ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.
He is the author of No Time to Say Goodbye: Memoirs of a Life in Foster Care and Short Stories from a Small Town. He is also the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
THE BEAT POETS
Beat poetry evolved during the 1940s in both New York City and on the west coast, although San Francisco became the heart of the movement in the early 1950s. The end of World War II left poets like Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso questioning mainstream politics and culture. A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets | Academy of American Poets https://www.poets.org/poetsorg
My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.
Listen: Their Garden Of Delights is a terminal sewer - I have been at some pains to map this area of terminal sewage in the so called pornographic sections of Naked Lunch and Soft Machine - Their Immortality Cosmic Consciousness and Love is second-run grade-B shit - Their drugs are poison designed to beam in Orgasm Death and Nova Ovens - Stay out of the Garden Of Delights - It is a man-eating trap that ends in green goo William S. Burroughs, Nova Express
All nations sold out by liars and cowards. Liars who want time for the future negatives to develop stall you with more lying offers while hot crab people mass war to extermination with the film in Rome. These reports reek of nova, sold out job, shit birth and death. Your planet has been invaded. You are dogs on all tape. The entire planet is being developed into terminal identity and complete surrender. William S. Burroughs, Nova Express
Mish Mash: noun \ˈmish-ˌmash, -ˌmäsh\ A : hodgepodge, jumble “The painting was just a mishmash of colors and abstract shapes as far as we could tell”. Origin Middle English & Yiddish; Middle English mysse masche, perhaps reduplication of mash mash; Yiddish mish-mash, perhaps reduplication of mishn to mix. First Known Use: 15th century
MUSIC FOR THE SOUL
Henotheism \HEN-uh-thee-iz-um\ : the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods. Henotheism comes to us from the German word Henotheismus, which in turn is derived from Greek hen- ("one") and theos("god"). Someone who engages in henotheism worships one god but does not deny that there are others. Max Müller, a respected 19th-century scholar, is credited with promoting the word henotheism as a counterpart to polytheism ("belief in or worship of more than one god") and monotheism ("the doctrine or belief that there is but one God"). Müller also used the related word kathenotheism, from Greek kath' hena ("one at a time"), for the worship of several gods successively.
Torpid 1. Sluggish or inactive.2. Apathetic. 3. Dormant as when hibernating. From Latin torpidus (numb), from torpere (to be stiff or numb). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ster- (stiff), which also gave us starch, stare, stork, starve, cholesterol, and torpedo.
Dyed-in-the-wool: Thoroughgoing, uncompromising. Early yarn makers would dye wool before spinning it into yarn to make the fibers retain their color longer. In 16th-century England, that make-it-last coloring practice provoked writers to draw a comparison between the dyeing of wool and the way children could, if taught early, be influenced in ways that would adhere throughout their lives. In the 19th-century U.S., the wool-dyeing practice put eloquent Federalist orator Daniel Webster in mind of a certain type of Democrat whose attitudes were as unyielding as the dye in unspun wool. Of course, Democrats were soon using the term against their opponents, too, but over time the partisanship of the expression faded and it is now a general term for anyone or anything that seems unlikely or unwilling to change.
Fastuous: (FAS-choo-uhs):1. Haughty; arrogant. 2. Pretentious. From Latin fastuosus, from fastus (arrogance).
I’m Teaching myself Spanish and this is what I learned today
Remoto: pronunciation: reh-moh'-toh. Meaning, remote; far-off
AND NOW, A BEATLES BREAK
TODAY'S ALLEGED MOB GUY
From left to right Dellacroce, unknown, Anthony Figgy Ficarotta (Genovese ,, possibly Louis Gigi Amirante Genovese associate and Nicky The Blond Frustacci (Genovese member
DON’T WORRY-BE HAPPY
HERE'S PLEASANT POEM FOR YOU TO ENJOY................
Yorkshiremen in Pub Gardens
by Gavin Ewart
Yorkshiremen in Pub Gardens
As they sit there, happily drinking,
their strokes, cancers and so forth are not in their minds.
Indeed, what earthly good would thinking
about the future (which is Death) do? Each summer finds
beer in their ands in big pint glasses.
And so their leisure passes.
Perhaps the older ones allow some inkling
into their thoughts. Being hauled, as a kid, upstairs to bed
screaming for a teddy or a tinkling
musical box, against their will. Each Joe or Fred
wants longer with the life and lasses
And so their time passes.
Second childhood: and 'Come in, number eighty!'
shouts inexorably the man in charge of the boating pool.
When you're called you must go, matey,
so don't complain, keep it all calm and cool,
there's masses of time yet, masses, masses…
And so their life passes.
Gavin Buchanan Ewart (February 4 1916 – October 25 1995) was a British poet [Scots] who contributed to Geoffrey Grigson's New Verse at the age of seventeen. Ewart was born in London and educated at Wellington College before entering Christ's College, Cambridge where he received a B.A. in 1937 and an M.A. in 1942. From the age of 17, when his poetry was first printed in Geoffrey Grigson's New Verse, he acquired a reputation for wit and accomplishment through such works as Phallus in Wonderland and Poems and Songs, which appeared in 1939 and was his first collection. The Second World War disrupted his development as a poet, however, and he published no further volumes until Londoners of 1964, although he did write the English lyrics for the "World Song" of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The intelligence and casually flamboyant virtuosity with which he framed his often humorous commentaries on human behavior made his work invariably entertaining and interesting. The irreverent eroticism for which his poetry is noted resulted in W. H. Smith's banning of his The Pleasures of the Flesh (1966) from their shops.
I LOVE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS FROM FILM
Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald. November 24, 1963. Dallas Times Herald photographer Robert Jackson is there so snap his iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph:
“I’d only been at the paper three years, so I was pretty new at it all,” remembers Jackson. “It was a really exciting time.”
The crowd is cheering, flags are flying, Jackson is snapping photographs, he stops to change film. In that instant, the world changes. Jackson hears a shot. then another, and another. Bedlam erupts. “ The scene was confusion, people running, covering up their kids,” says Jackson. “I knew somebody was shooting at the president.” Looking up at the Texas School Book Depository, Jackson sees a rifle at a window. But he has no film in his camera, less than an hour later, the president is dead.
Throughout the weekend, Jackson pursues the story. On Sunday, he shows up at the Dallas Police headquarters to photograph suspect Lee Harvey Oswald being transferred to the county jail. “I walked right in. There was no security to speak of. Nobody checked my press pass.”
In the basement garage. Jackson picks his spot. “I Pre-focused on about 10 feet where I knew that I would be able to get a clean shot. They said. ‘Here he comes’ and they brought him out.” Jackson raises his camera. Suddenly, someone steps in front of him. “My first reaction was, “This guys getting in my way.’ Ruby took two steps and fired —and I guess I fired about the same time.”
WHY THE WORLD NEEDS EDITORS.....................
THE ART OF WAR...............................
The Observation and Appreciation of Architecture
House of the Future – Disneyland, 1957 – 1967.
What Was on the Menu at the First Thanksgiving?
The history of the holiday meal tells us that turkey was always the centerpiece, but other courses have since disappeared
By Megan Gambino
Today, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes any number of dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. But if one were to create a historically accurate feast, consisting of only those foods that historians are certain were served at the so-called “first Thanksgiving,” there would be slimmer pickings. “Wildfowl was there. Corn, in grain form for bread or for porridge, was there. Venison was there,” says Kathleen Wall. “These are absolutes.”
Two primary sources—the only surviving documents that reference the meal—confirm that these staples were part of the harvest celebration shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony in 1621. Edward Winslow, an English leader who attended, wrote home to a friend:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.”
William Bradford, the governor Winslow mentions, also described the autumn of 1621, adding, “And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”
But determining what else the colonists and Wampanoag might have eaten at the 17th-century feast takes some digging. To form educated guesses, Wall, a foodways culinarian at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, studies cookbooks and descriptions of gardens from the period, archaeological remains such as pollen samples that might clue her in to what the colonists were growing.
Our discussion begins with the bird. Turkey was not the centerpiece of the meal, as it is today, explains Wall. Though it is possible the colonists and American Indians cooked wild turkey, she suspects that goose or duck was the wildfowl of choice. In her research, she has found that swan and passenger pigeons would have been available as well. “Passenger pigeons—extinct in the wild for over a century now—were so thick in the 1620s, they said you could hear them a quarter-hour before you saw them,” says Wall. “They say a man could shoot at the birds in flight and bring down 200.”
Small birds were often spit-roasted, while larger birds were boiled. “I also think some birds—in a lot of recipes you see this—were boiled first, then roasted to finish them off. Or things are roasted first and then boiled,” says Wall. “The early roasting gives them nicer flavor, sort of caramelizes them on the outside and makes the broth darker.”
It is possible that the birds were stuffed, though probably not with bread. (Bread, made from maize not wheat, was likely a part of the meal, but exactly how it was made is unknown.) The Pilgrims instead stuffed birds with chunks of onion and herbs. “There is a wonderful stuffing for goose in the 17th-century that is just shelled chestnuts,” says Wall. “I am thinking of that right now, and it is sounding very nice.” Since the first Thanksgiving was a three-day celebration, she adds, “I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day. That broth thickened with grain to make a pottage.”
In addition to wildfowl and deer, the colonists and Wampanoag probably ate eels and shellfish, such as lobster, clams and mussels. “They were drying shellfish and smoking other sorts of fish,” says Wall.
The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby-Dick
The whaler Essex was indeed sunk by a whale—and that's only the beginning
By Gilbert King
In July of 1852, a 32-year-old novelist named Herman Melville had high hopes for his new novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, despite the book’s mixed reviews and tepid sales. That month he took a steamer to Nantucket for his first visit to the Massachusetts island, home port of his novel’s mythic protagonist, Captain Ahab, and his ship, the Pequod. Like a tourist, Melville met local dignitaries, dined out and took in the sights of the village he had previously only imagined.
And on his last day on Nantucket he met the broken-down 60-year-old man who had captained the Essex, the ship that had been attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in an 1820 incident that had inspired Melville’s novel. Captain George Pollard Jr. was just 29 years old when the Essex went down, and he survived and returned to Nantucket to captain a second whaling ship, Two Brothers. But when that ship wrecked on a coral reef two years later, the captain was marked as unlucky at sea—a “Jonah”—and no owner would trust a ship to him again. Pollard lived out his remaining years on land, as the village night watchman.
Melville had written about Pollard briefly in Moby-Dick, and only with regard to the whale sinking his ship. During his visit, Melville later wrote, the two merely “exchanged some words.” But Melville knew Pollard’s ordeal at sea did not end with the sinking of the Essex, and he was not about to evoke the horrific memories that the captain surely carried with him. “To the islanders he was a nobody,” Melville wrote, “to me, the most impressive man, tho’ wholly unassuming, even humble—that I ever encountered.”
Pollard had told the full story to fellow captains over a dinner shortly after his rescue from the Essex ordeal, and to a missionary named George Bennet. To Bennet, the tale was like a confession. Certainly, it was grim: 92 days and sleepless nights at sea in a leaking boat with no food, his surviving crew going mad beneath the unforgiving sun, eventual cannibalism and the harrowing fate of two teenage boys, including Pollard’s first cousin, Owen Coffin. “But I can tell you no more—my head is on fire at the recollection,” Pollard told the missionary. “I hardly know what I say.”
The trouble for Essex began, as Melville knew, on August 14, 1819, just two days after it left Nantucket on a whaling voyage that was supposed to last two and a half years. The 87-foot-long ship was hit by a squall that destroyed its topgallant sail and nearly sank it. Still, Pollard continued, making it to Cape Horn five weeks later. But the 20-man crew found the waters off South America nearly fished out, so they decided to sail for distant whaling grounds in the South Pacific, far from any shores.
To restock, the Essex anchored at Charles Island in the Galapagos, where the crew collected sixty 100-pound tortoises. As a prank, one of the crew set a fire, which, in the dry season, quickly spread. Pollard’s men barely escaped, having to run through flames, and a day after they set sail, they could still see smoke from the burning island. Pollard was furious, and swore vengeance on whoever set the fire. Many years later Charles Island was still a blackened wasteland, and the fire was believed to have caused the extinction of both the Floreana Tortoise and the Floreana Mockingbird.
By November of 1820, after months of a prosperous voyage and a thousand miles from the nearest land, whaleboats from the Essex had harpooned whales that dragged them out toward the horizon in what the crew called “Nantucket sleigh rides.” Owen Chase, the 23-year-old first mate, had stayed aboard the Essex to make repairs while Pollard went whaling. It was Chase who spotted a very big whale—85 feet in length, he estimated—lying quietly in the distance, its head facing the ship. Then, after two or three spouts, the giant made straight for the Essex, “coming down for us at great celerity,” Chase would recall—at about three knots. The whale smashed head-on into the ship with “such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces.”
The whale passed underneath the ship and began thrashing in the water. “I could distinctly see him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury,” Chase recalled. Then the whale disappeared. The crew was addressing the hole in the ship and getting the pumps working when one man cried out, “Here he is—he is making for us again.” Chase spotted the whale, his head half out of water, bearing down at great speed—this time at six knots, Chase thought. This time it hit the bow directly under the cathead and disappeared for good.
The water rushed into the ship so fast, the only thing the crew could do was lower the boats and try fill them with navigational instruments, bread, water and supplies before the Essex turned over on its side.
Pollard saw his ship in distress from a distance, then returned to see the Essex in ruin. Dumbfounded, he asked, “My God, Mr. Chase, what is the matter?”
“We have been stove by a whale,” his first mate answered.
Another boat returned, and the men sat in silence, their captain still pale and speechless. Some, Chase observed, “had no idea of the extent of their deplorable situation.”
The men were unwilling to leave the doomed Essex as it slowly foundered, and Pollard tried to come up with a plan. In all, there were three boats and 20 men. They calculated that the closest land was the Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands, and Pollard wanted to set off for them—but in one of the most ironic decisions in nautical history, Chase and the crew convinced him that those islands were peopled with cannibals and that the crew’s best chance for survival would be to sail south. The distance to land would be far greater, but they might catch the trade winds or be spotted by another whaling ship. Only Pollard seemed to understand the implications of steering clear of the islands. (According to Nathaniel Philbrick, in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, although rumors of cannibalism persisted, traders had been visiting the islands without incident.)
