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|Saturday, March 11th, 2017|
|Old Heads on Young Shoulders
Running (if you will) to the top (of the hill) to work a few deals (with gods) but occasionally it's nice to stop our paces and natter about comic books that may or may not have ever really been looked at in years if not decades. Like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for instance. Obsessively "annotated," solved in some ways but rarely coagulated or understood as an evolving technical apparatus for first mapping, then plotting and executing activity on the microcosmic interfaces where fiction happens. The initial volumes were really just goofing around for a paycheck whilst building a war machine and the density of semiotic chaff or "dazzle" that allows the thing to operate unmolested: anything going on keeps going on after the reader labels that carrot person in the parlor dome and rests.
By the end it's a catalog . . . of tactics . . . what someone among the loggias might even call a thesis setting forth his knowedge of the universe and his proposals for its welfare and progress. He might actually have a formal grimoire slouching down his sleeve to formally unite the kingdoms of [a]egypt but it's practically an afterthought, an encore to his maps of dream. We already see the hinges of history and the individual, where fake nous comes from, how it evolves under the impacts of desire, its ultimate magnetic journey north and south. Clever, unusual people -- oh to be the creme de la creme -- cross the panel borders and participate in the world of spies, the world of magicians, maybe occasionally the world of the superheroes. Some come back.
Take for example the strange case of Jean Grey, better known to many as superhero Famke Janssen. When she was born within the fictional timeline circa 1948, her parents didn't have the Muriel Sparks character as a reference so her name emerges fully formed out of a kind of private void: maybe they were Scottish, which explains the hair and handwaves the emotional walls that made her such a natural fit for the early school.
But when she was concocted fully formed in maybe early 1963, late 1962, Stan Lee reached for a shiksa to fill out his squad and found the prime of Miss Jean Brodie reaching back. The book was huge. The play was huge. You could not get away from it. And while that family gene proved recessive, it's still there, carrying the potential for a different kind of academic situation, at least as intense but gendered very differently. And while Cyclops was probably fired from the radio station a few months before the movie and its soundtrack came out, you can imagine the odd ghost regret he felt for never getting to play the Rod McKuen track endlessly as a secret mash note. That secret mash note is another of the hinges around which time is structured.
(And of course the triumph of the superheroes has altered our world. While trying to make sure the single broke after he left radio you find things like this, funny foreshadowing like mutants born centuries too soon.)
Now while most readers are chewing on that, the rest of us are actually over here with Alan Moore, who never actually wrote the character although he took a turn on Magneto once and of course developed the environment where the character's parthogenetic dystopian twin "Rachel" (apparently not a shiksa) flowered. What you've just seen is only a minor demonstration of the techniques on display throughout LOEG, the dazzle ships distorting distance and direction like flashing colours at a Gilbert & George show or the machines Jerry Cornelius' father built in France. It takes a Village.
The real polemic, the big guns, are still so well camouflaged that a decade after the Black Dossier they still elude direct surveillance. We've hit a few of the high notes from the NEMO trilogy, crunching the unspoken critique that they're just a throwaway to pad Kevin's retirement fund. Century of course builds to Hogwarts as the ultimate expression of a particular aeonic project, the revolt of the novitiate groomed to serve. He clearly loathes the syrup that acts as a preservative -- Ridgely was just watching an Attenborough on amber last night -- and so this is his method of gathering all his enemies into one snake's head so he can crush it. Mary Poppins as mask of God, the perrenial by definition is what always comes back while publishing fads come and go. In the process so many of his enemies wash away like chalk drawings in the rain. There's the myth of Crowley, the great beast 666. There goes Mick, doomed to a kind of panto black brotherhood while Brian remains poignant and vibrant in death. Good-bye, Harry. And there goes a generation of anoraks annotating the biographies of roaches while the real life is elsewhere, in the toys Prospero deigns to keep on the table after he's let Al[l]en -- who is also sometimes John Constantine -- wither and burn.
But if Century is partially about heisting someone else's sarcophagus for later personal use, there's another school in the books that casts a longer shadow. Beside the magicians there are the spies, Dee as a hinge that swings over to Walsingham as well as Prospero and 007 is singled out for special scorn as the sacrifice when A+M climb the 39 steps to Greyfriars. That's the posh campus where we briefly see Gloriana with "Jack Wilton" in tow, Prospero apparently being absent that day. It's a land of strange regress, hard pews, toilet training and casual instructive cruelty, a universe that teaches discipline, canalizes desire, enforces hierarchies. Miss Martindale's lurid reputation.
