Camera-Free Moviemaking

Aug 30 2014 @ 8:57pm
by Dish Staff

Storm de Hirsch’s 1965 experimental short Peyote Queen is NSFW:

Amber Frost looks at De Hirsch’s legacy as “the woman who made movies without a camera:

De Hirsch was actually a published poet before transitioning to film, and as such didn’t have ready access to a camera early on. Her first improvisational techniques were innovative manipulations of whatever film was just lying around at the time, making her as much a “sculptor” of celluloid as a filmmaker. The results of her experiments are now recognized as foundational films in avant-garde cinema. In an interview with [filmmaker Jonas Mekas], she spoke of her early work, like Peyote Queen, saying:

I wanted badly to make an animated short, but I had no camera available. I did have some old, unused film stock and several rolls of 16mm sound tape. So I used that—plus a variety of discarded surgical instruments and the sharp edge of a screwdriver — by cutting, etching, and painting directly on both film and [sound] tape.

Andrew Rosinski concluded that “it’s quite apparent that De Hirsch was somewhat inebriated while filming the sequence”:

Eventually the images flicker to technicolored hieroglyphs and what appears to be tiger (or some other big cat) claw scratch patterns. This is one of the strongest moments of the film; this queues spacey, reverb-drowned basement music. Soon the technicolor tiger claw scratches melt into dancing, human-like lines, and this is intercut with the progressive symbolism of the glyphs — breasts, fish, water, stars, the moon, female lips, seemingly a sailboat — De Hirsch represents these prehistoric glyphs by painting directly on the film stock. Unique, psychedelic motifs such as these certify Peyote Queen as an avant-garde gem.

by Matthew Sitman

Readers continue to tell us about the books, stories, and poems, that have meant the most to them in their lives, and a number of you have asked us to keep the thread going. So here’s another round, beginning with this reader’s appreciation of a classic novel by Alan Paton:

I appreciate Cry, the Beloved Country as I suspect only a Christian – maybe even only a quasi- CryBelovedCountrypostmillennial Calvinist – can. There is much that could and should be said about it as social commentary and criticism and the like, and this does somewhat to make it sweet to me. The lyricism of much of the language is also a cup to be savored and delighted in. There is, I suppose, much else that could be lodged against it as objectionable because of the empowerment it denies to the blacks of South Africa in themselves, but this is not a view I think of often and I think it would have been dishonest for Paton to have attempted it. But what I chiefly remember is the day I finished it, sitting on our apartment balcony on a sunny Sunday afternoon, weeping at the beauty of its content and the boundless hope of its eschatology: all is not saved (though much is), but all is safe, because all is in the hand of God. Injustice may be at hand, and much evil may remain to run its course, but faith will help us to persevere in their despite. Pain is real, suffering is real, and there is no pretending they are not. But God is real, His knowledge and guidance of all the intricacies and the final end of all things is real, and there is likewise no pretending they are not.

Another shares a story about how reading can reveal who we are:

Permit a little spin on the theme, “Reading Your Way Through Life.” I’m a clinical social worker, and in therapy sessions with clients (I work in a public mental health agency, so most of them are poor and poorly educated), I routinely ask, “What have you read lately?” I ask that of any client, regardless of age. Most clients will report they’ve read something – for teens, maybe a textbook that they struggled through; for kids, maybe only a comic book. Adults may have read a romance novel, or a magazine in a doctor’s office. Whatever they report reading, I ask, “What in it appealed to you?” The answer may be profound, or may seem cursory; but the point is, it’s the client’s answer, because it’s the client’s life – and I glean something that may help him. Perhaps the client identifies an interest that’s worth exploring, or a hope she wants fulfilled; a child reading a Harry Potter book – her eyes light up describing a character she likes. Some therapists engage in bibliotherapy, inviting clients to read books (novels, not only self-help) that have a therapeutic theme (many of the book your readers have described fit this). For me, whatever the client is reading invites me to learn something about them – and, if I do my job well, if we talk about it, they might learn something about themselves, too, that can help them in their present struggle.

