Monthly Archives: April 2012

the periodicals room

You know the feeling of being ill and just wanting to sleep but slightly too ill to actually fall asleep? Then somehow things get worse and you feel as if you’ve been put in a washing machine with that feeling? Maybe the washing machine part is just me. In any event, I can tell you with certainty that it really helps to have a pile of magazines in there for when you get tired of your books.

Pittsburg 1947

girl at magazine stand (Pittsburgh, 1947) via ThePulp.Net

Here are some of the magazines piled up by my bedside this week. It’s more of an electronic pile rather than an actual pile because there aren’t many interesting ones in print right now, are there?

Night and Day anthology cover

Night and Day. A very short-lived English magazine published weekly between July and December of 1937, thankfully available in anthology form. (Also thankfully far more suitable for dragging to bed than my beautiful but slab-like Flair anthology). I suspect most who come to Night and Day do so out of affection for its editor Graham Greene, but my reading habits are sadly under-Greened and I learned of it while poking around Corvo biographer A.J. Symons, who also happened to be their restaurant reviewer. Their contributors! Graham Greene did the film reviews and Evelyn Waugh the book reviews; John Betjeman had a regular feature; Alistair Cooke and Anthony Powell reported on what was happening in America; and there were theater reviews from Elizabeth Bowen, short stories from V.S. Pritchett, and memoirs from Christopher Isherwood. Also William Empson on his efforts to learn Chinese, and, most thrilling for me, Herbert Read regularly reviewing detective novels. I admire The Green Child enough to be delighted with his reviews just for their curiosity value, but he’s actually quite funny.

Night and Day was staggeringly New Yorker-ish, deliberately and admittedly so. Christopher Hawtree’s introduction to the 1985 Chatto & Windus anthology notes that two years prior to the launch of the magazine, Greene wrote, “The world may be divided into those who enjoy Punch and those who enjoy the New Yorker,” while future Night and Day contributor Hugh Kingsmill lamented “[t]here is no critically humorous paper in England today. Nor is there any serious paper which has much, or any individuality.” In Greene’s own preface to the anthology he wrote that “the influence of the New Yorker was very evident during the first months,” though by the time the magazine folded “we were becoming ourselves.” It would be foolish to describe Night and Day as a knock-off; it reflected its own time and place and spoke with its own voice, but the visual resemblance is striking. Not just in the cartoons, which Greene thought superior (“I don’t believe that any paper — even the New Yorker at its best — has obtained the level reached by Night and Day in its comic drawings”) but in familiar little features like the unintentionally funny news clippings that still appear in the New Yorker‘s pages.

Night and Day stomach

A. J. Symons Round the Restaurants

Night and Day manxmen

But, darling

Those angels above are not an original cartoon commissioned for the magazine but one of John Flaxman’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The magazine began running them in the July 29, 1937 issue, “[f]eeling that rather less than justice has been done to the distinguished artist who gave his name to a London telephone exchange . . . . As this, after all, is Coronation Year, we have substituted good plain captions in the mother tongue for the unpatriotic quotations from Dante which accompanied the original designs . . .”

One of the things that sunk Night and Day was a libel suit in connection with Greene’s review of the Shirley Temple movie Wee Willie Winkie in the Oct. 28, 1937 issue:

[W]atch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood skin-deep. It is clever, but it cannot last. Her admirers — middle-aged men and clergymen — respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire.

The publishers were fined £3,500 for this “gross outrage,” but the magazine had trouble raising capital well before then, and folded three months before the case went to trial.

I didn’t realize until I started composing this blog post that Night and Day has recently been “reinvigorated and reconceived for a new century” by Vintage Books. I haven’t yet read any of the four issues they’ve put out so far but it looks very promising. I’m particularly happy to see that their contributors include illustrators as talented and stylish as the ones who worked on its previous incarnation. Read and download here.