We see the claw marks of this country again behind the pages when they don't enjoy their visit to Samois, while NEMO is winding up her long punctuated war with stalag fiction and over in the universe next door the Lovecraft thing threatens to crowd out the polymorphous perversity of a mad mad mad mad world, which here in LOEG we know as the fonts of creation that straddle the south pole like a tiger lily, mother of us all.
(I keep wanting to abbreviate as LOEXG even though as Mina says only an American would do that and, as we apparently know, there is no X in the Moore oeuvre. "X"-cept in its deliberate and persistent erasure.)
The world of the spies, the primal crimes that spin out the fake regime of Big Brother and all the deep state unpleasantness that generates LOEG units: for Moore at this time, original sin tends to manifest as the exploitation of children: the dragon in Smax, what the Justice League got up to at the end of Top 10, strange talk of the "grooming" of proto spies over here in a book that otherwise revels in the erotic applications of people who do not technically exist. Go Ask Alice. It's a strange complex in the aggregate. Arguably it still drives his world behind the screens of Hogwarts going into the brexit. Fake news!
"Cousins." What drove the Famous Five into these circles of intimacy and deceit? How do cases like Jimmy Savile and X-Men impressario Bryan Singer feed into the tight clubs that form around charismatic teachers who may or may not have ulterior agendas? Maybe getting caught up on the other side of the Spanish Civil War from the Cambridge Spies in their impressionable youth is the easy way out.
I suspect Greyfriars closed permanently under the weight of the Missa Luba "Sanctus" and a whole lot of firepower just before 1969, the year Jean Grey's modeling career took off and Maggie Smith became immortal. My own school, the infamous "greeting card factory" and art mafia spawning ground, was busy acknowledging women as people as the ancient frat complex wound down, melted into the crisp highland air that we breathe(d).
Ilvermorny with all its retroactive bullshit. Camden / Hampden.
Old heads on young bodies, the inverse of the Princess Langwidere complex. Where do the young heads go? New mutants, shadow kings, demon lords of "limbo." Jean as psychic confidante, having to help him fake his own death and lie to the others about it. Jean making that deal with god and then keeping it when the dream got too vivid to sustain under concerted telepathic pressure. Oh, which reminds me, this came out. Miss Martindale practically swept under the rug. Suddenly I wonder where she is now.
|Sunday, February 19th, 2017|
|Song As Old As Rhyme or Suffragette City
"That was unexpected!" - Kylie Hastings
As the Big Questions (what is to be done) germinate the Aristasian ultra-telluric rhodovision screens start pinging up a storm as a few of the very small number of people with a window on this hidden world (jardin clos) get a bee up their bonnet on "the problem of Crowley." Usually in these situations I keep my head down but this one is hilarious in context of other discussions. Alan Moore. Fashion Beauty, Fashion Beast. What late installments of Extraordinary Gentlemen tell us about the ends to which he applies his apparatus -- what he wants -- and what he rejects. These are not empty topics beyond our fannish ken but real matters of tactics and taste. Nemo versus the moonchild politics that project an Ayesha. Brian Jones versus Turner. P.L. Travers versus J.K. Rowling. North versus South.
Beauty versus Beast? It depends on where you draw the boundary of Aristasia as it recedes behind the fields we know. Unlike Jack Kirby, he did extensive work on at least two Moultons, one of whom was a screen for the other. Where Moore habitually loses patience is with his Gibsons, subliming almost immediately back to the firelight in the back caves. And of course by the time the Extraordinary Gentlemen reach around to catch up with us here in the now, they are all women, like the dear old lady in France who is my only remaining live contact to the Solazaref "filiation." Not filius; filet. Ozma is indeed a strange name.
|Sunday, February 5th, 2017|
|An "Idea" Of North
Accurate. We've all shouldered past endless efforts to carpetbag the core OZ mystique -- the journey of the P.I.N.H.E.A.D. continually recapitulates itself through the ozmotic cycle, like the land breathing -- but in six weeks this one has mostly threaded the needle between commercial imperative and recombinant myth. Beyond the ideological realignment playing out on top the questions that keep surfacing for me revolve around the nature of history in this theoretically immortal fairy country. Successive recent encounters with us have brought them closer to time, sexuality and death, which some may see as a pollution while the process is useful to others. Arguably the realm itself always resists external desire -- retroactive continuity falls from the sky like a house on a chthonic witch -- but this is the first time I'm really aware of the process being practically self conscious. If nothing else it sheds new light on the land's efforts to insulate itself from additional contact, the "deadly desert" experiment et alia.
