Saturday, August 9, 2014

JERKY'S BOOKSHELF: "JUNKY" BY WILLIAM BURROUGHS

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802120423/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802120423&linkCode=as2&tag=daidirdia-20

For a dude who made a career out of being the world's most famous heroin junkie, William S. Burroughs sure does seem to get a hell of a lot wrong in Junky: The Definitive Text of "Junk". For instance, he claims it takes a few months of serious, daily heroin use to become a full-blown junkie. That's just bullocks. Although it's true the nannies out there who try to tell you you'll be hopelessly addicted after your first fix are equally erroneous, the truth is actually far closer to the alarmists' stance than Old William Lee's. Best to just stay away from that shit.

One notable element of this particular version - there have been many over the years since the first, essentially disposable Ace paperback edition came out in 1953 - is the inclusion of a barely literate introduction by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, as well as a junkie's "hep lingo" lexicon at the back of the book. If you ever wanted to find out how a "lush roller" makes a living, then this appendix is the place to find out.

By the way, if you buy this book - or any book, as long as you access Amazon through this link - I will get a few pennies in my cup! Do it for yer old pal Jerky! Either that, or fucking donate, why don'tcha?! I've got three blogs on the go here, and only 60 dollars worth of ad revenue over the last three years to show for it!

JERKY'S BOOKSHELF: THE PARADISE MOTEL, BY ERIC McCORMACK


Eric McCormack's The Paradise Motel.

"Postmodern" is a word that gets tossed around like... well, like stuff that gets tossed around a lot! See? Even that little "joke" of mine could be considered postmodern, or PoMo as its most fervent and hip adherents tend to call it. Filled with the kind of gruesome grotesques that literary critic and philosopher Julia Kristeva termed "the carnivalesque", Canadian author Eric McCormack's four-part
parade of nightmare imagery is episodic and disjointed.

And yet, there still remains a compelling and occasionally thrilling multi-layered narrative involving one man's quest to find out whether or not his grandfather's tall tales about the gruesome fate of the MacKenzie family, with whom old granddad had grown up back in rural Scotland, are true.

If you like your fiction steeped in violent, gruesome physicality, with a surrealistic twang that occasionally reminded this reader of Yann Martel's Life of Pi by way of the Russians (I'm warning you... it's grim!), then perhaps you might want to give The Paradise Motel a try. Don't let the non sequitur title throw you. This isn't a John Irving pastiche.

As with every book appearing on JERKY'S BOOKSHELF, if you decide to purchase it via Amazon, please go through MY LINKS. The few extra pennies a month this nets me goes a long way towards compelling me to continue producing this blog.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

JUSTICE SCALIA'S DIRE WARNING


According to this Huffington Post report, written in response to this Aspen Times article, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia has taken his campaign against "activist judges" by opening a talk to the Utah Bar Association with...
...a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.
Okay, so, Godwin's Law notwithstanding, I suspect I get the subtext of what Scalia was going for, here.

In a way, for Scalia, it's not about German's judicial history at all. I'm quite sure Scalia - who is more of a cultural critic than a judicial mind, anyway - knows very little about how the courts worked and what they did back then. What Scalia is really referring to is German culture in general in the pre-Third Reich period.

That period was known as the Weimar Republic, which lasted just about 14 years, between the end of the first world war and Hindenberg's assumption of dictatorial powers in 1930, which paved the way for the Third Reich.

One feature of the Weimar Republic was an extreme liberalism, including a very open attitude towards homosexuality and "decadent" Modernism in the arts.

It doesn't take a genius to read between Scalia's lines, here. There is no academic critique to be sussed from Scalia's intemperate words. He is simply comparing the USA to Weimar Germany for its growing acceptance of homosexuals and homosexuality in culture.

Oh, and the other, darker, equally "between the lines" notion that one can take from Scalia's comments is that there will be a Holocaust-like backlash coming soon, too, for American gays, just as there was for German gays and other groups who were Holocausted into oblivion in Germany back then.

Typical right-winger, praying for a Holocaust.