Thus they left the Essex aboard their 20-foot boats. They were challenged almost from the start. Saltwater saturated the bread, and the men began to dehydrate as they ate their daily rations. The sun was ravaging. Pollard’s boat was attacked by a killer whale. They spotted land—Henderson Island—two weeks later, but it was barren. After another week the men began to run out of supplies. Still, three of them decided they’d rather take their chances on land than climb back into a boat. No one could blame them. And besides, it would stretch the provisions for the men in the boats.
By mid-December, after weeks at sea, the boats began to take on water, more whales menaced the men at night, and by January, the paltry rations began to take their toll. On Chase’s boat, one man went mad, stood up and demanded a dinner napkin and water, then fell into “most horrid and frightful convulsions” before perishing the next morning. “Humanity must shudder at the dreadful recital” of what came next, Chase wrote. The crew “separated limbs from his body, and cut all the flesh from the bones; after which, we opened the body, took out the heart, and then closed it again—sewed it up as decently as we could, and committed it to the sea.” They then roasted the man’s organs on a flat stone and ate them.
Over the coming week, three more sailors died, and their bodies were cooked and eaten. One boat disappeared, and then Chase’s and Pollard’s boats lost sight of each other. The rations of human flesh did not last long, and the more the survivors ate, the hungrier they felt. On both boats the men became too weak to talk. The four men on Pollard’s boat reasoned that without more food, they would die. On February 6, 1821—nine weeks after they’d bidden farewell to the Essex—Charles Ramsdell, a teenager, proposed they draw lots to determine who would be eaten next. It was the custom of the sea, dating back, at least in recorded instance, to the first half of the 17th century. The men in Pollard’s boat accepted Ramsdell’s suggestion, and the lot fell to young Owen Coffin, the captain’s first cousin.
Pollard had promised the boy’s mother he’d look out for him. “My lad, my lad!” the captain now shouted, “if you don’t like your lot, I’ll shoot the first man that touches you.” Pollard even offered to step in for the boy, but Coffin would have none of it. “I like it as well as any other,” he said.
Ramsdell drew the lot that required him to shoot his friend. He paused a long time. But then Coffin rested his head on the boat’s gunwale and Ramsdell pulled the trigger.
“He was soon dispatched,” Pollard would say, “and nothing of him left.”
By February 18, after 89 days at sea, the last three men on Chase’s boat spotted a sail in the distance. After a frantic chase, they managed to catch the English ship Indian and were rescued.
Three hundred miles away, Pollard’s boat carried only its captain and Charles Ramsdell. They had only the bones of the last crewmen to perish, which they smashed on the bottom of the boat so that they could eat the marrow. As the days passed the two men obsessed over the bones scattered on the boat’s floor. Almost a week after Chase and his men had been rescued, a crewman aboard the American ship Dauphin spotted Pollard’s boat. Wretched and confused, Pollard and Ramsdell did not rejoice at their rescue, but simply turned to the bottom of their boat and stuffed bones into their pockets. Safely aboard the Dauphin, the two delirious men were seen “sucking the bones of their dead mess mates, which they were loath to part with.”
The five Essex survivors were reunited in Valparaiso, where they recuperated before sailing back for Nantucket. As Philbrick writes, Pollard had recovered enough to join several captains for dinner, and he told them the entire story of the Essex wreck and his three harrowing months at sea. One of the captains present returned to his room and wrote everything down, calling Pollard’s account “the most distressing narrative that ever came to my knowledge.”
Years later, the third boat was discovered on Ducie Island; three skeletons were aboard. Miraculously, the three men who chose to stay on Henderson Island survived for nearly four months, mostly on shellfish and bird eggs, until an Australian ship rescued them.
Once they arrived in Nantucket, the surviving crewmen of the Essex were welcomed, largely without judgment. Cannibalism in the most dire of circumstances, it was reasoned, was a custom of the sea. (In similar incidents, survivors declined to eat the flesh of the dead but used it as bait for fish. But Philbrick notes that the men of the Essex were in waters largely devoid of marine life at the surface.)
Captain Pollard, however, was not as easily forgiven, because he had eaten his cousin. (One scholar later referred to the act as “gastronomic incest.”) Owen Coffin’s mother could not abide being in the captain’s presence. Once his days at sea were over, Pollard spent the rest of his life in Nantucket. Once a year, on the anniversary of the wreck of the Essex, he was said to have locked himself in his room and fasted in honor of his lost crewmen.
By 1852, Melville and Moby-Dick had begun their own slide into obscurity. Despite the author’s hopes, his book sold but a few thousand copies in his lifetime, and Melville, after a few more failed attempts at novels, settled into a reclusive life and spent 19 years as a customs inspector in New York City. He drank and suffered the death of his two sons. Depressed, he abandoned novels for poetry. But George Pollard’s fate was never far from his mind. In his poem Clarel he writes of
A night patrolman on the quay
Watching the bales till morning hour
Through fair and foul. Never he smiled;
Call him, and he would come; not sour
In spirit, but meek and reconciled:
Patient he was, he none withstood;
Oft on some secret thing would brood.
HERE'S SOME NICE ART FOR YOU TO LOOK AT....ENJOY!
Bruno Munari (Italian, 1907-1998), Composition. Oil on canvas, 27.6 x 22.2 cm.
Ryan Tippery Since My Eyes Stopped Working, 2015
Piet Mondrian, Composition with Double Line and Blue, 1935
THIS WOULD MAKE A GREAT MOVIE
The theft of the portrait of the Duke of Wellington entered popular culture, as it was referenced in the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No. In the film, the painting was on display in Dr. No's lair.
The Portrait was done by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya of the British general Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington during the latter's service in the Peninsular War.
One of three portraits Goya painted of Wellington, it was begun in 1812, after the subject's entry into Madrid, showing him as an earl in red uniform and wearing the Peninsular Medal. The artist then modified it in 1814 to show him in full dress black uniform with gold braid and to add the Order of the Golden Fleece and Military Gold Cross with three clasps (both of which Wellington had been awarded in the interim).
The property of the 11th Duke of Leeds, it was auctioned in 1961, with the New York collector Charles Wrightsman bidding £140,000. The Wolfson Foundation offered £100,000 and the government added a special Treasury grant of £40,000, matching Wrightsman's bid and obtaining the painting for the National Gallery in London, where it was first put on display on 2 August 1961. It was stolen nineteen days later, on 21 August 1961. It was later returned and Kempton Bunton confessed to the crime in July 1965.
Kempton Bunton (1900–1976) was a disabled British pensioner who apparently stole Francisco Goya's painting Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961.
A National Archive file released in 2012 revealed that Kempton's son, John, had confessed to the theft in 1969.
Bunton was a retired bus driver who earned £8 a week in 1961. In that year, Charles Wrightsman, a rich American art collector who made his money in the oil business, purchased Goya's painting Portrait of the Duke of Wellington for the sum of £140,000 ($390,000). He had plans to take it to the United States.
The British Government decided to buy the painting for a sum of £140,000 to keep the painting on British soil. However, this move is reported to have enraged Bunton, who was embittered at having to pay the Television license fee from his modest income.
According to his own account, from conversations with the guards, Bunton learned that the elaborate infra-red sensors/alarms of the electronic security system were turned off in the early morning to allow the cleaners to do their work. On the early morning of August 21, 1961, Bunton claimed to have loosened a window in a toilet and entered the gallery. He pulled off the framed painting from the display and escaped via the window.
The police initially assumed an expert art thief to be behind the heist. However, a letter was sent to the Reuters news agency, asking for a donation of £140,000 to charity to allow the poor to pay for TV licenses and an amnesty for the thief, for which the painting would be returned. However, this was declined.
In 1965, four years after the theft, Bunton contacted a newspaper, and through a left luggage office at Birmingham New Street Station, returned the painting voluntarily. Six weeks later, he also surrendered to the police, who initially discounted him as a suspect, considering the unlikeliness of a 61-year-old retiree executing the heist.
During the trial the jury only convicted Bunton of the theft of the frame (which was not returned). Led by Jeremy Hutchinson QC (also notable for his involvement on the defense team at the Lady Chatterley trial), Bunton's defense had successfully claimed that Bunton never wanted to keep the painting, thus meaning he was not convicted of stealing the portrait itself.
Bunton was sentenced to 3 months in prison. Section 11 of the Theft Act 1968, which makes it an offence to remove without authority any object displayed or kept for display to the public in a building to which the public have access, was enacted as a direct result of this case.
In 1996 documents released by the National Gallery implied that another individual may have carried out the actual theft, and then passed the painting to Bunton. Bunton's son John was mentioned in the documents.
In 2012 the National Archives released a confidential file from the Director of Public Prosecutions in which Bunton's son, John, confessed to the theft following his arrest in 1969 for a minor offence.
John Bunton said that his father had intended to use the painting as part of his campaign and that it should ultimately be returned to the National Gallery. John said that both he and his brother, Kenneth, had been ordered by their father not to come forward despite his trial.
A HAPPY ARTISTIC ENDING
“Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt the relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle and never seeing each other again. at her 2010 MoMa retrospective Marina performed ‘The Artist Is Present’ as part of the show, a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing it and this is what happened.”
BY TATYANA TOLSTAYA
In 1913, or 1914, or maybe 1915—the exact date is unknown—Kazimir Malevich, a Russian painter of Polish descent, took a medium-sized canvas (79.5 cm. x 79.5 cm.), painted it white around the edges, and daubed the middle with thick black paint. Any child could have performed this simple task, although perhaps children lack the patience to fill such a large section with the same color. This kind of work could have been performed by any draftsman—and Malevich worked as one in his youth—but most draftsmen are not interested in such simple forms. A painting like this could have been drawn by a mentally disturbed person, but it wasn’t, and had it been it’s doubtful that it would have had the chance to be exhibited at the right place and at the right time.
After completing this simple task, Malevich became the author of the most famous, most enigmatic, and most frightening painting known to man: “The Black Square.” With an easy flick of the wrist, he once and for all drew an uncrossable line that demarcated the chasm between old art and new art, between a man and his shadow, between a rose and a casket, between life and death, between God and the Devil. In his own words, he reduced everything to the “zero of form.” Zero, for some reason, turned out to be a square, and this simple discovery is one of the most frightening events in art in all of its history of existence.
Malevich, too, knew what he had done. A year or so before this significant event, he, along with some of his friends and likeminded peers, participated in the first All-Russian Congress of Futurists. It was held at a dacha, in a bucolic wooded area north of St. Petersburg. They decided to write an opera called “Victory Over the Sun,” and right there, at the dacha, immediately got to work on carrying out their plan. Malevich was in charge of scenic design. One of the set pieces was black and white, and it somehow resembled the future, still-unborn square—it was used as a backdrop for one of the scenes. What spilled out by itself from his wrist, impulsively and with inspiration, later in his St. Petersburg studio was recognized as a fundamental achievement of theory, the apex of accomplishment—a discovery of that critical, mysterious, coveted point after which, because of which, and beyond which nothing exists and nothing can exist.
Groping about in the dark with the brilliant intuition of an artist and the prophetic insight of a Creator, he found the forbidden figure of a forbidden color—so simple that thousands had walked past it, stepping over it, ignoring it, not noticing it.… To be fair, not many before him dared to plan a “Victory Over the Sun”; not many dared to challenge the Prince of Darkness. Malevich did—and, just as is supposed to happen in credible tales of yearning Faustuses and of bargaining with the Devil, the Master gladly, and without delay, whispered in the artist’s ear the simple formula of nothingness.
By the end of that same year of 1915—the First World War was already in full swing—the sinister canvas was displayed alongside others at a Futurists exhibition. All of his other works Malevich displayed on the walls in the traditional manner, but “The Black Square” was afforded a special place. As can be seen in one of the surviving photographs, the painting is displayed in the corner, under the ceiling—right where it is customary to hang Russian Orthodox icons. It’s doubtful it eluded Malevich—a man well versed in color—that this paramount, sacral spot is called the “red corner,” the word “red” here, in the original Russian, having the additional meaning of “beautiful.” Malevich quite consciously displayed a black hole in a sacred spot: he called this work of his “an icon of our times.” Instead of red, black (zero color); instead of a face, a hollow recess (zero lines); instead of an icon—that is, instead of a window into the heavens, into the light, into eternal life—gloom, a cellar, a trapdoor into the underworld, eternal darkness.
Alexandre Benois, a contemporary of Malevich and an excellent artist in his own right, as well as an art critic, wrote this about the painting: “This black square in a white frame—this is not a simple joke, not a simple dare, not a simple little episode which happened at the house at the Field of Mars. Rather, it’s an act of self-assertion of that entity called ‘the abomination of desolation,’ which boasts that through pride, through arrogance, through trampling of all that is loving and gentle it will lead all beings to death.”
Many years before that, in September of 1869, Leo Tolstoy went through a strange experience that had a powerful effect on the rest of his life, and which served, it appears, as a turning point in his entire outlook. He left his house in high spirits to make an important and profitable purchase: a new estate. They were riding in a horse-drawn carriage, happily chatting. Night fell. “I dozed off but then suddenly awoke: for some reason I felt afraid.… I suddenly felt that I don’t need any of this, that there is no need to ride this far, that I’ll die right here, away from home. And I felt frightened.” The travellers decided to spend the night in a little town called Arzamas:
We finally approached some lodge with a hitching post. The house was white, but it seemed horribly sad to me. And so I felt a great sense of dread.… There was a hallway; a sleepy man with a spot on his check—that spot seemed awful to me—showed me to my room. Gloomy was that room. I entered it and felt even more dread.…
A whitewashed square room. As I remember, it was particularly painful to me that this room was square. There was one window with a red curtain … I grabbed a pillow and lay down on the sofa. When I came to, the room was empty and it was dark.… I could feel that falling back asleep would be impossible. Why did I decide to stop here? Where am I taking myself? From what and where to am I running? I’m running from something frightful that I can’t run away from … I stepped out into the hallway, hoping to leave behind that which was tormenting me. But it came out after me and marred all. I was just as scared, more scared even.