But unpacking the wizard's carpet bag takes more time than I personally have right now and it's only the fact that nobody else is stepping up that brings it to us today at all. I do like the way he resolves the north/south tension in the text though by associating the missing compass point with wherever [the] Glinda is not. There is a "south" and I'm sure it is fantastic. One day it will rise again, but for now the regime requires it to remain fallen. The Canadians would undoubtedly produce Glenn [sic] Gould. Across the ocean, of course, the magic magnet swings 180 degress around, so there it's th' north that feels the shadow.
This of course brings us back to the great work of time that Alan Moore presents. It's actually almost trivial to resolve his early (1980-4) efforts into their component Chris Claremont molecules, up to and including Swamp Thing. It makes sense. The proto-wizard simply wanted to cash some checks and have a little fun, and the Claremont method was the most obvious route for an ambitious outsider to emulate, first in small techniques and then writ large. And Claremont himself had his hidden contacts, sure. But scroll up a decade and you've got the wizard giving Simon Dwyer's people his next quarter century fully formed like a statue hidden in the block:
I feel a different sense of time. I now understand time to be a "solid" in which past, present and future all happily coexist . . . time can be seen just as effectively one way as another. The Dr. Manhattan material was a "memory" of the state I'm in now in 1994 -- a "memory" which persisted until 1985. When you've seen time as something which is not focused on our unidirectional, constantly moving NOW but as a vast constant solid through which our conscious perception moves.
Now this quote was rarely discussed even though it clearly "foreshadows" his more recent explicit outworking of the theme in places like Providence, Jerusalem and especially Cinema Purgatorio. In fact, before this very blogpost the Rapid Eye interview was a pure googlewhack appearing in exactly one moldy old alt.comics.alan-moore post archived on forgotten servers. And yet until someone crosses over between Alan Moore country and Rapid Eye country, it drops out of sight into latency like a stereogram in reverse.
But here it is at last, shifting the thought cloud up and down the timeline like a recombinant gene, the mutation that fulfills and also recasts its own prophetic unresolved significance. From a certain angle, the time solid is fixed in a Nietzschean perpetual occurrence. Perhaps we call that angle "north" here. The point is that revision opens up other notional angles in which apparent evolution emerges and new stories are told, fables are malleable enough to support reconstruction. Alan Moore keeps rubbing the same time solid, but under different lights and in different patterns to generate an "experience."
Perhaps coincidentally, this particular Rapid Eye compilation also contains Grant Morrison's gloss on Maya Deren as well as the Gilbert & George profile, which if Moore champions a psychic "north" over there they are clearly hierophants of the "south" and especially the east end of that geographic centre of gravity. Dazzle ships, prefigurations of Milo. George says he contracted HIV in the early '80s in that one, which is still a true googlewhack, I can't find any confirmation or even reference to that one anywhere else. A compass needle for the camel's eye, waiting for witches' thread to sew it up and send it home. Houses of hidden light (q.v.).
|Saturday, January 7th, 2017|
|Mongoose in a Bottle
"And so finally here we are, at the beginning of a whole new era." We hit the ground running in the gap to get out from under a few macro scenarios. It's not the weight, it's the turns, but I for one am looking forward to the year of the firebird coming. Finally whistled down Avallaunius 11, the Butterworth fill-in with the Coulthart portfolio, which sends me back on the Savoy trail and the real seeds of "chaos magic." Infinitely obvious now where Universe B was swiped (secret origins of Moorcock's ire) but what's funny is that those guys are maximum rockabilly so the implied soundtrack changes. But we're not here to talk about that today. The imaginary mongoose of the Isle of Man is worrying at the world again.
A piss-poor Fortean, I was ignorant of the creature who haunted Cashen's Gap until a week ago, when I got a minute to pull down The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale and leaf around inside. References to the phantom weasel everywhere. (The casual commentator apparently cannot resist noting that Kneale -- directly responsible for Quatermass, Sex Olympics, Halloween 3 and other works of what Webb calls "rejected knowledge" -- grew up on the Isle of Man and would have been hitting his prime poltergeist years in 1935 or at least impressed by the wave of paranormal carpetbaggers staying in town.)
Then I'm checking the Strange Attractor site as one does to make sure I don't miss anything and they're publishing their own book on the mongoose situation. Naturally I flash back to the shaggy dog story Crowley tells in MTP about the mongoose: was he thinking about the chatty chimera that emerged in the early 1930s? Of course not. Book IV was commissioned by a Turkish phantom bookman in 1911 (the year of Sredni Vashtar) and published two years later, two decades before Gef condenses like dew in Man. As it turns out, the empty mongoose box and the alcoholic brother are already entrenched in American oral culture by 1884, where they first show up in print on a horse-drawn hack. It's a strange beat, nine years before The Jungle Book and on a continent not even remotely known for its indigenous snake-hunting pets. Even at the beginning, the box bearer always needs to explain what exactly a mongoose is to set up the gag, which tells me that even at this point the story is already a transplant, a cuckoo's egg originating in the absolute elsewhere.