MEDIAVORE ~ TV: VEEP (SEASONS 1-3)


Who would have guessed that Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's all-American, sitcom-style approach to comedy acting - excellent and compelling though her talents certainly are - would mesh so well with the revolutionary approach to televised comedy developed by legendary BritCom writer/producer Armando Iannucci over the last couple decades? Compare and contrast, for instance, any random season of Seinfeld with, let's say, such deeply experimental shows as The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Time Trumpet, and you'd be hard-pressed to think of any way for these two extremely different approaches towards comedy to gel.

But then there's I'm Alan Partridge, featuring perhaps Iannucci's most successful character (co-created with fellow BritCom titan Steve Coogan). It's arguable that Partridge's brand of cringe comedy owes something to Seinfeld (by way of The Office), even if it takes things a great deal further. British censors are, after all, far less reactionary than their American counterparts. So yes, fans of Partridge might have had an inkling that a "comedy bridge" of sorts could one day be constructed in order to reach across the pond.

An Americanized take on Iannucci's BBC series The Thick of It and its 2009 spin-off film In The LoopVeep is just such a bridge. And it is an unmitigated success. All three eight-episode seasons are excellent, equal parts funny, smart and - yes - even sexy. As American Vice President Selena Meyer, Louis-Dreyfuss is, if anything, better than she was in Seinfeld. And I really loved her in Seinfeld.

The supporting cast are also uniformly superb, with special kudos going to Tim Simons as the detestable White House flunky Jonah and Tony Hale as bag-toting Vice Presidential gopher Gary Walsh. Also, it's kind of awesome to see My Girl's Anna Chlumsky avoiding the child star curse and bouncing back with, arguably, the best role of her life so far.

If you're a fan of Seinfeld, you need to check out Veep ASAP. If you're a fan of the BritCom explosion that has led to some of the finest satire since the days of Johnathan Swift... ditto. Oh, and on a side note, if you're one of the many people who've been wondering and worrying about where the Hell Chris Morris went after directing 2010's incredible Islamic terrorism satire Four Lions, please note the fact that he's directed four episodes of Veep for his old pal Iannucci.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MEDIAVORE ~ FILM: "DELIVERY" AND "THE SACRAMENT"


Have you had your fill of "found footage" horror flicks? You know, those movies - such as the trend-setting Blair Witch Project and best-of-genre entry [REC] - that attempt to induce chills by evoking the kind of heightened level of verisimilitude that only a documentary perspective can bring?

Considering some of the dross being pumped out in this style over the last couple years, I can't say that I blame you. It seems as though every week brings a bigger crop of "mockumentaries" with ambitions that outstrip both their budgets and their creators' ability to tell a story.

Such is not the case with two films that I was recently lucky enough to catch on VOD. Both are firmly in the "found footage" genre, and both have really cramped cinematic settings and obviously low budgets - but they use these apparent flaws to great advantage.

The reason why Brian Netto and Adam Schindler's haunted pregnancy thriller Delivery works so well is pretty obvious. The low budget and tiny universe its characters inhabit mirrors perfectly the very type of Lifestyle Channel-style "reality show" that it so successfully pretends to be. In the beginning, as we follow first-time mommy-and-daddy-to-be Kyle and Rachel Massy, things seem to be going par for the course, if a tad on the rough side. But it's nothing beyond the kind of real-life drama you'd expect from a look at impending parenthood... at first. Then, things get creepy.

I don't want to give too much away. This isn't a "think piece" about found footage horror movies. It's just a quick post to let you know about two movies I've recently watched that I suspect many of you might also enjoy.

Which brings us to The Sacrament. Of the two, mumblegore auteur Ti West's Eli Roth-produced take on a modern, miniature version of Jonestown is the superior film. The performances are uniformly excellent, with a standout performance by Gene Jones as the charismatic cult leader as Father.

The story, such as it is, surrounds a hipster wannabe documentarian Jake and his hipster videographer buddy Sam traveling to the South American religious community of Eden Parish so they can check up on Jake's sister, Caroline. Oh, and they're doing this as an assignment for VICE, so the entire film is branded like one of those VICE travelogues that have become so popular of late.

