Thursday, September 25, 2014

111. A jumble of limbs } of ill-assorted limbs.


Certainly this observation is not new. Apollonius (the Rhodian) describes evolution in Book 4 of the Argonautica. Here, read, from E. V. Rieu’s translation, a description of the creatures that attend Circe:
A number of creatures whose ill-assorted limbs declared them to be neither man nor beast had gathered round her like a great flock of sheep following their shepherd from the fold. Nondescript monsters such as these, fitted with miscellaneous limbs, were once produced spontaneously by Earth our of the primeval mud, when she had not yet solidified under a rainless sky and was deriving no moisture from the blazing sun. But Time, combining this with that, brought the animal creation into order.
Time! From ancient oceans, under the right circumstances, with enough time, life happens and evolves.

From Richard Hunter’s translation:
Her beasts—which were not entirely like flesh-devouring beasts, nor like men, but rather a jumble of different limbs—all came with her…. Similar to these were the creatures which in earlier times the earth itself had created out of the mud, pieced together from a jumble of limbs, before it had been properly solidified by the thirsty air or the rays of the parching sun had eliminated sufficient moisture. Time then sorted these out by grouping them into proper categories.
Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species!

(Apollonius’ Circe is wonderful. Alternately magic and mundane. Sunlight behind her eyes, as it is with “all Children of the sun.” Visions of blood that pours from the walls of her cottage. Then sympathy and harsh words to Medea who is only there for absolution from her aunt.


Circe reminds me of my beloved Sidhuri, the veiled tavern-keeper who tells Gilgamesh “You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping.”)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

110. Vickers in her spacesuit } aboard the Prometheus.


[The following is minute 11 of a pseudo-essay called “10 Minutes from Prometheus” you can read in the current issue of OpenLetters Monthly.]

1:44:35: In response to a distress signal, the Nostromo sends a landing party out onto the moon LV-426 and into the remains of a downed spacecraft. There, on the control deck, they find the remains of an astronaut (the “Space Jockey”) and, covered in mist, eggs. The next act of Ridley Scott’s Alien is driven by questions, partially answered, about the egg; the rest of the film by the egg’s end-result: a monster and its need to eat and reproduce. The Space Jockey remains a mystery. Giant, welded to its chair, and, apparently, with a head like the skull of an elephant.

Prometheus reintroduces the Space Jockey as an “engineer,” and, we learn, more human than elephant: the skull and the trunk in fact a helmet and tubing; the ribs part of a spacesuit.

The spacesuits worn by the crew of the Prometheus are blue with orange piping and form-fitting. They’re aesthetically pleasing. And though, as spacesuits, they must entirely cover their wearer, they are nonetheless revealing. Considered from the point of view of the film’s costume designer, the spacesuits allow the audience to see the faces of the actors, even when wearing helmets, and offer the audience the pleasure of looking at the bodies of attractive men and women. In terms of space exploration, designing spacesuits that are thin and malleable strikes me as practical: it’s difficult to turn a dial or work a screwdriver in the bulky gear with which our astronauts are currently burdened. (Efforts to correct this problem are underway, if we are to believe Wired magazine.)


What of an alien's discovery of humankind? If the dried husk of one of our astronauts is found on a crashed spaceship on a distant moon, how will she appear to it? Not as the Renaissance ideal loaded onto Voyager, but as Michelin Man.

[For the August edition of Open Letters Monthly, I also wrote about space exploration (sorta). See my review of The Mind's Eye: The Art of Omni.]

Sunday, August 24, 2014

109. A new print of } David Lynch’s Eraserhead.


Brattle Theater, Cambridge. Aug. 23, 2014. 11:30pm. 35mm.

She attends all six films in the “Reel Weird Brattle” series: Dark City (7.19), Hausu (7.26), Dreamscape (8.2), Paprika (8.9), Videodrome (8.16), and Eraserhead. Her reward is an Eraserhead t-shirt, size small (the face of the “radiator woman” in a circle  surrounded by the legend “In Heaven everything is fine”). We all get pencils and pins.

Janus is the god of thresholds.

Born from the head out of the mouth sound. In a crater on the moon the whole cosmos born.