But be that as it may! Over the next few decades the buddy act metastasizes, now liberated from geography: here they are on a ferry from Oakland to San Francisco, going to Manhattan from Brooklyn, by 1895 a "Yankee" has carried a perfectly empty box back to Rajasthan. They're rented out as wet fabulism complete with moral ("ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," or mind your own beeswax), illustrate the Lorentz ether theory (!), round out a Woodrow Wilson punchline. They're always Americans. A generation after Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, they always feel the need to define their terms before launching into their endless routine: where the ineffable is, the mongoose box follows.
Crowley, of course, has met many mongoose in life and in literature. He can't resist a single streamlining flourish, liberating the brother (occasionally "in law" elsewhere) from the alcoholic backstory. There's no explicit organic syndrome here, no grace and no guilt to drive therapeutic narratives: the brother simply has a problem with snakes that aren't real, motherfucking snakes on a different plane as it were. As though accidentally, the details around the container also bulge and thicken in the peripheral vision of the page: usually it's a "basket," but once it's a "bag."
A "bag" of course would presumably hang slack and empty. The contents of a "basket," like some Schrodinger experiment, are harder to determine on the fly. In this version, the bearer does not lift the lid either way. Crowley calls this "a perfect parable of Magick" and it passes in largely this form to Alan Moore's Promethea.
What's in the box, what's the point? Obviously it's in part simply a magician's wink, an appeal to skeptics in the audience to remain complicit for the sake of the trick. We're all in this together, the show must go on. When you punch Harry Houdini in the stomach, you're only acting tough or else the magician dies like buddha on the road. We carry a mongoose box as a gesture to amuse, distract, relieve a sick friend. It's a prop, a bit of the gaffa.
Because there are poisons for which no physical antidotes exist. Any snake we can catch, identify, milk, solve is a "real" snake. Others can still bite unless we bring their natural predators to the table. If God afflicts you with an imaginary cobra, you can buy every mongoose available but the enemy is still going to slither past their perimeter. And if your "cobra" is a disease of mind, a disease of language, a disease of semen . . . you're going to need a talking cure. This too, is astral magick, the box we reach for when we can't find the car keys anywhere else and desire remains unscratched. It's both the last place we look and the first place that works.
Sometimes real snakes are the problem and there's no real mongoose available. Other times you have nothing but imaginary mongoose boxes and everything starts to look like a snake. As usual, execution is where things get interesting. Dreams in themselves are ubiquitous. Development is what makes the muddle. But we digress. And of course any chatter about the "real," the "imaginary" and the bourgeois "symbolic" is only a temporary expedient. That's okay. I prefer expediency to the alternative and it is possible to win in reality & parable alike.
In an environment infested with imaginary snakes, psychic diseases, what the thunder said, cannibal parables, fake news, it is expedient to become a trainer of mongoose. We do not deny the existence of water and wood, but any model for living in which wood will not float in water is not sustainable. You yourself may outlive it. It starts with that "perfectly" empty box, because you need to make sure that's actually an imaginary mongoose in that bag and not some other figment pulled from the monster manual. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi protects the children of the house. So, in his way, does Sredni Vashtar. Gef, the ineffable third, mediates.
You know all this but today it can be new to me. Mongoose? What's that? What's in the box?
|Monday, December 26th, 2016|
|"...and fashion beasts"
The problem of evil -- disappointment, regret, unrequited love, missed connections, failures of the sign, mourning, sin, busted gnosis, skinned knees & bad throws -- takes on an aura like camp in the foundational works of new-aeon funnybook mythology. But while 99% of the modern villains crumple like hand puppets under the holographic authorial eye, revealed as more-or-less pragmatic concessions to the genre or at worst dad acting erratically, a few narrative poisons are more organic and even virulent. When pushed to the ropes, Moore reaches for sexual regret and a little masochism, the anguish of missing the party until it's too late: Fashion Beast published a generation after it would have been relevant, the mysterious box in Belle De Jour stops buzzing and starts rattling once Tinkerbelle flickers out. A ruined secret origin, the ghosts of lost girls. Virgin Suicides, the grand sacrifice of generations of youth of perfect intelligence on the altars of fandom. Why couldn't we have had the nice things when we wanted them? Oh, to quote the Bauhaus, to be the cream.
