The Past Was Not Always Worse, and the Future is Not Always Better

There is a thread about Hebrew going in the comments. It started out with a reactionary arguing, in the post against reaction, that the revival of Hebrew was a reactionary act.

Well, not really. Revival of ancient, dying, endangered, or even extinct languages is not considered to be a reactionary act. Many progressives support it, including linguists. Language evolution is not really a sign of progress. The languages of today, or the most modern ones, are not necessarily better languages than the language of the old days. Other than with the use of modern terms to describe modern items and concepts, they’re no better at all.

True, humans progress with time, but some things don’t get better. Language is one of those. Philosophy, literature, poetry, writing, art, music, etc. is another one. We have not figured out any better ways to live our lives than the folks in Socrates and Plato’s time had. The human condition is the same, and common sense wisdom has not progressed at all. In fact, ancient disciplines like yoga hold a lot of wisdom for us modern folks.

We don’t write any better than we ever did. Milton, Shakespeare and Dante have not been toppled, and who knows if they ever will. With time, we can’t figure out how to put sentences together any better than we ever did. Writing relies on the human intellect, and the brightest of us in the 1300’s-1600’s were as smart as the brightest today.

Art is another one. Technically, the finest art was done in the Renaissance by Michelangelo and the rest. Early modernists realized this – that they could not surpass the Masters – hence we moved on to Cubism, Surrealism and whatnot. Now that all that’s been done, we move on to anti-art like pissing in a jar with a crucifix or photographing guys standing next to crosses looking crucified with dead and torn-up farm animals all around them. Bottom line is, technically, we can’t figure out how to draw better than the Masters, so we are just fucking around.

Same thing with music. The classical music of 300 years ago with Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, etc. is written as well as we can write music today. Technologically, music has gotten better, but we can’t figure out how to write music any better than we ever did.

It’s not that the old stuff was better per se, but it’s more that we can’t seem to figure out how to do these things any better than we did them in the old days. Progress has hit a wall or a ceiling with regard to certain things.

“Girls,” by Alpha Unit

Gil Elvgren was a Minnesota-born painter who is famous for his pinup art. Some think of him as the most important of all the pinup artists.

To Elvgren, the ideal model had the face of a 15-year-old and the body of a 20-year-old. It is always noted that his art combined the two.

I’ll say that for artistic purposes, Elvgren’s ideal woman was probably between 17 and 18, only because the average of 15 and 20 is about 17–the age that men evidently find women to be most beautiful (see here). To me, the women in Elvgren’s paintings appear mainly to be adult women who might be posing as 17-year-olds.

The artist George Petty, on the other hand, seems really to have captured this image of the 17-year-old in his pinup art, not only because of that big, wholesome smile he gave his girls but because a lot of them are on the telephone! The women in these idealized portraits of American White womanhood are always called pinup “girls.” Just as dancers of all varieties are called girls. Models are routinely called girls. So are prostitutes.

When women are presented for mostly male “consumption,” they are nearly always presented as girls.

Many men describe young women as “happy,” which is part of their appeal. In a Bob Seger song about a man who has fallen for a dancer he likes to watch in “a little club downtown,” he says of her:

Unlike all the other ladies, she looked so young and sweet…

Young. Sweet. Happy. An infatuating combination.

You don’t stay young. So you don’t stay sweet. But a charming older woman is one who has retained a spark of that girlish sweetness. Or at least one who can give that impression.

References

Seger, Bob. 1976. “Main Street.” On Night Moves [Record]. Hollywood, CA: Capitol Industries-EMI.

"Girls," by Alpha Unit

Gil Elvgren was a Minnesota-born painter who is famous for his pinup art. Some think of him as the most important of all the pinup artists.
To Elvgren, the ideal model had the face of a 15-year-old and the body of a 20-year-old. It is always noted that his art combined the two.
I’ll say that for artistic purposes, Elvgren’s ideal woman was probably between 17 and 18, only because the average of 15 and 20 is about 17–the age that men evidently find women to be most beautiful (see here). To me, the women in Elvgren’s paintings appear mainly to be adult women who might be posing as 17-year-olds.
The artist George Petty, on the other hand, seems really to have captured this image of the 17-year-old in his pinup art, not only because of that big, wholesome smile he gave his girls but because a lot of them are on the telephone! The women in these idealized portraits of American White womanhood are always called pinup “girls.” Just as dancers of all varieties are called girls. Models are routinely called girls. So are prostitutes.
When women are presented for mostly male “consumption,” they are nearly always presented as girls.
Many men describe young women as “happy,” which is part of their appeal. In a Bob Seger song about a man who has fallen for a dancer he likes to watch in “a little club downtown,” he says of her:

