Wednesday, February 28, 2007

23 Skidoo Over And Out

William S. Burroughs prepares to draw a bead on film "funny" man Jim Carey - that's see, ay, arr, eee, why? Because he's a gurning, rubber-faced, hopelessly unfunny, gormless arsehole messing around with things he hasn't a hope in Hell of understanding.

Captain Clark welcomes you aboard ... 23 years without an accident ... until tonight ... straight to the bottom with 23 dead. The soccer scores are coming in from the Capital.
23, whether in the I Ching, Morse code or Crowleyian magick indicates a breaking, a sundering. Once you start to notice the preponderance of the number, it is startling how often it turns up ... this may be synchronicity or a clue to how your perception works, when you point it in a particular direction. As Burroughs suggested , you can't tell anyone anything, but merely show them what they already know.
The Qabala, numerology, Jungian myth, magick, physics, mathematics, biology - the number 23 turns up again and again in occult systems and 'real' science. Even a cursory search across the Internet throws up an infinite array of information centred on 23, here for instance. Like many others, I first became aware of this phenomenom due to it being one of the elements swirling around in Burroughs' nexus of obsessions (along with Venusian lizard boys, the hanged man's orgasm, the viral nature of language, guns and narcotics).
The power of 23, known to such arch conspiracy connoisseurs as Burroughs, Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson - now reduced to a vulgar fucking joke of a horror movie by two of the dullest little simpletons in the business - 'wacky' Jim Carey and 'camp'n'kitsch' Joel Schumacher. Isn't there some kind of law we can invoke to stop this? Can't members of 'The Legion of Dynamic Discord' at least hunt them down and give them a good thrashing?
I remember a few years ago when all this featured in the papers ... something to do with David Beckham, of all people. And now the lazy hacks that run the media are dragging it all out again to publicize a dreadful piece of Hollywood hokey ... some workshy little researcher, straight out of Oxbridge, can't even be bothered to do anything but supply said hack with the same witless articles ... this time dressed up with a few publicity shots of our boy Carey.
Truly, one could weep.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Folded Away In The Memory Of Nature With Her Toys.

The Gilbert and George show at Tate Modern ... a massive, indeed comprehensive, exhibition featuring the work of perhaps the the most relevant and provocative visual artists working today. Humorous, moving and enlightening, a stunning parade of great images, a veritable cathedral of art.
But even more heart-lifting, for me, was the gift shop. Quite apart from the intellectually respectable stuff like the exhibition catalogue, signed posters, a massive two volume retrospective and DVDs, there is a cavalcade of memorabilia designed by G&G ... stuff that I didn't know existed but now can't live without. The G&G swear box (PAY UP OR F*~k OFF!), the G&G Rubik cube, the G&G plastic bag, G&G ties ... and perhaps best of all, the G&G Singing Sculpture wooden toy - press the button in the base and they move, jerkily (very life-like). How desirable is that? A thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I am a sucker for this sort of thing ... my great regret in life is the serious dearth of James Joyce memorabilia ... I am the proud owner of a couple of Joycean mugs, but this in no way assuages my hunger. If it was out there I would buy it ... Molly saw a website this weekend featuring famous figure finger puppets and fridge magnets ... including Joyce - it was love at first sight. You can go into a million museum and gallery gift shops and see the usual suspects again and again ... Virginia Bloody Woolf, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare ... their drearily predictable visages reproduced again and again and again on bookmarks and notebooks and tea towels. Where's the Joyce tat? I'm a captive audience, I've got money to burn on tosh like this. I feel my life is not complete without a house chock full of Joycean detritus ... the J.J. action figure (press a button and he dances a jig, cracking obscene jokes in Latin); the J.J. snow globe (snow falling softly, softly falling); the J.J. board game - throw the dice and move a collection of tiny figurines (I bagsy Bloom) around a two-dimensional Dublin, June 16, 1904; J.J. perfume (the smellow melons of Molly Bloom's rump or a fine tang of faintly scented urine); the J.J. wine collection, each vintage carrying a Joycean image and quotation; J.J. spectacles, hats, canes, comedy ties ... the possibilities are endless and intoxicating.

Molly and I saw a James Joyce tea set in Bewlay's in Dublin once, and I foolishly didn't snap it up there and then ... do you know, there hasn't been a day since when I haven't thought about that tea set.

I'm thinking of going on that awful TV programme Dragon's Den and pitching this as a business proposal to the hatchet-faced capitalist scum that run the show ... after all, you've got to speculate, they do say, to accumulate.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tell The Children That We're Off The Beach

Pop will eat itself? We've taken that as a given ever since Elvis went MIA in Las Vegas ... but did we realise it would regularly regurgitate itself and enjoy the meal again and again? The surest infotainment these days is guessing which pop dinosaur, long thought extinct, will be staging a Lazarus - The Police, Genesis ... what brings these ghosts of Christmas past back? Not the money, surely; these swine were inordinately rewarded for the ability to sing falsetto in a cod-Jamaican accent or reduce musical complexity to an easy-listening aural warm bath. So, if not the elusive spondoolics, what? It can only be the adulation of the crowd. How pathetic ... such ego, such hubris. Like a long-retired boxer, hauling the flab back into the ring one last time ... don't these punch-drunk popsters realise that they had more than their allotted slice of fame and wealth the first time round? Certainly more than idiots bereft of talent, wit or charisma could reasonably have expected ... the dread possibility suggests itself ... these fools actually believe that they, and even worse, us, deserve it.
More interesting to me are those performers who didn't get their just deserts in the first flush of youth ... people who didn't salt away a fortune or were never accorded the critical respect lavished on lesser talents ... who would deny them a sliver of pie?