Again, I don't want to give too much away, in the hopes that you will see this for yourselves. I will say that there is one scene that is so well performed and so emotionally raw - especially in contrast to the cooler-than-thou attitude taken by the leads for most of the film - that it shook me to my core and left me disturbed for hours after viewing it.

I realize that may not sound like much of a recommendation, but in the circles I travel, it kind of is.

Ta-ta until the next edition of the Daily Dirt Diaspora blog's MEDIAVORE section!

CONFESSIONS OF A KUBRICK NUT, PART 1


I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with Stanley Kubrick.

I suppose it’s obvious. Most people don’t go around starting up blogs without damn good reason. My damn good reason for starting up a Stanley Kubrick blog is the fact that I’m obsessed with the man and his movies. Obsessed. Full stop.

There are many different varieties of Kubrick fan. Some have one favorite film that they obsess over, and they can take or leave the rest. Others are fans of that three-film span, from Strangelove to Clockwork, during which time Kubrick clearly both a) was at the peak of his powers and b) had his thumb on the pulse-point of the global zeitgeist, making him the most important director of that cinematic time period.

And then there are the obsessives, the fanatics, those of us for whom Kubrick's singular vision, uncompromising will, and peculiar philosophical bent combine to form a potent mix that can fairly be called a cult of personality. It is with some small regret that your humble blogger counts himself part of the latter, but hey... if I denied it, I'd be lying.

This doesn't mean that I think Kubrick or his films are perfect. Far from it. But it does mean is that, for me, even the flaws are fascinating.

I've had this obsession – to a greater or lesser degree – ever since I first sat frozen in terror on the living room floor while a commercial for The Shining seared itself onto my brain, way back in 1979. I was nine years old at the time, a Famous MonstersMad Magazine and Marvel Comics reader on the verge of making the quantum leap to FangoriaNational Lampoon and Stephen King novels. I had no idea who Stanley Kubrick was, nor what The Shining was supposed to be about. But that commercial… Holy crap.

Continued at the KubrickU blog, a new blog by yer old pal Jerky!

Friday, June 27, 2014

MEDIAVORE ~ TV: THE WIRE (SEASONS 1-5)

The Wire premiered on June 2, 2002, and, after a 60 episode run over five seasons on the American premium cable network HBO, ended on March 9, 2008. It wasn't exactly a ratings success, and it failed to pick up very many awards during its run. However, among the show's many evangelical fans - including top rank writers and performers, world-class novelists and the occasional public intellectual - it was championed as one of the finest dramatic series in the history of television.

Because I don't watch much television anymore - and because I'm not much of a fan of cop-centered series in general - I didn't get around to watching this show until February, 2014. I have now seen every episode - many of them multiple times - and I have zero problems fessing up to my previous obstinate idiocy. I was a fool.

So yes, basically, if you're one of the few serious-minded mediavores left who still have yet to take in this incredible show, allow me to be the latest to tell you that everything you've heard about The Wire is true. It really is one of the finest dramatic series in the history of the medium. And you really do need to see it. Like... right fucking now.

In future MEDIAVORE blog entries, I hope to chronicle my media consumption, sharing some opinions on books, films, TV shows, music, graphic novels, videogames, etc. I also hope to occasionally provide longer think-pieces on some of these topics, if and when I feel the material merits it, and if I feel that I have something worth saying.

In the case of The Wire, it just so happens that omnipresent British media curmudgeon Charlie Brooker took up an entire episode of his (excellent) TV review series ScreenWipe to explain exactly what it is that makes The Wire required viewing. And, lucky you, that episode just so happens to be freely available on Youtube! Which means I can just link to it here, urge you to watch it immediately, and consider my good deed for the day as having been accomplished. So sit back, relax, hit PLAY and let Charlie and his guests tell you everything that I would have liked to tell you about The Wire, only a hell of a lot better than I could have, in roughly half the time it would have taken me (circuitous and loquacious bastard that I am).