Morrison reaches for Claremont, which is interesting, don't you think? Because what is Claremont really but a long nightmare diary, days & nights of future past, all the things that terrified and intrigued before we either put the books away or didn't. As I snap the hidden pieces of the Claremont scene together, it never really adds up to all that much in the objective sense, no labyrinthine secret history of the modern world, no skeleton key to gamergate. But on the inside, to the people who grew up within the twisting corridors of that mansion addressed by the magic name Greymalkin, it grows with them like the hand inside the puppet. Tic-tock tic-tock, cried the zombie Patriot who Prodigy made out with and got to go away. It was a cruel thing to market to children but it sold so well and the outer forms were so readily reproduced.
For me, I solved the basic narrative problem -- where to find new villains -- long ago and just need to execute. The remainder, those moments where dad acts erratically and the imaginary cobra can spit, are what occupies 99% of my free time now, where the apologist gets stumped. And I think it's what has occupied Moore for decades, which is another place where they differ. Morrison's funeral for dad is "The Fire in Which We Burn," the oedipal murder of Watchmen. Nobody is talking about it now, much as Hamlet had a daddy but will never have sons. We hear less and less about Morrison's secret origin as the watchmaker recedes. Mystery Plays, Lovely Biscuits plowed under because they contain the syllables of what amounts to a true name.
|Wednesday, September 9th, 2015|
|Yr Cigarette Traces a Ladder
"Occulture" in solution. You worry at a thing for 20 years, finally it's going to chew. We needed to reincrudate "thee" invisibles anyhow, so imagine that dream in its original state, liberated from the vagaries of the publishing schedule and anxieties of influence. How each issue wanted to go before time got in its way. See old friends from the countercanon fill the panels incognito: Lord Horror, Simon Dwyer, Colin Wilson. Genesis, Mr Sebastian, Moorcock, undoubtedly others once you turn the skeleton key. Famous and just fellow travelers. It's only the mirror image of a scene, a blind item gossip column in a fanzine almost nobody will ever read again except for archival purposes. Lipstick traces.
Now project yr powder backward from that point. The abortive Walpurgisnacht music festival, 1971. And so on.
|Saturday, December 21st, 2013|
|Tuesday, September 25th, 2012|
Cities or dungeons "with" central processors are redundant. Better to investigate how users actually deploy these computation engines in the field.
|Monday, February 6th, 2012|
|Thursday, September 1st, 2011|
|the metier of "france"
"I couldn't believe my ears." -- Henry Miller
Miller's Cockaigne is obviously Poictesme's slightly more brazen West Coast sister, what happens when fantasy gestates into historical romance. To Cabell, there was no functional difference. It was all a table where dreams could be housed and desires indulged. ( Read more...Collapse )
|Wednesday, June 29th, 2011|
|Tous au charbon
"In the Ming dynasty a typical career lasted less than eight years. A familiar pattern became established: a scholar earned a degree, served with distinction and then retired at a relatively early age in order to write or teach, nurse a chronic illness, care for his parents or build a garden."
|Tuesday, May 4th, 2010|
|North of the Sun, South of the Moon
It's funny that when Ezra from Vampire Weekend says Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa is about, and I quote, "the aesthetic connections between preppy culture and the native cultures of places like Africa and India," nobody ever seems to come back with anything like, "Well, yes, but what exactly do you mean by that."Ping Island Strike: Or Why Nobody Talks About Saint Gauguin
Tracking capital flows with the sun has changed a lot over the years. I was talking to one of the old Troika hands the other day -- some of you reading this know what I'm talking about -- and he was reminiscing about waking up early to close Tokyo and open Frankfurt. It was like turning a page then. Now it's an endless scroll as the iron dog chases itself. You could argue it's chasing its tail or even its own reflection across the dateline; objects in the rearview mirror closer than they appear. The periphery becomes the core and the core becomes the periphery. Right now the smell of Greece is in the air and Actaeon becomes the stag and the world runs itself into butter. And butter remembers.
Funny that Vampire Weekend's never been on Gossip Girl. But given the structure of that show, as guest stars Vampire Weekend would really only be playing for the wrong team: that sinister hooker nanny cult that's always lurking in the shadows and regularly emits a grifter to challenge the core cast. Poppy Lifton was working for them. So was Chuck Bass's mom, Carter Baizen, Maureen, that Belgian drug dealer, those Yalie guys and that outrageous Sarah Lawrence admissions director, Lord Marcus, Dr. Van Der Woodsen himself pulling the strings. A global web of secrets. Everyone outside the magic circle is suspect and thus automatically implicated in the crimes of the hooker nannies and their arrangers. Who killed Bart Bass? Why did Nate's dad implode? And who, Gossip Girl asks, am "I?" At the end of the show, as Chuck lies dying in the Proustian wreckage of Georgina's last dance, the heavy velvet curtain may well pull back to expose the aesthetic connections between preppy culture and native culture. And the butter remembers."When you think the night / has seen your mind"
(or: Life Takes Refuge in a Single Space)
|Tuesday, April 27th, 2010|
|Pygmalion Qui Moult Subtilz Estoit
Success may entail becoming a complicated musical in-joke, but hey, I'll take it. That Pygmalion was a clever cat and apparently he was a Phoenician when everything was said and done. That's interesting in the context of the later prophets; those guys were constantly fighting idolators. It's an interesting technology when you think about it, idolizing. More "Conspirators of Pleasure," less "My Fair Lady," (cor guvn'r) but it's no wonder all those old statues were mutilated. Making them move was what got Giordano Bruno in trouble.This was unreasonably hard to find but I was
miserable until I did. The Episcopalians had the
only copy in town. She asked me if I was clergy;
I got the discount anyway.