—What nonsense, I said to myself. Why do I feel anguish, what am I scared of?
—Of me, came the soundless voice of death. I am here.…
I tried to lie down but as soon as I did, I jumped up in horror. The anguish, the anguish—the same dread as comes before nausea, but only spiritual. Frightening, terrifying. Seemingly it’s fear of death, but if you recollect, think about life, then it’s a fear of a dying life. Life and death were merging into one. Something was trying to tear my soul into pieces but was unable to do it. I went to look once again at those who were sleeping; I tried falling asleep myself; same kind of dread—red, white, square. Something being torn apart but not tearing. Painful, painfully dry and malicious, not a drop of kindness could I sense within myself. Only an even, calm anger with myself and with that, which has made me.
This famous and mysterious event in Tolstoy’s life—which was not simply a sudden, serious depressive episode but an unforeseen kind of meeting with death, with evil—was named “the Arzamas horror.” Red, white, square. Sounds like a description of one of Malevich’s paintings.
Leo Tolstoy, who personally experienced the red-white square, couldn’t foresee, nor control, what happened. It appeared before him and it attacked him, and under its influence—not right away, but steadily—he renounced the life that he led before; he renounced his family, love, the understanding of those close to him, the foundations of life around him; he renounced art. This “truth” that was revealed to him led him into nothingness, into the zero of form, into self-destruction. On a “spiritual quest,” toward the end of his life, he found only a handful of banalities—a version of early Christianity, nothing more. His followers, too, walked away from civilization, and likewise didn’t arrive anywhere. Drinking tea instead of vodka, abstaining from meat, rejecting family ties, making one’s own boots—poorly, crookedly—that, essentially, is the result of this personal spiritual quest that passed through the Square. “I’m here” came the soundless voice of death, and life went downhill from there. The struggle went on; “Anna Karenina” (mercilessly killed off by the author, punished for her desire to live) was still ahead of him. Still before him were several literary masterpieces, but the Square won. Tolstoy banished from within himself the life-giving power of art, moving on to primitive parables and cheap moralizing. He let his light go out before his physical death, in the end astonishing the world not with the artistic prowess of his later works but with the magnitude of his genuine anguish, his individual protest and public self-flagellation on a hitherto unprecedented scale.
Malevich also wasn’t expecting the Square, although he was searching for it. In the period before the invention of “Suprematism” (Malevich’s term), he preached “Alogism,” an attempt to escape the boundaries of common sense; preached “the struggle against Logism, naturalness, philistine sensibilities and prejudices.” His call to action was heard, and the Square appeared before him, absorbing him in itself. Malevich had every right to be proud of the celebrity afforded him by his deal with the Devil. And proud he was. I don’t know if he noticed the ambiguity that came with this celebrity status. “The painter’s most famous work” means that other works were less famous, less important, less enigmatic; in other words, they were less worthy. And it’s true—next to “The Black Square,” all his other works lose lustre. He has a series of canvases of geometric, brightly colored peasants with empty ovals for faces that look like transparent, unfertilized eggs. They are colorful, decorative paintings, but they come across as a tiny and insignificant stew of rainbow colors, before they, swirling for the last time, mix in a colorful funnel and disappear into the bottomless pit that is “The Black Square.” He has landscapes—pinkish, impressionistic, very run of the mill—the kind painted by many, and often better. Toward the end of his life, he tried to return to figurative art, and those attempts look predictably bad: these aren’t people but, rather, embalmed corpses and waxed dolls, tensely peering out from the frames of their clothing, as if they’ve been cut out of colorful bits of fabric, scraps and leftovers from the “Peasants” series. Of course, when one reaches the top, the only way is down. The terrible truth was that, at the top, there was nothingness.
Art critics write lovingly about Malevich: “‘The Black Square’ absorbed all painting styles that existed before it; it blocks the way for naturalistic imitation, it exists as an absolute form and it heralds art in which free forms—those that are interconnected and those that are not—make up the meaning of the painting.”
It’s true that the Square “blocks the way,” including blocking the way for the artist. “It exists as an absolute form”—that’s true as well, but that also means that all other forms are unnecessary by comparison, since they are, by definition, not absolute. “It heralds art”—this bit turned out to be false. It heralds the end of art, its impossibility, its lack of necessity; it represents the furnace in which art burns, the pit into which art falls, because the Square (to quote Benois again) is “an act of self-assertion of that entity called ‘the abomination of desolation,’ which boasts that through pride, through arrogance, through trampling of all that is loving and gentle, it will lead all beings to death.”
A “pre-Square” artist studies his craft his entire life, struggling with dead, inert, chaotic matter, trying to breathe life into it; as if fanning a fire, as if praying, he tries to ignite light within a stone; he stands on his tippy toes, craning his neck in an attempt to peek where the human eye cannot reach. Sometimes, his efforts and prayers, his caresses, are rewarded: for a brief moment, or maybe for a long while, “it” happens, “it” “appears.” God (an angel, a ghost, a muse, or sometimes a demon) steps back and acquiesces, letting go from his hands those very things, those volatile feelings, those wisps of celestial fire—what should we call them?—that they saved for themselves, for their wondrous abode that is hidden from us. Having solicited this divine gift, the artist experiences a moment of acute gratitude, unhumiliating humility, unshameful pride, a moment of distinct, pure, and purifying tears—both seen and unseen—a moment of catharsis. But “it” surges, and “it” retreats, like a wave. The artist becomes superstitious. He wants to repeat this moment, he knows that, next time, he may not be granted a divine audience, and so his spiritual eyesight opens up, he can sense with deep inner foreknowledge what exactly—avarice, selfishness, arrogance, conceit—may close the pearly gates in front of him. He tries to wield his inner foreknowledge in such a way as to not sin before his angelic guides; he fully understands that he’s a co-author at best, or an apprentice—but a crowned co-author, a beloved apprentice. The artist knows that the Spirit blows wherever it pleases. He knows that he, the artist, has done nothing in his earthly life to deserve being singled out by the Spirit, and so if that happens to pass then he should joyfully give thanks for this wonder.
A “post-Square” artist, an artist who has prayed to the Square, who has peeked inside the black hole without recoiling in horror, doesn’t believe the muses and the angels; he has his own black angels, with short metallic wings—pragmatic and smug beings who know the value of earthly glory and how to capture its most dense and multilayered sections. Craft is unnecessary, what you need is a brain; inspiration is unnecessary, what’s needed is calculation. People love innovation, you need to come up with something new; people love to fume, you need to give them something to fume about; people are indifferent, you need to shock them: shove something smelly in their face, something offensive, something repugnant. If you strike a person’s back with a stick, they’ll turn around; that’s when you spit in their face and then, obviously, charge them for it—otherwise, it’s not art. If this person starts yelling in indignation, you must call them an idiot and explain to them that art now consists solely of the message that art is dead—repeat after me: dead, dead, dead. God is dead, God was never born, God needs to be treaded upon, God hates you, God is a blind idiot, God is a wheeler-dealer, God is the Devil. Art is dead and so are you, ha ha, now pay up! Here is a piece of excrement for it; it’s real, it’s dark, it’s dense, it’s locally sourced, so hold it tight and don’t let it go. There is nothing “loving and gentle” out there and there never was, no light, no flight, no sunbeam through a cloud, no glimmer in the dark, no dreams, and no promises. Life is death; death is here; death is immediate.
“Somehow life and death have merged into one,” Leo Tolstoy wrote in horror, and from this moment on, and till the end, he fought back as best he could—it was a colossal battle of biblical proportions. “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” It’s terrifying to witness the battle of a genius with the Devil: first one seems to overcome, then the other.
“The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is such a battlefield, and it’s difficult to say who won. In this novella, Tolstoy says—tells us, repeats it, assures us, hammers it into our brains—that life is death. But, in the end, his dying hero is born into death as if into a new life; he’s freed, turned around. Enlightened, he leaves us for a place where, seemingly, he’ll be given consolation. “New art” derides the very idea of consolation, of enlightenment, of rising above—it derides it while deriving pride from that derision, as it dances and celebrates.
Conversations about God are so endlessly complicated that it’s scary to even engage in them, or, on the contrary, very simple: if you want God to exist—He does, if you don’t—He doesn’t. He is everybody, ourselves included, and for us He is, first and foremost, us. God does not impose himself on us. Rather, it’s His distorted, falsified image that’s imposed upon us by other people, while God simply and quietly exists within us, like still water in a water well. While searching for Him, we search for ourselves; while refuting Him, we refute ourselves; while mocking Him, we mock ourselves—the choice is ours. Dehumanization and “desacralization” are one and the same.
“Desacralization” was the slogan of the twentieth century; it’s the slogan of ignoramuses, of mediocrity and incompetence. It’s a free pass doled out by one dimwit to another bonehead while trying to convince the third nincompoop that everything should be meaningless and base (allegedly democratic, allegedly accessible), and that everyone has the right to judge everyone else; that authority can’t exist in principle, that a hierarchy of values is obscene (since everyone’s equal), and that art’s worth is determined solely by cost and demand. Novelties and fashionable scandals are surprisingly not that novel and not that scandalous: fans of the Square keep presenting various bodily fluids and objects created from them as evidence of art’s accomplishments. It’s as if Adam and Eve—one suffering from amnesia, the other from Alzheimer’s—were attempting to convince each other and their children that they are clay, only clay, and nothing but clay.
I’m considered an “expert” in contemporary art by an arts fund in Russia that’s subsidized by foreign money. They bring us art projects and we decide if said projects should get funding or not. There are actual experts working alongside me on this panel, true connoisseurs—old art, “pre-Square.” All of us can’t stand “The Black Square” and the “self-assertion of that entity called ‘the abomination of desolation.’ ” Yet they keep submitting projects that consist of “the abomination of desolation,” solely of the abomination, and nothing else. We are obligated to spend the money that has been allocated to the fund or else it will be closed. We try our best to fund those who come up with the least pointless and annoying ideas. One year, we funded an artist who placed empty picture frames along a riverbank, and another artist who wrote “ME” in big letters that cast a beautiful shadow, as well as a group of creators who organized a campaign to clean up dog feces in St. Petersburg’s parks. Another year, it was a woman who affixed stamps to rocks and mailed them to various cities in Russia, as well as a group that made a pool of blood in a submarine, which visitors had to step over while listening to the letters of Abelard and Heloise via headphones. After our meetings, us members of the panel step out for a silent smoke, where we try to avoid making eye contact with one another. We then silently shake hands and hurriedly walk home.
(Translated, from the Russian, by Anya Migdal.)
For 40 years, the Rothko Chapel in Houston has served as a space for personal contemplation, interfaith dialogue and action for human rights. The sanctuary was created by Mark Rothko, who committed suicide one year before the chapel opened. Hickey Robertson/The Rothko Chapel hide caption
The Rothko Chapel is an interfaith sanctuary, a center for human rights — and a one-man art museum devoted to 14 monumental paintings by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. The Houston landmark, commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil, opened its doors 40 years ago, in February 1971.
For the past four decades, the chapel has encouraged cooperation between people of all faiths — or of no faith at all. While the chapel itself has become an art landmark and a center for human-rights action, the sanctuary's creator never lived to see it finished. Rothko committed suicide in 1970.
A Quiet Space
Approaching the chapel from the south, visitors first see a steel sculpture called Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman in the middle of a pool — it appears to be floating on the surface of the water. The chapel itself is a windowless, octagonal brick building. Solid black doors open on a tiny glass-walled foyer. (The foyer was walled off from the rest of the interior when the Gulf Coast's notorious humidity began to affect the paintings.)
The main room is a hushed octagonal space with gray stucco walls, each filled by massive paintings. Some walls feature one canvas, while on others, three canvases hang side by side to form a triptych. A baffled skylight subdues the bright Houston sun, and the surfaces of the paintings change dramatically as unseen clouds pass outside. There are eight austere wooden benches informally arranged, and today, a few meditation mats. A young woman brings the meditation hour to a close by striking a small bowl with a mallet, creating a soft peal of three bells in the intense silence of the room.
Concerts, conferences, lectures, weddings and memorial services all take place in the chapel throughout the year, but on most days you will find visitors — about 55,000 annually come to see, to meditate, to write in the large comment book in the foyer, to read the variety of well-thumbed religious texts available on benches at the entrance.
'It's Their Place'
There is always an attendant to greet people, answer questions, and, if necessary, ask visitors to put their cell phones away. Suna Umari has worked at the chapel in various jobs for 30 years, most recently as historian. She also takes a turn as attendant, and her eight-hour shifts have given her a new sense of what the chapel means to visitors.
"People feel it's their place," she says. Her relaxed, almost musical voice fits well with the atmosphere of the place. "They come, and they have a problem, and they cry in this space. If you look at the comment books, they make comments to each other as though this was their personal little diary."
"The first time I saw them, they must have had a fight, because she came in and sat down; then he followed," Umari says. "He sat next to her, and she ignored him. She kept turning her head away from him. They whispered to each other, and pretty soon they made up."
When the couple came out to the foyer, the man wrote a declaration of his love in the comment book — he used a whole page. The woman wrote that she loved him back.
For one visitor with a very personal connection to the chapel, the experience was unnerving.
"I wasn't prepared for that when I walked in the door," says Christopher Rothko, the painter's son. He was a child when the Rothko Chapel opened. He didn't come to see it until he was 33 years old, and he was surprised that at first, the paintings didn't really communicate with him. After all, he points out, he's used to conversing with Rothkos on a daily basis. But not that day.
"I almost left with nothing," Rothko says, but he lingered for a little while, "and ended up spending an hour and 15 minutes there. The time just sort of stopped running. I can't even tell you where I went at that point. I just know it was a Rothko experience unlike one I've had before."
'Looking At The Beyond'
These paintings do not feature the luminous color fields that made Rothko famous. The paintings in the chapel are dark, in purplish or black hues. And there's a reason for that, says Umari.
