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The Situationist International redux

Here is a short documentary on the Situationists movement (in three parts) related to a show: “On the passage of a few people through a brief moment in time. The Situationist International (1957-1972

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Comité de salut public: Monsieur, it's time to go!

Portrait of Marat While reading the remarkable book by R.R. Palmer, _Twelve Who Ruled, the Year of Terror in the French Revolution_, I began to wonder what sort of monstrous evils can be unleashed in the name of “protecting the people,” or in the French example, both liberating them from a corrupt aristocracy while at the same time plunging them into other forms of tyranny.   One can only wonder:  whose security is being protected, the security of the people?  Dont la sécurité et qui est sans danger? The security of the committee itself?  And who will make sure that these precious tribunals will not turn into paranoid and despotic cages of lunatics?  En effet, personne ne regarde, car personne ne se soucie… And then, of course we have our own contemporary examples, with a war on terror, and with invasive full-body scanners stripping the populace to their short hairs.  No, you will not find any of the people whose security is really being protected going through those scanners, but they will beat down the rest of us with the idea that we must submit to all of their demands, to keep us on the defensive, because naturally all of us, even the most patriotic citizens who believe in freedom, equality, and justice are suspect!   If we are not sniveling with our heads bowed, obviously we must be under suspicion.   Is there no end to the preposterous bullshit that the ruling class will come up with to keep us in line?  hmmph, as Proudhon said, “The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!“   And so we might pause to consider these portraits of the twelve who ruled that committee for public safety, along with some other grands hommes et femmes from the French Revolution.  Remember, they did not achieve their goal of establishing a fair government and democracy…since chopping off heads - apparently - is not enough to eradicate the predatory ruling class.   Should we, yes mere mortals here, seek to remove the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity“ (to borrow the apt metaphor from Matt Taibbi), we must follow the money and deprive them of their access to it.  It’s blood simple.   Get the bastards away from the money.

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Encapsulated Man

“Behold the astronaut, fully equipped for duty: a scaly creature, more like an oversized ant than a primate — certainly not a naked god. To survive on the moon he must be encased in an even mo

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Bazara at the Shin-Yakushiji Temple in Nara

This wild-haired figure is one of the “Twelve Heavenly Generals” guarding the Buddha at Shin-Yakushiji Temple. You can really grok the origins of those wild manga hairstyles when you get a close loo

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Science Fiction Art of Charles Binger

Looking over some covers for Pennant Books and Bantam Books from the 1950s, I noticed several interesting and moody paintings with a signature that reminded me of Bayre Phillips. See for example Phillips signature on the left, and the signature of Charles Binger on the right. Although they both have a downward stroke in the middle, Phillips tends to have a rounder, upslanting B, and always ends with a curving capital E with an accent mark! Once I knew that that Binger was a unique painter, I gathered up the best images I could find, and there were some excellent ones! In addition the science fiction covers that follow (below the jump), there were quite a few in mystery, adventure, romance, western and the like…all of them with a soft, fluid style, using watercolors and oils, presumably, for some terrific effects. If I had to identify a hallmark style in these paintings, I would say that Binger likes to separate areas of the composition with color shapes that are smudged, that look like edges of torn rough-fiber paper softened with water. It’s a pity that I can’t find any biographical info on Binger in any of the usual reference books or on the internet. Hopefully, someone out there will contact me and fill in the life story of this fine artist.

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Having your Stalinist Cake & Eating it, too

I’ve had these wrappers laying around on my desk for over a year, already, sheesh! Elizabeth Kaske brought them when she visited us for a brunch last summer, explaining that her Russian friend always had plenty to share. These chocolates are part of the Red October (Красный Октябрь) series of confections, commemorating the Soviet takeover of Petrograd in 1917. My favorite is the “Capitol Candy” label, featuring one of the famous Stalinist Cake buildings in Moscow. Of course, the squirrel is amusing, too. I didn’t know squirrels in Russia had sea monkey antennas. Thanks, Elizabeth!

