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"Method of this work:
literary montage.
I have nothing to say only to show."
(Passagenwerk (1927 - 1940) - Walter Benjamin)

Status archived [Nov 2005]

2005, May 09; 22:00 ::: Pornography and subversion (2)

Anonymous caricature
image sourced here.

This particular caricature is a great example of the change of pornography’s role in terms of both political and religious subversion. It was distributed anonymously throughout the new republic and was intended as a double insult. This person featured was both a politician and member of the clergy. --Marianna Beck via http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/europorn04.html [May 2005]

see also: subversion - pornography

2005, May 09; 14:59 ::: Pornography and subversion

In its earliest incarnation in 16th- and 17th-century European literature, pornography’s primary goal was subversion, developing largely out of a need for artists and writers to push political boundaries. What better way to draw attention to a corrupt church official or politician than to show him in an erect state, about to have sex with a nun? During the French Revolution, a pamphlet depicting Queen Marie-Antoinette in the midst of an orgy was a powerful, if not misogynistic, way to incite a starving mob already enraged over aristocratic excess. --Marianna Beck via http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/archive/europorn01.html [May 2005]

see also: subversion - pornography

2005, May 08; 19:46 ::: Please Touch (1947) - Marcel Duchamp

Please Touch (1947) - Marcel Duchamp
image sourced here.

Women are portrayed as fragmented and violated throughout the exhibition. Duchamp's Please Touch (1947) reduces women to a single breast sliced from the body and mounted on velvet. Hans Bellmer's The Top (1938) shows multiple breasts clustered on a block. Other Surrealist works show Jack the Ripper's victims or women with their throats cut.

Much surrealist art shows women as faceless and anonymous. In contrast Magritte's The Rape (1934) challenges this trend. The Rape has the ultimate faceless woman --her face is replaced by her torso. She is mute, her mouth replaced by her pubic hair. The title of this work, however, shows that Magritte wanted to achieve more then just shock value. He was criticising the de-humanisation of women in society. Magritte's painting and a handful of others provide welcome relief from the misogyny of much of the exhibition. --Zanny Begg, Surrealism: Sex, violence and surrealism via http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/1993/111/111p24.htm [May 2005]

see also: surrealism

2005, May 08; 19:28 ::: Bastille, Paris, France

Painting by Jean-Pierre Louis Laurent Houel (1735-1813), entitled Prise de la Bastille ("The storm of the Bastille").
image sourced http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution [May 2005]

Portrait imaginaire de Sade (1938) - Man Ray [with the Bastille as background]

This pessimistic sadism is a far cry from the whimsical fantasy often associated with Surrealist artists like Miro and Magritte. But in an exhibition of this depth it cannot fail to filter through and dominate. Man Ray's Imaginary portrait of D.A.F de Sade (1938) is a disturbing example of the darker side of Surrealist art.

The Marquis de Sade was jailed 11 times for his sexual cruelty to women making him the namesake for the term sadism, and yet he was regarded by the surrealists as a great “revolutionary moralist and poet”. Man Ray's portrait shows him in front of the bastille where he was imprisoned --strong and impressive, a symbol of uninhibited violence. --Zanny Begg, Sex, violence and surrealism via http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/1993/111/111p24.htm [May 2005]

2005, May 08; 19:17 ::: Subversive Words (1994) - Arlette Farge

Subversive Words: Public Opinion in 18th Century France (1994) - Arlette Farge [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Publishers Weekly
Farge clearly recognizes the danger of writing about public opinion in 18th-century France: ``that of setting out to find, in an eighteenth century which we know ended in revolution, a current of hostile opinion becoming continually stronger until it naturally reaches the upsurge of 1789.'' Probably more important than the piggy-backed episodes of hostility Farge records is the changing attitude to the whole idea of a popular opinion in the first place. Over the course of the century, popular opinion went from something that was officially considered nonexistent to an increasingly powerful political force.