YOU WATCH NOW!!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

LEFT / RIGHT ~ A POEM

Right
The Cain-Hand 
Abel slew. 
Left 
Behind. 
Left 
Holding the bag. 
Right 
The thing that Might makes. 
Right 
Not asked for. 
Taken.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

THE "TORONTO ART FOR PEACE" EXHIBITION OVERVIEW

On Thursday, May 22, I was fortunate enough to attend the gala opening of Toronto Art for Peace, the premiere exhibition of the newly minted Canadian branch of the international Society for Art of Imagination, at the prestigious Moniker Gallery in the heart of Toronto’s Fashion District. Organized by two of Canada’s most vital artistic scenesters – the elegant Marina Malvada and the ebullient Bhat Boy – it was obvious to all in attendance that this blockbuster showcase for over 50 international artists was nothing less than an unmitigated triumph at every level. And if you’re lucky enough to be reading this before June 4th, then by all means make every effort to get yourself to Moniker so you can experience this wonderful exhibition as it should be experienced: as a sumptuous, psychedelic, multi-course feast for the soul.


THE SOCIETY

The Society for the Art of Imagination is a global organization dedicated to a style of art that has gone by many names over the years. Whether you call it “Fantastic Art”, fantasy art, spiritual art, or surrealism, what most of the works have in common is a vital engagement with the imagination of the viewer. This engagement goes far beyond the decorative, often to a point that approaches dramatic – or even narrative – levels. Depending on your point of view, this can be either a strength or a weakness. For instance, most dentists probably wouldn’t purchase a mural-sized painting of an Apocalyptic mushroom cloud for their waiting room. So it does pose some challenges, both to the artists, as well as to the galleries who would like to showcase their work.

Hence the need for a support group like the Society for Art of Imagination, which “promotes imaginative and spiritually based art that transcends the ordinary, to help bring like-minded artists together in shared exhibitions and create opportunities for Canadian artists at home and abroad”. INSCAPE is the society’s bi-annual, glossy full-color magazine. The first Society was created in the UK in 1961 by Brigid Marlin, a protégé of Ernst Fuchs. There are now branches in the USA, Japan, Africa and, as of 2014, right here in Canada, thanks in large part to the efforts artists Jean Pronovost, Russ Paquette, and  the aforementioned Marina Malvada and Bhat Boy, who is himself a protégé of Brigid Marlin.

For anyone reading this who doesn't live in or near Toronto, fear not! There are three upcoming exhibitions in Ottawa in September 2014, and one at the Ecomuseum in Montreal in October 2015, with more shows in the works. And considering the almost uniformly excellent quality of the pieces on display at Moniker’s Art for Peace exhibit, one couldn't help but be filled with optimism about the near-term future of Fantastic Art in Canada and, indeed, globally. It really did feel as though we were witnessing the launch of an artistic movement whose moment has arrived.

THE SPACE

Just northwest of the busy, bustling intersection of Spadina and Richmond in Toronto’s historic Fashion District, Moniker Gallery provided the Society’s 50-plus artists with a gorgeous, wide-open space in which to showcase their work.


There’s also something to be said for the gallery’s ease of access. Four steps up from the sidewalk, through the front doors and BAM, you were immediately surrounded by incredible art. Simultaneously intimate and expansive, it really is an ideal gallery experience, both for the artists and for the viewing public. Moniker also generously provided ample, strategically-located seating for those (like me) who have trouble standing for long periods of time.

I didn't partake of the wine, so I can’t comment on it other than to say everybody seemed satisfied by the choices on hand. Toronto's own Sunshine Pantry generously donated handmade regular and vegan cheeses to nosh on. But nothing could distract from the visual banquet on display, accompanied by aural enhancements courtesy of DJ Nicodemus the EvilRoBo, who filled the air with ominous, pulsating, binaural throbs, punctuated with the occasional square-wave “skwawk”. He did a great job, and I’m sure the inspiration provided by REX, the giant, metallic man who lurched menacingly over his booth didn't hurt things, either.


The great turnout had the artists and organizers in a happy, gabby mood, and all artists present were happy to discuss their work.