Athens and Jerusalem. Athens really took a dive today and all are agog but nobody's actually reporting what's on the tape. All their banks are down 15% because, as it turns out, when the guys in the Finger of God decided to cut Greece to junk, they also cut these banks out of the ECB overnight window. The ECB will only take high-grade paper as collateral and now Greek banks only have trash to offer. The Finger is always accurate but its timing is always . . . inconvenient. Now the ECB has to decide whether to take trash or let the Greek banking system seize up. Either way the euro decays, but in one world the banks get up again and in the other they don't.
It's funny, the WSJ called the Greeks "the oldest country of old Europe" once but the last time Europe tried a universal currency Greece was still new on the map, wrestled out of the Orient through an act of Byronic will. Greece had to petition to join the Latin League. There are all these little wars that nobody remembers, members of the League shifting position as the borders set. Scandinavia had its own currency union but there's no way you'll get them to try that again, except of course for perverse Denmark.
I've been thinking about these things and about the Seleucids, their precise heraldry and how the Apollo-Dionysus cult was absorbed into the Parthian Empire, Zarathustra was a neoplatonist too after his fashion. All these things are in the air and it smells like 1994. And Pandora says, she says--The things we forget
|Wednesday, April 21st, 2010|
|Home of the Brave
The last time I had to ramp up seriously on Thailand was that ghost year after the planes hit. (American planes. Made in America.) The firm was a weird ghost in itself, leaving almost no trace outside the firewall behind. What I heard was that the principals were purged by friends of Mr Shin and vanished owing me money, and there you go.
Since then, the interesting thing is that the fundamentals really haven't changed all that much. It's still the same weird melange of entertainment companies, jewelers, hoteliers. God only knows what their phones run on these days. I've always been fond of the caste-specific origins of their banking system. It hisses and croaks things in the moonlight about where our banks came from, how they evolved over the last decade or so and where they're going. They tell me that Thailand is an industrial powerhouse but I can never seem to look straight at those parts. Only the elephant's shadow is the part that capitalism can interact with. The rest of the elephant is elsewhere.""Truth is an honest thief, she brings you back your mirror."
They gave me a roommate from Thailand once. Math major, one of Deb Bergstrand's favorites I seem to recall. He was highly connected back in the old country. The fact that he knew so many of their pronouns proves it; in fact, most of the people I meet over here were big deals when they were back there. He'd already done his time as a monk. They're sensitive about the term "hinayana." It's funny the things you remember.
One day they'll have another king there. But you know they said that about Nepal too.
|Wednesday, March 24th, 2010|
|Tom / Huck
The CLOUD is coming up fast. Imagine it ramifying, like one of those time-lapse Godfrey Reggio contrails. If you're digital, storage is basically obsolete. Think about that. If you're not, storage is critical. People choose, one by one and group by group, one model or the other. If you fall in outer space, do you think you'd slow down after a while, or go faster and faster? That's Moore's Law for you, with one out of every nine banks on the scare list.
A few stolen minutes for you. Thinking a lot about the function of gnostic saints and why -- lip service to the contrary -- the vital relationship to history they entail has been plowed under. Old time now essentially present / father on vacation. Far cry from how at the other end of the cycle all the books were hagiographies, great chains of Homer showing all the links. Where thee id calls the goy follows. Thinking about how Greece screwed the global currency last time; where it's always 70 AD, PIGS are still unclean animals.Hi dad.
