Colburn in the New Monthly Magazine with the false attribution “A Tale by Lord Byron.” The name of the work’s protagonist, “Lord Ruthven“, added to this assumption, for that name was originally used in Lady Caroline Lamb‘s novel Glenarvon, in which a thinly-disguised Byron figure was also named Lord Ruthven. Despite repeated denials by Byron and Polidori, the authorship often went unclarified.

The story was an immediate popular success, partly because of the Byron attribution and partly because it exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public. Polidori transformed the vampire from a character in folklore into the form we recognize today – an aristocratic fiend who preys among high society.

Milan Kundera @80

Milan Kundera @80

 The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by unphotographable

Iconic mirror scene from The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera (born April 1, 1929, in Brno, Czechoslovakia) is a Czech and French writer of Czech origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1981. He is best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Joke.

Kundera has written in both Czech and French. He revises the French translations of all his books; these therefore are not considered translations but original works. Due to censorship by the Communist government of Czechoslovakia, his books were banned from his native country, and that remained the case until the downfall of this government in the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Volker Schlöndorff @70

Volker Schlöndorff @70

Young Törless (Der Junge Törless, 1966)

Young Törless

Volker Schlöndorff (born in Wiesbaden, Germany on March 31 1939) is a German filmmaker generally categorized in the New German Cinema movement.

New German cinema is a period in German cinema which lasted from the late 1960s into the 1980s. It saw the emergence of a new generation of directors. Working with low budgets, and influenced by the French New Wave, such directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Wim Wenders made names for themselves and produced a number of “small” motion pictures that caught the attention of the art house audiences.

Schlöndorff is best-known for The Tin Drum (1979), the film version of the novel by Günter Grass. Of his filmography, I am most eager to see Young Törless (1966).

Young Törless (German: Der junge Törless) is a 1966 German film directed by Volker Schlöndorff, adapted from the autobiographical novel The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil. The film examens the origins of fascism by focusing on the sadistic and homo-erotic bullying in a boys military academy at the beginning of the 20th century. As an added bonus, the film stars British scream queen Barbara Steele.

The Eiffel Tower @120

The Eiffel Tower @120

Eiffel Tower at the Exposition Universelle

The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated April 1, 1889 in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower is an iron tower in Paris, France. It is one of the tallest structures in Paris and one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, it stands as a symbol to the modernity of Nineteenth century Paris.

The tower was met with criticism from the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. (Novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch at the Tower’s restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where you couldn’t see the Tower.)

One of the great Hollywood movie clichés is that the view from a Parisian window always includes the tower. In reality, since zoning restrictions limit the height of most buildings in Paris to 7 stories, only a very few of the taller buildings have a clear view of the tower. The relationship Eiffel Tower/Paris is metonymical.

The Eiffel Tower was the second instance of modern architecture after the Crystal Palace, modern architecture understood to be driven by technological developments, a celebration of the aesthetics of iron, steel, concrete and glass.

Iron, steel, concrete and glass

I see modern architecture as primarily driven by technological and engineering developments, rather than artistic and social developments) and that the availability of new building materials such as iron, steel, concrete and glass drove the invention of new building techniques as part of the Industrial Revolution. The first example in this category is the Crystal Palace which used iron, steel, concrete and glass to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.

About 40 years later in France, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated. It broke all previous limitations on how tall man-made objects could be—and at the same time offered a radically different environment in urban life.

The style was first verbally celebrated by futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia in 1914 in his Manifesto of Futurist Architecture.

“The house of concrete, glass and steel, stripped of paintings and sculpture, rich only in the innate beauty of its lines and relief, extraordinarily “ugly” in its mechanical simplicity, higher and wider according to need rather than the specifications of municipal laws. It must soar up on the brink of a tumultuous abyss: the street will no longer lie like a doormat at ground level, but will plunge many stories down into the earth, embracing the metropolitan traffic, and will be linked up for necessary interconnections by metal gangways and swift-moving pavements. ”

RIP Maurice Jarre (1924 – 2009)

RIP Maurice Jarre (1924 – 2009)


Eyes Without a Face

Maurice Jarre (born in Lyon, France, September 13, 1924 – March 29, 2009) was a French composer and conductor, father of Jean-Michel Jarre. To the mainstream, he is best known for his film scores, particularly those of David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984). In my canon he is best-known for his scores for the films of Georges Franju: the splendid horrorish flicks Eyes Without a Face[1] (1960) and Judex[2] (1963).

Lene Lovich @60

Lene Lovich @60

Nina Hagen & Lene Lovich by Theremina

Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich in their prime, click for credits.

Lene Lovich (born 30 March 1949) is an American singer based in England, who first gained attention as part of the New Wave music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her most popular hit single was “Lucky Number,” first released in 1979. She is the co-author of Cerrone‘s “Supernature.” Other notable recordings include “African Reggae“.


Lucky Number


African Reggae

Ernst Gombrich @100

Ernst Gombrich @100

Floris-Decoration by you.

Cornelis Bos, Female herm (1546). Engraving, 243 x 179. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

I first stumbled upon Ernst Gombrich via the enigmatic Ian McCormick who mentioned Norm and Form, volume one in Studies in the Art of the Renaissance in the bibliography of his excellent site[1] on the visual grotesque. By the way, if anyone has the lowdown on Ian McCormick, please let me know, he is one of the internet’s little mysteries.

But first some background info on Gombrich:

Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE (30 March 1909 – 3 November 2001) was an Austrian-born art historian, who spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom. Gombrich was close to a number of Austrian émigrés who fled to the West prior to the Anschluss, among them Karl Popper (to whom he was especially close) and Friedrich Hayek. He is best-known for his books Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, A Little History of the World, The Story of Art and Art and Illusion, which ushered in reader-response criticism in visual culture theory.

Back to the grotesque.

Gombrich collaborated with Ernst Kris (the art historian/ psychoanalyst who brought the grimacing sculptures[2] of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt) on a history of caricature. The Principles of Caricature was the fruit of this collaboration and it was first published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology in 1938, reprinted in full here[3]. The piece was later reprinted in Kris’s Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art (1952).