Tag: 20th century
Some good advice for writers who would like to get better and a comprehensive demolition of clichés by bad writers in William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well. As I point out every single damn time I do a post about good writing, forty years on from this book’s original publication, people are still making all the mistakes Zinsser pointed out as ancient and trite even at the time. Many a supposedly professional author or journalist is still allowing themselves to be “a writer lives in blissful ignorance that clichés are the kiss of death, if in the final analysis he leaves no stone unturned to use them, we can infer that he lacks an instinct for what gives language its freshness. Faced with a choice between the novel and the banal, he goes unerringly for the banal. His voice is the voice of a hack.”
Old never meets…
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Two accidental forays into surrealism by British boys’ paper The Hotspur, which amazingly lasted until 1981. I say amazingly, although on the other hand there were lots of British colonial era things that inexplicably carried on into the 1980s and beyond. Not to mention that The Hotspur‘s first issue had on its cover a plane-sized eagle attacking an actual aeroplane, and came with a free “Black Cloth mask” for no immediately apparent reason, so they definitely started as they meant to go on.
The cover above is almost certainly not referring to the fact that this football player has a feature likely to make him popular with the ladies and about 10% of the gentlemen, but instead that he scores goals by kicking unexpectedly wide. As for how and why somebody decided to counter this tactic by installing a gung ho…
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Some bonkers choreography with Heather Parisi, from the 80s Italian variety show Fantastico. Firstly, Frankie Goes to Hollywood never seemed so… confusing? It looks a bit like a toned down, bowdlerised high school production of Cruising. Still molto gay, though. If Heather’s dance partner is thinking about relaxing, doing it or coming, I very much doubt it involves her. Put some trousers on Heather, love. You’ll catch your death of cold.
Even better, here’s Heather again doing some way-ahead-of-their-time Gangnam Style ridiculous dressage pony moves and gurning to Tullio De Piscopo’s nail in Italo Disco’s coffin, Stop Bajon (Primavera). The smoke in these bubbles must be what the choreographer was inhaling when they came up with this number. Watch out for a random, drunken, camp fellow enjoying his big acting break at 11:48, a bit of very irresponsible chiropraxy at 12.49, some very unsexy from 13.35, and–…
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(Let’s pass silently over the fact that I haven’t posted anything new for more than a month.)
The experimental films made by Ukrainian-American Maya Deren in the 1940s and 1950s are incredibly influential, whether most people know it or not. Once you’ve seen them you’ll notice reflections of them all over the place, in everything from art photography to pop videos. Her work has also definitely had a huge effect on me, particularly 1943’s Meshes of the Afternoon, whose haunting imagery– and imagery of haunting– is done an injustice when it’s described as merely surreal or dreamlike, even though it is surreal and dreamlike among many other things. It’s actually as if time has been turned inside out like a glove, but when it turns right side out again it’s a different glove, belonging to someone or something else entirely. It’s particularly fitting that reflections or decontextualised…
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Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle
We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).
But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
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It’s been bubbling up for a while, but until now I couldn’t put a name to it. I’m calling it Dystopian Nostalgia; the undeniable affection and nostalgia that people in their 20s and 30s have for tropes of their 80s and 90s (i.e. pre mass adoption of the internet) childhoods, deliberately and perversely spiked with adult animus. It finds particularly vivid expression in online videos, and frequently goes viral. There’s probably a book or a PhD paper in pulling apart the reasons for it. Possibly it’s television itself taking the sublimated flak for the parents who left so many children to be babysat by the CRT. If so, get ready for some really vicious dystopian nostalgia when the touch screen babies come of age. Or perhaps optimism and hope for the future have finally died and this is a generation’s revenge on the medium that seemed so intent upon instilling…
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“Danny doesn’t want to think about it any more, Mrs Torrance”
Thanks (?) to Verso Books I became aware of this splendid photograph by Annie Leibovitz, of Susan Sontag dressed as a bear. She just is, OK?
The bear costume, the hard stare, the keyboard. It immediately reminded me of something.
Now we know why Wendy was so freaked out. How the hell did Susan Sontag get in here? Forever more I will involuntarily associate her with evil ghost bear BJs at The Overlook Hotel. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favourite films, for one thing because of scenes like this where Kubrick– in contrast to the story’s original author, Stephen King, whose prose allows no dead horse to remain unflogged and leaves nothing that goes without saying unsaid– evokes vast realms of back story and untold narrative riches with just a few shots and one ineradicable image.
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I’ve been reading Postmodernist patriarch Jean Baudrillard’s book about the USA, called America (Verso 1988, new edition 2010). Although it’s occasionally mired in the kind of obscurantist, elliptical wittering that he’s rightly condemned for by some people– the gobbledygook blindly imitated to devastatingly stupid effect by many academics, critics and artists since the 1990s– it also has some incredibly sharp observations about a country and a populace that at heart he obviously enjoys a great deal. He often unfavourably compares his native France to the USA, although this is not as funny as his bullseye hits on US culture; these are not very far from what (postmodernist) native writers like Chuck Palahniuk and David Foster Wallace would be doing ten years or so later.
