Monthly Archives: February 2010

field trip to St Kilda

St Kilda by Pascal Wyse

photo of St Kilda by Pascal Wyse here

It’s disgusting outside today in NYC, hours of wet slushy snow, the type of snow that forms deep grey puddles of bobbing ice chunks at every street corner without having the decency to supply an early morning hour’s worth of clean, fluffy groundcover first. A perfect day to revisit one’s travel-related bookmarks. For a certain type of person, the moss-covered rocks of a Scottish island populated only by seabirds are as attractive as any palm tree. If you’re at all that sort of person, you’ll like this slideshow of photos and bird sounds from St Kilda, a Hebridean archipelago eighty miles off the coast of Scotland, and the accompanying article here.

They’re alright them heavy metal blokes sometimes aren’t they

Last week The Quietus kicked off a series of Fall features in anticipation of the release of their new album this spring, beginning with this 2007 interview with Mark E Smith about Hex Enduction Hour.

click here to go to the interview

If this series is to be sort of a Fall-centric advent calendar, this is chocolate treat No. 1. Topics covered include heavy metal blokes, recording the album in a cave in Iceland, recording the rest of the album in an old cinema, being a layman rather than a musician, and watching indie bands on tv with subtitles on. It’s much more cheerful than the recommended reading on my other blog today.

minor miracles of the internet

Many months ago I uploaded a scene from The Killing of Sister George on YouTube. It was shot on location at the Gateways club, a lesbian club in London that opened in the 1930s and closed in 1985, and I thought it was an important little artifact. The film as a whole is hardly a documentary — here, read this if you’re not familiar with it — but this scene features many of the club’s regulars at the time (including its famous bartender/manager Smithy and its proprietor Gina Ware) and I thought it was a shame it wasn’t on YouTube already. (There are more lesbian characters in movies and on tv these days but for the most part they don’t seem any more genuine or interesting than the heteronormative minstrelry of “Real Housewives of Wherever”. . .). I also thought the hipster couple in black glasses slow-dancing around 6:36 was super cool.

But what was the name of the band playing throughout the entire scene?

No answer on IMDB, no answer anywhere.

Until yesterday, when a YouTube commentator named Renee serendipitously told me that the band was called the Mission Belles and that she played drums with them while their regular drummer was having a baby. The band was from East Ham and was comprised of three sisters and one sister-in-law, and “[t]hey were playing still up to the nineties (more or less).”

Cheers, Mission Belles! I’ve been wondering who you were for a long time now so as far as I’m concerned this calls for a round of sherry.

the blue god

Staying with the Russian theme for one more day, here are some works by Russian painter, set designer and costume designer Léon Bakst. Many of these costumes were for the Ballets Russes.

the blue god
Costume design for “Le Dieu Bleu,” 1912, watercolor, gouache and gold paint.

Design for the costume of a pilgrim
Costume design for pilgrim (in “Narcisse”?), 1911, pencil, watercolor, gouache and silver paint.

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creaky old gorgeous

I love these old wooden churches in northern Russia captured by photographer Richard Davies. The exhibition is on view at the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki from March to May. Via arkinet and The Morning News headlines.

Church of St Vladimir by Richard Davies
Podporozhye, Arkhangel region, Church of St Vladimir (1757)
by Richard Davies.

free tour departing now

If you have approximately 35 minutes to spare, Jean Cocteau would like to give you a tour of his friend’s villa in Cap Ferrat. The tour is in French but mostly you’ll be looking at artwork, and it’s still perfectly lovely and transporting without subtitles. There is no slush there; instead there is greenery and good-natured camera tricks, filmed in Kodachrome.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "“La Villa Santo Sospir”", posted with vodpod

“La Villa Santo Sospir” (1952) via UbuWeb here. (If you’re having trouble watching the embedded video above, try watching there).

hearts in exile

Whether or not you give the proverbial rat’s ass about Valentine’s Day, this is a great song about finding love at 3 AM, alone in your room, having read all your books over and over again.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "3 AM", posted with vodpod

If the embed is giving you trouble, try watching here. And if you like the song, you can get it directly from The Homosexuals here. You ought to pick up Astral Glamour too while you’re at it, and then go sign up for their mailing list here.

a good browse

I spent much of Thursday evening browsing the Spring 2010 D.A.P. catalog. I’d never seen their catalog before and found it nearly as engrossing as my perennial favorite at this time of year, the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, which has over 230 varieties of tomato for 2010, including the rare Russian Emerald Apple, the Barnes Mountain yellow, the Caspian pink, the Cherokee purple and the Henderson’s Crimson Cushion. I don’t have any space to grow tomatoes but I could make room for a couple of these books.

Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980

Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980. This is out at the end of April.

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers. This one’s out at the end of May. It’s being published in connection with a Klein retrospective at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. There hasn’t been a major Klein exhibit in the US in many years and I think it’ll be kind of a big deal.

Treatise on Elegant Living

Honoré de Balzac, Treatise on Elegant Living. I’ve read quite a few of Balzac’s novels but not anything in the way of essays or aphorisms. He’s great with villains, frauds, and all manner of people on the make so I’m guessing an epigrammatic style suited him nicely. This is the first English translation of this title and the catalog describes it as “marking an important shift from the early dandyism of the British Regency to the intellectual and artistic dandyism of nineteenth-century France.” The official date on it is Feb. 28 but you can get it from Amazon now.

