Saturday, September 29, 2007

Animal Collective



The show I saw last night at the 9:30 Club is available at NPR.org. I can't get the link to work, but it's still online, audio and slideshow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable."
-David Lynch

Saturday, September 15, 2007

From The Fortean Times

Curtis Harrington

Actor and photographer Lisa Jane Persky pays tribute to legendary B-movie director, avant-gardist and esotericist Curtis Harrington, and reports from a very strange memorial service.
By Lisa Jane Persky
August 2007

Curtis Harrington, director of famed weird B-movies such as Night Tide (1961), Games (1967), Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) and What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971) was one of very few avant-garde directors to successfully make the transition into commercial filmmaking. He passed away at the age of 80 in Hollywood on 6 May 2007 from complications related to a stroke he had suffered in 2005.

“HIDEOUS BEYOND BELIEF… with an INHUMAN CRAVING!” was the tag­line for Harrington’s best known cult classic, Queen of Blood (1966); strangely, it could have been applied to his fellow avant-gardist and occult celebrity Kenneth Anger when he made an appearance at Harr­ington’s burial service last month.

I met Harrington in 2006, at an opening for Dennis Hopper’s photo­graphs and paintings. We were introduced by Gregory Poe, a friend with an apt last name. Harrington was a lifelong fan of Edgar Allan Poe and he began and ended his career with different versions of 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. Gregory told me that he designed funeral urns and that Curtis had already ordered his. A year later, at the Forever Hollywood Cemetery adjacent to Paramount Studios, Harrington was ready to put Mr Poe’s handiwork to use.

Harrington’s memorial service was an open-casket affair held in the cemetery’s small chapel. Among other guests was Kenneth Anger, who arrived with a cameraman in tow. Best known for his films Fireworks, Inauguration of The Pleasure Dome (in which Harrington appeared, along side Ana├»s Nin) and Lucifer Rising, Anger is also the author of two compendia of trashy Hollywood scandals, Hollywood Babylon and Holly­wood Babylon II, and his name is often linked to those of Satanist Anton LaVey and the notorious Aleister Crowley.

According to Harrington’s executor, screenwriter Robert Mundy, Harr­ington and Anger had been ‘friends’ since childhood but had carried on a lifelong feud, during which Anger had repeatedly been cruel to Harring­ton. Because of this, as well as the attendant cameraman, Mundy asked Anger to leave. Anger informed Mundy that he would have to call the police to get him off the property. Eventually, they reached a compro­mise, and Anger turned off the camera. But this didn’t prevent him from kissing the embalmed face of Harrington or from taking a seat in the front row. Anger, who is also 80, looks hardy and sports the intense, bullet-headed look of Aleister Crowley in his later years.

Actor Jack Larson (Jimmy Olson in the 1950s Super man television series), who was to be the only speaker at the service, described the Hollywood milieu that he and Curtis entered in the 1940s. He had barely started when he was interrupted by Anger, who shouted juicy ‘correct­ions’ to Larson’s speech. Larson persevered as Anger continued to pro­vide a running commentary in a we-of-the-theatre tone. Larson referred to a mutual friend, ‘Paul’ from Pasadena, who ran a ‘coven’ which att­racted many people, including Harrington and himself. At this, Anger shouted “NO! NO! It was an order of the Ordo Templi Orientis and it was of as high a degree as 33rd degree Masonry. I am a 33rd-degree member through Crowley.” Previous to this, Larson had already men­tioned Crowley and Anger had corrected his pronunciation: “Crow as in Crow. Then Lee.”

Larson mentioned that ‘Paul’ had supposedly created a homunculus. Anger agreed – “OH HE DID! I saw it. It held my hand. Its little hand, like a tentacle, wrapped itself around my finger. There were 33 others in the crib, but not in full-fruition like this one” – suggesting that deg­rees of Masonry and homunculi litter have something in common. A number of actresses were involved in the “coven”, one of whom report­edly saw the homunculus. Anger informed the guests that who ever sees a homunculus is henceforth responsible for its life, and this, he sugg­ested, may be why she ultimately became a recluse.

