Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Dream

At the library again, I am looking for an illustrated book with naturalistic looking animals as fairy tale creatures. I take the book to the riverbank. The sky is at half night and the water runs with mud.

Waist deep in the river is a father in his coat and hat with his son. They stand with the bowed trees holding at branches against the current. Calculating stillness as a white spotted owl negotiates branch after branch stretching out its wings just outside the defence of its nest. It seems indifferent to their presence despite its size and close proximity. The river silt is poisoned by heavy metals and radiation and countless industrial disasters. The father lifts a branch and his son passes under to poke his finger into the owl's nest. There is a smudge of black grease as he wipes off his cheek.

Nausea overcomes the boy white as a ghost against the pale night. And the quiet roar coaxes him shyly into the deeper water as his father sobs. Gravity and the strength of his legs give slowly into the current. Below, the soft stones are felt again and again by the kiss of every passing scale and fin.

Along comes a woman on a raft reading Baudrillard who sees the crying father and offers to give him a lift. She tells him there is a barn down river that can grant wishes. There his son can be given back to him. He follows along beside her wading though the cursed sands of the muddy river. Even the raft is smashed to pieces. Her violet dress spreads open all around her carried by the current. The bottom reveals itself wordlessly: a rock, a trout, a patch of weeds. Ahead they reach a clearing where they can see the building standing on shore. They lift their heavy legs through the sand into the dark end of the day.

I follow them from the river bank up the path to the barn. Inside the large dark gray room are the smells of straw and cobwebs. Leaning against the back corner is a very tall painting in yellow of the Virgin. We dissapear behind it into a passage. The next room has a open wall on the other side, a winding que for horses or some other animal, a kind of arcade. [or a stage?] The presence in the room is obvious at once. I try not to think about money. Only wishing for the return of this man's son would be appropriate. The three of us are hushed in delirious cyclical prayer. Just then at the sound of a wooden gate the boy crosses the arcade in the darkness from stage-left, exiting stage right beyond the black curtain. Its him. He crosses lightly again and his father rushes to meet him, opening the front wooden gate to the winding arcade. He grabs his boy tearfully, overjoyed to see him.

The recognition in the boy's face fades, however. Something sinister has replaced it, maybe knowing, maybe just someone else. The father begins to strangle the boy. It occurs to us we may have gotten more than the boy, a demonic trick. The barn door opens to the daylight and the farm hand storms in with his gun, the stable boy's father behind, old and terrified. The stagehand takes fire at the father, but is taken by the woman. She struggles for the gun and wrestling with his arms he shoots himself in the face. Father grabs the old man and strings him up by the neck, woman grabbing the rope and hoisting him up to the death. He swings like a pendulum to the woman's pulling, smashing into the stage-wall over and over, until his body dangles crushed and lifeless. An entire family murdered by reckless strangers from off the river.

We used to dream of oceans.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


An Existential Thursday for the history books. MILK was an exceptional movie! Emile Hirsh doing sit-ups was absolutely awesome. Everybody was awesome. Sean Penn and James Franco making out? Kind of creepy (especially that wig Penn was wearing), but still awesome.

The story was told in a pretty conventional way, predictable I should say, but the acting was top notch. Even Franco was not bad. The photography was dark and grainy and if you absolutely love 35mm film, it was mesmerizing to watch. The scene outside Milk's birthday party with the wallpaper? Flourescent light mashing up the color temperatures and casting a flicker over the kitchen in Harvey's apartment? Realistic lighting. Large format. Super-wide lenses. Film cannot die. Gus Van Sant is a true believer.

Watching this film was a very emotional experience. The victory over Prop. 6 in the movie felt extremely bittersweet given the current political climate. But, I can't imagine better timing for a film like this. I think it will stand a monument for better gay political films to come. Brokeback Mountain was an important film as far as creating empathy for closeted gay men in the hearts of a larger straight audience. MILK celebrates victory, tenacity, and hope. Its not just about staying alive. Its about kicking some fucking ass. Its about coming out and acting out despite how society may retaliate. There's no sense of victimization. There is a clear sense that victory comes to the bold, hard-won as it may be. That is the kind of film we need.

