Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jerusalem - a Follow-up

Just published this year: Alan Moore's Jerusalem.
The slipcase edition above was found here.

"The geographic focus of Jerusalem is the Boroughs, a half-mile square area that was the original kernel of Northampton, but by the early 2000s is “gutted,” a squalid waste with “the shoebox stack of ‘Sixties housing where the feudal corridors of Moat Street, Fort Street and the rest once stood.” The chronological focus is on a few days in early May 2006, when Alma Warren, an artist and “mad witch who lived in a rubbish tip” is about to unveil a new exhibition of paintings inspired by her brother Michael’s recalled memories of visions he had a half century earlier as he choked on a 'cough-sweet.'"

- A description of Alan Moore's Jerusalem via this article: Alan Moore’s long-anticipated Jerusalem is a thousand-page doorstop that you can’t stop reading.

“'This planet has a physical geography with which we have already familiarised ourselves,” Moore is telling me, for a feature in The Times. “But since the dawn of the first stories, there is a fictional geography, where the gods and demons live. We have created this big imaginary planet that is a counterpart to our own; and in some cases these places are more familiar to us than the real ones.”

“But science cannot measure the bit that isn’t material. Science is a brilliant tool for analysing our material universe, but science cannot talk about what is inside the human mind: it’s beyond the realm of proof, it’s beyond the realm of science. So I say they should be left to art and magic, which are pretty much the same thing.”

 “We’ll march on ugliness and stupidity, we’ll make loveliness compulsory, and the roar of our orchestra engines will soar evermore in a glorious, annihilating symphony, for the tyranny of beauty is our god-given duty: every child at birth is to be issued with a ukulele, given their own flag and granted absolute and utter sovereignty, and as long as it’s coloured in nicely and has an old woman on it, make their own currency. Turn every urban address into a dripping Rousseau wilderness. We’ll keep advancing until there’s nobody not dancing. We’ll put politics in the pillory, put the art back in artillery; we can weaponise wonder, and our voice shall be as thunder… Cometh the moment, cometh the Mandrill.”

- Three wonderful Alan Moore quotes from this (September 22, 2016) article: If you read only one Alan Moore Jerusalem interview, make it this one.


(This post is a follow-up to the 2014 post: Alan Moore & Jerusalem.)

Writer Alan Moore (of V for Vendetta fame) has a soft spot for women. And, any man who has a soft spot for women is a Great Man in my estimation. While I had known (and mentioned) previously that he characterized himself in his latest book, Jerusalem, as a female artist, I didn't know that the book itself was actually dedicated to a another female: a young girl - and distant relative - by the name of Audrey. Audrey suffered the unfortunate fate of having been institutionalized by her parents for the sole purposes of silencing any allusions she might make to her father's incestuous relations with her.

“The book is dedicated to Audrey,” he says. “The whole book was an attempt… an attempt to rescue her? A particularly futile and belated attempt, but the best I could do. The only way that I could rescue her was in a fiction.” 

I'm assuming Audrey was declared mad around the same time that it was quite the trend to declare women "mad" (as is described in the Camille Claudel section - Into the Madhouse - of this post). It's to Moore's credit that Audrey's story moved him enough to unearth her remains from his family closet; this is so rarely the case. 

For those interested, I've just listened to the first part of a podcast interview with Moore found here. (And here's the second part.) (Thanks, Tam B!) In it he describes some of women in his family, specifically his grandmother - a deathmonger (undertaker) - and the relationship between the midwives, "witches" and the "gilded barber surgeons" of her time.

Fascinating. And, I suspect this is also true of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Oblique Strategies... and the Circles of Time

The first set of the "Platonic" Cyclohedra cast in 1988. (Photo: 2016, DS)
(click on photos to enlarge)

"Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono."

- Via the Wiki entry for lateral thinking.

"They were most famously used by Eno during the recording of David Bowie's Berlin triptych of albums (Low, "Heroes", Lodger). Stories suggest they were used during the recording of instrumentals on "Heroes" such as "Sense of Doubt" and were used more extensively on Lodger ("Fantastic Voyage", "Boys Keep Swinging", "Red Money"). They were used again on Bowie's 1995 album Outside, which Eno was involved with as a writer, producer and musician. Carlos Alomar, who worked with Eno and Bowie on all these albums, was a fan on using the cards, later saying "at the Center for Performing Arts at the Stevens Institute of Technology, where I teach, on the wall are Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards. And when my students get a mental block, I immediately direct them to that wall."