THE ARTISTS

I’d like to start by pointing out that there is no way that I’ll be able to do justice to all the wonderful artists who had work on display at this exhibit. There were dozens of artists displaying well over a hundred pieces, and I only had a few hours to take everything in. With a few exceptions, I will be concentrating on those artists with whom I was able to converse during the show. Also, I will admit up front that there are certain subjects that attract me more than others. For instance, art that deals with occult themes. Therefore, the exclusion of any artist from this article should NOT be taken as a slight against their work.

I. THE BIG GUNS

Part of the exhibit included prints by three of the Society’s honorary members: the aforementioned Brigid Marlin, metaphysical artist Alex Grey, and the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, whose recent passing was commemorated by a small black table placed in front of his only piece at the show: an untitled signed, limited edition print. A nice touch.

II. TICK TOCK TOM


Ottawa-based artist Tick Tock Tom had three impressive pieces on display. The previously mentioned “REX”, who loomed over the DJ booth, is an impressive and weighty beast. But it was his moving pieces – the mechano-tantric “Lungs” and “Bleeding Heart”, with its gushing crimson fluids – that were garnering the most attention. Humble and smiling, Tick Tock Tom confessed that it was “great to get out of the basement” and witness the powerful effect his mechanical creations were having on the crowd. He also described how the auditory element of “Lungs” became an important part of the piece almost by accident, or "organically"... which is mighty paradoxical when you think about it. Personally, I was struck by the yoga-like nature of his heavy metal breathing machine. It was emblematic of the very labor of life. You can see more of Tick Tock Tom’s work at his website.

III. VALERIYA KHOMAR


Of all the work on display at this show, the paintings of Montreal based, Ukrainian born artist Valeriya Khomar were perhaps the most unselfconsciously decorative. There is, of course, no shame in this. With light-dappled swaths of folding, tactile shapes, her work reminded me of an otherworldly Georgia O’Keeffe, and it functioned nicely as an aesthetic palate-cleanser of sorts; a pleasant and welcome respite from the heady, dramatic excesses of neighboring pieces. Valeriya shared a number of amusing anecdotes about her inspiration with me, but I was most struck by her statement that, in her 2013 work “Awakening”, she had sought “to compress Five-D into Two-D.” Find out more about Valeriya’s work at her website.

IV. DAEVE FELLOWES

Local Toronto artist dAeve Fellowes calls his incredible 3D paintings “Biomorphs”, and they include disturbing elements and such diverse textures as eyes, tongues and real human hair. Some of his pieces look like something an adventurous gastronome might serve for dinner, if he was hosting guests from another planet, another dimension, or one of the lower rings of Hell. For my own tastes, dAeve’s works were among the strongest of the entire show, and I urge you to find out more about his work at his website.

V. DAVID DAVIDSON


Another artist whose work, for me, vibrates with a particularly powerful intensity, is David Davidson. Although he only had three relatively small pieces on display at this show, they generated a great deal of interest, and it’s easy to see why. I've been following Davidson’s work for the better part of two decades now, and in that time I've watched him grow from a technically proficient if occasionally derivative draftsman into one of the most unique and intriguing visionaries working in Fantastic Art today. You can see more of his work at his website.

VI. STU EDWARDS


Perhaps one of the most difficult things for an artist to do with a piece of static art - as opposed to film, theater or music - is to evoke fear or dread. With both his statue “Niflheim” and his beautifully-mounted painting “Anathema”, Stu Edwards managed to evoke those emotions in me. That’s why it came as no surprise to me when Stu revealed one of his primary inspirations to be Poland’s premiere Apocalyptic visualization specialist, Zdzislaw Beksinski. Explore more of Stu’s provocative, disturbing work at his Facebook page, or check out his Canadian Alternative Arts Collective.