WoI Dec 2011 cover

World of Interiors. The only mag kept in stacks at Lunar Camel Co. Towers. I can’t afford anything in its advertisements, especially the boiseries, I have a feeling, but there’s nothing pretentious about it. It’s a proper magazine with a proper and likable editorial voice. I cannot understand why so many other magazines lack one of those and instead choose to read like an inscrutable catalog of favors to friends and publicists. I suspect it has something to do with people being people, but still.

WoI is full of transporting photos — sometimes rooms, sometimes places like tea processing plants or horticultural supply shops or unglamorized Moroccan farmhouses where cows reside on the ground floor — and unlike other design mags the writing holds up its end of things. I hate flipping through magazines like this and seeing that the book reviews, profiles or arty bits aren’t worth reading.

Eileen Gray's study May 2011 WoI

Designer Eileen Gray’s study, WoI May 2011. For sure my desk needs a lamp with a stomach and a hat. These are by Garouste and Bonetti.

bricks 3 Dec 2011 WoI bricks Dec 2011 WoI

Bricks from a Dec. 2011 WoI feature on historical paints. Sometimes while trying to sleep I mentally paint my bedroom the 1960s blue at the bottom, Capri SC345 from Paper and Paints.

cosmic Oct 2010 WoI

16th-century Wunderzeichenbuch depicting cosmic events from WoI Oct. 2010. The kooky rainbow at left was observed in Vienna in 1520.

mantle Jan 2012 WoI

Detail above mantle at an auberge in Barbizon favored by 19th-century painters from WoI Jan. 2012.

de Plagny Oct 2010 WoI

Textile design by Atelier Zina de Plagny (late 40s / early 50s) from WoI Oct. 2010. de Plagny’s designs have been revived by Surface View.

purple room Oct 2010 WoI

Purple room from WoI Oct. 2010. It’s a reader’s room submitted for a contest, and the checkered doors hide a kitchen.

Viva magazine, August 1974 cover

Viva, the international magazine for women. Verrrry 70s. I have a small collection of these that sadly will probably not be added to at this point because they’re getting too expensive. I wrote a little something about it on my food blog a few years ago. Definitely due for a follow-up post or two here; stay tuned.

Synapse Summer 1978

Knob-twiddlers will be pleased to know that 70s issues of Synapse can be read in their entirety. Via Dangerous Minds.

Bright Lights film journal

Bright Lights Film Journal. Reliably terrific writing about cinema.

TONMO

TONMO, The Octopus News Magazine Online (“Your Octopus, Squid and Cephalopod Information Center”). Some animals are better company than others. Frankly I don’t care about squid much, but octopuses are brilliant and mysterious and make for good reading. Related material for aficionados: Poulpe Pulps, “hard-to-locate images of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure pulp and comic covers featuring the wily octopus.”

Arthur magazine archive

ARTHUR magazine was so cool. It’s been linked to on my links page forever but maybe you haven’t seen it.

BLAST

The Modernist Journals Project. This has probably made the rounds of the in-boxes and blogs of everyone who is interested, but: Brown University and the University of Tulsa have a joint project cataloging modernist journals. You can peek at the contents of some of them here.

Are you sick of tedious rendevous instead of hot bang?

spring break in the east village

are those yr boobs I saw on an east village mailbox?

Just this once let’s get Wednesday off to a slightly sleazy start, as if this were a meeting of the Slightly Sleazy Wednesday Morning Club. The inspiration for / title of this post comes from an email I received from Ms. Kitty Geyser. Also from a neighbor in my ex-boyfriend’s building, where I lived for many years. He’s a beardo we call Cameras on account of the unfriendly, searching looks he gives us. He says hello to my ex-boyfriend but he’s never spoken a word to me. Our friend Christine said we are his Berlin-in-the-20s. I admit to having slithered in or out of the building looking Anita Berber-ish on a few occasions over the years, but the latest thing that set his eye- and beard-cameras on fire was a basket on my ex’s bike. He got a wicker basket for it, which is apparently one of the fruitiest fruity things a guy can do. He came out of the apartment with it and ran into Cameras and his roommates, and reported that their eyes were glued to it like hot burning lasers all the way down the stairs.