Unlike all the other ladies, she looked so young and sweet…

Young. Sweet. Happy. An infatuating combination.
You don’t stay young. So you don’t stay sweet. But a charming older woman is one who has retained a spark of that girlish sweetness. Or at least one who can give that impression.

References

Seger, Bob. 1976. “Main Street.” On Night Moves [Record]. Hollywood, CA: Capitol Industries-EMI.

What's With This Chick, Anyway?

Repost from the old site.
LOL .
She’s Jewish, too. You know shit like this just drives the anti-Semites crazy.
Continuing a trend exemplified here, here (Hermann Nitsch), here , here, etc., etc.
And our very own commenter Whodareswings. I guess you’ll have to ask him for samples, though. Or you can buy the book.

WTF Is the Matter With You? Part 2

Repost from the old site.
That question is directed to Thistle Harlequin.
I won’t upload the movie, and I think it’s copyrighted anyway. It’s pornographic, and we don’t host porn on the site. Rarely, we link to it, if there is some artistic or political reason. In this case, it’s more art or performance art than porn per se.
It’s called Putrid Sex Object, a movie performed by Thistle Harlequin (adults only, and don’t watch unless you want to be horribly grossed out).
This is part of what my artist brother calls the new art – “that gross, sick, fag shit.” He says this is the new thing in art, because everything else has been done already.
Examples include Aliza Shvarts’ abortion jelly exhibit where she gave herself repeated miscarriages via morning-after pills after inseminating herself and then filmed the miscarriages, bottled them and exhibited them in an exhibit. Except the whole exhibit never came off, but that was part of the performance.
Our very own Who Dares Wings is an artist in Seattle who makes Disasterware and something called Spone Funerary Ware – granulated calcified human cremains (cremated bones of dead people) over a porcelain slip in a riff on the time-honored tradition of bone china, which was made in part with ground human bone.
He also makes things like porcelain vases and teapots with Hitler’s face on them with things like “Forgiveness” inscribed below.
There was a guy in New York who was doing some of this art using dead embalmed bodies. He would take the bodies and then pose them in all these weird positions and then take pictures of himself intermingled with the dead bodies. The cops finally had enough of the publicity and raided the guy – I guess what he was doing was illegal. He was getting the bodies from Mexico.
Along the same lines are Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, a crucifix photographed in a jar of urine.
There is another fellow, Hermann Nitsch, who takes cow carcasses, slits them open, then makes himself look like a crucifix with the cow carcass as a “cross” background. He ends up covered in blood. His friends stand around him and they all get covered with blood too. There’s blood all over the ground and they shoot a photo of the whole thing and voila, instant art!
Women are bottling their own menstrual fluid and using the blood to make blood paintings. It’s called menstrual art.
Along the same lines, in Putrid Sex Object, Thistle Harlequin, a gay man, plays a woman who is wandering through a haunted house at night getting more and more frightened. Finally, she comes into a room where they are some severed cow’s heads on the floor.
She falls to her knees, starts licking the cow’s head and then starts playing with it, getting blood all over her body. Then he pulls out a penis and it turns out it’s just some fag drag queen. He then puts his penis in the cow’s head and fucks it for a while, pulls out, and jacks off while covered with cow entrails. That’s it.
That’s called art I guess.
Wow, we really are reaching the end of civilization, are we not?
My opinion on all this sick art is much the same as my brother’s. I’m not impressed.
This is just gross, sick, fucked up stuff. Art is supposed to make you react, and in a way, it is supposed to be “beautiful.” It’s not supposed to be ugly, sick, repulsive and nauseating. Yes, we are all familiar with shit, puke, wet farts, mucus, snot, piss, blood, dead stuff and dead people, menstrual fluid, on and on. Why frame it up and call it art? Color me confused. Plus it’s not even funny; it’s just gross.
Truth is, modern art has just clean run out of ideas. There’s nothing left to do. This is all that’s left, pushing the final boundaries. After this? I have no idea. Kill people? Kill yourself? Who knows.
Seriously, there’s nothing left.
Buy a famous sculpture, call the cameras in, gather around you and your artist friends, and smash it to bits? Done. The Surrealists were doing this stuff back in the 1930’s.
Duchamp made a sculpture of a toilet and then he shipped it to a museum. He called it “Toilet” or something dumb like that. Along the way, it got partially destroyed via shipping. The museum called him up all apologetic and said, “Oh, we are so sorry that your sculpture got so messed up.”
He rushed over to the museum, looked at his ruined sculpture and said, “NO! This is perfect! Better than the original!” It went on to become a famous sculpture. Surrealism was always a bit of a joke. The destroyed sculpture is better than the real one – OK, that’s funny.
The Surrealists would run out in the streets of Paris in the 1930’s and assault priests walking by in their habits. Assault them, with fists and kicks. No one got seriously hurt, but the Surrealists called that Performance Art – assaulting a priest in habit. OK, that’s funny too.