- From the Wiki entry for Oblique Strategies, a card game created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975. David Bowie's personal deck (pictured above, inset, right) was found here.

Les stratégies obliques (and here)

"Allow an easement (an easement is the abandonment of a stricture)"

- The "oblique strategy" presented to moi when I clicked the link for the online version of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. (English only, but there is a French version on the web somewhere... at least there was... as well as a Japanese version.)

"As it happened, the subject of maps came up that day, during a game of Triakis, a game which was fairly new to the Prince, and one for which his uncle insisted he needed training. As it was, he'd just made, what he thought, was a strategic move, but when his uncle's turn came, the boy lost another avatar.

"You will never understand this game, Nathaniel," his uncle grinned, flipping the tetrahedron in the air and then catching it, "until you look at the board as if it were a map."

But, all the Prince really saw when he looked at the diamond- shaped board was a mosaic of triangles, and he said so.

"Well, yes, the board is composed of triangles, but, look closely: those triangles are really portions of hexagons, and it's by the hexagons one calculates the most advantageous moves to make," explained his uncle.

"But, that's not like real maps," Nathaniel complained, "not like the ones of Elidon Wold you have in the library." 

"Well, no," laughed his Uncle, "not like those I own, but precisely like the ancient maps that were made by the Avians."

"Avians? Do you mean, actual birds?" his nephew asked incredulously. "Birds made maps?!"

"The Avians weren't exactly birds, Nathaniel", explained his uncle, "but, like birds, they could fly. Ultimately, it was they who discovered Elidon Wold, and gave it its name. But that was in a different circle of time..."

"Do you mean, when you were a boy, Uncle?"

"Oh no," said his uncle, "I was never a boy. I was as you see me now... as I always have and always will be seen. I merely meant a circle of time in which boys like yourself were not physically located."

- Excerpt from the prologue of "The Last Chronicle of Elidon Wold,"  2013, Dia Sobin.


As you might've noticed, my usual modus operandi these days is to start a post and then leave it hanging there, unfinished... for days. I'm trying hard to break this habit, but, as of late, there seems to be a large disconnect between my impulses and ideas and my ability to translate them into hard copy. Moreover, by the time I've found the words, I've forgotten the point. The reality is, while "lateral thinking" - the sort of thinking that Brian Eno hoped to induce with his Oblique Strategy cards - might be useful for spontaneous, creative leaps of the imagination and breaking though mental blocks, etc., in the end, it doesn't, in itself, produce anything tangible. It takes a certain amount of logic - that is, linear thinking - to bring any "project," large or small, to fruition. In other words, to truly successfully hatch anything into the world, one has to effortlessly glide between the two modes of thought, the two modes of activity, utilizing each at the proper moment. And it takes a certain amount of faith in yourself to pull this off. The minute your faith falters... well, it's like with any other skill - riding a bicycle, perhaps, or ice-skating - you fail... you fall. Or, worse still, you flounder...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Ghost of Tom Joad

"One of the points I'm making in the book is that, whoever you've been and wherever you've been, it never leaves you," he said. "I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can't ever get out. The important thing is, who's got their hands on the wheel at an given moment."

- Bruce Springsteen, discussing his new autobiography in an article found here.


I just found the above quote yesterday, and it so resonated with me, that I thought I'd share it here. Bruce Springsteen, an American treasure, has an autobiography being released this month. I was really surprised to learn (from the article linked) that he's had a life-long battle with chronic depression. I'm not going into my own personal history, but, let's just say that I've never really trusted anybody who claims they never get depressed.

If you've never been blue then you've never been human.

Then again, there's the argument that chronic depression is really an expression of suppressed, thwarted rage. Could be.

In any case, while I'm not back to normal posting as of yet, I just wanted put in a few words... and keep my hands on the wheel.

Thanks, Bruce.

Above is Springsteen performing his modern classic The Ghost of Tom Joad featuring the incomparable Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Full lyrics to the song can be found after the jump...