The game of telephone. It's how Tom Sawyer whitewashed the fence. Huck came close to joining that chain but his time on the river taught him something more durable than style. Sometimes, whether some people want to admit it or not, some saints are latter-day, and then the cycle swings. Too many Toms and not enough Hucks. Magic & modernity in English art. Not so much pigeons & mirrors now; cats & kings. Rolling on the river....Ba-da-ba-ba-ba-da-da-bum! Love goes on anyway!
|Wednesday, January 27th, 2010|
There's a brokerage firm that keeps sending me these weird little presents even though I haven't dealt with them directly in at least five years. Cuff links, balsa gliders, scented candles (!), hand-painted chicken eggs, all this creepy Harry Smith bric-a-brac; today it was a football that I now have to either throw away or keep around for my estate to one day find and cope with. When you're alive you can defer these questions but the minute you're dead all the overhanging intangibles are realized one way or another and all your prize possessions turn back into junk, or more to the point get mixed up with it. The implications of this for incorrigible collectors are rarely explored. If you're in love with something relatively conventional like automata or silver age comic books or old master drawings or uranium-glaze fiestaware, the market for your stuff will outlive you and your estate will be able to unload it to people who carry your particular virus. But if your kink is rarefied (paper airplanes, bottle caps, matchbooks, vintage porn) you'll be lucky to end up like the Philadelphia Wireman, with all your holy little world bagged and dumped with your corpse. In many ways this is the question of our age. Sometimes people spend their lives collecting a thing like stamps or player piano rolls, and then where are they left when the collector market for that thing dies and it all turns back into paper?
Books without a market sometimes find their way into what genteel bookmen call the "curiosa" shelf. Often this stuff is more or less specialized porn or "erotica." Often it's just too weird to fit into whatever system the buyer has; for example, the C.F. Russell booklets would find their way here unless the store knew an enormous amount about such things. And sometimes it will be both weird and what you could call porn, which is to say it exerted some kind of libidinal power over its owner at one point as a talismanic object, a beloved thing of more or less intimate fantasy, but isn't the normative naked lady sort of thing. Children's books often have the earmarks of this when you find them in either really good or really bad condition, but children's books are also a well-recognized market and so their fascination is pretty normalized. Same with comic books or 50s crime paperbacks or science fiction for that matter. A true curio's value is more obscure. Sometimes you can puzzle it out from provenance -- even a scissored-out carpet ad becomes a numinous relic if it was owned by Francis Bacon or, again, Joseph Cornell -- but often biographical cues are absent or dead ends. Yard sale fans are good at sniffing this stuff out before it falls back through the cracks of the world.
What are your curios? What will happen to them when you're gone?
In other news I think the work of Joel-Peter Witkin [pictured above: Costumed Inmate, Insane Asylum] still has things to teach me, although it isn't what I was getting out of it twenty years ago.
|Tuesday, January 26th, 2010|
Spent most of the year so far hunting the semantic web, which seems to be the carrier of a lot of gnostic ambition these days. It's really the old story of the marriage of Cadmus and Harmony -- heaven & earth magic properly understood -- with the inevitable submissions, sublimations, translation, transubstantiation of the world on the way to the ideal. It's one of the few directions in which money is still moving, and that's interesting. In theory it's one of the last-ditch hopes for money, and in practice really always has been. Joseph Cornell, "Nymphlight" (still)
Naturally the world is what keeps on happening when you've been hunting the ideal and so there's an elegiac quality. All my favorite restaurants are basically gone: Marions Continental where the Pontani "sisters" danced and tiki season came once a year with rum drinks and summer jackets, Florent on the Gansevoort, Shiki with his fluorescent paper cuts, Two Boots with its midnight movies, Galaxy and its glitter decals under formica, Devil Moon for the girls together outrageously, Bendix even though they were yankees fans, Kiev, the Coral Room... finis gloria mundi, slipping out of the world while the semantic web was coming in, now relegated to a fragmentary half-light state, neither taggable nor forgotten. Restaurants are like pets. They rarely live as long as we do, but we let ourselves forget until one of those uncommon economic plague years takes all your favorites at once.
Someone like a William Gibson or a Joseph Cornell or a Tin Woodsman will find pleasure in memorializing the irreplaceable tangibles that are constantly one step ahead on the road to disappearing. We build these little boxes like blog posts and when they're well made they don't exactly "resist" the melt into light as much as they do not succumb. They aren't tagged, but the very fact they're electric makes them as immortal as anything else in the brave new world. The Woodsman's plush heart may not beat but it reminds him how it felt. The Tessier-Ashpool entities left their boxmaker behind to mark the exit & bait the trap; we all do.Harry Smith, "The Tin Woodsman's Dream" (Film 16, still)
And of course there are surprises on the way as the proverbial first baby continues to laugh. I had a run-in with my own mad (possibly Belgian) ad man. The Chelsea Hotel and even the Mars Bar, despite all the bad omens of the last few years, survive. I finally found the plot for the third Adrian Neubis story, the one where Venus makes her argument. It involves current efforts to dig up Leonardo da Vinci to prove that Mona Lisa (overdrive) was just the exteriorization of his skull all along. Hackneyed and overly literal, as Duchamp would say, to simply write off la gioconda as a twisty Italian dressing like his mother "on vacation," but push it five minutes into the future and it raises all kinds of exciting points about fathers & daughters, pigeons & mirrors, Ourania & her origins.