There are artist – musician types out there now who hold “concerts” where they show up on stage and then lower these sound speakers from the ceiling. The speakers dangle about ten feet above people’s heads, just out of reach. Then they turn up the speakers really loud with this extremely annoying noise playing right out of reach of the audience.
The audience gets more and more angry while the performer stands up on stage, laughs at them and insults them. OK, I have to admit, that’s pretty funny.
I believe there are similar artists out there who will schedule a show and advertise all the cool stuff they are going to do during the show. They cover the stage with all these props and it looks like a good show is going to happen. The theater fills up with suckers who shelled out $20/ticket.
The performer’s not there.
After a bit, someone comes out and says that the performer was delayed but will be there shortly. This goes on for a bit, and the big gag is that the performer never shows up. On purpose. The audience slows drifts away angrily over about an hour demanding a refund, but there will be none. That was the show. No artist. You got burned. Performance art!
I have to admit that’s pretty humorous. Man Ray would have looked at that and said, “Two thumbs up.”
I saw the Germs at the Hong Kong Cafe on December 31, 1979. It was Darby Crash on vocals, Pat Smear on guitar, Lorna Doom on bass and Don Bolles on drums.
Joanna Went, performance artist, opened for them. She came out looking totally nuts, all made up like a clown, wearing some stupid outfit. Shrieking, “Catatooooonic! Schizophreeeeeeenic!” (that’s all I remember), etc. etc.” with these really wild eyes.
She had on what looked like a football jersey on top with what looked like shoulder pads. She tore open the shoulder pads while screeching incoherently. Inside, the shoulder pads were packed with vast quantities of shredded cheddar cheese. Then she started to throw it at us, the audience. We threw it back at the bitch.
I went to the bathroom.
Darby Crash came in, saw me, and asked in this totally gay faggot voice, “Heeeey, you got any Tuuuinols?” Tuinols are a depressant pill.
I thought for a second, looked up and said, “No, but I have some Tuinol cigarettes. Want to buy any?”
He got this sneering smile on his face, and snorted, “Tuinol cigarettes!?” and walked away.
That was my only encounter with the famous Darby Crash.
Pretty soon, the Hong Kong Cafe was full of flying shredded cheese and you could hardly even see anything. Through it all, Joanna was screeching away. OK, that was pretty funny.
The Germs played next. They all wore black leather jackets with a blue circle on the sleeve – that was their emblem. They were out of this world, of course.
Darby Crash was crouching at the back of the stage with a sneer on his face. Everybody was throwing stuff at him – that was the idea – throw stuff at Darby. We took the ice out of our drinks and threw ice at Darby Crash. He crouched down at the rear of the stage like a tiger, loving the abuse and singing like a maniac.
Germs (GI), produced by Joan Jett, is one of the best albums I have ever heard. There’s also a great cut, Lion’s Share, recorded by Jack Nitzsche, on the soundtrack to the movie, Cruising (1980) – good movie, starring Al Pacino and directed by the great director William Friedkin. The Cruising soundtrack is a great album, too.
Re-formed band, The Germs Return.
Don Bolles turned into an alcoholic and goes to AA meetings with his alcoholic girlfriend. He has a long history of drug abuse and run-in’s with the law. Darby killed himself (see below). Pat Smear went on to form the Foo Fighters.
Lorna, Don and Pat re-formed the band, with actor Shane West as the new Darby Crash, and they go on tour. Here’s the new band, and Lorna is as beautiful as ever. Myspace page. They must be pushing 50 now. Punks til death. Heck, why not?
Later, Darby Crash deliberately OD’d on heroin as part of a suicide pact with some idiot punk chick. I never hung around with these nuts, but some people I know did. They would do stuff like get drunk and hit people over the head with beer bottles – supposedly Pat Smear did that once.
Great article on the Germs from the Orange County Weekly.
We were leaving the Hong Kong Cafe at 2 AM on January 1, 1980. The LA punkers, drunk and menacing, were outside the cafe throwing beer bottles against the wall and watching them smash. We moved away quickly.
We were walking through an alley back to the car, drunk and stoned. Someone came reeling behind us, walking very fast. We turned around. There was a young man about 25 years old. He had glasses on, but he had been hurt somehow. One of the glasses lenses was smashed over his eye.
He was holding his eye with the smashed glasses lens, and there was blood pouring out of the area around his eye as he reeled drunkenly down the alley. We didn’t know if he had gotten beat up while drunk, or if he was really drunk and had fallen down, but he was in bad shape. We got out of his way before he would have crashed into us. He moved past us, careening back and forth down the alley, dripping blood all the way.
“Let’s help him,” I said.
“No way!”
We looked at each other and both said, “Wow! Let’s get out of here!”
We hurried to the car and drove home on the empty LA freeway, dodging the drunken vehicles along the way.
It was the end of the Seventies, but it may as well have been the end of the century.

