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Are you a werewolf, or not? Who can say...

   Having just finished a riveting gothic fantasy novel about werewolves by Tanith Lee, it occurs to me that moral ambiguity is the core theme of the books I have been reading lately.  In _Lycanthia_, Lee portrays the vagueries of a consumptive city-dweller, a self-involved pianist, who comes into a large country manor in the “old country” by way of an inheritance.   His reluctant arrival to take possession of the family manor house, and his petulant mood swings in dealing with the superstitious locals, provide the perfect backdrop for his eventual crisis. The appearance of large wolf-like dogs, and warnings about a nefarious family, the de Lagenay’s, hiding in the forest, draw the unwitting anti-hero, perhaps fittingly named Christian, into a web of conflicts that quickly begins to resonate with emotional depth.  The ambiguity of all the surface facts -   are the de Lagenays really werewolves?  are the superstitious villagers good or evil?  is the doctor saving his life or condemning him to fate worse than death? is the upright piano an instrument of beauty or torture?  — serve to heighten the tension as Christian becomes ever-more-tightly entwined with the de Lagenays, whom he variously insults, assaults, loves, worships, honors and betrays.

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Der Twist Beginnt

Apologies for being absent in recent weeks / months. It was a crazy stressful time at work, involving various business trips to faraway places. It’s time for some stress-reduction! And some whimsy! Y

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All Roads Lead to Glycon

It was pleasant to be the first person to check out Widener’s copy of _Alan Moore, Storyteller_, the new hardcover biography by Gary Spencer Millidge.  Before the shiny crisp pages of Moore’s in

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Soviet Pop Dirvishes: Ensemble Birch

On BoingBoing there is a link to this “hypnotic folk dance,” which only one commentator identified correctly as Nadia Nadezhdin’s ensemble Birch founded in 1948.  (Thanks, Terry di Paolo!)  However, it is worth pointing out that the name of this particular piece, Прялица, means “spinning jenny,”  as in spinning of thread for weaving cloth.  This should be obvious from the motions of the performers as they sit and twist the braids of the thread, and is reinforced by the threads strung over the stage, and the camera angles taken through the skein of strings.   If you watch closely, you will also note that the patterns of the rotating group (when viewed from above) actually resembles different aspects of the spinning wheel, a technology that was much closer to the ordinary Soviet citizen of the 50s (when this dance was most likely performed). Other internal evidence to date this piece can be seen in the fascinating crowd scenes at the end of the performance.   The giant klieg lights have fine molded vents and precision external gears.  It’s rather difficult to guess at a date of manufacture, but they clearly look like post WWII, pre 1970s objects.  But the image of these technical workers at the controls of great lights is a wonderful tribute to the socialist realism of the original futurists, a pure homage to Rodchenko, if you ask me!

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Bob Dobbs was right... Wage Slaves must slack

Reading Jennifer Szalai’s article on Dwight MacDonald’s _Masscult and Midcult_ in this week’s Nation, gave me pause to reflect on that seemingly outmoded way of characterizing the tension between high culture (the art of museums and mid-town cinematheques) and the kibble for the rest of us low-lifes, otherwise known as kitsch. When I first encountered MacDonald’s book (in the mid-70s), there still seemed to be an impermeable wall of broadcast television and “mainstream” publishers between the zines of the samidzat press and the greater public.  Although a visit to Silver Scarab Press seemed incredibly important to me, to the outside world it was just Harry O’s basement in Albuquerque, and didn’t mean a damn thing to the churning presses of Random House in New York City.  From an objective point of view, midcult certainly seemed to be reigning triumphant!  But from my point of view, it was the hard-scrabble avant-garde who were the only worthy contributors to and creators of culture. The clarity of my position was both reinforced and at the same time shattered when I moved to New York City on 1978, and  found myself in a cultural battle zone — Sid Vicious would barely outlive the Sex Pistols, but the night scene was a mind-numbing cacophony of voices: the Plasmatics, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, the Specials, the Lounge Lizards, John Shirley’s Obsession.  As fast as the record labels could buy and co-opt the rebellious new wave, another wave of furious, almost insanely self-destructive performers hurled themselves onto the ramparts.  Following them were a new generation of fans, who transmitted streams of punk news through any and all channels.   As much as I couldn’t actually stand listening to these punks and their continuous howl of mindless rage, they did validate my own state of war with the brainwashing of the establishment’s media.

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TO THE POLICE OF AMERICA

Do not be like this. Spraying chemical agents into the faces of harmless people is the act of a sociopath. That way lies madness! Police Officers: all of you walking the beat in American cities from Galveston to Toledo, from Miami to Portland, I believe that the vast majority of you are working to protect your fellow citizens. But we have reached a moment of crisis in our society. The wealth of our nation has been robbed, the banks looted, the government bought by corporations, and our future sold down the river. Police of America, you have to ask yourselves, when you are told to violently attack unarmed protesters and to arrest those expressing their constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech: who is it you serve? Who is in danger and who is being protected? In fact, the majority of Americans have seen their real incomes shrink, or their jobs vanish, or their homes foreclosed, or their children impoverished. It is the majority of Americans, the 99%, who are in danger. Isn’t that obvious? And yet your orders are coming from the 1%, that is to say the rich and super-rich, who have reaped gigantic profits from the horrible suffering they have created. Their financial schemes, such as hedge funds and bundled real estate securities, are the ROOT CAUSE of the economic crisis we are now facing, and yet they are being protected? Protected from what? They are criminals.

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OccupyMeme

As Occupy Wall Street has grown from a demonstration to a social movement, it is inspiring to see many good things emerging. Perhaps the most basic triumph of the Occupy movement has been to wrench