Larson recounted that ‘Paul’ supposedly had a tail. Anger concurred. “I SAW IT!” he shouted. “I showed it to Kinsey and he said that wasn’t so unusual – one man in 50,000 has one.” In the 1950s, the sexologist Alfred Kinsey became interested in Anger and his films, and in 1955 the two visited the site of Crowley’s ‘Abbey of Thelema’ in Cefalu, Sicily.

According to Larson, ‘Paul’s’ home burned to the ground. Anger exp­lained why. “HOWARD DID IT!” he exclaimed. “Howard Hughes, who was crazy because he had syphilis of the brain.” For once no one disagreed, although this did produce some uncomfortable laughter.

Toward the end of Larson’s speech, Anger announced that he and Harr­ington had both been dying of prostate cancer (although Harrington didn’t die of this) and that he had told Harrington that he would outlive him. Anger then informed everyone that his own memorial would be here, in the same place. He turned toward the crowd and said “Oh yes, It’s been confirmed. I know the date of my death. On Hallowe’en 2008. My memorial. RIGHT HERE! HALLOWE’EN 2008!” Then, as an after­thought, he added, “INVITATION ONLY! Sorry.”

Across from Anger’s seat was a huge floral bouquet. The card read: “For my old pal Kurtiz (sic) from his old rival Kenneth Anger”. The note, which usually bears the name of the deceased, read “Dr. Kenneth Anger,” making it look as though it was Anger’s funeral instead, well ahead of schedule. One of the themes Harrington explored in Queen of Blood and other films is that of beings who feed off others. With this in mind, one assumes that Anger won’t starve to death.

A second memorial service sans Anger was held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on historic Vine Street. Speakers there included scream queen Barbara Steele, directors Peter Medak (The Krays) and Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), and Dennis Hopper, who appeared in Harrington’s early work Night Tide. This film also featured Marjorie Cameron, the widow of Jack Parsons, the scientist at Pasa­dena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who was also a follower of Aleister Crowley. Cameron appeared in Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and was part of the occult bohemia depicted in John Carter’s Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons, and it’s quite possible that Parsons was the ‘Paul’ that Superman’s pal and Crowley’s devotee had argued about at the previous service. Parsons blew himself and his house up in an ‘accident’, although there are suspicions it may have been suicide. Then too, they may have been speaking of Paul Mathison, the art director and actor who played Pan in Inauguration of The Pleas­ure Dome.

In a short documentary screened at the Anger-free event, Harrington had the last word: “There is the exoteric and the esoteric… That’s what I’m interested in. The esoteric. What goes on beneath.” He also had a sense of humour. “Did you know,” the husband asks his wife in Games, “that Aimee Semple McPherson was buried with a telephone?” “Why?” “Just in case,” a nod, to be sure, to Poe’s “The Premature Burial.” Harr­ington is now entombed at Hollywood Forever in an urn made by another Poe, in which, sadly, there is no room for a telephone. The obituary in Variety claimed Harrington had no survivors, but this isn’t true. He has Anger, whether he wants him or not, along with a coterie of friends and admirers. Most importantly, he is survived by the prints of his films, which have been willed to The Motion Picture Academy.

Curtis Harrington, director and occultist, born 26 Sept 1927; died Hollywood 6 May 2007, aged 80.

Good Curtis Harrington bio at the Alternative Film Guide:
http://www.altfg.com/blog/directors/curtis-harrington/