Weirdest Book Ever Written

Voynich Manuscript, hands down. Also one of the world’s great mysteries. Nothing about this book seems to make any sense at all, not the bizarre, undeciphered language, code, or cipher, not the weird drawings of plants that don’t exist, not the astronomy based on no known astrological system, not the cosmology based on no cosmological system ever encountered, nothing.
The date it was written is thought to be around 1500, but the author or authors are unknown, and the subject of much speculation. None of the theories really completely add up or make sense. It’s just one gigantic, endless pile of weirdness, the solution to which went to its grave with the author(s).
You can download the whole book in pdf here. I haven’t bothered, but some of you arcana buffs may wish to give it a whirl.
Runner’s up? Marienbad, My Love (2008). Go ahead, read it! It’s only 30,000 pages long.
Tired of Hemingway’s short, clipped, sentences? Have no fear. A 2,000 page single sentence in this book will cure of that forever and make you come running back to Hem or Bukowski.
One of the things we love about English are the lack of those annoying monosyllabic words that the Asian languages have. Our words can be quite long. For instance, this book has a single word that is 750 pages long. You can live, die, get resurrected and still never make it to the next word. Talk about leaving you hanging on every word.
Even weirder is The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion (1973), 15,500 pages illustrated by several hundred pages of drawings and paintings, produced by the super-weird author Henry Darger. Want to read it? Too bad. It’s never been published. He didn’t dash it off like these supermarket novel authors. On the contrary, the book took him a mere 60 years to complete.
I am convinced that Darger did not have schizophrenia, as is often speculated. Darger’s is a good example of “outsider art.” I think outsider art is really cool, but then I’m pretty damn weird myself.
Outsider music is pretty boss, too. I prefer The Shaggs, Captain Beefheart, The Residents, Syd Barrett and Roky Erikson. Forget Wild Man Fischer. Fischer, Barrett and Erikson all clearly suffer from schizophrenia. Their best work was produced in the early stages of the illness, as one might expect.
Erikson was a leader of the great pyschedelic band, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Check out Roky Erikson and the Aliens, The Evil One, a cult classic album from 1981, recorded when he was very mentally ill. It’s great stuff, man!