"They're sort of a window to beyond," she explains. "He said the bright colors sort of stop your vision at the canvas, where dark colors go beyond. And definitely you're looking at the beyond. You're looking at the infinite."
The Menil Collection, just down the street from the chapel, is displaying six rarely exhibited Rothko works in honor of the chapel's 40th anniversary. Four of the canvases are similar to the chapel's art and are referred to as "alternate" panels. Paul Hester/The Menil Collection hide caption
itoggle caption Paul Hester/The Menil Collection
At first glance, the paintings appear to be made up of solid, dark colors. But look closely, and it becomes evident that the paintings are composed of many uneven washes of pigment that create variations in every inch. Stepping back, waves of subtle color difference appear across the broad surfaces — leading to an unmistakable impression of physical depth.
The canvases are huge; the largest is about 15 feet by 11 feet. Susan Barnes, author of The Rothko Chapel: An Act of Faith, was at the chapel the day they were installed.
"What I remember most of all was these large paintings, one at a time, being put in a sling and lowered through the skylight," Barnes says. "The largest of these ... the four single monochrome paintings ... barely cleared."
In fact, the first day, the truck and the crane had to be sent back because it was too windy. Think about a massive, wall-sized painting, Barnes says, "and think about as it as a sail. It was too dangerous."
'A Holy Space'
Back in 1970 when the paintings arrived, Barnes was fresh out of college and working for the de Menils. They hired architect Philip Johnson to design the building and Rothko to fill it. But the painter had such specific ideas about the space that Johnson bowed out.
It was always intended to be more than an art gallery, though. In a 1972 interview, Dominique de Menil said she saw it as a meeting place — a gathering place "of people who are not just going to debate and discuss theological problems, but who are going to meet because they want to find contact with other people. They are searching for this brotherhood of humanity."
It's a place that will really not just invite, but also demand a kind of journey.
Christopher Rothko, son of Mark Rothko
Religious leaders from around the world participated in the chapel's dedication in late February 1971. Forty years later, the chapel continues to be a space devoted to personal contemplation, interfaith dialogue and the fight for human rights. Though Mark Rothko didn't live to see the sanctuary he created, Christopher Rothko says his father knew what it should be.
"It took me a while to realize it, but that's really my father's gift, in a sense, to somebody who comes to the chapel. It's a place that will really not just invite, but also demand a kind of journey."
The journey for onetime art-history student Barnes led to a ministry in the Episcopal Church. She says that over the years, the chapel has become a sacred place.
"You walk into this chapel and you know, now, that it has been sanctified by the prayers of the people. There is something you feel in the chapel that tells you it is a holy space."
ITS ALL GREEK MYTHOLOGY TO ME
The European Central Bank launched the new €5 in May 2013 and the new €10 note came on stream in September 2014. Each new note includes a raised print, giving a unique feel.
New €20 notes will begin circulating across Ireland from tomorrow.
When held up to the light, a hologram of Greek mythology figure Europa can be seen.
The note has has an additional security feature known as the portrait window.
Meanwhile, when the new note is tilted, a silvery stripe reveals a portrait of Europa in a transparent window, and the emerald number will change to deep blue while moving up and down. In total, there were 18.1 billion banknotes in circulation with a face value of €1,053.8 billion.
The new notes are similar to the old ones which remain valid but will gradually be withdrawn as they become worn out. The new 50-euro bill is set to go into circulation in the second quarter of 2017, reported the Bank of France in a separate press conference.
Look to the Skies This Month for the Pleiades Star Cluster
The Seven Sisters will shine bright from dusk till dawn for the rest of November
By Danny Lewis
NOVEMBER 19, 2015
The Leonid meteor shower has come and gone, but there’s plenty going on this week to keep stargazers looking up. This Friday night, on November 20, the Pleiades star cluster will reach its highest point in the night sky before making its way back towards the horizon.
While the Pleiades are often mistaken for the Little Dipper, the star cluster is usually found by looking further south, above the bright orange star Aldebaran. One of the best ways to find the star cluster is actually to look towards Orion, Alan MacRobert reports for Sky & Telescope.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Pleiades hangs out high above the hunter, with orange Aldebaran smack in between the two constellations. Typically, the Pleiades will start rising around 7 P.M.
The Pleiades will be visible through next April, but in the Northern Hemisphere the star cluster is closely tied to the beginning of winter, with some referring to November as “the month of the Pleiades,” according to EarthSky.org’s Bruce McClure, when the star cluster shines brightly from dusk until dawn.
The name comes from figures in Greek mythology: The Pleiades were originally the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas, but Zeus turned them into stars after they begged to be saved from Orion the hunter, astronomer Steven J. Gibson writes for the Arecibo Observatory. After Orion died, he was transformed into a constellation, chasing the Seven Sisters through the skies forever.
While the Pleiades may take their name from Greek mythology, the stars had an important place in many ancient cultures across the world. McClure writes that Halloween is partly derived from a Druidic ritual that celebrated the Pleiades rise and marked a time when the borders between the worlds of the living and dead became blurry.
On the other side of the world, the Zuni people of modern-day New Mexico called the star cluster “The Seed Stars,” as their disappearance from the sky marked the beginning of their growing season.
In a way, the Pleiades are actually sisters—not only are the stars positioned fairly close to one another, but they were born out of the same dust cloud about 100 million years ago, McClure writes. While the seven stars shine the brightest, they are just several of a star cluster that numbers in the hundreds about 430 million light years away.
Editor's Note: Pleiades was mistakenly called a "constellation" in the original version of this article. However, changes were made to show that Pleiades is not a true constellation, but rather is a star cluster in the constellation Taurus.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/month-look-skies-pleiades-constellation-and-comet-180957327/#ufCfbRjBtiTUe5k9.99
The life and work of John Berger represents a challenge. How to describe a writer whose bibliography contains ten “novels”, four “plays”, three collections of “poetry” and 33 books labelled “other”?
BY PHILIP MAUGHAN
In 1967, while working with the Swiss photographer Jean Mohr on A Fortunate Man, a book about a country GP serving a deprived community in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, John Berger began to reconsider what the role of a writer should be. “He does more than treat [his patients] when they are ill,” Berger wrote of John Sassall, a man whose proximity to suffering and poverty deeply affected him (he later committed suicide). The rural doctor assumes a democratic function, in Berger’s eyes, one he describes in consciously literary terms. “He is the objective witness of their lives,” he says. “The clerk of their records.”
The next five years marked a transition in Berger’s life. By 1972, when the groundbreaking art series Ways of Seeing aired on BBC television, Berger had been living on the Continent for over a decade. He won the Booker Prize for his novel G. the same year, announcing to an astonished audience at the black-tie ceremony in London that he would divide his prize money between the Black Panther Party (he denounced Booker McConnell’s historic links with plantations and indentured labour in the Caribbean) and the funding of his next project with Mohr, A Seventh Man, recording the experiences of migrant workers across Europe.
This is the point at which, for some in England, Berger became a more distant figure. He moved from Switzerland to a remote village in the French Alps two years later. “He thinks and feels what the community incoherently knows,” Berger wrote of Sassall, the “fortunate man”. After time spent working on A Seventh Man, those words were just as applicable to the writer himself. It was Berger who had become a “clerk”, collecting stories from the voiceless and dispossessed – peasants, migrants, even animals – a self-effacing role he would continue to occupy for the next 43 years.
The life and work of John Berger represents a challenge. How best to describe the output of a writer whose bibliography, according to Wikipedia, contains ten “novels”, four “plays”, three collections of “poetry” and 33 books labelled “other”?
“A kind of vicarious autobiography and a history of our time as refracted through the prism of art,” is how the writer Geoff Dyer introduced a selection of Berger’s non-fiction in 2001, though the category doesn’t quite fit. “To separate fact and ¬imagination, event and feeling, protagonist and narrator, is to stay on dry land and never put to sea,” Berger wrote in 1991 in a manifesto (of sorts) inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses, a book he first read, in French, at the age of 14.
Berger’s influence in the literary and wider artistic worlds is a little easier to measure. “He is the lodestar of the contemporary literary experience,” the Irish novelist Colum McCann tells me. “I cannot imagine my bookshelves without him. The other writers would collapse.” Susan Sontag described him as “peerless” for his ability to merge “attentiveness to the sensual world” with “the imperatives of conscience”, though Berger himself prefers to be described, simply, as “a storyteller”. Social and political commentary, subjective response and aesthetic theory are the ¬basic elements of much of what he writes – but it all begins with seeing.
When I arrive, wet, to meet Berger at a house in Paris one recent gloomy morning, he looks concerned. “You’re cold!” he says, urging me to sit down by the radiator while he disappears into the kitchen to make coffee.
Born in Hackney, London, in 1926, John Berger was sent to boarding school at the age of six. He was away from his parents for ten months of the year, an experience he has described as “monstrous”. “That school in Lindsay Anderson’s If . . . was the Côte d’Azur compared to those places,” he told the Guardian’s Sean O’Hagan in 2005.
“I was, in a way, alone in the world,” he says as we settle down at the dining room table. “I don’t say that very pathetically. I just took it as a fact of life. But being like that means you listen to others, because you are seeking landmarks to orient yourself in relation to – and, unlike what most people think, storytelling does not begin with inventing, it begins with listening.”
Berger left St Edward’s School in ¬Oxford when he was 16. He refused an officer’s commission with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, after which he was posted to Ballykelly, Northern Ireland. In 1946, he enrolled at the Chelsea School of Art under the tutelage of Henry Moore, whom he rounded on less than a decade later, referring to the sculptor’s work in a review in the New Statesman as a “meaningless mess”. Though he rejects the title of “art critic” because it “suggests somebody deciding how many marks out of 20 to give”, he began to write regularly about art and culture for the NS and other publications in the early 1950s.
“It wasn’t easy,” he recalls. “Every Monday at 11am, I would go up the stairs to the office with my pages and fight to get them to publish what I brought in.” The piece on Moore, for instance, provoked outrage among NS readers. (Stephen Spender wrote to the editor that Berger’s work was like “a foghorn in a fog”, to which Berger duly replied: “Assuming that a poet always picks his images carefully, I must thank him for the compliment. For what, in a fog, could [be] more useful?”) This was an art world governed by connoisseurs, collectors and “experts”, the very crowd whom Berger later denounced in Ways of Seeing as marshalling “the nostalgia of a ruling class in decline”.
“It wasn’t so bad,” he says of his first regular writing job with the NS. “There was coffee.” The magazine’s then editor, Kingsley Martin, was “difficult to describe because there aren’t people like that any more: very open, tall, worn face, in his way a militant and a puritan. I respected him long before I wrote for the paper.”
One day, Martin called Berger into his office. “He said, ‘Look, John, I’ve decided I want to learn to draw. I’m retiring now. Do you know anybody who could help me?’ And I said, ‘Yes, let me try, I think I can.’ So, every ten days or so, I would visit Kingsley in his flat, which was off the Strand, and encourage him. This considerably changed my position on the paper, because when I went in with the next little piece and there was another argument (which I wasn’t ¬winning), I would say, ‘Could I go round and see Kingsley and see what he thinks?’ He didn’t always support me but most of the time he did – and my life became easier.”
Berger spent his years in London among political refugees, European Marxists such as the Hungarian art historian Frederick Antal and the French-born painter Peter de Francia, who had fled the Nazis in Belgium. “The hierarchy of British authorities did not impress them because they’d seen something harder and fought it,” Berger says. “I think I learned from them, not exactly confidence, but a kind of indifference, a refusal to be intimidated.”
In 1962, after four years in rural Gloucestershire (where he first met and became friends with John Sassall), Berger moved to Geneva, where he was introduced to Jean Mohr by the Swiss film-maker Alain Tanner. Berger wanted to learn to take photographs and Mohr had offered to teach him. “I quickly lost interest,” he recalls. “I noticed that when you take a photograph, you stop looking at what you’ve shot. I was more interested in looking. I think I gave my camera away.”
Berger, who is 88, is wearing a navy fleece and baggy corduroy trousers, his smooth white hair standing upright. He concentrates intently on our conversation. Too intently, perhaps: he has left the gas burning on the stove.
“Oh, merde! Oh, no!” he calls out, hurrying back into the kitchen.
“Remember that, up to the age of 30, I was a painter,” he says, scrubbing the base of the blackened kettle with hot water and soap. “I’d spend my days in a room I called a studio, drawing and painting. I don’t paint any more but I draw frequently . . . I live enormously through my eyes. The visible is simply a very important part of my experience of being in this world.”
In 1974, he relocated to the French hamlet of Quincy, nestled in the Alps with a clear view of Mont Blanc, living and working among agricultural labourers – or “peasants”, the term Berger prefers and uses without the slightest whiff of urban condescension. He remained in Quincy with his son Yves and his American wife, Beverly Bancroft (who died in 2013) for more than 40 years.
Today Berger continues to draw, speak publicly and write what he calls “notes”. Surprisingly, there has been no ¬biography. The facts are often difficult to secure – something that may not be accidental. “If someone asked, I’d say, ‘I can’t stop you but I’m not collaborating.’” I ask why. “I’m all for the diffusion of what I’ve written,” Berger says, “but my own story doesn’t interest me.” He pauses. “There’s a risk of egocentricity. And to storytellers, egocentricity is boring.”
The house where we meet, in a suburb on the outskirts of ¬the city, belongs to Nella Bielski: a writer and actress born in the Soviet ¬Union and an old friend of Berger’s. “How long have you been in Paris?” I ask her, over a lunch of smoked eel, blini, devilled eggs and lamb’s lettuce salad. “Fifty years,” she says. “The longer I stay, the more Russian I feel.”
As the water boils for a second pot of coffee, Berger lays out a series of illustrations that have arrived in the morning’s post (along with his daily newspaper, the communist L’Humanité). “They’re by a friend of mine, a cartoonist of Turkish origin called Selçuk Demirel,” he explains, leafing through the drawings, responses to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. “He wants me to imagine a text to them.”
