Tag Archives: 2019

RIP Harold ‘western canon’ Bloom (1930 – 2019)

Harold Bloom was an American literary critic.

Bloom interviewed by Charlie Rose on ‘The Western Canon’

He is perhaps best known for his book The Western Canon, to its supporters a work defending art for art’s sake, the absoluteness of aesthetic value and literary genius; to its detractors a defense of elitism and dead white males. This makes Bloom is a cultural critic in the tradition of Matthew Arnold who stated that “[culture is] the best that has been said and thought in the world” (Culture and Anarchy, 1869).

I discovered Bloom in the early 2000s in a period I was researching the nobrow concept.

His death has been a good occasion to dig into the university library and bring home The Western Canon and The Anxiety of Influence.

That last book has two remarkable poetic texts, “It Was a Great Marvel That He Was in the Father without Knowing Him” and “Reflections upon the Path“. That second page-length text I have been unable to identify.

The bulk of today’s research went to The Western Canon, it is arguably Bloom’s best-known work and it has had relevance outside of the lit crit world.

The notion of a canon has also recently shown itself the object of a political debate in Flanders, the region I live and where the right (NVA) has managed to include it into to the policy of the Jambon Government The opposition (the left) was against it. The culture war fought in our region is one akin to the clash of civilizations of Huntington, more specifically the west and how it tries to come to to terms with the renewed religiosity in the form of Islam.

That Bloom’s canonization of 26 authors was an apolitical process can be read on page 4:

“I am not concerned with . . . the current debate between the right-wing defenders of the Canon, who wish to preserve it for its supposed (and nonexistent) moral values, and the academic-journalistic network I have dubbed the School of Resentment, who wish to overthrow the Canon in order to advance their supposed (and nonexistent) programs for social change.”

If you’re not familiar with Bloom and what to catch up quickly, you may want to check the interviews Bloom gave to Charlie Rose.

Here [above] is one in which he makes a couple of amusing and astute observations on the western canon and its detractors:

“If multiculturalism meant Cervantes, then who could protest? [but] they are asking us to read extremely inadequate Chicano writers.”

and

“That ridiculous metaphor we now call ‘empowerment‘, which is cheerleading as far as I can tell.”

As can be deduced from these quotes, Bloom considered political correctness an enemy of the literary criticism trade.

RIP Ginger ‘Cream’ Baker (1939 – 2019)

Ginger Baker showing off 😉

Ginger Baker was an English drummer best known for his work with Cream (“Sunshine of Your Love“, 1967).

Sunshine of Your Love” (1967). which sounds a lot like Jimi Hendrix

More importantly, he also played with Fela Kuti on Fela’s London Scene (1971), Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971), Live! (1972) and Stratavarious (1972):

Fela’s London Scene ( 1971)
Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)
Live! (1972)
Stratavarious (1972)

He also recorded two albums with Bill LaswellHorses & Trees (1986) and Middle Passage (1990):

From Horses & Trees (1986)
Middle Passage (1990)

RIP Vlasta Chramostová (1926 – 2019)

Vlasta Chramostová was a Czech actress perhaps best-known for her part in The Cremator (1969), one of several Central European films that dealt with the Holocaust.

The Cremator is featured in Film as a Subversive Art (1974).

The Cremator (1969)

In this film, Vasta plays Lakmé, the wife of the delusional cremator who prepares for the endlösung.

Below is the OST by Zdeněk Liška.

OST to The Cremator (1969)

RIP Ric ‘Car’ Ocasek (1944 – 2019)

Ric Ocasek was an American musician famous for his work with The Cars.

I have no connection with the man, nor with his music, it’s just too much bombast for me. However, my database shows that one of their songs was featured in a film I liked in the 1990s.

The song is “Moving in Stereo” and the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, but … the problem with this kind of music is, in the words of music critic Bill Flanagan:

“Bit by bit the last traces of Punk were drained from New Wave, as New Wave went from meaning Talking Heads to meaning the Cars to Squeeze to Duran Duran to, finally, Wham!”.

Just What I Needed” (1978)

Anyway, to end on a good note, their song “Just What I Needed” (1978) is in the The Pitchfork 500.