Farge draws not only on well-known memoirs but on the ephemeral news-sheets and the gazetins, the reports of police observers and spies popularly called mouches (flies) culled from the old Bastille archives. Starting in 1713 with the anti-Jansenist papal bull Unigenitus and continuing on through Damiens's attack on Louis XV in 1758, public reaction returned time and again to the abuse of power in the first case and to the vulnerability of the king in the second. If Farge is leery of interpreting the events of the first half of the century as leading inexorably up to the second, her account still gives an intriguing look into a volatile but important factor in the formation of modern French history. --Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information, Inc. via Amazon.com

see also: 1700s - subversion - 1789 - libertine

2005, May 08; 18:02 ::: The Great Cat Massacre

The Great Cat Massacre : And Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984) - Robert Darnton [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

First sentence: "THE MENTAL WORLD of the unenlightened during the Enlightenment seems to be irretrievably lost..."

"The perception of that distance may serve as a starting point of an investigation, for anthropologists have found that the best points of entry in an attempt to penetrate an alien culture can be those where it seems to be the most opaque. When you realize that you are not getting something--a joke, a proverb, a ceremony-- that is particularly meaningful to the natives, you can see where to grasp a foreign system of meaning in order to unravel it." [Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre (New York: Vintage Books, 1985) p. 78.]

In recent years the study of popular culture has become an area of interest in many disciplines. Social and cultural historians, for instance, attempt to recover aspects of everyday life of the past that have frequently been left out of the historical record. In doing so, many historians have focused on popular festivals, carnivals, rituals, and celebrations, such as Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie's Carnival in Romans (1979); Natalie Zemon Davis's Culture and Society in Early Modern France; and Robert Darnton's The Great Cat Massacre (1984). --http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/popc/bkgrnd.html

see also: popular culture - carnival - rituals

2005, May 08; 18:02 ::: The Autobiography of a Flea

The Autobiography of a Flea and Other Tart Tales (1995) - Anonymous [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

My title comes from a nineteenth century work of pornography. The use of it for the title is a joke. I started with a joke that I expect no one to understand for the purpose of emphasizing the distance between my culture and yours.

"The perception of that distance may serve as a starting point of an investigation, for anthropologists have found that the best points of entry in an attempt to penetrate an alien culture can be those where it seems to be the most opaque. When you realize that you are not getting something--a joke, a proverb, a ceremony-- that is particularly meaningful to the natives, you can see where to grasp a foreign system of meaning in order to unravel it." [Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre (New York: Vintage Books, 1985) p. 78.]

My joke is about how the culture positions me. I am a graduate student, but sorry that's not the real joke. Even though fleas and other vermin are low in a hierarchy of value and graduate students are low in the academic hierarchy of value, correlating the two as equal doesn't make the title as funny as it can be. It can get funnier. In the real Autobiography of a Flea, the flea is not the deviant. The flea gets to communicate about the deviant. So here's the real joke: for the purpose of this essay, I am struggling to be the flea. --Lisa Sigel via http://eserver.org:16080/cultronix/sigel/ [May 2005]

2005, May 08; 16:50 ::: The Roots of Western Pornography

Lustful Turk: Or Scenes in the Harem of an Eastern Potentate (1800s) - Anonymous [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

How the Victorian Era Spawned Pornography's Golden Age
By Marianna Beck, Ph.D.

During the 19th century, the traffic in pornography grew at an enormous rate and shifted from France, where it had been dramatically shaped by Sade, to England, where it would become highly commercialized. Ironically, the morally severe Victorian Age yielded some of pornography’s most popular classics: The Romance of Lust, The Amatory Experiences of a Surgeon, and The Autobiography of a Flea, to name just a few titles. In a century characterized by its rigid moral codes and authoritarian controls, pornography evolved into a genre whose sole raison d’être was sexual arousal. --Marianna Beck via http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/archive/europorn06.html [May 2005]