VII. ELVIRA RAJEK


From morbid, dark and sinister, we come full circle to the cheeky, fun and playful creations of Austrian artist Elvira Rajek… or do we? Because, while her candy-colored weapons are delightful to behold, isn't there something more than a little bit sinister to the stories they tell? Even in her ongoing project, “What to do with These Old Shoes”, Elvira manages to effortlessly fuse danger, beauty and violence, and in so doing suggests the existence of a secret, coded fascist language hidden in the heart of High Fashion. Especially impressive is how Elvira was able to combine bullet casings and demolished revolver parts to create a gleaming, metallic high-heeled shoe. From my brief discussion with her about her work, I can also report that Ms Rajek is one hell of a wit. Find out more about her art at her Saatchi Art profile page, where you’ll find her indulging her dark side quite nicely, thank you very much.

VIII. JEAN PRONOVOST


I doubt anyone’s feelings will be hurt if I state the obvious and declare that Montreal-based artist Jean Pronovost’s “Sphinx” served as an unofficial centerpiece for – and was a widely-acknowledged highlight of – the entire Art for Peace exhibition. The idea for his “Sphinx” first came to Pronovost during a visit to Europe, where he kept coming across Sphinx statues everywhere he went. Sensing a cosmic message, he set about creating a Sphinx of his own… only his Sphinx was a protector of the people. That's why she's crouching atop "the personification of an unjustly empowered greed and corruption” who, in attempting to answer the eternal riddle, can only vomit up fistfuls of currency. By the way, Pronovost wants everyone to know that any resemblance between his sculpture and our own fair city’s trouble-plagued Mayor is purely coincidental. The Sphinx has a presence that is difficult to describe and even harder to shake, but one thing is certain; it heralds the arrival of a huge and important new talent on the Canadian art scene, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what else Pronovost has in store for us. Keep your eyes on his personal website for updates.

Also, admirers of dark, Lovecraftian horror should do themselves a favor by checking out the website of Provonost’s friend, partner, and fellow Montrealer, Syl Disjonk, an extremely talented video artist in his own right.

AND THE REST…


A few other works that piqued my interest were Lia Fail’s Warholesque canvas entitled “Joseph Campbell’s Follow your Bliss Soup”, the enigmatic Rosmarinus Stehlik’s “Snake Priestess”, and Miguel Tio’s “Dreaming in Montana”, a wonderful piece that would look magnificent in an oak-paneled room with decadent velvet décor. Show organizer Bhat Boy’s “Orbit of a Golden Age (aka Toronto Fish)” was quite beautiful, as well.

Chris Thomas’s Tarot-inspired tableaux featuring lone Templars dwarfed by iconic fantasy locales were very intriguing, as were Clara Blackwood’s ephemeral series of bird portraits. Fantastic without falling prey to whimsy, “Winter Owl” was particularly beautiful. Nadezna Illan’s elephant portraits were well done, and Lina Faroussi’s unnerving tableaux teem with paranoid faces Steve Ohlrich’s beautifully realized fantasias and Gaia Orion’s politically progressive pieces both featured a commanding hand and enviable graphic clarity.


France Garrido’s mosaic-like “Persephone and Demeter” was impressive, as were Russ Paquette’s sparkling “Process of Becoming” and “In Search of the Yellow Brick Road”. The pieces “Man or Mouse” and “Breath” both featured magnificent realism on a large scale… though unfortunately, I lost the artist’s name.

Finally, I was tickled by the number of people who were using their SmartPhones to take snapshots of show organizer Marina Malvada’s wickedly funny panorama, which itself portrays a group of people photographing an apocalyptic mushroom cloud with their SmartPhones.

CONCLUSION


It was obvious to everyone present that the Art for Peace event has the potential to be a springboard for even bigger, better things in the very near future. I’ve never seen so many happy, smiling, downright contented people at a gallery show. The atmosphere was electric with positive vibes. Goths mingled freely with rocker dudes and heavily muscled artists whose media include engine blocks and human blood. People decades apart in age gabbed away contentedly with each other while artists mingled and kibitzed with one and all, regardless of whether or not you looked like the kind of person who was likely to drop five grand on a piece of original artwork.  It was a wonderful night, and I think the Canadian arts community has been waiting for something like this for a long, long time. Now that it has, it’s time for everyone to gather their wits, assemble their tools…and get to work!