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Dream People

On the train back from Newark North Gate to London, then from King's Cross station to Paddington to pick up the Heathrow Express to get to I don 't know which terminal to fly to Charles de Gaulle Paris, where I hope to be by 7:15 tonight. Newark North Gate is half-hour bus ride from Lincoln, the bus having been substituted for the regular train and arriving maddeningly late but it's all right because the train to London came in late to Newark too.
-I have to remember to get down the story of the gypsy funeral.
-John Corbett - I went to his talk because he was on with Olaf. It said he was going to talk about archaic dreams but he actually chose dream accounts completely randomly--all fictional, I think but I'm not certain--from India, Wales, Greece. He codes the references to colors according to a numerical system--if a horse has grey legs, that's 4, if a man wears a green suit, that's 4--then he plots these numbers according to a system I couldn't follow to make an image. In this way, he "decodes" the dreams into primitive drawings of a house, a tree, a stick-man. Somehow these are then transformed to large, Rorschach-y bilaterally symmetrical images--a bit Shroud of Turin-y. I'm not sure anyone could follow just what he made of the end product, but it proved that God speaks to men in dreams. At one point, he derived the form of an airplane from 13 dreams from Hindu literature--and he couldn't get it just by connecting the dots signifying colors, he had to "fold" the resulting image to get the wanigs and tail--and he expressed his astonishment that anyone could deny that God revealed the form of the airplane to the ancient world in the face of this incontrovertible evidence.
And that's not the weird part. (Well, it is, actually, but . . .) When he gets his PowerPoint up, he introduces his talk by saying, "I em-a Chohn-a Cor-bait." His English is barely comprehenisible. So I'm thinking, is he liked some crazed Italian Northern Exposure (or Sex in the City) fan who's named himself after his favorite actor?
He sat alone at lunch; you could see people glancing in and choosing to go to a table that hadn't been set rather than join him (I was one of them). But we ended up walking next to each other up Steep Hill Street (yes, it's about the steepest hill I've ever walked in a city, including San Francisco; coming down, you think your knees will give out and you'll just roll down like a tire), so I was nice and asked him where he was from, and he said,
"I yem-a frohm Cain-toohk-ee."
So that was the end of that.
-I am better friends with Olaf Hansen each year, which is good because we agree on most things--which is also good because he's the next IASD president. Very complimentary about my talk and very interested in bringing in artists and critics and social scientists. After seeing the Cathedral and the Jews House--apparently one of the oldest inhabited structures in Europe-Olaf was very insistent on having a proper British tea--despite the very large meals they're giving us--and very disappointed that the tea room we ended up at had just run out of scones--till the couple from Manchester next to us assured him that the tea cake was actually even more authentic.
Olaf has always worked for, and often directed, organizations for the promotion of "cultural understanding," especially in education and the arts, and he now tells me that he was convening a meeting of delegates from Europe and the Islamic world in Copenhagen right when what they call the "cartoon crisis" hit. (At first I thought he said the "Khartoum crisis.") The Copenhagen papers decided his group, which was sponsoring a show of art from the Middle East, was some kind of anti-semitic front group--despite the fact that this was the first time anyone had talked the various states represented into sponsoring a show with Israeli aritists in it, and that the Israeli embassy had contributed backing.
Not long afterwards, he goes to his office and finds a woman in a sandwich board handing out leaflets that quote a speech Olaf gave in Morocco on cultural exchange. She represent a right-wing organization in several European countries that believes there's a secret concpiracy led by energy corporations to convert Europe to Islam in exchange for a secure flow of oil.
--The Cathedral: I associate Lincoln with The Prioress' Tale, which ends with the prayer to St. Hugh of Lincoln to protect the pilgrims but is the story of how the Jews killed a little boy for his blood--I think one of the first appearances of the blood libel. I didn't know Lincoln was such a centre in medieval times, with a very large Jewish community that apparently grew around the moneylenders to William the Conqueror, who had a castle--I don't know if it was his big castle--there. The cathedral has charts depicting its history a nd in the first couple centuries there were enough catastrophes--the spire destroyed by lightning, the tower collapsed, the enture building destroyed by an earthquake (in the 11th or 12the century)--that you'd think it would make people wonder about this whole Christianity business. I mean, they try to put a good face on it, but the destruction is much more impressive than the reconstruction.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Best Editorial Ever


From today's Washington Post

CRAIG'S LUST
Hypocritical? Don't Ask.
By William Saletan
Sunday, September 2, 2007; Page B02


Poor Larry Craig. He's being held to the same standard of sexual conduct he imposed on the U.S. armed forces.

Fourteen years ago, in his first term as a Republican senator from Idaho, Craig helped enact the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The Air Force, for instance, now says that any airman will be discharged if he "has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act."

According to the report filed by the police officer who arrested Craig at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in June, Craig stood outside the officer's bathroom stall for two minutes, repeatedly looked at the officer "through the crack in the door," sat in the stall next to the officer, tapped his foot and gradually "moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot . . . within my stall area." Craig proceeded to "swipe his hand under the stall divider for a few seconds" three times, palm up, using the hand farthest from that side of Craig's stall. Most of these gestures, the officer said, are known pickup signals.