The Lustful Turk
One popular novel in this period was The Lustful Turk by the prolific author, Anonymous. Although it’s considered a pre-Victorian novel with its narrative mode and prose style, its themes played out in much of the pornography that was to follow. The Lustful Turk is a good example of 19th-century pornography with Sadian overtones, particularly in its depiction of violent, aggressive sexuality. The plot of The Lustful Turk, as that of many other later works, was largely concerned with this sexuality of domination accompanied by elements of sadism: a reluctant virgin is raped and then herself becomes obsessed with sex. This particular fascination with deflowering virgins permeated much of 19th-Victorian pornography, and was an all-consuming passion in [Henry Spencer Ashbee's] enormous work called My Secret Life. --Marianna Beck via http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/archive/europorn06.html [May 2005]

see also: pornography - 1800s - Victorian era

2005, May 08; 15:49 ::: Etymology of porn and pornography

porn (n.)
1962, abbreviation of pornography (q.v.). Porno (adj.) is attested from 1952. --http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=porn [May 2005]

pornography (n.)
1857, "description of prostitutes," from Fr. pornographie, from Gk. pornographos "(one) writing of prostitutes," from porne "prostitute," originally "bought, purchased" (with an original notion, probably of "female slave sold for prostitution;" related to pernanai "to sell," from PIE root per- "to traffic in, to sell," cf. L. pretium "price") + graphein "to write."

Originally used of classical art and writing; application to modern examples began 1880s. Main modern meaning "salacious writing or pictures" represents a slight shift from the etymology, though classical depictions of prostitution usually had this quality.

Pornographer is earliest form of the word, attested from 1850. Pornocracy (1860) is "the dominating influence of harlots," used specifically of the government of Rome during the first half of the 10th century by Theodora and her daughters. --http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pornography [May 2005]

The 1857 Dunglison Medical Dictionary states that pornography is a description of prostitutes or of prostitution as a matter of public hygiene." --source unidentified

see also: pornography - etymology

2005, May 08; 15:33 ::: Horror music themes

A History of Horror (2000) - Various Artists [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Disc: 1
1. 1921- Nosferatu 2. 1925- The Phantom of the Opera 3. 1935- The Bride of Frankenstein 4. 1951- The Thing 5. 1955- Godzilla 6. 1958- Dracula 7. 1959- Peeping Tom 8. 1959- Horrors of the Black Museum 9. 1963- The Haunting 10. 1968- The Devil Rides Out 11. 1970- Taste the Blood of Dracula 12. 1973- The Exorcist 13. 1974- Young Frankenstein 14. 1976- The Omen

Disc: 2
1. 1976-Suspiria 2. 1978- Halloween 3. 1979- Alien 4. 1980- The Shining 5. 1980- Dressed to Kill 6. 1982- Poltergeist 7. 1984- A Nightmare on Elm Street 8. 1987- Hellraiser 9. 1990- Frankenstein Unbound 10. 1992- Bram Stroker's Dracula 11. 1999- The Haunting 12. 1999- The Sixth Sense 13. 2000- Lighthouse 14. 1999- The Ninth Gate

see also: horror films

2005, May 08; 13:51 ::: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Philip Kaufman

Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Veronica Cartwright in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Philip Kaufman [Amazon.com]

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1956 science fiction/horror film which tells the story of ordinary small town people whose bodies are taken over by aliens. It stars Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan and Carolyn Jones.

An alien race departs their dying world and lands on Earth. They emerge from plantlike pods, and grow into perfect physical duplications of their human victims, who themselves die and are discarded. The "pod people" are indistinguishable from normal people, except for their utter lack of emotion. Once a pod person is fully grown and integrated into society, he works secretly to spread more pods, so that more people will be taken over.

The film is frequently cited as an indictment of the hysteria of McCarthyism during the early stages of the Cold War. The taking-over of ordinary citizens metaphorically reflected the paranoia in Cold War America of how communism might infiltrate the body politic in such a way that you would have no way of suspecting if your friends and neighbors had been corrupted.

The screenplay was adapted by Richard Collins (uncredited), Daniel Mainwaring and Sam Peckinpah from the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. It was directed by Don Siegel.

The first of two remakes appeared in 1978, starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum Veronica Cartwright and Jerry Walter. There are a number of interesting cameo appearances in the film, among them the star and director of the original; Kevin McCarthy appears briefly as a man on the street frantically screaming about aliens (in a shot reminiscent of the final shot of the original) and Don Siegel appears as a cab driver. Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia also appears briefly, as does Robert Duvall. As with the first film, it does not have a "happy ending". The remake ends with Sutherland's character destroying the "pod people's" facility where they grow the pods, but he is found and turned into a pod person, which is revealed in the last second of the film.