|Friday, January 8th, 2010|
|Friday on my Mind
Chelsea hasn't changed at all except some of the old haunts are gone. Very interesting Wallace Berman show -- both the "big" verifax grids and the rarely seen "little" single-cell collages live up to their reputation, far more hermetic
than the empty buzzword usually entails when people reach to characterize his work. There was a particularly gorgeous variant (איב זח פצ סנ) where he'd assembled celebrities of the era -- the Kennedys, Marilyn, Liz Taylor -- and painted over the faces, leaving the posture, clothes & hair as reference points, but the highlight was probably a full-wall blow-up of the photo that turned into the Mermaid Tavern poster: crouched down executing yet another row of perfect Hebrew semaphore, black paint on white except where a spill forces him to switch to white on black. Now that, as John Zorn once said, is purity, "if you're into purity."Wallace Berman, "Aleph" (still image).
Had a pleasant chat with Frau Klagsbrun about the weather and got the Cameron catalog in return. (There is no Berman catalog.) On the train you open the book and suddenly a guy sitting to your left calls a blind girl a whore; the train is taken out of service and we all step across the platform. The girl wanted to take the express, would've rather taken the E instead of the 7. So it goes.
|Friday, January 1st, 2010|
According to Romeo Muller, there's an endless archipelago where each old year in its turn subsists in a perpetual retirement. "Choose ye an island." Like a lot of poetic images, this is most useful when you invert it (pigeons & mirrors again): if the archipelago of last years did not exist, we would have to invent it
by, for example, chalking off a box for each "atoll" to inhabit. I am currently obsessed with Dan Clowes.
Once you start filling in the islands there are some basic technical approaches for reorienting your perspective. One of my favorites revolves around the idea that while the past continually recedes, the relationships between historical moments remain relatively intact, so that roughly 15 years will always separate 1995 from both 1980 and 2010, for example. Applying this relatively portable frame to various eras allows you to approximate the maturation and decay of various trends and other cultural entities, not to mention the inflection points around which history appears to speed up or slow down. This in turn liberates the perspective from generational constraints and reinvigorates the past.
For example, when we were children, World War I was still roughly 60 years in the past and its traces occupied a certain stratum in contemporary life, had a certain resonance or echo. Nowadays, World War II occupies the same relative position and (barring outside factors) its reverberations should be diminishing at roughly the same rate. When we were children, the ghost of 1958 was roughly 20 years gone, which means that the world of South Pacific or "Great Balls of Fire" was as present for our parents then as Twin Peaks or "Out of Time" is to us now. The Eisenhower recession ... the 1987 crash ... the credit crunch. Today 1958 is barely relevant but they're remaking Wall Street. In 20 years, where will we be? And so and so forth, adjusting for inflection points of course. If everything else is equal, comic book collecting today should be roughly as mature as stamp collecting was around 1910. (And if it isn't, it points to the presence of previously invisible external forces.) This also has a constructive application, as 1958, for example, can be approximately reconstituted as the dot product of all the historical relationships that constitute 2010, only slid back about a half century and holding constant terms constant.
The effect is similar to the invention of artificial spatial perspective with its web of gazelines. When you start thinking in these terms it gets easier to put scattered historical accounts in their places -- to navigate the otherwise endless sea of time, memory & junk in search of terra that's firma -- and construct your own. Watch pop coagulate, backward through the bobbysoxers, cylinder recordings, vaudeville, Napoleon, nursery rhymes, commedia, vanishing point ("tradition").
|Monday, December 28th, 2009|
|The New (Interior) Suns
Land of the Mangaboos. Jess, 1955. Oil on burlap.
"Your Highness," said he, "I will now proceed to prove my magic by creating two suns that you have never seen before; also I will exhibit a Destroyer much more dreadful that your Clinging Vines." So he placed Dorothy upon one side of him and the boy upon the other and set a lantern upon each of their heads. "Don't laugh," he whispered to them, "or you will spoil the effect of my magic." Then, with much dignity and a look of vast importance upon his wrinkled face, the Wizard got out his match-box and lighted the two lanterns. The glare they made was very small when compared with the radiance of the six great colored suns; but still they gleamed steadily and clearly. The Mangaboos were much impressed.
"His fantasies are taken to be not escapes from reality but descents
-- Robert Duncan, "Jack Spicer's One Night Stand & Other Poems"