This reader shares a favorite poem:

Read On

Dumpster Diving For Posterity

Aug 30 2014 @ 7:12pm
by Dish Staff

On his peculiar blog, The Other John Updike Archive, Paul Moran documents correspondence and personal artifacts lifted from the author’s trash. In a profile of Moran, Adrienne LaFrance considers how the project “raises fundamental questions about celebrity, privacy, and who ultimately determines the value and scope of an artist’s legacy”:

Moran has kept thousands of pieces of Updike’s garbage—a trove that he says includes photographs, discarded drafts of stories, canceled checks, White House dish_updikestrashylegacy invitations, Christmas cards, love letters, floppy disks, a Mickey Mouse flip book, and a pair of brown tasseled loafers. … James Plath, who is president of The John Updike Society, says Updike would have been “appalled” and “horrified” by Moran sifting through his trash. But Plath commends Moran for what he did. “If I was in the area, I would have done the same thing maybe. I think he did the world’s best dumpster diving.” Others, like the Updike estate’s literary agent Andrew Wylie, see it differently. “Anything he has is stolen,” Wylie said of Moran. “He was a dumpster digger. And he would steal the Updike’s trashbags every Wednesday … The family takes the situation very seriously. They have certainly tried to get him to stop but he’s not stopped.” …

“It was disgusting, the actual pursuit of it,” Moran told me. “The immediacy made it seem so wrong, but longterm, if you flash back on virtually any major author or historical artist, you would think, ‘I wish I had Mark Twain’s stuff or Andy Warhol’s stuff.’ The only morality, as somebody said to me, is if you could focus more on the culture than the vulture aspect … I just hope that it enhances his legacy.”

(Image of findings from Updike’s trash via Paul Moran)

Imaginary Eats

Aug 30 2014 @ 6:34pm
by Dish Staff

In a review of Sandra Gilbert’s The Culinary Imagination, Bee Wilson traces the history of fictional food:

In a chapter on food in children’s fiction, Gilbert suggests that food fantasies originate in children’s dreams of never-ending bounty. “Lollipop trees and gingerbread houses. Bottles of cherry-tarts mingled with custard, roast turkey, toffee and other goodies. Spoonfuls of sugar.” For most of history, while communities lived in constant fear of the next famine, the culinary imagination was dominated by Rabelaisian excess. In children’s books, we are all still ravenous. We share the hunger of Laura Ingalls Wilder for maple sugar and candy canes. In real life, sugar is now almost as freely available as the gingerbread on the cottage in “Hansel and Gretel,” yet in our bedtime stories it remains a precious commodity. The sweets in the Harry Potter series, whose release coincided with an inexorable rise in childhood obesity, are no less lavish and no less lusted over than those in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Wilson continues, “The nonfiction food writing now aimed at adults contains somewhat different fantasies”:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Aug 30 2014 @ 5:39pm
by Dish Staff

St Simons Island, GA 130p 2

St. Simons Island, Georgia, 1.30 pm

Why Are Book Reviews So Boring?

Aug 30 2014 @ 5:07pm
by Dish Staff

Elisabeth Donnelly wagers that part of the reason “is that the people doing the reviewing are the writers and people in the book industry who are working in a similar genre”:

Book criticism, unlike other genres, is notoriously insular, like a meeting of Harvard men making Harvard plans for world domination at the Harvard club in NYC. … [T]here are too many vested interests for anything but lukewarm praise and a plot summary. (It is why a website like The Talkhouse, which offers “musicians on music” and “filmmakers on film” is clubby, insular, and boring.) And even if a review is critical, it’s only in the context of a discussion of whether or not the quality of the writing is good. But that’s not the only way to judge a book’s merit — or, crucially, its importance.

I find when I meet people who consider “liking books” as an important part of their identity, they’re not always acutely verbal as to the hows and whys of how a book can touch your life, heart, and brain. They’re good, fluent writers, but not good critics. They can enthuse on something for 1000 words, but they can’t get to the actual point: why the book matters, how it could change your life. Naturally, these people are often professional book reviewers, and their requirements when they’re freelancing at the occasional publication is to take what the editor assigns, and then to produce a piece that has some sort of thesis and is smart enough to impress people. … The result is boring, because nobody’s being pushed out of their boxes. When you meet people reading popular fiction, by contrast, you find that they’re excited about their books. They read voraciously. They may not be bragging about it online on a cool site, with photos of their long-lasting TBR pile. But they’re reading.