The 1978 version was adapted by W.D. Richter and directed by Philip Kaufman, and, unlike many remakes, met with generally favorable critical response. Lacking the Cold War subtext of the original, Kaufman concentrated on a style of paranoia that was more reflective of the mistrust and malaise pervasive in post-Vietnam, post-Watergate America. Kaufman's film is set not in a small town but in San Francisco; in one scene, Sutherland's character calls Washington for help, only to find his calls are being intercepted and his name is known to the person on the other line before he gives it. The script could thus be thought to reflect growing anti-government fears that would later manifest themselves among conspiracy theorists. There are distinct similarities between the 1978 film and the tone of the "mythology" episodes of the popular 1990s television series The X-Files.

A 1993 version, called Body Snatchers, stars Terry Kinney, Meg Tilly and Gabrielle Anwar. It was adapted by Raymond Cistheri, Larry Cohen, Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli and Nicholas St. John, and was directed by Abel Ferrara. This time the story was set on a military base, and did not attempt to follow the plot of either the original or the 1978 version. In its structure it plays like a straightforward alien invasion thriller, and does not attempt to create the overriding paranoiac mood of the earlier films. It did not receive wide theatrical distribution and was for the most part critically panned.

Another remake is currently in production, due for release in 2006.

The original version has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_the_Body_Snatchers [May 2005]

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, again directed by a relatively new director, this time Don Siegel, was even better. Our worst nightmares made real, Siegel's succinct distillation of Jack Finney's novel "The Body Snatchers" was one of the first films to point the finger at us and say, "You are the monster." The idea that your family and friends could one day turn around and be totally alien to you is one of the primal fears which horror cinema tackles directly, and it is a concern that haunts many classic horror films (The Shining and The Other are but two examples). We can also see the first seeds of the 'body in revolt' idea that became synonymous with arguably the best horror director of the last twenty years, David Cronenberg.--Noel O'Shea [2004]

see also: body horror

2005, May 07; 19:28 ::: Bela Lugosi (1882 - 1956)

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Béla Lugosi was the stage name of actor Béla Ferenc Dezs? Blaskó (October 20, 1882–August 16, 1956). He was born in Lugos, Transylvania, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), the youngest of four children of a banker.

Lugosi started his acting career on the stage in Europe in several Shakespearean plays. He however, became most notably known for his portrayal of Dracula in a stage production of Bram Stoker's classic vampire story. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bela_Lugosi [May 2005]

Bela Lugosi's Dead (1979) - Bauhaus
Bauhaus's debut single Bela Lugosi's Dead in late 1979 is considered to be the gothic anthem that sparked several people to follow in their gothic footsteps. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_rock#First_generation_.28c._1979.26ndash.3Bc._1985.29 [May 2005]

Bauhaus's debut single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead", was released in August 1979. Over nine minutes long and recorded "live in the studio" in a single take, it did not enter the UK pop charts, but remained on sale for many years thereafter. By far their most famous work, its minimalist, free-form nature evoked a mixture of The Doors, early Pink Floyd and experimental Krautrock bands such as Can and Neu!. The song was used to score the first ten minutes of the 1983 Tony Scott vampire film "The Hunger". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauhaus_%28band%29 [May 2005]

Vampire cliché
Vampire clichés include a long black cape, slick black hair, and an Eastern European accent. (The most famous, Bela Lugosi's was Hungarian.) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clich%E9 [May 2005]

Ed Wood Jr.
A number of has-been celebrities were involved in the most iconic films of Wood's career. Bela Lugosi was worshiped by movie fans for his performances in White Zombie and Dracula, but became an alcoholic wash-out when Hollywood decided they'd had enough of his genre movies. Lugosi was given a second chance by Wood and starred in his best and most famous pictures. Some suggest that Wood exploited Lugosi's fame, which he probably did to an extent, but most documents and interviews with other Wood alumni suggest that the two of them were good friends and that Wood helped Lugosi through the worst days of his depression and morphine addiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Wood%2C_Jr. [May 2005]

Ed Wood (1994) - Tim Burton
Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton, stars Johnny Depp as the transvestite cult movie maker Edward D. Wood Jr. The film, shot in black and white, was made in 1994.