Utopics: Systems and Landmarks

Utopics: Systems and Landmarks. A “glossary of utopian structures, zones and acts in art and beyond.” Edited by Simon Lamunière; text by Nicolas Bourriaud, Fabienne Bideau, Philippe Cuenat and Ildiko Dao. Out at the end of February. I was thinking it sounded like a good nightstand book even before I got to the part about it being “bound in a glittering night-sky cloth.”

Pedro Friedeberg

Pedro Friedeberg. Pop-surrealist artist and designer monograph, out in March. In the meantime there’s some interesting stuff on his site.

Sound in Z

Sound in Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th-Century Russia. Edited by David Rogerson and Matt Price. I don’t really know anything about theremins and whatnot but but the intersection of science and music and kooky 20th century inventors is promising subject matter. (Exhibit A: a quick peek at Mr. Léon Theremin’s Wikipedia page reveals that he also invented a big wooden box called “The Thing,” which was presented to the US ambassador in Moscow by Soviet schoolkids and then used to eavesdrop on his office for the next five years or so, and a dance platform called the terpsitone that converted dance moves into tones). I’m also intrigued by the reference in the book’s description to “Avraamov’s ‘Symphony of Sirens,’ an open-air performance for factory whistles, foghorns and artillery fire first staged in 1922.” Out at the end of March.

Birgit Jürgenssen

Birgit Jürgenssen. Edited by Gabriele Schor. Text by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Elisabeth Bronfen and Sigrid Schade. Yes please, about time. I have saved several images of Jürgenssen’s work over the past few years with her name in the back of my mind, used them as desktops and that sort of thing, but without ever following up. The short story is that she is an Austrian artist, born 1949, died 2003, but stay tuned for a Birgit Jürgenssen blog art show here sometime soon. This monograph is out in the US at the end of March; it looks like the German edition was out in 2009.

A Stick of Green Candy: Stories by Jane Bowles and Denton Welch

A Stick of Green Candy. Stories by Jane Bowles and Denton Welch. I’ve been meaning to read some Jane Bowles for a while now and this illustrated collection of four of her stories seems like an interesting place to start. Out at the end of March.

Clicking on any of the images above will take you to more info about the books on D.A.P.’s site.

snow day

woman in winter dress by Felice Beatowoman in winter dress by Felice Beato, via NYPL’s digital gallery here

Here is some music for staying indoors with. Several of the tracks are instrumentals, which I find myself more drawn to at this time of year.

François de Roubaix, Enterrement Sous-Marin – Les Aventuriers (from Anthologie Vol. 1)

Vashti Bunyan, Winter Is Blue (from Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind)

Bettye Swann, (My Heart Is) Closed for the Season (from Bettye Swann)

Smog, Cold Blooded Old Times (from Knock Knock)

Orange Juice, Moscow (from The Glasgow School)

Jeremy Jay, Winter Wonder (from Slow Dance)

Pylon, Weather Radio (from Gyrate)

Five Or Six, Polar Exposure (from The Best Of Five Or Six)

Young Marble Giants, Wind In The Rigging (from Colossal Youth)

The Fall, Winter (Hostel-Maxi) (from Hex Enduction Hour)

Mount Vernon Arts Lab, The Black Drop (from The Seance At Hobs Lane)

It’s an 8 tracks mix so if you listen more than once from the same computer the tracklist might get rearranged, sorry!

somethin’ from my bookcase

The idea is that this will be the first in an ongoing, semi-regular series of posts, and that they’ll be substantive but less formal than book reviews. I’m more interested in writing about what it’s like to read a particular book than I am in arriving at a conclusion about its quality in relation to other books. Competitions are difficult for me to get my head around, even more difficult to maintain an interest in, and who am I to decide such things anyhow?

Hadrian the Seventh
My latest favorite is Fr. Rolfe’s Hadrian the Seventh. A novel about a Pope by an author quite obsessed with religion — “Fr.” is short for “Frederick,” who longed for priesthood and didn’t want everyone to know he’d been tossed out of the seminary — might seem like a strange choice for a life-long atheist, but very shortly after I began reading it I developed a deep, abiding affection for both the book and the titular character.

How strange they both are! Strange in the best possible way, vigorously individualistic, mind-clearingly so. Before I get to that, permit me to back up for a moment and say that although I’ve never been Catholic my family more or less is (long story), and I’ve always had an appreciation of some sort for the relics, rituals, incense, candles, etc. As a little girl I would sneak into the church at the top of my grandmother’s street to peek at the Jesus statue nearest the side door. It was the type with fairly graphic crucifixion wounds, and it was in an alcove that always felt refrigerator-cold no matter the temperature outside. The only source of light in this part of the church was votive candles in dark, blood-red glass holders, and I would go in and stand there until I was good and terrified/thrilled. Then I would dash out into the sunlight and enjoy how different the familiar surroundings looked for the first few minutes afterward, slightly dangerous in a way they never seemed to be if I was just riding my bike in figure-eights in the church parking lot. On one occasion, sometime around 2nd grade, this little routine led me to have a terrifying dream in which Jesus was driving me through a desert in an excessively air-conditioned black car with blood-red velour seats.

Ecclesiastical fashion show from Fellini’s Roma (1972), music by Nino Rota.

All of which sets an appropriately outré stage and high religious mood for the entrance of George Arthur Rose, protagonist of Hadrian the Seventh, a failed candidate for priesthood bitterly toiling away in obscurity as a hack writer, troubled by debts and disdainful of just about everyone apart from his beloved cat Flavio.

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