David Lynch wrote in Catching the Big Fish that while he was in England filming The Elephant Man a group of “guys who were working with George Lucas” told him that they met Stanley Kubrick and “he said, ‘How would you fellows like to come up to my house tonight and see my favorite film?’ They said that would be fantastic. They went up and Stanley Kubrick showed them Eraserhead. So right then I could have passed away peaceful and happy.” Via another anecdote, reported in an interview with Lynch, Kubrick showed his crew Eraserhead while they shot The Shining, because Kubrick liked Eraserhead’s atmosphere.

Mary X: Henry’s very clever at printing.
Mrs. X: Yes. He sounds very clever.

The horror of people’s kitchens. The carving orgasm horror. Mr. X: She’ll be alright in a minute.

Guard dogs pregnant abortion the front yard frozen.

Eraserhead was compared with old German silent films not because it is like those films but because it’s shot in black and white and there is very little dialogue. An obvious mistake. Eraserhead eschews exposition. It shows and sounds its story. Just like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I see other similarities between the two films. Fetuses, for instance.

Mary X: Mother! They’re still not sure it is a baby. (How does mother feel when she loses control of herself and shouts at her child?) The baby is not cute. In 1977, David Lynch wouldn’t tell interviewers Stephen Saban and Sarah Longacre how he made the baby. What are you talking about? A lack of sleep = to losing your mind. Henry takes the baby’s temperature: it’s perfectly normal but—jolt! the baby is covered in boils. Water. Boils.

Worm in a box [the worms from Lynch's Dune].

Am I going to follow her out of the theater?

A black and white floor. Curtains. A mysterious woman. Lamps. [Agent Dale Cooper visits the Red Room (“redrum”). Fred Madison slips into the dark mirrors in the “Gray House.” Laura Dern gets lost in the sets of On High in Blue Tomorrows.]

Sparks from an electrical outlet. Scissors to cut the baby’s swaddling. Its death is huge. The moon as egg and light. Black and silent.


1:22am, we are on Brattle Street.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

108. Color Plates finder } images from which.



“These are not interpretations or explanations of paintings—not even extrapolations or ekphrases. Instead, Color Plates is about the way a painting can provoke memory, can rustle its way into our head and incite synapses to connect in ways that are far from being obvious in the painting itself. Golaski superimposes the image in the painting with the event trapped in the head, laying the second on top of the first like ‘two texts on tissue paper’ or two lovers in a bed.” 

—Brian Evenson


The little stories (plates) in Color Plates are so removed from their first inspiration—the painting for which they are named—that a reader has all she needs in the text. That said, I appreciate that she might want more. Since the paintings are not reproduced in the book, the simplest way to get a sense of them is to search the Web. Some readers have done—have sat at a computer with book in hand and read and looked and read and looked.

Why it took so long for this ideas to occur to me I don't know, but the following is the contents of Color Plates, with links. I only include links to the websites of the museums that own the work. I assume a museum site promoting their permanent collection will be more accurate about details than other sources. In some cases, I couldn't find such a link (and in some cases, the work is in a private collection. For instance, Toulouse Lautrec's "The Laundress"). If you find a link I haven't, let me know and I'll add it.

1. Édouard Manet



“Boy with Cherries”
“Boating at Argenteuil”
“White Lilacs and Roses”
* Manet's “The Beach at Berck” is a favorite of Zetta's.

2. Edgar Degas

“The Dancing Class” (1880)
“The Cotton Market, New Orleans”
“The Café Singer”

* Degas painted many dance classes. Another, very similar to the painting in the Met, is at the Musée d'Orsay. I can't say with certainly which it was I originally studied for my story. 
** This, a sketch by Degas, may not the work I wrote from.

3. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“Portrait of the Artist’s Mother Reading
“The Laundress”
“A Corner in the Moulin de la Galette”
“La Visite: Rue des Moulins”
“Woman Fixing Her Stocking” *
“The Grand Loge”
“In a Private Room at ‘Le Rat Mort’”
“The Modiste”
* Also “Woman Pulling Up Her Stocking,” apparently at the Musee Toulouse-Lautrec, though I can't find the image on their site.

4. Mary Cassatt

“Head of a Young Girl”
“Reading Le Figaro”
“Young Woman in Black”
“Five O’Clock Tea”
* Or, In the Loge

Color Plates is on sale at the Rose Metal Press website for $12