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Bigots vs. Comic Book Fans

When the extremely homo-phobic and generally insane self-described Christians led by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Church decided to protest the “idolotry“ and “skimpily clad whores“ of San Diego Comic Con, there was bound to be an interesting response.  You have to wonder why a few brain dead “true believers” (read: provocateurs) go up against the teaming throng of tens of thousands of comic book nerds…when you know the reaction is going to be an absolute trash fest.   But, thank heavens, the comic fans didn’t fail! Bender, of Futurama fame, had his moment in the sun, holding a KILL ALL HUMANS sign and shouting: “Westboro Church, bite my shiny metal ass!”   Wish I had been there for that one! _ _

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Roll Your Own: Authentic Onigiri Rice Balls

At Readercon two weekends ago, I was happily munching on my home-made O-nigiri rice balls, but nobody believed that they I had made them myself. In fact, it’s pretty easy to make the exact replicas

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Readercon 21 - True Tales of Great Editing

Gordon van Gelder launched the session by asking the panelists to relate an anecdote about great editing, and Patrick O’Leary started off with a note about David Hartwell. O’Leary said, “Hartwell grasped the contents of a story I sent him and shook them down to their basic elements, then he tossed them back at me and demanded a rewrite, along the lines of: Does the main character of this story have to be a monster, a pederast, AND a fire-breathing dragon? Why not just pick two of those and go with that?” Brian Francis Slattery pointed out, that even though editors suggestions can often save a bad story, if they get too involved in the writing process, they can edit the story into incoherence. He cited an example of his own editing in which he so completely rewrote the story that it was both unrecognizable as the author’s style and had, at the same time, become incomprehensible. Barry Malzberg said that if he had to choose an example, he would cite Horace Gold, “for pulling the Demolished Man out Alfred Bester, which was a great exploit!” Van Gelder asked, “What about Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon? Isn’t there a story about Gold asking Keyes to change the ending, and Keyes’ neighbor said to him, if you do that, I’ll go back to my house, get a baseball bat and use it break both your knees!”

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Readercon 21, another feast for the mind

Great fun at this year’s Readercon 2010, which left me with plenty of food for thought! My stash was nicely replenished with a few dozens books, including some works by Jack Vance, Mack Reynolds and Tim Powers, whose backlist I’ve been catching up on recently. Speaking of Vance, our friends at StarShipSofa have conducted a fine hour-long interview with him, worthy of a listen. In the dealer’s room, I have to say that Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld and Wyrm Publishing) had a terrific rack of cheap books, for which I thank him immensely! Neil had a signed copy of the rare Fain the Sorcerer by Steve Aylett, who wrote the really strange biography of SF’s mysterious Lint, among other excursions into the bizarre. Although Neil’s price was really reasonable, it would have cost more than the entire stack of books I purchased at the con… so maybe when I get rich! Dark Hollow books, along with all their fine supernatural horror selection, had a box of 50 cent paperbacks where I scored copies of Moorcock’s Hollow Lands and Fury by Henry Kuttner. Thanks kind people! Also of interest was my conversation with Darrel Schweitzer about my good friend Harry O. Morris. Darrell said that it was Harry O., in his famous Lovecraftian zine Nyctalops, who discovered both the writer Thomas Ligotti and the artist J.K. Potter. Although Harry often mentioned various works by Ligotti and Potter in our conversations, he never once bragged about having “discovered” them, in any sense. So it was really a pleasant surprise to hear those words of recognition from a supernatural horror writer and scholar of Schweitzer’s stature. Disclosure: I suppose Harry O. “discovered” me too, since my teenage participation in various exquisite corpse poems (with Harry O.) and collages (with Leslie Hall) were published in Nyctalops here and there. Caveat: probably “discovery” doesn’t count unless I do something more significant, like publish a novel or painting elsewhere, though, alas…