I feel sorry for Craig, who pleaded guilty three months ago to a charge of disorderly conduct. I hate the idea of cops going into bathrooms and busting people for coded gestures of interest. I'd rather live, let live and tell the guy waving his hand under the stall to buzz off. But that's not the standard Craig has applied to others. Any gay soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who admitted to doing what Craig has admitted would, at a minimum, lose his job for violating "don't ask, don't tell." In fact, many have been kicked out for less.

Most people think "don't ask, don't tell" means that if you don't announce that you're gay, you can keep your job. It should mean that. But in practice, if you don't tell, the military can -- and often does -- investigate and interrogate you until you're forced to tell.

Margaret Witt, a major in the Air Force Reserve, is in the process of being discharged because she is a lesbian. How did investigators find out? An anonymous tip. They tracked down her former partner, a civilian, and got the woman to admit that she and Witt had lived together. When they interrogated Witt, she confessed. If she hadn't, they could have prosecuted her for "false official statements" and imprisoned her for five years. Last fall, a federal judge conceded that Witt had "served her country faithfully and with distinction" and "did not draw attention to her sexual orientation." Nevertheless, he concluded, she had no constitutional grounds for contesting her discharge. If you don't tell, they make you tell.

Six years ago, the Army kicked out Alex Nicholson, an interrogator, under "don't ask, don't tell." How did he disclose his homosexuality? He mentioned it in a letter to a friend -- in Portuguese. A colleague found the letter, translated it and outed him. "Nobody asked me if I was gay and I wasn't telling anyone," Nicholson said. "You would think that a private letter that you had written in a foreign language would be sufficiently safe." But you would be wrong.

Last year, the Army discharged Bleu Copas, a sergeant, from the 82nd Airborne. The basis? Anonymous e-mails. The first time superiors asked Copas whether he was gay, the context was informal, and he denied it. The next time, they put him under formal interrogation -- "Have you ever engaged in homosexual activity or conduct?" -- and he refused to answer. Eventually, to avoid prosecution for perjury, he gave in.

Four days ago, the Record newspaper in Stockton, Calif., reported the recent expulsion of Randy Miller, a paratrooper who served in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne. His offense? Being in a gay bar -- and rejecting a proposition from a fellow soldier, who apparently retaliated by reporting him to the Army. Like Witt, Miller admitted his homosexuality, but only under interrogation. If you don't tell, they make you tell.

Compare any of these cases to Craig's. You cohabit quietly with a same-sex partner for six years. You write a letter to a friend in Portuguese. You deny being gay but are interrogated until you give in. You're spotted in a gay bar rejecting a sexual overture. For these offenses, you lose your career -- thanks, in part, to a man who stared and extended his hands and feet repeatedly into a neighboring bathroom stall.

Were Craig's gestures ambiguous? Not by his own standards. Under the details of "don't ask, don't tell," he'd have to prove that what he did was "a departure from [his] usual and customary behavior," that it was "unlikely to recur" and that he did "not have a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts." But the Idaho Statesman reports three other incidents, from 1967 to 2004, in which Craig allegedly made similar overtures. On the newspaper's Web site, you can listen to an interview in which one of the men describes his tryst with Craig in a public bathroom. These accounts, combined with Craig's arrest report, would easily get him thrown out of the Army if he were a soldier.

Did Craig's arrest chasten him about "don't ask, don't tell"? Not a bit. "I don't believe the military should be a place for social experimentation," he wrote to a constituent two weeks ago. "It is unacceptable to risk the lives of American soldiers and sailors merely to accommodate the sexual lifestyles of certain individuals."

Now you know why Craig tried to withdraw his guilty plea. The cardinal rule of "don't ask, don't tell" isn't heterosexuality. It's hypocrisy. The one thing you can't do is tell the truth.

In that sense, Craig honored the policy in his own life. But that's the only sense. I don't think what he did should cost him his career. I'd like to cut him some slack. But first, I'd like to restore the careers of a few thousand gay Americans who have done a lot more for their country.

human@slate.com

William Saletan is national correspondent for Slate, the online magazine at www.slate.com.