I had been due to meet Berger at the end of last year at the launch of his Collected Poems, published by the Teesside-based Smokestack Books, but he was forced to cancel because of a painful back. “At my age, that’s nothing,” he says. “It doesn’t get worse. Sometimes it gets better. I’ve used it like hell – haymaking, and so on.” When I remind him of our missed rendezvous in Middlesbrough, a town formerly known for its steel production, he tells a story.
“When I was, oh, in my mid-twenties, I got permission to draw and paint at a ¬foundry in Croydon, which cast bells for churches. It was an incredible experience,” he says. “In a foundry like that, because of the risk factor, the complicity between the workers is amazing to see.” I ask how they responded to the young guy loafing in the corner with his easel. “Very well. I went every day during the same hours as the shift. They were working and so was I.”
Among the many pictures on the wall, there is a small watercolour depicting street acrobats in Livorno, Italy. “That’s more or less how I painted at the time,” he says. The image is dynamic – realist and a little romantic but not naturalistic. Along with steelworkers and street performers, the artist Berger painted welders, builders and fishermen. Though his technical approach differed, the choice of subject matter suggests the influence of Caravaggio (“the first painter of life as experienced by the popolaccio, the people of the backstreets”), Picasso and the French cubist Fernand Léger. Berger credits Léger’s treatment of “cities, machinery [and] workers at work” with creating “a new kind of beauty” – a forward-facing art, in “symbolic contrast with the hypocrisy and corruption of the bourgeois world that plunged with self-congratulation and inane confidence into the 1914 war”.
An interest in “the lower depths, the under¬world”, led Berger to visit a series of abattoirs in London, Paris and Istanbul in the 1970s. “I didn’t directly write about it,” he says. “I just needed it as part of my awareness of the world. Interestingly enough, the slaughterhouse in Istanbul was the least ruthless of them all. The idea of sacrifice still existed somewhere in the procedures.”
It is difficult to imagine Kenneth Clark, the tweedy aficionado whose stately TV series Civilisation provided the stimulus for making Ways of Seeing, engaged in clandestine research amid the bloodshed at an ¬abattoir. “Clark was a good man in his way,” Berger says. “I knew him and we got on quite well. But he totally represented the connoisseur explaining to the populace this is how it is. Ways of Seeing was a collaboration. We wanted people to ask questions. It was the opposite of the ivory tower.”
The series of four 30-minute programmes and the book that followed were an attempt to demystify the history of art and identify the prejudices we unconsciously impose on the act of looking. It has been a staple of ¬British art school education ever since.
Berger argued that a critical obsession with form and technique removed paintings from “the plane of lived experience”. Technology – mechanical reproduction – created a “visual language” out of images previously confined to churches and galleries, and with it new possibilities for both control and liberation. (On the last page of the book, following a print of Magritte’s On the Threshold of Liberty, a painting of a cannon facing various conventional canvases and images, are the words: “To be continued by the reader . . .”)
Even in the age of Tumblr, Pinterest and Google Images – not to mention the endlessly reproducible objets licensed out by artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst – the book remains relevant.
“Adults and children sometimes have boards in their bedrooms or living rooms on which they put pieces of paper: letters, snapshots, reproductions of paintings, newspaper cuttings, original drawings, postcards,” Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing. “Logically, these boards should replace museums.”
“That was a long time before digital,” he says now, laughing. (Though Berger uses email only on occasion and prefers to speak on the telephone or to send letters, I had noticed that he had recently been using an ¬iPhone. ¬Sample text message: “Awaiting u. Laughs & wishes best, John.”) He argues that the internet, like the language of images, “possesses the same duality of possibilities, one opposed to the other, as both an instrument of control by the forces that govern the world – that’s to say, financial capitalism and what I call ‘economic fascism’ – but also for democracy, associating directly with one another, responding in a spontaneous but collective way”.
Midway through the afternoon, we head out to run a few errands. It is still raining. “Even after 30, 40 years, I still have a very strong English accent,” Berger says, as the cashier wraps up two bottles of white wine at the épicerie. “It’s the same thing when I go to London, which isn’t often. I’ll be in a pub and someone will ask me, ‘Where are you from? You speak English very well.’”
I walk back with the groceries and sit with Bielski, who is watching a Rossellini film and chopping vegetables, while Berger attends a physiotherapy class, for his back, at the local municipal pool.
Reading John Berger in 2015 can be disconcerting, not only stylistically – he tends to write in hefty sentences, building an image or idea the way that a draughtsman adds lines to a sketch – but in terms of what we expect to encounter. Contemporary fiction – think Åsne Seierstad’s Bookseller of Kabul or John Boyne’s Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – suggests that empathy and imagination can help the reader understand hardship and injustice. Berger’s is a more materialist outlook. He insists on action.
After A Fortunate Man and his 1972 Booker victory, Berger’s focus began to shift from industrial workers, Léger and Picasso, to rural peasants, Van Gogh and Millet – earlier painters whose work, he claimed, spoke to the present. “Unlike William Morris and other romantic medievalists,” Berger wrote of Millet in 1976, “he did not sentimentalise the village . . . [He sensed] that the poverty of the countryside would be reproduced under a different form in the poverty of the city and its suburbs, and that the market ¬created by industrialisation, to which the peasantry was being sacrificed, might one day entail the loss of all sense of history.”
So, art has a historical function, “entirely opposed to art for art’s sake”. It restores to memory that which has been, or is being, eliminated. “During the second half of the 20th century the judgement of history [was] abandoned by all except the underprivileged and dispossessed,” he wrote in a 1978 essay on photography. The focal point, or anchor, for Berger, was the village.
In a 1936 essay, Walter Benjamin identified two kinds of “storyteller”: “someone who has come from afar” and “the man who has stayed at home, making an honest living, and who knows the local tales and traditions”. Berger represented both during his years in the Alps, writing Pig Earth (1979), Once in Europa (1987) and Lilac and Flag (1990) – a trilogy of novels about the disappearance of the European peasantry and their culture. Perhaps what connects Ways of Seeing with the lesser-known trilogy is an attempt to reveal what would otherwise remain concealed. “What makes me write is the fear that if I do not write, something which ought to be said will not be,” he explains. “Really, I’m a stopgap man.”
I ask whether the desire to live among people who had access to their shared history lay behind the move to Quincy. “It’s what I discovered when I got there,” he says. “The past is very present to me and has been for a very long time. I first became aware of this quite intensely when I was a teenager, because of the First World War. You see, I think that the dead are with us.”
Berger’s father, Stanley, served as an infantry major in the trenches during the 1914-18 war and was awarded the Military Cross. He remained in the army for a further four years until 1922, organising war graves for the British dead. It was Berger’s mother, Miriam, a working-class woman from ¬Bermondsey, London, who helped him to return to civilian life.
“What I’m talking about now is a very ancient part of human awareness. It may even be what defines the human – although it [was] largely forgotten in the second half of the 20th century. The dead are not abandoned. They are kept near physically. They are a presence. What you think you’re looking at on that long road to the past is actually beside you where you stand.”
Before I leave, and having shared several glasses of wine, Berger shows me a box. It is a beautiful object. It has a lid, under which are smaller boxes filled with matches. Each one has a different songbird painted on the top. “Somebody gave me this from Russia,” he says, almost in a whisper. “I was thinking, ‘I want to give it to Rosa Luxemburg, who loved birds and flames.’ So I’m writing a text to send it to her.” Luxemburg, the Polish-German revolutionary, was shot and dumped in a Berlin canal in 1919 but I say, “I’m sure she’ll love it!”
He laughs. Something that surprises people who have read but never met Berger in person is his extraordinary warmth. One reason he has cited for leaving England – other than his hatred of the “class awareness . . . so embedded in British comportment and judgement” – is that the stiff-upper-lipped English considered him “indecently intense”. When I mention this, he simply says that while he can be “angry and outspoken . . . hospitality seems to me to be an incredibly important human capacity. And the first rule of hospitality is to accept the presence of somebody and exchange.”
“Nelska” and “Jeanie” – as Bielski and Berger affectionately call one another – are winding down. Bielski emerges from the kitchen with a bottle of Kir. The conversation turns to politics. With Walter Benjamin’s essay in mind, I mention the indignados (“the outraged”) – the movement of students, the retired, and unemployed public-sector workers whose campaign of personal storytelling led to the creation of the left-wing party Podemos in Spain. Likewise the women of Iran, Turkey and India, for whom public expression has been a vital tool in the fight against ingrained misogyny and violent abuse.
“I follow that and underline it completely,” Berger says, rising to welcome Bielski’s granddaughter Helena, a student at a university in Paris, into the house. “And it’s very important to emphasise how it is something new, opening up a scenario that we can’t quite imagine because it’s very different from those that we know.”
In 2009, Berger donated his personal archive – a collection of letters, drafts and sketches accrued over a lifetime and lovingly stored by his late wife, Beverly, in a stable at Quincy – to the British Library. A few days after I met Berger in Paris, Tom Overton, the researcher who was responsible for cataloguing the archive, explained how the process had worked. “I’d find something and have no idea what it was,” he said. “I’d scan it in and email it over to Beverly. Some time over the next week, often early in the morning or late at night, I’d get a phone call. A familiar voice would begin: ‘Can I tell you a story?’”
Philip Maughan is an assistant editor of the New Statesman
The mystery of Waterloo's last living soldier
This is Louis-Victor Baillot, the oldest surviving combatant from Waterloo. The photograph was taken a year before his death.
BY MICHAEL PRODGER PUBLISHED 18 JUNE, 2015 - 15:49
There is an untraceable moment at which the past slips from the realm of memory into deep time. Perhaps it is around the 100-year mark, when those who witnessed any given event have long since died. Just occasionally, technology offers a way down the rabbit hole. There exists, for instance, an 1890 recording of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson reciting “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, his response to the account in the Times of that tragic manoeuvre. There are also two recordings, from 1902 and 1904, of the castrato Alessandro Moreschi, a member of the Sistine Chapel Choir for 30 years and one of the last boys to be mutilated for choral fodder.
In this anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), it is worth remembering how relatively new technology preserved an older and more resonant piece of history in the form of a simple photograph of an elderly man sitting on a bench. The man is a venerable but unprepossessing figure; he rests his hands on a cane, he has sabots on his feet, wears cinched gaiters over his trousers and has two medals on his greatcoat.
This is Louis-Victor Baillot, the oldest surviving combatant from Waterloo. Baillot was born in Percey in Burgundy on 7 April 1793, a little over two months after Louis XVI was taken to the guillotine. He died, aged 104, on 3 February 1898, 15 days before the sports car pioneer Enzo Ferrari was born. The photograph was taken a year before Baillot’s death.
As a young man, Baillot was conscripted into Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812 and joined the 3rd Battalion of the 105th Line Infantry Demi-Brigade. He travelled to the Vistula in Poland, where his brigade met the remains of the main army as it retreated from the disastrous Russian campaign. He went on to fight at the siege of Hamburg under the implacable Marshal Davout. After a pause in service following the emperor’s exile to Elba, Baillot rejoined the army in 1815 when Napoleon returned to the French mainland and marched with his old brigade to Belgium. On 14 June Baillot saw his commander-in-chief in person for the first and last time when the emperor reviewed his troops before Waterloo.
Four days later Baillot was felled by a sword thrust to the head, delivered by a charging cavalryman of the Scots Greys. He would have died, had not the mess tin he kept under his hat taken the worst of the blow. He was left for dead on the battlefield, where the following day he was picked up and transported to a prison ship off Plymouth as a PoW. In late 1816 Baillot was repatriated and discharged as a consumptive.
Little evidence exists of the remaining eight decades of his life. It is known that he returned to his family home in Auxerre and at some point married a woman named Appoline Charles, with whom he had a daughter and lived quietly at Carisey, in the Yonne. The only things that marked him out as one of Napoleon’s veterans were his fondness for watching the annual parade of the Auxerre garrison, his two medals – the Légion d’Honneur (awarded late, in 1896) and the Saint Helena Medal – and the scar on his head. By the time of his death he was a quietly venerated figure. A decent crowd attended his funeral and watched as his grave was covered with a stone bearing the simple legend “Le Dernier de Waterloo”.
So the old man in the photograph is worth a second look. Those knobbly hands once fired a musket in one of the most celebrated battles in history and those squinting eyes saw Napoleon Bonaparte in his pomp.
Michael Prodger is an assistant editor of the New Statesman
Diary of a Lunatic
by Leo Tolstoy
This morning I underwent a medical examination in the government council room. The opinions of the doctors were divided. They argued among themselves and came at last to the conclusion that I was not mad. But this was due to the fact that I tried hard during the examination not to give myself away. I was afraid of being sent to the lunatic asylum, where I would not be able to go on with the mad undertaking I have on my hands. They pronounced me subject to fits of excitement, and something else, too, but nevertheless of sound mind. The doctor prescribed a certain treatment, and assured me that by following his directions my trouble would completely disappear. Imagine, all that torments me disappearing completely! Oh, there is nothing I would not give to be free from my trouble. The suffering is too great!
I am going to tell explicitly how I came to undergo that examination; how I went mad, and how my madness was revealed to the outside world.
Up to the age of thirty-five I lived like the rest of the world, and nobody had noticed any peculiarities in me. Only in my early childhood, before I was ten, I had occasionally been in a mental state similar to the present one, and then only at intervals, whereas now I am continually conscious of it.
I remember going to bed one evening, when I was a child of five or six. Nurse Euprasia, a tall, lean woman in a brown dress, with a double chin, was undressing me, and was just lifting me up to put me into bed.
"I will get into bed myself," I said, preparing to step over the net at the bedside.
"Lie down, Fedinka. You see, Mitinka is already lying quite still," she said, pointing with her head to my brother in his bed.
I jumped into my bed still holding nurse's hand in mine. Then I let it go, stretched my legs under the blanket and wrapped myself up. I felt so nice and warm! I grew silent all of a sudden and began thinking: "I love nurse, nurse loves me and Mitinka, I love Mitinka too, and he loves me and nurse. And nurse loves Taras; I love Taras too, and so does Mitinka. And Taras loves me and nurse. And mother loves me and nurse, nurse loves mother and me and father; everybody loves everybody, and everybody is happy."