Writing in the mid 1980s, Baudrillard also makes some incredibly prescient and accurate observations about where Reaganism, Thatcherism and the whole greed-is-good yuppie privatisation…
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Just two more images I scanned from the old British boys’ magazine/comic Eagle, posted here very belatedly purely because I just found them on an old HD and I don’t know why they never got published.
Coincidentally, the “colour-reflex conditioning” to which Mike is being subjected (above) looks very much like the Zoom ice lolly being advertised below. It’s like he’s being frontally aggravated by the business end of a massive Zoom lolly, which can happen when you’re tripping your tits off like young Michael here. Mike Lane = Migraine?
Perhaps some of those special sugar cubes on the coffee table made their way into the Lyons Maid factory. It might explain where they got the idea that being Commander in Chief of the Galaxy Patrol would be fab. Only Zoom fans are in it, baby. Fab was (and I think it still is, in Britain) another…
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An East German propaganda leaflet issued during the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949), when Stalin attempted to blockade the already geographically surrounded people of West Berlin into submission. American and British crews flew in food and other supplies, thereby demonstrating both the superiority of Western air capabilities and the extremes they would go to in order to check Soviet politicking. And so began the Cold War.
This leaflet about Amikäfer (“Yank Beetles”) claims that the airlift is just a pretext for ruining East German farming by dropping “imperialist weapons”: potato-devouring Colorado beetles (Kartoffelkäfer). The back cover warns about confusing them with harmless Marienkäfer (ladybirds).
Ridiculous propaganda even by the standards of ridiculous propaganda, but I have to admit that the adaptation of the beetle’s markings into the Stars and Stripes is pretty good.
Final selection of bizarre, beautiful costumes from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. The museum’s text:
The Andean “bespectacled” bear, the Jukumari, lives at different ecological levels of the Andean cordilera. For this reason he is seen as a mediator between different entities, god-like and human, or different human groups. He is present in several dances from the Andes in Bolivia, in particular the Diablada and the the Morenada. In the Diablada he has a playful role: he is the character that chats and interacts with the public. The Jukumari evolved into a polar bear.
No kidding. Other additions in the category of artistic license include the dainty yellow hanky (er… don’t look up hanky codes if you don’t know what they are already. You’re OK not knowing), the strings of pearls (stop it)…
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More excellent masks from the Musée du quai Branly in Paris… and these ones come with splendid matching outfits. In the previous post on this subject, there was an early twentieth century carnival mask from Oruro, Bolivia. This time I have some relatively modern masks and costumes from the same carnival for you. All the photographs are mine. Here’s a translation of the museum’s blurb:
Performed during the carnival in the mining town of Oruro, the Diablada dance fuses Catholic and indigenous beliefs, depicting Lucifer escorted by a legion of male and female demons, and the Archangel Michael as the leader of the angel host. The characters in the dance are derived from the Catholic religion’s struggle between good and evil, which ends in the victory of the angels. However, in this dance, the “devil” in all his…
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* J. Karwowski’s Method of Preserving the Dead
Found on an old hard drive. In 1903 a gentleman named Joseph Karwowski (“a subject of the Czar of Russia, residing at Herkimer”, New York) took out a patent on “certain new and useful Improvements in Methods of Preserving the Dead”, to wit encasing them in cubes of glass. He claimed that excluding the air would preserve them “for an indefinite period in a perfect and life-like condition.” The process would involve encasing the body in a layer of sodium silicate which was dry heated to solidify it, then further surrounded by a cube or cylinder of molten glass. Evidently a man of thrifty instincts, he also allowed for the cheaper and less labour-intensive possibility of preserving just the head “if preferred”, Futurama style.
Not that I or anybody else in their right mind is considering actually carrying out this operation, but…
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Scans from a nuclear war information booklet issued by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1963. People of Britain, gather your Vaseline, paper handkerchiefs, teaspoons and aspirin so we can get on with a proper British apocalypse. I’m more into the mod design than the details of people being killed instantly. “HEAT”, “BLAST” and “FALL-OUT” each have exciting logos. Which is nice.
I haven’t scanned them, but some of the other pages mention living in a hole in your back garden with a dustbin lid as a hatch, or building a “fall-out room” made of doors and sandbags inside your house. It’s grim. The booklet’s main achievement is making it seem lucky if you’re one of the people vapourised or incinerated during the…
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Final selection from the book Masks: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly. I apologise for the Devil Son mask I showed you last time. Hopefully you’ve recovered now. How about a sort-of cute tiger?
This mask was made using the rayado technique. Two layers of lacquer are superimposed, then one is partially removed to produce this two-tone effect. If you look closely you’ll see that the markings aren’t random; they form the shapes of birds, rabbits, deer and other animals.
Moreno masks represent the exhausted, sickly African slaves who worked in the plantations and mines of Bolivia. They’re worn during the mining city of Oruro’s carnival. The masks, I mean. Not Africans.