The film focuses on the part in Ed's life where he made his best-known films, and also where he met Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) who starred as Dracula in the film of the same name. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Wood_%28movie%29 [May 2005]

see also: Dracula - horror film

2005, May 06; 11:25 ::: Agostino Veneziano

Agostino Veneziano
image sourced here.

2005, May 06; 11:25 ::: Filippino Lippi

Filippino Lippi And Pietro Perugino The Deposition From The Cross 1500s

Ro.Go.Pa.G. Pier Paolo Pasolini (segment La Ricotta) (1963) [IMDB]

2005, May 06; 11:20 ::: Max Klinger

Die blaue Stunde (1890) - Max Klinger
image sourced here.

Max Klinger
Max Klinger (1857-1920) was a German symbolist painter and sculptor.

His best known work was a series of etchings entitled Paraphrases about the finding of a glove. These pictures were based on images which came to Klinger in dreams after finding a glove at an ice-skating rink.

Klinger is cited by many artists (notably Giorgio de Chirico) as being a major link between the symbolist movement of the 19th century and the start of the metaphysical and surrealist movements of the 20th century. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Klinger [May 2005]

2005, May 06; 10:34 ::: Odilon Redon (1840 - 1916)

Guardian Spirit of the Waters (1878) - Odilon Redon
image sourced here.

Crying Spider (1881) - Odilon Redon
image sourced here.

Odilon Redon
Odilon Redon (April 22, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was a symbolist painter.

Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France.

Odilon Redon started drawing as a very young child and at the age of ten, was awarded a drawing prize at school. At age 15, he began to study drawing but on the insistence of his father switched to architecture. Any career in architecture ended when he failed to pass the entrance exams at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts but eventually he would study there under Jean-Léon Gerôme (1824-1904).

Back home in his native Bordeaux, he took up sculpture and was instructed in etching and lithography by Rodolphe Bresdin (1822-1885).

However, his artistic career was interrupted when he joined the army in 1870 to serve in the Franco-Prussian War.

At the end of the war, he moved to Paris, working almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography. It would not be until 1878 before his work gained any recognition with "Guardian Spirit of the Waters" and he published his first album of lithographs titled: "Dans le Rêve" in 1879. Still, Redon remained relatively unknown until the appearance in 1884 of a cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans titled: "A rebours (Against Nature) ." The story featured a decadent aristocrat who collected Redon's drawings.

In the 1890s, he began to use pastel and oils. That dominated his works for the rest of his life. In 1899, he exhibited with the Les Nabis at Durand-Ruel's. In 1903 he was awarded the Legion of Honor. His popularity increased when a catalogue of etchings and lithographs was published by André Mellerio in 1913 and that same year, he was given the largest single representation at the New York Armory Show.

Odilon Redon is considered by many as the greatest of the French Symbolist painters. His works can be found at some of the great museums in Europe and North America.

In 1923 Mellerio published: "Odilon Redon: Peintre Dessinateur et Graveur." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odilon_Redon [May 2005]

The Shapeless Polyp Floated along the Bank, a Sort of Hideous, Smiling Cyclops (1883) - Odilon Redon

see also: Odilon Redon - Alfred Kubin

2005, May 06; 10:14 ::: Clovis Trouille (1889 - 1975)

Unidentified artwork by Clovis Trouille

2005, May 06; 10:04 ::: Modesto Roldan (1926 - )

Unidentified artwork by Modesto Roldan (1926 - )

Unidentified artwork by Modesto Roldan (1926 - )

2005, May 06; 09:43 ::: Wassily Chair (1925)

The Wassily Chair No B3 by Marcel Breuer

The Model B3 chair, also known as the Wassily Chair, was designed by Marcel Breuer for the constructivist painter Wassily Kandinsky. Both of them were working at the Bauhaus School in Dessau at the time (1925).