Suddenly the housekeeper rushed in and began to shout in an angry voice something about a sugar basin she could not find. Nurse got cross and said she did not take it. I felt frightened; it was all so strange. A cold horror came over me, and I hid myself under the blanket. But I felt no better in the darkness under the blanket. I thought of a boy who had got a thrashing one day in my presence - of his screams, and of the cruel face of Foka when he was beating the boy.
"Then you won't do it any more; you won't!" he repeated and went on beating.
"I won't," said the boy; and Foka kept on repeating over and over, "You won't, you won't!" and did not cease to strike the boy.
That was when my madness came over me for the first time. I burst into sobs, and they could not quiet me for a long while. The tears and despair of that day were the first signs of my present trouble.
I well remember the second time my madness seized me. It was when aunt was telling us about Christ. She told His story and got up to leave the room. But we held her back: "Tell us more about Jesus Christ!" we said.
"I must go," she replied.
"No, tell us more, please!" Mitinka insisted, and she repeated all she had said before. She told us how they crucified Him, how they beat and martyred Him, and how He went on praying and did not blame them.
"Auntie, why did they torture Him?"
"They were wicked."
"But wasn't he God?"
"Be still - it is nine o'clock, don't you hear the clock striking?"
"Why did they beat Him? He had forgiven them. Then why did they hit Him? Did it hurt Him? Auntie, did it hurt?"
"Be quiet, I say. I am going to the dining-room to have tea now."
"But perhaps it never happened, perhaps He was not beaten by them?"
"I am going."
"No, Auntie, don't go!..." And again my madness took possession of me. I sobbed and sobbed, and began knocking my head against the wall.
Such had been the fits of my madness in my childhood. But after I was fourteen, from the time the instincts of sex awoke and I began to give way to vice, my madness seemed to have passed, and I was a boy like other boys. Just as happens with all of us who are brought up on rich, over-abundant food, and are spoiled and made effeminate, because we never do any physical work, and are surrounded by all possible temptations, which excite our sensual nature when in the company of other children similarly spoiled, so I had been taught vice by other boys of my age and I indulged in it. As time passed other vices came to take the place of the first. I began to know women, and so I went on living, up to the time I was thirty-five, looking out for all kinds of pleasures and enjoying them. I had a perfectly sound mind then, and never a sign of madness. Those twenty years of my normal life passed without leaving any special record on my memory, and now it is only with a great effort of mind and with utter disgust, that I can concentrate my thoughts upon that time.
Like all the boys of my set, who were of sound mind, I entered school, passed on to the university and went through a course of law studies. Then I entered the State service for a short time, married, and settled down in the country, educating - if our way of bringing up children can be called educating - my children, looking after the land, and filling the post of a Justice of the Peace.
It was when I had been married ten years that one of those attacks of madness I suffered from in my childhood made its appearance again. My wife and I had saved up money from her inheritance and from some Government bonds of mine which I had sold, and we decided that with that money we would buy another estate. I was naturally keen to increase our fortune, and to do it in the shrewdest way, better than any one else would manage it. I went about inquiring what estates were to be sold, and used to read all the advertisements in the papers. What I wanted was to buy an estate, the produce or timber of which would cover the cost of purchase, and then I would have the estate practically for nothing. I was looking out for a fool who did not understand business, and there came a day when I thought I had found one. An estate with large forests attached to it was to be sold in the Pensa Government. To judge by the information I had received the proprietor of that estate was exactly the imbecile I wanted, and I might expect the forests to cover the price asked for the whole estate. I got my things ready and was soon on my way to the estate I wished to inspect.
We had first to go by train (I had taken my man-servant with me), then by coach, with relays of horses at the various stations. The journey was very pleasant, and my servant, a good-natured youth, liked it as much as I did. We enjoyed the new surroundings and the new people, and having now only about two hundred miles more to drive, we decided to go on without stopping, except to change horses at the stations. Night came on and we were still driving. I had been dozing, but presently I awoke, seized with a sudden fear. As often happens in such a case, I was so excited that I was thoroughly awake and it seemed as if sleep were gone for ever. "Why am I driving? Where am I going?" I suddenly asked myself. It was not that I disliked the idea of buying an estate at a bargain, but it seemed at that moment so senseless to journey to such a far away place, and I had a feeling as if I were going to die there, away from home. I was overcome with terror.
My servant Sergius awoke, and I took advantage of the fact to talk to him. I began to remark upon the scenery around us; he had also a good deal to say, of the people at home, of the pleasure of the journey, and it seemed strange to me that he could talk so gaily. He appeared so pleased with everything and in such good spirits, whereas I was annoyed with it all. Still, I felt more at ease when I was talking with him. Along with my feelings of restlessness and my secret horror, however, I was fatigued as well, and longed to break the journey somewhere. It seemed to me my uneasiness would cease if I could only enter a room, have tea, and, what I desired most of all, sleep.
We were approaching the town Arzamas.
"Don't you think we had better stop here and have a rest?"
"Why not? It's an excellent idea."
"How far are we from the town?" I asked the driver.
"Another seven miles."
The driver was a quiet, silent man. He was driving rather slowly and wearily.
We drove on. I was silent, but I felt better, looking forward to a rest and hoping to feel the better for it. We drove on and on in the darkness, and the seven miles seemed to have no end. At last we reached the town. It was sound asleep at that early hour. First came the small houses, piercing the darkness, and as we passed them, the noise of our jingling bells and the trotting of our horses sounded louder. In a few places the houses were large and white, but I did not feel less dejected for seeing them. I was waiting for the station, and the samovar, and longed to lie down and rest.
At last we approached a house with pillars in front of it. The house was white, but it seemed to me very melancholy. I felt even frightened at its aspect and stepped slowly out of the carriage. Sergius was busying himself with our luggage, taking what we needed for the night, running about and stepping heavily on the doorsteps. The sound of his brisk tread increased my weariness. I walked in and came into a small passage. A man received us; he had a large spot on his cheek and that spot filled me with horror. He asked us into a room which was just an ordinary room. My uneasiness was growing.
"Could we have a room to rest in?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, I have a very nice bedroom at your disposal. A square room, newly whitewashed."
The fact of the little room being square was - I remember it so well - most painful to me. It had one window with a red curtain, a table of birchwood and a sofa with a curved back and arms. Sergius boiled the water in the samovar and made the tea. I put a pillow on the sofa in the meantime and lay down. I was not asleep; I heard Sergius busy with the samovar and urging me to have tea. I was afraid to get up from the sofa, afraid of driving away sleep; and just to be sitting in that room seemed awful. I did not get up, but fell into a sort of doze. When I started up out of it, nobody was in the room and it was quite dark. I woke up with the very same sensation I had the first time and knew sleep was gone. "Why am I here? Where am I going? Just as I am I must be for ever. Neither the Pensa nor any other estate will add to or take anything away from me. As for me, I am unbearably weary of myself. I want to go to sleep, to forget - and I cannot, I cannot get rid of self."
I went out into the passage. Sergius was sleeping there on a narrow bench, his hand hanging down beside it. He was sleeping soundly, and the man with the spot on his cheek was also asleep. I thought, by going out of the room, to get away from what was tormenting me. But it followed me and made everything seem dark and dreary. My feeling of horror, instead of leaving me, was increasing.
"What nonsense!" I said to myself. "Why am I so dejected? What am I afraid of?" "You are afraid of me" - I heard the voice of Death - "I am here."
I shuddered. Yes, - Death! Death will come, it will come and it ought not to come. Even in facing actual death I would certainly not feel anything of what I felt now. Then it would be simply fear, whereas now it was more than that. I was actually seeing, feeling the approach of death, and along with it I felt that death ought not to exist.
My entire being was conscious of the necessity of the right to live, and at the same time of the inevitability of dying. This inner conflict was causing me unbearable pain. I tried to shake off the horror; I found a half-burnt candle in a brass candlestick and lighted it. The candle with its red flame burnt down until it was not much taller than the low candlestick. The same thing seemed to be repeated over and over: nothing lasts, life is not, all is death - but death ought not to exist. I tried to turn my thoughts to what had interested me before, to the estate I was to buy and to my wife. Far from being a relief, these seemed nothing to me now. To feel my life doomed to be taken from me was a terror shutting out any other thought. "I must try to sleep," I decided. I went to bed, but the next instant I jumped up, seized with horror. A sickness overcame me, a spiritual sickness not unlike the physical uneasiness preceding actual illness - but in the spirit, not in the body. A terrible fear similar to the fear of death, when mingled with the recollections of my past life, developed into a horror as if life were departing. Life and death were flowing into one another. An unknown power was trying to tear my soul into pieces, but could not bend it. Once more I went out into the passage to look at the two men asleep; once more I tried to go to sleep. The horror was always the same - now red, now white and square. Something was tearing within but could not be torn apart. A torturing sensation! An arid hatred deprived me of every spark of kindly feeling. Just a dull and steady hatred against myself and against that which had created me. What did create me? God? We say God.... "What if I tried to pray?" I suddenly thought. I had not said a prayer for more than twenty years and I had no religious sentiment, although just for formality's sake I fasted and partook of the communion every year. I began saying prayers; "God, forgive me," "Our Father," "Our Lady," I was composing new prayers, crossing myself, bowing to the earth, looking around me all the while for fear I might be discovered in my devotional attitude. The prayers seemed to divert my thoughts from the previous terror, but it was more the fear of being seen by somebody that did it. I went to bed again. but the moment I shut my eyes the very same feeling of terror made me jump up. I could not stand it any longer. I called the hotel servant, roused Sergius from his sleep, ordered him to harness the horses to the carriage and we were soon driving on once more. The open air and the drive made me feel much better. But I realised that something new had come into my soul, and had poisoned the life I had lived up to that hour.
We reached our destination in the evening. The whole day long I remained struggling with despair, and finally conquered it; but a horror remained in the depth of my soul. It was as if a misfortune had happened to me, and although I was able to forget it for a while, it remained at the bottom of my soul, and I was entirely dominated by it.
The manager of the estate, an old man, received us in a very friendly manner, though not exactly with great joy; he was sorry that the estate was to be sold. The clean little rooms with upholstered furniture, a new, shining samovar on the tea-table, nice large cups, honey served with the tea, - everything was pleasant to see. I began questioning him about the estate without any interest, as if I were repeating a lesson learned long ago and nearly forgotten. It was so uninteresting. But that night I was able to go to sleep without feeling miserable. I thought this was due to having said my prayers again before going to bed.
After that incident I resumed my ordinary life; but the apprehension that this horror would again come upon me was continual. I had to live my usual life without any respite, not giving way to my thoughts, just like a schoolboy who repeats by habit and without thinking the lesson learned by heart. That was the only way to avoid being seized again by the horror and the despair I had experienced in Arzamas.
I had returned home safe from my journey; I had not bought the estate - I had not enough money. My life at home seemed to be just as it had always been, save for my having taken to saying prayers and to going to church. But now, when I recollect that time, I see that I only imagined my life to be the same as before. The fact was I merely continued what I had previously started, and was running with the same speed on rails already laid; but I did not undertake anything new.
Even in those things which I had already taken in hand my interest had diminished. I was tired of everything, and was growing very religious. My wife noticed this, and was often vexed with me for it. No new fit of distress occurred while I was at home. But one day I had to go unexpectedly to Moscow, where a lawsuit was pending. In the train I entered into conversation with a land-owner from Kharkov. We were talking about the management of estates, about bank business, about the hotels in Moscow, and the theatres. We both decided to stop at the "Moscow Court," in the Miasnizkaia Street, and go that evening to the opera, to Faust. When we arrived I was shown into a small room, the heavy smell of the passage being still in my nostrils. the porter brought in my portmanteau, and the amid lighted the candle, the flame of which burned up brightly and then flickered, as it usually does. In the room next to mine I heard somebody coughing, probably an old man. The maid went out, and the porter asked whether I wished him to open my bag. In the meanwhile the candle flame had flared up, throwing its light on the blue wallpaper with yellow stripes, on the partition, on the shabby table, on the small sofa in the front of it, on the mirror hanging on the wall, and on the window. I saw what the small room was like, and suddenly felt the horror of the Arzamas night awakening within me.
"My God! Must I stay here for the night? How can I?" I thought. "Will you kindly unfasten my bag?" I said to the porter, to keep him longer in the room. "And now I'll dress quickly and go to the theatre," I said to myself.
When the bag had been untied I said to the porter, "Please tell the gentleman in Number 8 - the one who came with me - that I shall be ready presently, and ask him to wait for me."
The porter left, and I began to dress in haste, afraid to look at the walls. "But what nonsense!" I said to myself. "Why am I frightened like a child? I am not afraid of ghosts -" Ghosts! - to be afraid of ghosts is nothing to what I was afraid of! "But what is it? Absolutely nothing. I am only afraid of myself....Nonsense!"
I slipped into a cold, rough, starched shirt, stuck in the studs, put on evening dress and new boots, and went to call for the Kharkov landowner, who was ready. We started for the opera house. He stopped on the way to have his hair curled, while I went to a French hairdresser to have mine cut, where I talked a little to the Frenchwoman in the shop and bought a pair of gloves. Everything seemed all right. I had completely forgotten the oblong room in the hotel, and the walls.
I enjoyed the Faust performance very much, and when it was over my companion proposed that we should have supper. This was contrary to my habits; but just at that moment I remembered the walls in my room, and accepted.
We returned home after one. I had two glasses of wine - an unusual thing for me - in spite of which I was feeling quite at ease.
But the moment we entered the passage with the lowered lamp lighting it, the moment I was surrounded by the peculiar smell of the hotel. I felt a cold shudder of horror running down my back. But there was nothing to be done. I shook hands with my new friend, and stepped into my room.
I had a frightful night - much worse than the night at Arzamas; and it was not until dawn, when the old man in the next room was coughing again, that I fell asleep - and then not in my bed, but, after getting in and out of it many times, on the sofa.