Anyhow, our meeting, yeah. It’s totally fine if you’re still wearing your outfit from last night, I don’t mind at all.

mermaid and friends

photo from a 1980 sci-fi convention here

While you’re washing your face the rest of us will have a look at this poster I found for an interesting-sounding movie from the 70s, Orgies au Camping. Poster from Etsy here.

Orgies au Camping

Here’s a lurid little painting by Reggie Kray, Ron and Reg in Top Hat and Tails, via The Guardian.

Reggie Kray Ron and Reg in Top Hat and Tails

And here’s a flier I found at an art opening at Family Business gallery a couple weeks ago. My friend Jim had a piece in this show. I like what they did; it’s a tiny gallery and they crammed it full, with art all the way up the walls and hanging from the ceiling too. There were lots of these fliers thrown out to the crowd, all different.

morir o casarse

Ann Sorel, “Amour à Plusieurs,” via Vinyle Archéologie on YouTube. I tried to translate the lyrics to this because it sounded intriguing. I wish I hadn’t because it’s actually kind of a downer: “Love to many it is not good for your heart.” Shit no, it sure isn’t.

Here’s a Yayoi Kusama orgy / happening in Amsterdam, 1969, via the Looniverse. I don’t know whether they did have an orgy that day or was she just selling copies of her orgy newspaper. The woman in the blue suit appears to be afraid someone will grope her eyeballs, but everyone’s got plenty of clothes on. Maybe it was called off on account of shivery weather.

Yayoi Kusama orgy 1

Yayoi Kusama orgy 2

Yayoi Kusama orgy 3

Bettie Page photo via Olympia le Tan’s blog, which has a nice mixture of things I like to look at: loads more photos of Bettie and Bettie look-alikes, loads of photos of Morrissey, plus some shoes, plus the book-shaped handbags she makes.

Bettie Page via OLT 04-15-2012

Bettie via Olympia Le Tan’s blog

OLT Junkie bag
Olympia le Tan Marihuana Problems bag

Olympia Le Tan bags via Hint

If we’re going to meet mornings this way semi-regularly you’re going to need to get your own coffee pipe. I don’t mean to be bossy, I just want to get everyone on the same page here. You can order one from Zang! (via Dangerous Minds). I think you should fill yours up with my current favorite Brazilian espresso and some super silver haze, which I’ve heard from a friend is a champagne among herbs. Some things just go together. I think this could be the next coffee Thing, now that everyone’s experimented with pour-over-brewing fair trade single-origin coffees crapped out by greasy jungle cats, finding the right boutique weed to complement and enhance your coffee.

Zang! pipe mug

Dangerous Minds pipe mug

If you titrate yourself correctly maybe you’ll see an apple in your cappuccino.

apple in my cappuccino

Don’t get too messy with all this stuff. Here are some informational AA comics if you’re the type we should be worried about.

sad drunk Alice

“It Happened to Alice” via coisas do arco da velha

moon mania

Have you seen the new-ish restored and hand-colored print of George Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la lune yet? I’m doing something stern with my eyebrows at the thought that you might be shaking your head no. When it played here recently (at Lincoln Center in February), my friend and I bought our tickets on the internet well in advance because we were thinking “what sort of foolish fools would not want to go to this?” There turned out to be about eight people in the theater. I suspect that all other screenings but for the one I attended were crowded to the bursting point with delighted New Yorkers sitting on each other’s laps three deep, such that everyone who wanted to see the film on the big screen had a chance to. If you live elsewhere you may have a chance yet because it’s still making the rounds of a handful of U.S. cities: It’s showing in L.A. right now, Minneapolis next, then D.C., and so forth. The schedule is here and you should definitely go if you can. The restoration’s terrific, the color makes my lo-fi-DIY parts tingle, and there’s a new soundtrack by Air, who in my opinion were the perfect guys for the job. Here’s a clip:

The color print was discovered in 1993 but it was such a crumbly, brittle mess that it couldn’t be fed into even the fanciest high-tech mechanisms used to restore shabby old films at that time. Look here, you can see what a crumbly mess it was. All sorts of things were tried — including a risky chemical bath, followed by a time-out in what sounds like a deluxe humidor, where the film might unstick its stuck parts from itself — but the restoration couldn’t be completed until 2010, when the right technology made its way into the hands of the right people. Specifically, the Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema, the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and Lobster Films. If you have a chance to see the film in a theater you’ll learn more about all this because it’s shown with a documentary about the restoration. One interesting tidbit I can show you in the meantime: The restoration resulted in such a pristine and complete version of the film that for a few seconds of it we can now see something no one had noticed before, a key hanging on the wall at the very edge of the frame, in the scene in which the projectile is launched. Méliès’s studio was in his garden and this is believed to be the key to it.

Le voyage key

I can’t remember when I first saw the film but it definitely would have been before 2002, when a print complete with the long-lost ending was discovered in a barn in France: instead of a murky, moody splashdown in the ocean, it now ends with a parade for the moon-goers and the unveiling of a statue of their leader. During these festivities the adventurers wear big paper moons around their necks, Flava Flav-style.

Le voyage moon medals

You know what my favorite part of the film is? Surprisingly it is not the part with the mushrooms.

Le voyage shrooms

No, my favorite part is just before the capsule lands in the moon’s eye. There’s so much emotion in it, far more emotion than anyone has since expected of the moon. How lonely he must be, to look as thrilled as he does when he first notices visitors approaching. How strangely moving it is when he’s struck, becomes weepy, and blubbers something to himself. To see a human face emerge in place of an assortment of fuzzy craters and transform an entire set of disparate feelings into something almost knowable to others in the space of just a few frames is as magical as anything else we might hope to see in a film, then or now.

Le voyage moon not yet a face

Le voyage moon just now a face

Le voyage moon smiling face

Le voyage moon weird smile

Le voyage moon face rocket in eye

Does the film represent some of the best or some of the worst aspects of science and exploration? People have noted, over the years, that the things Méliès’s heroes find on their 1902 moon are more enchanting than the rocks and other dusty inscrutables that we know to be knocking about our present moon. They’ve noted, too, that the green guys inhabiting Méliès’s moon aren’t treated well by their visitors, who see them as a nuisance to be conquered. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to view the film as poking at least as much fun at the conquerors as it does at the moon-natives. When they land on the moon, for example, the very first thing they do is stretch out their blankies and take a nap, as cozy in their obliviousness as any French colonials wandering around Djibouti in search of a decent vigneron.

Le voyage yawning

Le voyage blankies

Le voyage nap time

They’re celebrated when they return home, but we the audience know that they were chased off the moon in slightly-less-than-glorious circumstances.

Le voyage angry green guys

Related reading and listening: There’s a nice interview with Air in The Quietus about the film, their album, French colonialism, Jules Verne, Jean Claude Vannier, and what kind of guys from the future they like best. You can and should listen to the soundtrack album here. Thoughtful scene-by-scene commentary on the film and lots of promising links to additional info on Spectacular Attractions here.

creative constipation + its antagonist

For a long while now I’ve been aware of and mildly interested in Momus without bothering to investigate. (More on this below). Every so often I’ll stumble across or be pointed towards something of his, and that’s that. I recently found myself watching this new-ish video from him and liking it a lot.


Momus and John Henriksson, “Love Wakes The Devil”

I circulated it to a few friends with the qualification “I have mixed regard for this guy” or something(s) to that effect, and I got some interesting responses. One person helpfully pointed out that the mystery man in the video — perhaps a long-forgotten robot built to compete with Elvis, shelved for awkwardness? — is reminiscent of this other guy. Another asked why the mixed feelings? “I think maybe it’s his voluminous and incessant output,” I answered. “All the blogging, etc. I guess I’m a bit suspicious of someone who is endlessly interested in their own utterances, for years and years and years at a time. Or maybe I just resent him for having so much of himself out there, because it makes it sort of impossible for me to evaluate him as a casual listener.” Which is silly, obviously, for several reasons. Why should anyone be graspable in one grab? Of course they should not be, and I tend to actively dislike people who are. Why not put a ton of yourself out there is a discrete, messier and more interesting question, I think, and my friend’s perceptive response made me rosy with self-consciousness:

