25 February 2013

The Village

The Village, an awarded short animation by Mark Baker, United Kingdom (1993)
I recall a British documentary set in a village all in turmoil over two newcomers, an elderly couple, who dared to erect an ugly, unusually high wall around their house.
The villagers were interviewed, one by one, each explaining the fatality of the blow that the wall caused to their community as a whole. They all agreed: the new couple hiding behind that suspect wall is up to no good, no good at all!  
And the more the villagers spoke, the more they let slip... tiny snippets demonstrating that they climbed, and drilled a loophole into, that wall to pry and spy.
The couple living behind the wall never showed themselves, or their house.

27 September 2012

Entering 1884

LONDON, 2 January 1884
As the Daily Empire reminds us, we are entering the feared year of 1884. It was more than 30 years ago, in 1848, that Mr Phineas Jupitus horrified the audience at the Old Red Lion Theatre, when unveiling his phantasmagorical steam image projection machine.
The audience was ever so pleased at first - elated! - to witness that in 1884 the moon would become the province of the British Empire, only to be horrified moments later by the appalling scenes of future war.
We are now living in that prophesized future.
Yesterday, Captain Horatio Kitchengame claimed the moon on behalf of Queen Victoria. At the same time, extraordinary reports began coming from the continent stating that it is being overrun by an invading force.
"Large areas of Belgium, Holland and France have been laid waste," reports Daily Empire. "Little is known of the invading force, except to say that it is unprecedented in strength and may be being led by a Carpasian Count called Ravenoff Fafner who was thought to have died more than 400 years ago."
(The complete article of the Daily Empire can be viewed here.)

[1884: Yesterday's Future, an animated film directed by Tim Ollive and produced by Terry Gilliam  (2012) - 100 min feature film for a family audience (but not the very young)]

14 September 2012

Of human whale songs, and monsters

Antony and the Johnson's title track from their 'Cut the World' live album is, indeed, old news, being that it's already been performed as part of The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. What brings it back to the stage is the above avantgarde video directed by  Nabil Elderkin, and starring Willem Dafoe and Carice van Houten.

Her presence strongly felt throughout the video (at the very least as from 3:49), it's still a shock to find her facing you at 4:14 into the video. It's Marina Abramović, that same Serbian witch-lady at MOMA whom people went to sit across from in order to gaze into her staring, starless eyes. And people never knew the risk they took. She might just as easily tie their hair, with hers, into a single braid. And that would not be her first, either. Artists, she insists, must sacrifice themselves. And artists who sacrifice themselves will not waver from sacrificing the audience.

It's not difficult for me to understand why Abramović, the first time she heard Antony perform (at a Rufus Wainwright's concert), stood up and demanded, with loud repeated shrieks: "Who is he? WHO IS HE?"

"People around me were complaining," she would explain later, "but I was compelled. I kept saying out loud: 'Who is he?' I wanted to know everything about him."

Antony, known to refer to his own singing as a 'hex', also has a witch-air about him. Whether experienced as eerie, other-wordly or heartbreaking, Antony's singing binds with enchantments. Paired with Abramović's creative (and equally, if not more, spell-binding)  mind, they gave birth to the most beautiful of ethereal child-monsters. It's only a matter of time before they breath life into its body, too. And lo and behold.

12 September 2012


Who is a wonderfully tomwaitsy opening track on Love This Giant, a rare and unsettling album that entered the market mere days ago. The album is a mesmerizing collaboration between David Byrne (the frontman of Talking Heads) and Annie Clark (the alias of St. Vincent). The who-hounts-whom video of mutual pursuits was directed by Martin de Thurah.

Who’s gonna be my friend 
All around the table, everybody’s staring

And may we all find ourselves living in a shotgun shack...

29 June 2012

Cell Block Tango

A prison tango brought to you from the women's block in the Cook County Jail! The song is from the song repertoire of 'Chicago', a musical vaudeville set in the 1920s Chicago. The featured video is from the 2002 film rendition of the musical, but you may very well enjoy also (or instead) the gay version performed by the Gay Men Chorus of Los Angeles.
I give you then - Velma! The Other murderesses! And - all that... jazz! 

30 April 2012

14 February 2012

In the princedom by the sea

Every prose is a narrative, and good prose will make you search for the narrator.
The images above are of Humbert Humbert, not only a literary character from, but also the narrator of, Vladimir Nabokov's 'Lolita'. The first image was created using law enforcement composite sketch software and descriptions of literary characters. Go here, if you are interested in following this project. The second image is of James Mason, who portrayed Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film

Humbert Humbert was always more real to me than Nabokov. To this day, I have no idea what Nabokov looked like. But I'd instantly recognize the 'boyishly manly' Humbert Humbert and his 'gloomy good looks'. "I was and still am, despite mes malheurs," Humbert Humbert explains, "an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor." 

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style."

Thus begins Humbert Humbert's narrative. He readily attests that he is one of the "unhappy, mild, dog-eyed gentlemen, sufficiently well integrated to control their urge in the presence of adults, but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet." Dolores, his landlady's daughter of twelve, is one of such chosen creatures, one of such maidens between the age of nine and fourteen... not human, but nymphic, one of such feline and slender beings who causes bubbles of hot poison in his loins and super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in his subtle spine.
Who is a better match: the law enforcement sketch or James Mason? The sketch is more literal. It is limited to the descriptions of the physique. James Mason is far closer in depicting the kind of man who would describe himself the way he did.   

Humbert Humbert repulses and fascinates us. His dark humour and intelligence unnerve us, because we feel we should dislike everything about Humbert Humbert. We don't understand his love, but we recognize it as love nonetheless. 
"I knew that I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; 
but I also knew she would not forever be Lolita." 

Not only is this eternal love all wrong, it is also impossible. Lolita has to grow up, and we know that Humbert Humbert only lusts for nymphets. 
"...and when by the means of pitiful ardent, naively lascivious caresses, she of the noble nipple and massive thighs prepared me for the performance of my nightly duty," he wrote about his having sex with Dolores' mother, "it was still a nymphet’s scent that in despair I tried to pick up, as I bayed through the undergrowth of dark decaying forests…”

The end was always near and it never had any alternatives.

 "Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!"