I am interested in what films can be considered as real predecessors to a film like MILK. Was it just a conventional protest film repackaged for the GLBT movement? Is it really any kind of first in gay film? It is certainly one of the best of its kind, but these are the natural questions that come to mind after seeing MILK. There must be others like it, if not already out there, soon to come in the future.

On that note, I am off to write some really disturbing letters to Emile Hirsh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Listen. We all know that Rachel Maddow is the smartest person on TV, but let's be serious for a second.

It she not also the hottest person on TV?

Perhaps I have already said too much. Regardless, she is back from vacation tonight on MSNBC, 8PM Central time. I feel like brownies just taken from the oven. Love brownies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Well, its Tuesday. And what better to do on a Tuesday than trace the Spanish roots of the Legend of Zelda?

The Symbolist themes seem clear enough. Zelda, our girlfriend in a coma, is the classic pale Ophelia of Knopff and Millais. These artists were not so much a part of an art movement as part of a mystic underground influenced by the same ancient Greek and Norse myths that would influence Tolkein or Harryhausen's monsters in Jason and the Argonauts.

Adventure of Link takes the Zelda aesthetic in a decidedly "Iberian" direction. Listen to the Phrygian scales in the musical introduction. I can hear it a little in the first Zelda, but they make it pretty obvious here when they go straight into the flamenco chords for those willing to wait past the first seconds of echoing notes. The towns are very flat and sandy, with a wild west main drag and flat rooftops. The harbor town of Mido even has a mission. The women look like they are about to break into a tango. Maybe it is not so much Spanish as it is Latin American. Or Mexican. Maybe we are to believe its a Western?

Did I mention that I am completely serious?

The Thunderbird itself, the final boss, comes from North American mythology. One was apparently shot out of the sky by cowboys and was described to look much like a pterodactyl.

I am not saying that this is hard to believe. I am just asking, did you ever notice it? So much for Tuesday.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I have not posted in a few days. I was getting afraid I might have set the bar too high with my article on Romanian castles and I was not sure how to follow up.

Anyways, I was going through my Taschen book of Symbolist painters and noticed an etching of a nude woman stuffing her foot into a man's face when all the sudden, "THAT'S BRUNO SCHULZ!" Two whole pages. Slavic Symbolists! Who would have guessed? Crazy, what's hiding just beneath the surface. Frantisek Kupka is also great. See the spooky inspiration for the castle in Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula?"

Frantisek Kupka the painter, not Franz Kafka the writer. Totally different?

Randomly, I have kicked up an interest again in Zelda II: Adventure of Link. It's so dark and strange. And nearly impossible to play. I do not play enough video games to qualify to call it underrated. It's just a strange corner of my childhood that was so important at the time, right before I really gave up playing and started music. Why did I love Zelda so much? I was obsessed. Aside from the one or two girls I would seeming choose at random to be completely terrified of every school year, she was the one. I was not very competitive or accomplished as a gamer. It was just an extra-curricular study in magic and vagabondage. Outside, I would sit at the stump of where there was once a giant weeping willow in the back yard and mix grass and soda and pinecones into concoctions to pour over the neighbors fence, as an offering to gods I imagined as I saw fit. Inside, it was the Bible, the Encyclopedia, or Nintendo. Grimoires of study.

One day, its going to make an amazingly awful film.

P.S. Did I mention I loved Street of Crocodiles? "Its the joke that kills you on a crumpled receipt blowing in the wind just before you catch it with your foot only to discover your name all over it with pictures of your family in someone elses handwriting. Its an echo that walks." That's right. I just quoted myself. It's that good.

P.P.S. Why does Dracula keep coming up? Enough already! Why won't you die?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Then the colours deepened by an octave; the sitting room filled up with darkness as if plunged into the luminosity of the deep sea, still dimly reflected in mirrors of green, while all the day’s torrid heat breathed on the blinds, swaying gently to the reveries of the midday hour.

Bruno Schulz, The Cinnamon Shops

I have been very excited by a few new finds. New to me anyways. First, I should mention the absolutely awesome blogs of Aeron Alfry. The great woodcut below of the Mouth of Hell comes from one of his blogs called
Monster Brains. I could probably steal pictures from him forever. And on that note, I should mention that the next subject of this particular entry is also stolen from one of Mr. Alfry's blogs.