This chair was revolutionary in the use of the materials (bent steel tubes and leather) and methods of manufacturing. It is said that Breuer's 'Adler' bicycle inspired him to use steel tubes to build the chair, and it proved to be a great material since it was available in great scale.

The Wassily chair, like many other designs of the modernist movement, was mass produced in the 1950s and 1960s, and as a design classic is still for sale today. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Chair [May 2005]

2005, May 06; 09:19 ::: The Gun Club

Fire of Love (1981) - Gun Club [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Las Vegas Story (1984) - Gun Club [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Gun Club were a rock band from Los Angeles in the 1980s led by the flamboyant singer, ex-rock critic Jeffrey Lee Pierce. They were one of the first bands to blend punk with blues, country, and other American roots musics.

The band was formed by Pierce and Kid Congo Powers and initially called Creeping Ritual. They went through several lineup changes before settling on "The Gun Club," a name suggested by Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris.

Kid Congo left before the first album to join The Cramps. Other notable members include bassist Rob Ritter and drummer Terry Graham, who had both previously been in The Bags. Rob left after the debut album to form 45 Grave, and changed his name to Rob Graves. Later, Patricia Morrison, then known as Pat Bag, one of the founders of The Bags, joined to play bass on two LPs Danse Kalinda Boom and Las Vegas Story before leaving to join The Sisters Of Mercy and then The Damned.

Their first album, 1981's Fire of Love, is sometimes regarded as a classic. One critic has written that the "album's lyrical imagery is plundered from voodoo, '50's EC comics and the blues," 1 while another notes that "Nobody has heard music like this before or since." Fire of Love sold well, and received rave reviews

Along with The Cramps, X and other bands, they set much of the tone for the Hollywood rock scene in the 1980s. (Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe is rumored to have borrowed some of Pierce's distinctive look for his own early career.)

Pierce continued leading various incarnations of the Gun Club up to his death.

They helped influence the cowpunk scene that developed in their wake and a wide variety of bands ranging from Social Distortion in the 1980s to The White Stripes today. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Club [May 2005]

2005, May 06; 01:10 ::: Peppermint Lounge

Peppermint Lounge, photo unidentified

2005, May 05; 23:23 ::: "The horror! The horror!"

Marlon Brando as Kurtz

[His last words]
Kurtz [Marlon Brando]: "The horror. The horror."

Words spoken by the dying adventurer Kurtz in Heart of Darkness (1902), by Joseph Conrad.

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American film by Francis Ford Coppola, inspired by Joseph Conrad's classic novella Heart of Darkness. Set in the Vietnam War, a taciturn American soldier is sent to "terminate with extreme prejudice" a rogue Green Beret colonel. The narrative of his journey and its culmination is studded with events which, while bizarre, partake of real Vietnam stories. The soldier's journey becomes increasingly nonlinear and hallucinatory. Coppola's agenda clearly includes larger themes of life and war. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse_Now [May 2005]

Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness is a novella (published 1902) by Joseph Conrad. This highly symbolic story is actually a story within a story, or frame tale, narrated by a man named Marlow to colleagues at an evening gathering. It details an incident earlier in Marlow's life, a visit up the Congo River to investigate the work of Kurtz, a Belgian trader in ivory in the Congo Free State.

The story within a story device actually descends four levels: Conrad writes the story we read, which is the account of an unnamed narrator relating Marlow's yarn of his journey down the Congo river to meet and examine the central character Kurtz. (Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein used a similar device.)

To write the book, Conrad drew heavily from his own experience in the Congo. Eight years before he wrote the book, he served as a sea captain for a Congo steamer. On a single trip up the river, he had witnessed so many atrocities that he quit on the spot.

The theme of "darkness" from the title recurs throughout the book. It is used to reflect the unknown (as Africa at the time was often called the "Dark Continent" by Europeans), the concept of the "darkness of barbarism" contrasted with the "light of civilization" (see white man's burden), and the "spiritual darkness" of several characters. This sense of darkness also lends itself to a related theme of obscurity - again, in various senses, reflecting the ambiguities in the work. Moral issues are not clear-cut; that which ought to be (in various senses) on the side of "light" is in fact mired in darkness, and so forth.