RIP Robert “snapshot aesthetic” Frank (1924 – 2019)

Robert Frank was a Swiss photographer, best-known for his photo book The Americans (1958) and his documentary on The Rolling Stones, Cocksucker Blues (1972).

Three gay men from ‘The Americans’

Of that book, which was criticized at the time with the words “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness” by mainstream media, a criticism that by the way, became the hallmark of a new aesthetic in photography: the new snapshot aesthetic.

My fave picture of that collection is the photo of three gay men, looking defyingly into the camera. Behind them is a sign which reads ‘Don’t Miss Mister Instin …’.

This particular photo is reminiscent of the work in Naked City (1945) by Weegee, of the photos of Paris de Nuit (1933) by Brassai and is also a precursor to Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin.

And then there is Cocksucker Blues.

Cocksucker Blues pt. 1
Cocksucker Blues pt. 2

RIP Daniel “songs of pain” Johnston (1961 – 2019)

“Urge” from Songs of Pain (1981).

Daniel Johnston was an American singer-songwriter regarded as a significant figure in outsiderlo-fi, and alternative music scenes.

Johnston’s cult status was propelled when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt at the 1992 MTV music awards that featured artwork from Johnston’s 1983 album Hi, How Are You, a T-shirt that music journalist Everett True had given him. Cobain listed Yip/Jump Music as one of his favorite albums in his journal in 1993.

Much of Daniel Johnston’s music has focused on the subject of unrequited love, revolving around his own experiences with Laurie Johnson, an early obsession. Notably is “Urge” (above) on 1981’s Songs of Pain.

His work is collected on Songs in the Key of Z (2000), a collection of outsider music.

RIP Artur Brauner (1918 − 2019)

After the death of Ben Barenholtz, another film producer expires.

Artur Brauner was a German film producer and entrepreneur of Polish origin.

I came upon him by way of Jess Franco (Brauner produced Vampyros Lesbos) and also via the film adaptations of Edgar Wallace (The Devil Came from Akasava, also directed by Franco).

Hollywood Reporter summarizes my sympathy for this man in this soundbite: “while his dramas won awards, it was sex and sensationalism that often paid the bills”[1]. This also explains why Brauner too is a bit of a cinematic Losfeld who typically financed high art with exploitation.

The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960, full film)

The Good Soldier Schweik (1960, excerpt)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970, full film)

Vampyros Lesbos (1971, Soledad Miranda dance)

RIP Latsploitation queen Isabel Sarli (1935 – 2019)

Isabel Sarli was an Argentinian model and actress known for her risqué films. As such, she was the Latin American Brigitte Bardot. The first film to show her nude was Thunder Among the Leaves (1957) which has her skinny-dipping from 50:09 to 51:38. There are also nude indigenous females (26:34 and subsequent scenes).

Thunder Among the Leaves (1958)

If you are more into the wackier films like I am, there is Carne (1968) with Isabel Sarli as Delicia, a worker in a meat-packing factory; Fuego (1969) with Sarli as a nymphomaniac; and Fiebre (1970) in which Sarli falls in love with a horse when she sees a stallion mounting a mare.

Carne (1968)

Fuego (1969)

Fiebre (1970)

Searching for “Isabel Sarli”, “sexploitation” and “Latsploitation” brings up snippets such as “generally boring sexploitation film about one of those favorite characters in male reveries, a nymphomaniac.” ([on Fuego] in Cue – Volume 40, Issues 1-13 – Page 67 (1971)); “Isabel Sarli breasting her way through further south-of-the-border sexploitation affairs. […] There’s never been a nudie movie queen more amply endowed than Argentina’s Isabel Sarli who simply has to shed her clothing to make things like story and characterization seem irrelevant.” (Film Bulletin – Volume 39 (1970)); “Woman and Temptation is zero as art, but the talents of the buxom Isabel Sarli make this a top sexploiter entry.” (Filmfacts – Volume 12 (1969)) and “While we cannot claim that Sarli’s films would adhere to a feminist agenda …” (Latsploitation, Exploitation Cinemas, and Latin America (2009)).