The Cravats ... keep death off the road

I saw, recently, a Myspace site dedicated to the Cravats and , my God, that took me back. The late 1970s to the early 1980s ... when was that mad weekend at the ICA ... 80? 81? The saxophonist with his little noise boxes ... were the lads punk's very own Van Der Graaf Generator? Imagine 'Fiery Jack'-era Fall jamming with Ted Milton, then you would have a rough idea of the unique Cravats sound - Dada lyrics, toy town rhythms, elements ripped willy nilly from rockabilly, punk and jazz ... The Cravats were always too eccentric, too wilful to essay a lengthy career; scratchy guitars, thunderous bass, screaming saxophones, shouty vocals ... they exerted, in their short career, quite an influence on subsequent developments.
A brace of singles and a couple of albums (including a rewarding relationship with Penny Rimbaud and Crass Records) and they were gone ... mutating into The Very Things and the proliferating madness of the Dada Cravats Laboratory umbrella organisation.
But why didn't they sell more records, last longer, inspire more teeny boppers? Well, as said, they were too odd, too angular ... and also, in an industry remarkably forgiving of wife-beaters, child molesters, rapists, murderers and what have you, The Cravats committed the one cardinal sin ... they didn't take themselves seriously. Their very stage names give the game away ... The Shend, Svor Naan, Yehudi Storageheater ... why, the suspicion goes, people that ready to laugh at themselves may be just as ready to laugh at you ... and we couldn't have that in a business founded on overweening ego.
They have had an odd kind of afterlife ... many more bands (anticipating the revival of interest in pop psychedelia, some of them), and The Shend, bassist, vocalist and man-mountain, has turned up on your TV screen in a number of guises - background heavy in Eastenders, or caged psycho killer in Torchwood ... and now, they have a new single out - (after a fortuitous meeting in Brighton, a collaboration with ex-Orbital genius Paul Hartnoll - it's called 'Seance' and it sounds rather good) - and a compilation CD, The Land Of The Giants ... an excellent career retrospective, packed full of quirky tunes and Surrealistic lyrics - marvellous stuff and well worth a listen. The Cravats ... I hadn't realised just how much I'd missed them.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Design For Living

The Crow Man

Architect, urban theorist, interior designer, painter, sculptor, poet, essayist, philosopher, film-maker, Hermeticist, Renaissance man.
Le Corbusier is another in that long line of Modernists who hymn the rational and the scientific, only to find the irrational and the ecstatic increasingly welling up in their life and work (Joyce, Eliot, Eisenstein, Jung) - throughout his work, a gnostic code can be traced. There is a theory that Papa Corbu deliberately ended his life in an Alchemical ritual, swimming towards the sun (an act saturated in so many layers of Alchemical and mythical meaning it would take pages to explicate them all). All a long way from the discipline and rigour, the white purity of the International Style - but that was only one facet of the most protean builder of them all; he also created two of the few meaningful examples of sacred architecture in the Twentieth Century - the Notre Dame-du-Haut chapel at Ronchamp and the monastery of La Tourette - the spiritual expressed in stone and steel.

Of course, I like to remember him best as the designer of a rather spiffy range of spectacles, available exclusively from a high end Venetian optician . I currently sport the style modeled by the old boy in the photos above. They send them to you in a nice corduroy case ... it's the cloth of kings, you know.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Chemical Gardens In Rusty Shit People

It's all go this time of year ... no sooner has one (just about) recovered from the Joycean Saturnalia and, what do you know, it's time to strap it on and celebrate the birthday of William S. Burroughs.

... Wild Bill Burroughs ... what did Ballard call him , the hit man of the apocalypse? Amid the sex and violence, amid the hard-core cut-ups and fold-ins, amid the hipster and narcotic vernacular, there is a wonderfully nostalgic, elegiac strain in Burroughs (for all that you have to wade through pages of green lizard boys from Venus getting fucked while being hanged to savour it) ... the more interesting for being found in the work of a man who, to the casual observer, may be deemed to have left his human side behind. Few seem to realise how moving his writing can be.
Renegade from a background of money and privilege, self-described queer and junky, noted wife-killer, eminence grise to the counter culture for some five decades, life-long adversary of the Ugly Spirit ... the public mask existed quite apart from the serious and dedicated writer ... the greatest master of the Word since Joyce, the man who made literature come alive again.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Birthday Felicitations For James Joyce

And lo, 165 years ago, a star was seen in the West and a saviour was born. And they beheld him, even him, our Messiah, clothed upon in the glory of his brightness. And there came a voice out of heaven crying James! James Augustine Aloysius!
Birthday greetings for James Joyce, writer, son, husband, father and, it's been scientifically proven, the greatest man who ever lived. Born on Candlemas, Joyce was always a comedian ... entwining our arts with laughters low. So raise a glass or ten and wish the old boy a very happy birthday.

All stills from Joycean Avatars, a short film by Anthony Osborne.