I suffered the whole night unbearably. Once more my soul and my body were tearing themselves apart within me. the same thoughts came again: "I am living, I have lived up till now, I have the right to live; but all around me is death and destruction. Then why live? Why not die? Why not kill myself immediately? No; I could not. I am afraid. Is it better to wait for death to come when it will? No, that is even worse; and I am also afraid of that. Then, I must live. But what for? In order to die?" I could not get out of that circle. I took a book, and began reading. For a moment it made me forget my thoughts. But then the same questions and the same horror came again. I got into bed, lay down, and shut my eyes. That made the horror worse. God had created things as they are. But why? They say, "Don't ask; pray." Well, I did pray; I was praying now, just as I did at Arzamas. At that time I had prayed simply, like a child. now my prayers had a definite meaning: "If Thou exist, reveal Thy existence to me. To what end am I created? What am I?" I was bowing to the earth, repeating all the prayers I knew, composing new ones; and I was adding each time, "Reveal Thy existence to me!" I became quiet, waiting for an answer. But no answer came, as if there were nothing to answer. I was alone, alone with myself and was answering my own questions in place of him who would not answer. "What am I created for?" "To live in a future life," I answered. "Then why this uncertainty and torment? I cannot believe in future life. I did believe when I asked, but not with my whole soul. Now I cannot, I cannot! If Thou didst exist, Thou wouldst reveal it to me, to all men. But Thou dost not exist, and there is nothing true but distress." But I cannot accept that! I rebelled against it; I implored Him to reveal His existence to me. I did all that everybody does, but He did not reveal Himself to me. "Ask and it shall be given unto you," I remembered, and began to entreat; in doing so I felt no real comfort, but just surcease of despair. Perhaps it was not entreaty on my part, but only denial of Him. You retreat a step from Him, and He goes from you a mile. I did not believe in Him, and yet here I was entreating Him. But He did not reveal Himself. I was balancing my accounts with Him, and was blaming Him. I simply did not believe.
The next day I used all my endeavors to get through with my affairs somehow during the day, in order to be saved from another night in the hotel room. Although I had not finished everything, I left for home in the evening.
That night at Moscow brought a still greater change into my life, which had been changing ever since the night at Arzamas. I was now paying less attention to my affairs, and grew more and more indifferent to everything around me. my health was also getting bad. My wife urged me to consult a doctor. To her my continual talk about God and religion was a sign of ill-health, whereas I knew I was ill and weak, because of the unsolved questions of religion and of God.
I was trying not to let that question dominate my mind, and continued living amid the old unaltered conditions, filling up my time with incessant occupations. On Sundays and feast days I went to church; I even fasted as I had begun to do since my journey to Pensa, and did not cease to pray. I had no faith in my prayers, but somehow I kept the demand note in my possession instead of tearing it up, and was always presenting it for payment, although I was aware of the impossibility of getting paid. I did it just on the chance. I occupied my days, not with the management of the estate - I felt disgusted with all business because of the struggle it involved - but with the reading of papers, magazines, and novels, and with card-playing for small stakes. the only outlet for my energy was hunting. I had kept that up from habit, having been fond of this sport all my life.
One day in winter, a neighbor of mine came with his dogs to hunt wolves. Having arrived at the meeting place we put on snowshoes to walk over the snow and move rapidly along. The hunt was unsuccessful; the wolves contrived to escape through the stockade. As I became aware of that from a distance, I took the direction of the forest to follow the fresh track of a hare. This led me far away into a field. There I spied the hare, but he had disappeared before I could fire. I turned to go back, and had to pass a forest of huge trees. The snow was deep, the snowshoes were sinking in, and the branches were entangling me. The wood was getting thicker and thicker. I wondered where I was, for the snow had changed all the familiar places. Suddenly I realised that I had lost my way. How should I get home or reach the hunting party? Not a sound to guide me! I was tired and bathed in perspiration. If I stopped, I would probably freeze to death; if I walked on, my strength would forsake me. I shouted, but all was quiet, and no answer came. I turned in the opposite direction, which was wrong again, and looked round. Nothing but the wood on every hand. I could not tell which was east or west. I turned back again, but I could hardly move a step. I was frightened, and stopped. the horror I had experienced in Arzamas and in Moscow seized me again, only a hundred times greater. My heart was beating, my hands and feet were shaking. Am I to die here? I don't want to! Why death? What is death? I was about to ask again, to reproach God, when I suddenly felt I must not; I ought not. I had not the right to present any account to him; He had said all that was necessary, and the fault was wholly mine. I began to implore His forgiveness for I felt disgusted with myself. The horror, however, did not last long. I stood still one moment, plucked up courage, took the direction which seemed to be the right one, and was actually soon out of the wood. I had not been far from its edge when I lost my way. As I came out on the main road, my hands and feet were still shaking, and my heart was beating violently. But my soul was full of joy. I soon found my party, and we all returned home together. I was not quite happy but I knew there was a joy within me which I would understand later on; and that joy proved real. I went to my study to be alone and prayed remembering my sins, and asking for forgiveness. They did not seem to be numerous; but when I thought of what they were they were hateful to me.
Then I began to read the Scriptures. The Old Testament I found incomprehensible but enchanting, the New touching in its meekness. But my favorite reading was now the lives of the saints; they were consoling to me, affording example which seemed more and more possible to follow. Since that time I have grown even less interested in the management of affairs and in family matters. These things even became repulsive to me. Everything was wrong in my eyes. I did not quite realise why they were wrong, but I knew that the things of which my whole life had consisted, now counted for nothing. This was plainly revealed to me again on the occasion of the projected purchase of an estate, which was for sale in our neighborhood on very advantageous terms. I went to inspect it. Everything was very satisfactory, the more so because the peasants on that estate had no land of their own beyond their vegetable gardens. I grasped at once that in exchange for the right of using the landowner's pasture-grounds, they would do all the harvesting for him; and the information I was given proved that I was right. I saw how important that was, and was pleased, as it was in accordance with my old habits of thought. But on my way home I met an old woman who asked her way, and I entered into a conversation with her, during which she told me about her poverty. On returning home, when telling my wife about the advantages the estate afforded, all at once I felt ashamed and disgusted. I said I was not going to buy that estate, for its profits were based on the sufferings of the peasants. I was struck at that moment with the truth of what I was saying, the truth of the peasants having the same desire to live as ourselves, of their being our equals, our brethren, the children of the Father, as the Gospel says. But unexpectedly something which had been gnawing within me for a long time became loosened and was torn away, and something new seemed to be born instead.
My wife was vexed with me and abused me. But I was full of joy. This was the first sign of my madness. My utter madness began to show itself about a month later.
This began by my going to church; I was listening to the Mass with great attention and with a faithful heart, when I was suddenly given a wafer; after which every one began to move forward to kiss the Cross, pushing each other on all sides. As I was leaving church, beggars were standing on the steps. It became instantly clear to me that this ought not to be, and in reality was not. But if this is not, then there is no death and no fear, and nothing is being torn asunder within me, and I am not afraid of any calamity which may come.
At that moment the full light of the truth was kindled in me, and I grew into what I am now. If all this horror does not necessarily exist around me, then it certainly does not exist within me. I distributed on the spot all the money I had among the beggars in the porch, and walked home instead of driving in my carriage as usual, and all the way I talked with the peasants.
“I’m unpredictable, I never know where I’m going until I get there, I’m so random, I’m always growing, learning, changing, I’m never the same person twice. But one thing you can be sure of about me; is I will always do exactly what I want to do.” C. JoyBell C.
“Never apologize for how you feel. No one can control how they feel. The sun doesn’t apologize for being the sun. The rain doesn’t say sorry for falling. Feelings just are.” Iain S. Thomas, Intentional Dissonance
No, as soon as I saw that article”— she picked up the Times and tapped it significantly—“ I said to myself: ‘No man ever planned this.’” “But why?” asked Helena. “No grown-up man,” said her mother, “will ever put on a tuxedo unless a woman makes him. No man, whatever his politics, Helena, is going to put on a tuxedo to go out and sympathy-strike, or whatever they call it, unless some artful woman is egging him on.” Mary McCarthy, The Group
“There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must take a stand for human right or justice, or you never feel clean again.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; The Lost World -Lord Roxton
“Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, contentment, or even common sense.” C.S. Lewis
“I won’t kiss you. It might get to be a habit and I can’t get rid of habits.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flappers and Philosophers
“A cut. That’s what I felt. Words can cut, slice, like a razor.” Megan Miranda, Fracture
“Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.” Denis Waitley
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa
“Our God is the God of all,
The God of heaven and earth,
Of the sea and of the rivers;
The God of the sea and of the moon
And of all the stars;
The God of the lofty mountains
And of the lowly valleys.
He has his dwelling around heaven and earth,
And sea, and all that in them is.”
Gloucester, Richard III, William Shakespeare
What, do I fear myself? there’s none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I
Is there a murderer here? No; - yes; I am
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why, -
Lest I revenge. What, - myself upon myself!
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore! for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie, I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: - fool, do not flatter
DON'T YOU JUST LOVE POP ART?
The art and joy of cinematography
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
“Liquid Sky”: This glam early-’80s sci-fi masterpiece that predicted the AIDS crisis could disappear forever
The influential film's original stock is deteriorating, right when it should be poised for a revival
"Liquid Sky": This glam early-'80s sci-fi masterpiece that predicted the AIDS crisis could disappear forever
A glowing spaceship appears over the New York City skyline as dissonant New Wave music fills the multiple ears with their dangling rings. Junkies, models, poseurs and performance artists feed off each other in a battle to be the most fierce, all the while unaware that tiny aliens are harnessing their ecstasy. Most visitors to New York go to Serendipity for a frozen hot chocolate — these buggers are literally fueling their space ship with the power of the human orgasm, which turns the screen electric blue and red and green and purple.
“Liquid Sky” is set in New York City in the few years between disco and AIDS when young denizens indulged in exhibitionistic sex and hard drugs and took their fashion cues from the gleefully androgynous English New Romantic movement (big hair, frills, ruffles, theatrical make up). They danced like rusty robots in neon lit nightclubs. Within this odd demimonde Margaret (Anne Carlisle) lives and works as a successful model. She has the perfect life, with one exception: she kills everyone she has sex with, whether that sex is loving, non-consensual or even with her male doppelganger “Jimmy” (also played by Anne Carlisle, then a face at the Mudd Club, a key hangout of the period). Margaret is high maintenance (“You know this bitch takes two hours to go get ready to go anywhere,” says girlfriend Adrian, who nearly steals the film with her performance of “Me and My Rhythm Box”).
Shot in Ed Koch’s crumbling New York on a tiny budget, “Liquid Sky”’s now highly-influential look, which has informed the costumes of everyone from Karen O to Lady Gaga and Sia, came largely from Carlisle’s closet or thrift shop shopping bags. Carlisle, director Slava Tsukerman and co-producer Nina Kerova created a new kind of glamor queen who, Bowie-like, quite easily stokes the desire of the men and women — before leaving a crystal spike in the back of their brain. “I kill people that fuck me,” the character confesses. Is it worth it? Almost. Is it almost ghoulishly predictive? Absolutely. This was 1982.
“They already had AIDS, but it wasn’t that publicized,” says Tsukerman, who swears the film was conceived as science fiction. Tsukerman, who traveled from Moscow to Hollywood and then found himself in Carlisle’s fast-fashion world, where it seemed that everyone was a dancer, painter, band member, filmmaker or actor, adds, “The information about AIDS came after Liquid Sky.”
Carlisle was equally aghast when her real life friends began dying of this new sexually transmitted disease. “It was so amazing, because the film is really about dying from sex and then everyone started dropping. It was really, really eerie. That happens sometimes in creative life. You do something and it’s an accident that it actually comes true. It’s mystical.”
The two were already well established in the world of downtown film before “Liquid Sky” was co-conceived. Tsukerman had a film called “Sweeet Sixteen” which was nearly financed. “It was about a girl who was killed in a car accident in 1935 and her father, a crazy scientist, saves her head and makes a mechanical body,” he says. Andy Warhol was supposedly committed make an appearance. Carlisle had a film called “The Fish” which she was showing around the clubs. When the pair met, it was clear that Tsukerman found his muse — but he had reservations, once “Liquid Sky” began pre-production, that Carlisle, primarily a painter, model and self described “nihilist” who attended the School of Visual Arts, could handle the role of both Margaret and Jimmy, even though, as she recalls, “I had a boy’s haircut and a mini skirt. No one else was doing that.” Carlisle convinced him one day. “We were scouting locations and I dressed as a man and I picked up a girl in front of him and that was my audition,” she says. “She thought I was a boy. I admitted I was a girl and she said she was still into it.”
“Liquid Sky” has a pre-apocalyptic feel of the Cold War sci-fi with the slickness of much more expensive films like its contemporary “Blade Runner,” but the budget (about a half-million) nearly sparked a mutiny. “The crew was paid very little and they did revolt at one point over the food,” Carlisle says. “They were worked day and night. We worked terrible hours. That the film got made at all was a miracle. It was really — at one point, I was arguing with them, we’re making art here and you’re worried about food. And he said you’re making art here. We want pizza!”
Unlike Ridley Scott’s film, “Liquid Sky” was shot through with a kind of self-deprecating, New York Jewish humor. A rumpled, hapless professor (the lanky Otto von Wehnherr) is on the trail of the alien spacecraft and bumbles his way through the jaded world, where few believe or even care that there might be visitors feeding on the heat of human sexual climax. They’re fixated on their next score, or on Chinese take out.
The film, released in the summer of ’82 at media-heavy film festivals, beginning in Montreal, quickly became a minor sensation. This was the height of the second British cultural invasion (Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran) which was of a piece with Carlilse’s androgyny and gear. It played at the Waverly Theater in New York City for about four years and Carlisle became a star, posing in and out of male drag for one of Playboy’s strangest photo shoots.
Carlisle briefly moved to Hollywood and got an agent, but was confused that the only parts offered to her were supporting roles in films like “Crocodile Dundee.” She returned to New York somewhat broken. “I went into psychoanalysis.” By then, Rock Hudson had announced he had AIDS and the disease was soon a household world. Carlisle didn’t feel responsible for her and Tsukerman’s vision, but it haunted her nonetheless.