For years and years I have been hoping to land on a copy of some of the short films of The Brothers Quay. The Criterion Collection has been stalling forever and I am not particularly resourceful. I am a huge fan of stop-action animation, particularly the work of
Jan Svankmajer and Yuri Norstein. I remember hearing about the Brothers Quay back when Tool videos were still played on MTV. And, lucky me, Alfry's site just happened to have a video of Street of the Crocodiles.

Street of the Crocodiles (High Quality)

This is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. I am given to healthy doses of hyperbole, so you will just have to believe me. You have seen this film before, in derivative forms. The "Closer" video is an almost shot for shot remake. The use of shallow depth of field, raw meat, and tracking shots of 4 inch tall mechanical genius actors is, frankly, unparalleled. Technically, lyrically, stylistically perfect. And that's not all.

The film is based on a short story by Bruno Schulz called The Cinnamon Shops. I found a link to an English translation
online. In the first story of Street of the Crocodiles, August, every sentence is lucid and beautiful, soaked in synesthesia. We have become fast friends. As you get older it becomes harder to find things that can really shake you down. I really hope you hate it. Because it makes me feel really really cool that I found it first.

And isn't that what matters most... in the end?

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Its Sunday, and there is not a whole lot to write about. My PC just about exploded so I have been at the mercy of friends and relatives. Thanks Teri. Thanks Dad. What better to do on a Sunday night than google yourself?
Anyways, apparently Hellmouth has something to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just to clear things up, despite my popularity with wiccans, bisexuals, and LARPing enthusiasts, I have never been a fan. How bourgeois. But I do enjoy horror. I'm thinking about taking a stab at Bram Stoker's Dracula. Strange ethnography in the beginning. Strange because that was pretty much the first thing that fascinated me about that whole area of Romania. Crazy Castles! The history of Romania is really something else. Have you ever heard of a Hunger Circus? Ceausescu wanted to create large stadium-like complexes where people would grow food in the center and work and live in the outer ring. Only, due to the famine created by massive debt owed to the United States (I miss the Cold War), all the food had to be shipped out to feed everybody else. So... everybody starved. Hence, the "agro-alimentary complex" became the better-known "hunger circus". Romania was the only US backed communist country in Europe during the Cold War. Talk about reaching across the aisle! Coincidentally, it is also the only communist dictatorship in Europe to end in a bloody democratic coup. The hunger circuses were later developed into shopping malls. Then the vampires really came out.

Back on the subject of Dracula, check out some of these stories about Vlad the Impaler. Got to love the titles. "Story of a Blood Thirsty Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia". The great thing about classical art revisiting the same themes over and over again is that you, yes you, might one day portrayed as Pontius Pilate.

I'll admit, I'm jealous. CRAZY CASTLES!

Friday, November 7, 2008


While this election was certainly historic by most measures, it is difficult to say what exactly it will mean in terms of the political direction the next four years will take. Certainly there will be some pull to the left. But will Obama rule as a liberal or a centrist? Looking at his positions or political appointments so far has not necessarily been any more enlightening. And I think this coyness is in some sense exactly his purpose.

Lets assume Obama wants to change the argument. He seems to avoid defining his positions on wedge issues much to the chagrin of liberals and conservatives alike. Perhaps there is some wisdom in this. The republican agenda for the last 30 years has been to use wedge issues to break off large pieces of the broad democratic base. Roe v. Wade didn't become an issue until strategists like Pat Buchanan realized it could pull Catholics and Evangelicals from the New Deal coalition. Affirmative action was at its creation a compromise offered to avoid more radical and effective assertions of worker and community control of the means of production. Now, liberals have been forced into an argument where they have to defend a compromise, an argument designed to exploit racial tension. The conservative strategy has been to turn human rights issues into identity issues. Isolate the voter, and create a nation of voters who think purely in terms of subjective political arguments. The Karl Rove wager is that a nation of people who only think in terms of their own self interests will vote republican every time. For a long time, it seemed he might be right.