He’s definitely a certain kind of person. I think he is very comfortable expressing himself. I don’t think he is self-critical (I mean this in a positive way). I don’t think he is trying to make a ‘great work.’ I think he sees himself in the tradition of folk music. And in his mind giving something to world — no matter how imperfect — is better than keeping it stifled up. As a result he has really added something to the world where most of us are trying so hard to be perfect we never actually do much.

I don’t think he meant really for real on a granular level (individual albums, songs, what-have-you), but you get the idea. I’ve struggled with the trying-to-be-perfect thing at moments but the biggest issue for me is wanting to have everything in place before I start a new project. Which is, yeah, a form of wanting everything to be perfect. I find it very difficult to start something new unless I feel I can completely throw myself into it, and how can I completely throw myself into something unless my “spare” time, my energy, and my reasons for wanting to do it are all heaving with abundance? And would you believe I have some trouble getting these things synced up? Of this bundle of idiotic expectations I have, the time-related one seems to be the most manageable; I think it’s a relatively straightforward matter of learning new habits (getting comfortable working in small chunks of time rather than big blocks, for example). Where I really run into trouble is in navigating the ambivalence I develop about my reasons for taking on any potential project, my questions about why do z instead of y or x, and is it worth bothering with at all. Not because I believe in greatness-or-nothing but because I believe in deliberateness-or-nothing. Just about every book or song or arty-whatnot that’s ever really meant anything to me was made by someone who seems to have been working from a series of rigorous aesthetic and intellectual decisions (versus working from a mindset of “oh hell, I’ll just try it and see where it goes”). My ideal is work that appears unstudied coming from someone who has studied the fuck out of it. One example, a curious one considering I don’t particularly like the Ramones: A couple weeks ago this article by Johnny Ramone came out, and in it he talks about the formation of the band and the decisions they made in the earliest days. The four skinny guys in jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets (or, the four skinny guys in jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets) took six months to decide that that’s what they would wear:

At that point, we were still dressed in partial glitter. I had these silver-lamé pants made of Mylar, and these black spandex pants I’d wear, too. I was the only one with a real Perfecto leather jacket—what the Ramones would later be identified with—which I had been wearing for seven years already. I also had this vest with leopard trim that I had custom made.

We were still evolving into the image we became known for, but it was trial and error at first. I’d give Tommy a lot of the credit for our look. He explained to me that Middle America wasn’t going to look good in glitter. Glitter is fine if you’re the perfect size for clothes like that. But if you’re even five pounds overweight, it looks ridiculous, so it wouldn’t be something everyone could relate to.

It was a slow process, over a period of six months or so, but we got the uniform defined. We figured out that it would be jeans, T-shirts, leather jackets, and the tennis shoes, Keds. We wanted every kid to be able to identify with our image.

I’ve never cared about wanting to make anything people can identify with but I do care deeply about singularity, and I think it generally comes from that same process of refining one’s ideas to the point where everything that’s there represents a series of decisions. (To use another Ramonesian example, think of them playing “Happy Birthday”: it would sound 100% like a Ramones song, and we can easily visualize how they would look playing it, the way they’d be standing or holding their instruments, and pretty much everything else about it). It’s not that I think a uniform or an identifiable stance are essentials or that it should necessarily be a slow or anguished process; it’s more about starting from a place that isn’t aesthetically or intellectually bankrupt, and paring away any crap going forward.

Do any of you have secret tricks for working through these pre-working choices, for wading through the muck between having an idea and commencing work on the idea? Please murmur them into my comments section. Highly recommended drugs that enable you to start a hundred weirdo side projects while blogging like a fiend will also be considered.