“I went to school to become an art therapist to help people who were dying,” she said. “I actually was so moved by it I changed my life. I said, I have to do something other than pursue acting.”
However, neither Carlisle nor Tsukerman let go of Margaret. Carlisle wrote a novel based on her character and Tsukerman began piecing together material designed to document the making of the film, whose status as both a prescient New York story and a fashion touchstone has grown over the years (a Liquid Sky boutique on Manhattan’s Lafayette Street operated for a while). The soundtrack by the un-trained Tsukerman — loud, atonal but funky — inspired the more abrasive elements of the Electroclash movement of the late ’90s.
Innovative and influential as it is, one would assume that Liquid Sky is in the queue to become part of the permanent collection of the Criterion Editions or even MOMA, but in reality the original 35 mm film stock is decaying. “We need money,” Carlisle says. Tsukerman is racing time to raise the funds to restore the film, planning both a crowdfunding endeavor and completion on the documentary. Meanwhile there’s a sequel in the works — its working title is “Vagina Warriors.”
“We’re writing the script,” says Tsukerman. “We’ve stayed friends.” Carlisle is guarded about the story, but will say, “Margaret comes back and she changes other women.”
Meanwhile, in an age where society is exploring the nature of gender more rapidly than ever in history, a film like “Liquid Sky” certainly deserves a second life. “I hear it a lot,” says Carlisle. “People say that it changed their life. Especially people who were marginalized. They felt like they were not understood by anyone and then they saw this film and said. ‘Oh, no, there’s more like me out there.”
Marc Spitz is the author of "Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the '90s" (Da Capo Press). His new book on rock and roll cinema, "Loud Pictures," will be released by Dey Street Books/Harper Collins in 2017 Follow Marc Spitz at @marcspitz
DON'T YOU WANT TO SEE THE ENTIRE WORLD?
M104, the Sombrero Galaxy, courtesy of NASA,
Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula
The Veil Nebula
AND HERE'S SOME ANIMALS FOR YOU...................
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The Day Nixon Met Elvis
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Quo Vadis: A narrative of the time of Nero
Paperback 420 pages
The Porchless Pumpkin: A Halloween Story for Children
A Halloween play for young children. By consent of the author, this play may be performed, at no charge, by educational institutions, neighborhood organizations and other not-for-profit-organizations.
A fun story with a moral
“I believe that Denny O'Day is an American treasure and this little book proves it. Jack is a pumpkin who happens to be very small, by pumpkins standards and as a result he goes unbought in the pumpkin patch on Halloween eve, but at the last moment he is given his chance to prove that just because you're small doesn't mean you can't be brave. Here is the point that I found so wonderful, the book stresses that while size doesn't matter when it comes to courage...ITS OKAY TO BE SCARED....as well. I think children need to hear that, that's its okay to be unsure because life is a ongoing lesson isn't it?”
Paperback: 42 pages
It's Not All Right to be a Foster Kid....no matter what they tell you: Tweet the books contents
Paperback 94 pages
From the Author
I spent my childhood, from age seven through seventeen, in foster care. Over the course of those ten years, many decent, well-meaning, and concerned people told me, "It's okay to be foster kid."
In saying that, those very good people meant to encourage me, and I appreciated their kindness then, and all these many decades later, I still appreciate their good intentions. But as I was tossed around the foster care system, it began to dawn on me that they were wrong. It was not all right to be a foster kid.
During my time in the system, I was bounced every eighteen months from three foster homes to an orphanage to a boy's school and to a group home before I left on my own accord at age seventeen.
In the course of my stay in foster care, I was severely beaten in two homes by my "care givers" and separated from my four siblings who were also in care, sometimes only blocks away from where I was living.
I left the system rather than to wait to age out, although the effects of leaving the system without any family, means, or safety net of any kind, were the same as if I had aged out. I lived in poverty for the first part of my life, dropped out of high school, and had continuous problems with the law.
Today, almost nothing about foster care has changed. Exactly what happened to me is happening to some other child, somewhere in America, right now. The system, corrupt, bloated, and inefficient, goes on, unchanging and secretive.
Something has gone wrong in a system that was originally a compassionate social policy built to improve lives but is now a definitive cause in ruining lives. Due to gross negligence, mismanagement, apathy, and greed, mostly what the foster care system builds are dangerous consequences. Truly, foster care has become our epic national disgrace and a nightmare for those of us who have lived through it.
Yet there is a suspicion among some Americans that foster care costs too much, undermines the work ethic, and is at odds with a satisfying life. Others see foster care as a part of the welfare system, as legal plunder of the public treasuries.
None of that is true; in fact, all that sort of thinking does is to blame the victims. There is not a single child in the system who wants to be there or asked to be there. Foster kids are in foster care because they had nowhere else to go. It's that simple. And believe me, if those kids could get out of the system and be reunited with their parents and lead normal, healthy lives, they would. And if foster care is a sort of legal plunder of the public treasuries, it's not the kids in the system who are doing the plundering.
We need to end this needless suffering. We need to end it because it is morally and ethically wrong and because the generations to come will not judge us on the might of our armed forces or our technological advancements or on our fabulous wealth.
Rather, they will judge us, I am certain, on our compassion for those who are friendless, on our decency to those who have nothing and on our efforts, successful or not, to make our nation and our world a better place. And if we cannot accomplish those things in the short time allotted to us, then let them say of us "at least they tried."
You can change the tragedy of foster care and here's how to do it. We have created this book so that almost all of it can be tweeted out by you to the world. You have the power to improve the lives of those in our society who are least able to defend themselves. All you need is the will to do it.
If the American people, as good, decent and generous as they are, knew what was going on in foster care, in their name and with their money, they would stop it. But, generally speaking, although the public has a vague notion that foster care is a mess, they don't have the complete picture. They are not aware of the human, economic and social cost that the mismanagement of the foster care system puts on our nation.
By tweeting the facts laid out in this work, you can help to change all of that. You can make a difference. You can change things for the better.
We can always change the future for a foster kid; to make it better ...you have the power to do that. Speak up (or tweet out) because it's your country. Don't depend on the "The other guy" to speak up for these kids, because you are the other guy.
We cannot build a future for foster children, but we can build foster children for the future and the time to start that change is today.
No time to say Goodbye: Memoirs of a life in foster
Paperbook 440 Books
BOOKS ABOUT FILM
On the Waterfront: The Making of a Great American Film
Paperback: 416 pages
BOOKS ABOUT GHOSTS AND THE SUPERNATUAL
Scotish Ghost Stories
Paperback 186 pages
The Book of funny odd and interesting things people say
Paperback: 278 pages
The Wee Book of Irish Jokes
Perfect Behavior: A guide for Ladies and Gentlemen in all Social Crises
BOOKS ABOUT THE 1960s
You Don’t Need a Weatherman. Underground 1969
Paperback 122 pages
Baby Boomers Guide to the Beatles Songs of the Sixties
Baby Boomers Guide to Songs of the 1960s
The Connecticut Irish
Paper back 140 pages
The Wee Book of Irish Jokes
The Wee Book of Irish Recipes
The Wee Book of the American-Irish Gangsters
The Wee book of Irish Blessings...
The Wee Book of the American Irish in Their Own Words
Everything you need to know about St. Patrick
Paperback 26 pages
A Reading Book in Ancient Irish History
The Book of Things Irish
Poets and Dreamer; Stories translated from the Irish
Paperback 158 pages
The History of the Great Irish Famine: Abridged and Illustrated
Paperback 356 pages
BOOKS ABOUT NEW ENGLAND
The New England Mafia
Wicked Good New England Recipes
The Connecticut Irish
Paper back 140 pages
The Twenty-Fifth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Paperback 64 pages
The Life of James Mars
Paperback 54 pages
Stories of Colonial Connecticut
Paperback 116 pages
What they Say in Old New England
Paperback 194 pages
BOOK ABOUT ORGANIZED CRIME
Chicago Organized Crime
The Mob Files: It Happened Here: Places of Note in Chicago gangland 1900-2000
An Illustrated Chronological History of the Chicago Mob. Time Line 1837-2000
Mob Buster: Report of Special Agent Virgil Peterson to the Kefauver Committee
The Mob Files. Guns and Glamour: The Chicago Mob. A History. 1900-2000
Shooting the Mob: Organized crime in photos. Crime Boss Tony Accardo
Shooting the Mob: Organized Crime in Photos: The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The Life and World of Al Capone in Photos
AL CAPONE: The Biography of a Self-Made Man.: Revised from the 0riginal 1930 edition.Over 200 new photographs
Paperback: 340 pages
Whacked. One Hundred Years Murder and Mayhem in the Chicago Outfit
Paperback: 172 pages
Las Vegas Organized Crime
The Mob in Vegas
Bugsy & His Flamingo: The Testimony of Virginia Hill
Testimony by Mobsters Lewis McWillie, Joseph Campisi and Irwin Weiner (The Mob Files Series)
Rattling the Cup on Chicago Crime.
Paperback 264 pages
The Life and Times of Terrible Tommy O’Connor.
Paperback 94 pages
The Mob, Sam Giancana and the overthrow of the Black Policy Racket in Chicago
Paperback 200 pages
When Capone’s Mob Murdered Roger Touhy. In Photos
Paperback 234 pages
Organized Crime in Hollywood
The Mob in Hollywood
The Bioff Scandal
Paperback 54 pages
Organized Crime in New York
Joe Pistone’s war on the mafia
Mob Testimony: Joe Pistone, Michael Scars DiLeonardo, Angelo Lonardo and others
The New York Mafia: The Origins of the New York Mob
The New York Mob: The Bosses
Organized Crime 25 Years after Valachi. Hearings before the US Senate
Shooting the mob: Dutch Schultz
Gangland Gaslight: The Killing of Rosy Rosenthal. (Illustrated)
Early Street Gangs and Gangsters of New York City
Paperback 382 pages
THE RUSSIAN MOBS
The Russian Mafia in America
The Threat of Russian Organzied Crime
Paperback 192 pages
Best of Mob Stories
Best of Mob Stories Part 2
Mob Recipes to Die For. Meals and Mobsters in Photos
More Mob Recipes to Die For. Meals and Mobs
The New England Mafia
Shooting the mob. Organized crime in photos. Dead Mobsters, Gangsters and Hoods.
The Salerno Report: The Mafia and the Murder of President John F. Kennedy
The Mob Files: Mob Wars. "We only kill each other"
The Mob across America
The US Government’s Time Line of Organzied Crime 1920-1987
Early Street Gangs and Gangsters of New York City: 1800-1919. Illustrated
The Mob Files: Mob Cops, Lawyers and Informants and Fronts
Gangster Quotes: Mobsters in their own words. Illustrated
Paperback: 128 pages
The Book of American-Jewish Gangsters: A Pictorial History.
Paperback: 436 pages
The Mob and the Kennedy Assassination
Paperback 414 pages
BOOKS ABOUT THE OLD WEST
The Last Outlaw: The story of Cole Younger, by Himself
Paperback 152 pages
BOOKS ON PHOTOGRAPHY
Chicago: A photographic essay.
Paperback: 200 pages
Boomers on a train: A ten minute play
Paperback 22 pages
Four Short Plays
By John William Tuohy
Four More Short Plays
By John William Tuohy
High and Goodbye: Everybody gets the Timothy Leary they deserve. A full length play
By John William Tuohy
Cyberdate. An Everyday Love Story about Everyday People
By John William Tuohy
The Dutchman's Soliloquy: A one Act Play based on the factual last words of Gangster Dutch Schultz.
By John William Tuohy
Fishbowling on The Last Words of Dutch Schultz: Or William S. Burroughs intersects with Dutch Schultz
Print Length: 57 pages
American Shakespeare: August Wilson in his own words. A One Act Play
By John William Tuohy
She Stoops to Conquer
The Seven Deadly Sins of Gilligan’s Island: A ten minute play
Print Length: 14 pages
BOOKS ABOUT VIRGINIA
OUT OF CONTROL: An Informal History of the Fairfax County Police
McLean Virginia. A short informal history
THE QUOTABLE SERIES
The Quotable Emerson: Life lessons from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Over 300 quotes
The Quotable John F. Kennedy
The Quotable Oscar Wilde
The Quotable Machiavelli
The Quotable Confucius: Life Lesson from the Chinese Master
The Quotable Henry David Thoreau
The Quotable Robert F. Kennedy
The Quotable Writer: Writers on the Writers Life
The words of Walt Whitman: An American Poet
Paperback: 162 pages
Gangster Quotes: Mobsters in their own words. Illustrated
Paperback: 128 pages
The Quotable Popes
Paperback 66 pages
The Quotable Kahlil Gibran with Artwork from Kahlil Gibran
Paperback 52 pages
Kahlil Gibran, an artist, poet, and writer was born on January 6, 1883 n the north of modern-day Lebanon and in what was then part of Ottoman Empire. He had no formal schooling in Lebanon. In 1895, the family immigrated to the United States when Kahlil was a young man and settled in South Boston. Gibran enrolled in an art school and was soon a member of the avant-garde community and became especially close to Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day who encouraged and supported Gibran’s creative projects. An accomplished artist in drawing and watercolor, Kahlil attended art school in Paris from 1908 to 1910, pursuing a symbolist and romantic style. He held his first art exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston, at Day's studio. It was at this exhibition, that Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, who ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship and love affair that lasted the rest of Gibran’s short life. Haskell influenced every aspect of Gibran’s personal life and career. She became his editor when he began to write and ushered his first book into publication in 1918, The Madman, a slim volume of aphorisms and parables written in biblical cadence somewhere between poetry and prose. Gibran died in New York City on April 10, 1931, at the age of 48 from cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis.
The Quotable Dorothy Parker
Paperback 86 pages
The Quotable Machiavelli
Paperback 36 pages
The Quotable Greeks
Paperback 230 pages
The Quotabe Oscar Wilde
Paperback 24 pages
The Quotable Helen Keller
Paperback 66 pages
The Art of War: Sun Tzu
Paperback 60 pages
The Quotable Shakespeare
Paperback 54 pages
The Quotable Gorucho Marx
Paperback 46 pages