To emphasize the theme of darkness within ourselves, Marlow's narration takes place on a yacht in the Thames tidal estuary. Early in the novella, the narrator recounts how London, the here-and-now where Conrad wrote and where a large part of his audience lived, was itself in Roman times a dark part of the world much like the Congo then was. Like Marlow himself, the astute reader emerges from the tale with an expanded comprehension of the darkness within his own mind.

Themes developed in the novella's more superficial levels include the naïveté of Europeans - particularly women - regarding the various forms of darkness in the Congo; the Belgian colonialists' abuse of the natives; and man's potential for two-facedness. The symbolic levels of the book expand on all of these in terms of a struggle between good and evil, not so much between people as within every major character's soul.

Conrad's experiences in the Congo and the historical background to the story, including possible models for Kurtz, are recounted in the historical work, King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild.


  • 1979 -- Francis Ford Coppola based Apocalypse Now loosely on the novel.
  • 1993 -- Nicholas Roeg filmed Heart of Darkness for television with Tim Roth as Marlow and John Malkovich as Kurtz.
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_of_Darkness [May 2005]

see also: horror

2005, May 05; 11:42 ::: Sex, Drugs and Music Hall

By Matthew Sweet

Queen Victoria (shown here on the morning of her Accession to the Throne, June 20, 1837) gave her name to the historic era.
image sourced here.

Circus lion tamer, lithograph by Gibson & Co., 1873. Edited digital image from the Library of Congress, reproduction number: LC-USZC4-2994.
image sourced here.
image related to subject via Victorian entertainment

Sex, drugs and hedonism, a summer weekend for today's twenty-somethings or the average Victorian weekend? Matthew Sweet investigates.

You've seen it in a hundred costume dramas. A group of Victorians sitting around the piano. Men in dinner suits, women twitching fans, the daughter of the household bashing out a Mendelsohn standard, polite applause muffled by white kid gloves, and another round of constipated dialogue.

'...it's hard to think of a public pleasure with which they did not engage with intense, breathless enthusiasm.'

If only somebody had thought to check the entertainment listings on the front page of The Times. Instead of suffering this well-mannered torture, they could have telegraphed the Cremorne Gardens and booked a table near the bandstand, scored a few strikes at the American bowling alley, taken in one of the shows or concerts, guzzled down a curry, danced until four in the morning, smoked a few opium-laced cigarettes, then returned home on the tube to negotiate their inevitable hangovers. --http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/society_culture/society/pleasure_01.shtml [May 2005]

see also: Victorian era - entertainment - music halls

2005, May 05; 11:42 ::: The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick

Shelley Duvall in
The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Shining (1980) is a film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film stars Jack Nicholson as frustrated writer Jack Torrance and Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy. Although it can be seen as a horror film, The Shining defies many of the conventions of the genre.

The film features the first extensive use of the Steadicam to create long and elaborate tracking shots.

The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
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The Shining seems to comment on the absurdity of the ideal American-style nuclear family. The film underlines the isolation and total comfort of the Torrance family via the huge open spaces and endless food reserves of the Overlook. Jack Torrence's monologues and the "work" he produced ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.") caricature the Protestant Work Ethic. Critics have also noted the American Indian motifs as well as the Grady character representing as imperialist archetype, suggesting a skewed commentary upon American history. Broadly, then, the film seems to suggest that escape from a tainted and dangerously brutal past of violence (Jack Torrance) is left to a younger generation, embodied in Danny, who "shines" and can detect the evil within the superficially benign Overlook. Thematically this seems to tie The Shining to 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of Kubrick's more optimistic works, via its conclusion, reminiscent of the "new man" or starbaby.

The Grady twins
The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
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The Grady twins footage is unmistakably reminiscent of a photo by Diane Arbus, and much of the abstracted horror appears influenced by Arbus's strange photos of masked revellers and desexualized nudes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shining_(film) [May 2005]

see also: Stanley Kubrick

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