Now take a look at something like the Obama Tax-cut. If a republican doesn't have a leg to stand on, they can always accuse the other guy of trying to raise your taxes. But what if you cut the taxes of 95% of americans while raising taxes on the super-rich to Clinton era levels? To call tax cuts for the richest americans Conservative and tax cuts for almost all americans Communist is more than just a little hard to swallow, and it cuts straight to the heart of the argument. You never have to say, "Voting for a republican is a vote against your own class." It just suddenly becomes obvious. Find the pivot point that redefines the issues in terms of unity over division. Because a nation of voters that think in terms of their collective interests will vote Democrat, every time. That, is the Obama wager.

Something Chomsky talks about a lot is that the vast majority of americans are well to the left of most politicians, especially Obama. They want abortions, free health care, fair trade, and so on. Only they assume that's also what their politicians want, which is not really the case. It is just rarely discussed in depth. I will agree that pains are made to avoid discussing policy and that the focus is placed instead on strategy or other superficialities. You will have to excuse me for making this same mistake. However, I am not entirely sure this explains the outcome of this particular election.

McCain/Palin ran on a platform of openly acknowledged policy disasters. All of them protecting the privileges of a very small minority of americans while ensuring disaster to most. The popular vote was still very close. The people who voted for McCain were not, at least consciously, thirsting for more rigorous policy debate. If anything, Obama's relatively lightweight detours into policy were labeled as lofty, effete, and ethereal. Or just boring. And to suppose they did subconsciously desire anything else is called elitist. If we are to believe what pundits say about the attitudes of average americans, anyways. But we don't have to ask the pundits, look at the numbers. 46% of the electorate agreed. They might not agree with or even know all of Senator McCain's positions, but they consented. What are we to make of that?

Well, I have one or two ideas.

They are stupid and they need to be tricked. The republicans tricked them for thirty years in one direction and we need to trick them long enough in the other until they can figure it out themselves. One could argue that relying on debate that insults the intelligence of the nation is hardly destined to enlighten anyone, but I am afraid that just might be how peaceful reform operates. Refocus the national attention, use tiny words, explain as little as possible. Point them in the right direction. Congratulate them often. Always let them believe it was their idea. And watch them pat themselves on the back as they float happily through the river of time, unconscious of the weeds and rocks ahead of them, amazed at their forward progress. When the time comes, we can expect that some enlightened person standing on shore will find them should they wash up against the rocks, and have the patience to kick them downstream. And we can judge if it was patience or just gullibility depending on if they themselves get soaked.

The alternative is speaking to people as if their brains worked the same way yours did. To shock the ignorant by speaking to them plainly and sincerely, defending progressive policies and advocating their uncompromised victory. Pulling survivors from the river of time. Building new cities on rock of reason. Mourning the dead. Loving the living. Choosing honesty. Choosing heroism. Getting soaked.

This dichotomy itself is the one wedge issue that has washed the Left upon the rocks. It discounts work, and the ability to honestly convince another of the right thing. I suppose the question I have been asking myself in this long meandering mess is: what is the value of strategy? This is an open question. It seems very non-radical to just accept that it is complicated, and that is that. However, I have personally seen the power of radical interaction and transformation. How does a radical act as president of a democratic nation with a center-right political culture? Given things as they are, and not how we might like them to be, how would we move to change political power from the top if given the chance? Perhaps it is the duty of power to be clever, and of the powerless, to be bold.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Its official. Rham Emanuel is going to be Obama's new Chief of Staff and the republicans are freaking out. This is throwing a small bone to the conservative wing of the Democratic party but I think it should be taken as good news for anybody hoping the next four years will realign American policy to the left. Rhambo might just be the partisan hack we need to get stuff done. Obama's Dick Cheney.

On a more comforting note, it seems that choosing a tough Chief of Staff should restore the constitutional impotence of the vice presidency. When Cheney weaseled his way into Bush's number two spot, he knew the operations he wanted to take over were the jobs James Baker was doing as 41's Chief of Staff. Nobody is going to "Andy-Card" Rahm Emanuel. A competent White House staff should be able to keep the (more than likely) bipartisan cabinet in check and avoid the kind of ridiculous mistakes that compounded the Iraqi disaster.