A Poem For Saturday

Aug 30 2014 @ 4:53pm
by Alice Quinn


Evenings of these balmy August days, while riding my bicycle, I glimpse deer stepping out from the edges of thickets—including fawns and young bucks with delicate horns. This poem by Edmund Spenser springs naturally to mind, although it’s sweetly clear that he had something else on his. It’s one of more than seventy-five recordings of his courtship of his wife, Elizabeth Boyle, published with his Epithalamion in 1595.

From Amoretti by Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599):

Lyke as a huntsman after weary chace,
Seeing the game from him escapt away,
sits downe to rest him in some shady place,
with panting hounds beguyld of their pray:
So after long pursuit and vaine assay,
when I all weary had the chace forsooke,
the gentle deare returnd the selfe-same way,
thinking to quench her thirst at the next brooke.
There she beholding me with mylder looke,
sought not to fly, but fearelesse still did bide:
till I in hand her yet halfe trembling tooke,
and with her owne goodwill hir fyrmely tyde.
Strange thing me seemd to see a beast so wyld,
so goodly wonne with her owne will beguyld.

(Photo by Jereme Rauckman)

Mental Health Break

Aug 30 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

Take a quick trip around Hong Hong:

Words For The Wasted

Aug 30 2014 @ 3:41pm
by Dish Staff

Planning to get blotto, schnockered or plonked this Labor Day weekend? David Crystal reflects on assembling an “almost complete list of every word we’ve ever used to mean ‘drunk'”:

Being drunk cuts across barriers. The list … shows only the occasional indication of a class preference (such as genteel whiffled vs thieves’ cant suckey), and occupational origins are seen only in some nautical expressions (three sheets, oversparred, up the pole, tin hat, honkers), though the etymology is not always definite. There are very few formal terms in the list, apart from a few expressions fostered by the law (intoxicated, over the limit), and some early scholarly words (inebriate(d), temulent, ebrious). Local regional variations are sometimes apparent, such as from Scotland (fou, strut, swash, blootered, swacked), England (bottled, pissed, rat­arsed), and Australia (blue, rotten, shickery, plonked, on one’s ear); and since the eighteenth century most new words in this semantic field have started out in the United States. But it’s rare to find a word that stays in one country for long, and these days online slang dictionaries have largely broken down geographical boundaries.

Why has this field developed to the extent that writers regularly make a special collection of these words?

Read On

Beauty As Investment, Ctd

Aug 30 2014 @ 2:56pm
by Dish Staff

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano has more to say on the social significance of beauty-product consumption, turning from high-end splurges to the relatively affordable world of “masstige” creams and cosmetics:

[T]he temporary self-esteem boost one gets from bargain shopping becomes exaggerated when the shopper is able to attribute the bargain to her own skills—for example, proffering a coupon, or bargaining for a lower price, as opposed to simply purchasing a low-cost item. Another way a shopper might attribute a bargain to her own skills is recognizing a good deal when she sees it. Enter “masstige” products, i.e. products meant to be seen as prestige products that are sold at price points affordable to the masses. For New Yorkers, masstige is most evident in the aisles of Duane Reade drugstores, which in the past few years has revamped its beauty section to look more like something you’d see at Sak’s Fifth Avenue—softer lighting, island displays, skin care consultants. Along with that comes products that are more expensive than usual drugstore fare but still less than what you’d pay were you actually at Sak’s. (I’m a fan of a retinol cream I buy at Duane Reade that features sleek packaging and sounds all fancy but is just a brand of L’Oréal. A brand that costs three times as much as products labeled “L’Oréal,” mais oui.)

Indeed, masstige beauty is growing, with CVS entering the market, and with other major drugstore chains already in it. It’s gotten to the point where premium beauty brands are seeing masstige as a threat that supposedly confuses consumers into thinking they’re getting a higher-quality product than they actually are. Which brings us back to square one: The more that high-end beauty brands try to set themselves apart by seeming exclusive and catering to a consumer who sees purchasing that brand as evidence of her good taste, the more that reinforces the appeal of masstige products to a somewhat different consumer, who sees purchasing a masstige brand as evidence of her good sense. The masstige consumer might look at the prestige buyer and think, What a fool; the prestige buyer might look at the masstige buyer and think, Poor thing, or simply assume that the masstige route is a financial choice, ignoring or oblivious to its nonfinancial rewards.