On that note, what kind of shenanigans do you think he's learning about at the National Security briefing? Do you think he's pull a Kruchev? If only...

P.S. Hah! Did anyone notice that youtube video of Emanuel for VP suddenly dissapeared? You know, the one where Durbin says that if Rahm had shot somebody on a hunting trip nobody would be calling it an accident? How truly bizarre... what timing!


To be completely honest I still don't really know what to say. I'm still recovering from hearing Chris Matthews call Howard Dean "John the Baptist". Once they called Pennsylvania, it was over. For me, anyway. What? I'm still thinking strictly in terms of campaign strategy. No. I have not completely wrapped my head around all this yet.

Tim Russert died. Studs died. Toot died just yesterday. My god, the horror. Yesterday? How long ago was yesterday? My Uncle Jack died a few days ago. I never got to stick it in his face that the president was one of ours. You crazy bigot. I hope your watching all this.

And imagine, it was only just a few days ago he found out God was black.

We beat Sarah Palin. This time.

John McCain will never be president of the United States. Man, you really took a big shit on this one. You let your whole campaign be overrun with McCarthyite xenophobic scumbags, and they ate you alive. Thats how you chose to go out? Wow. Talk about lack. How ridiculously tragic. I will forever remember the moment where you stood in front of that gigantic crowd of backwoods psychopaths and defended your opponent as a decent man to resounding boos. They boo'd you. And you could see the horror in your face when you realized you were on the wrong side of history. When you saw in yourself that you would not, in the end, be the master of your own destiny. When you discovered your chariot was a cauldron. You would be the effigy of ghouls. You lead the parade to your own devouring. All your angels were predatory birds. And, as we can only pray to assume, it did not necessarily have to be that way. My sincerest regards, John McCain.

What will become of Joe Liebermann? The Clintons? The Neo-cons? The Banks? Before they spend eternity wrapping their wagons around the tightest circles of hell? I think of Orwell's Barcelona, when he looked around the great spirited city after the revolution and soberly wondered to himself what had become of the ruling classes. Of course! They buried their jewelry. They threw on overalls. They raised fists and railed against their former masters, wherever they were. When the wolves eat the sheep, they climb right in the wool.

And what will become of Barack Obama? The smartest man to run for president since FDR, since Lincoln? I have no idea. My expectations are guarded. But, at least, we will now get the opportunity to see. What can a leader do? What can a people do? Their interests rarely coincide. We should not be disarmed by faith. Obama does not have a trademark on idealism or hope. We can not allow him to be defined as the furthest frontier of progress. We build that bridge. It belongs to us. But we all stand on its ledge now, together, and the charge of building that more perfect union has been put in the President-elect's hands. He owes something substantial to the movement that elected him to the most powerful position not just in the country, but in the world. And most importantly, we owe it to each other to make good on our hopes in the engine of service and advocacy. It is an embarrassing time to be a cynic.

P.S. I have received at least seven different messages from friends this morning, all of them wildly concerned that I might have gotten drunk last night. For the record, I did have one beer and to be honest, I finished it. And I still fear drunk.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Hello. This is my first blog here on blogger. Just testing the waters. For history's sake, I guess I should mention that Barack Obama was just elected president last night. More on that later, I suppose.

Hmmm.... what else?

I've decided rather quickly to name this blog HELLMOUTH. You know, like the Visio Tnugdali? I was looking for some Hieronymous Bosch paintings and came across some really neat looking toys. Rather expensive toys. They blurbed a little tidbit about Bosch's royal carnivorous bird in Garden of Earthly Delights being influenced by the Visio Tnugdali. Of course, they spelled it wrong. But luckily I found the title translated into Icelandic. Icelandic! See! Hah hah hah! It was easy!

Anyways. It is also known as the Vision of Tundale. And there is the (apparently) very famous Getty Les Visions du chevalier Tondal illuminated manuscript by Simon Marmion which features an especially cool painting of Hellmouth. So there you go.

Obviously, blogging is going to be a psychiatric necessity.