Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The River Riders: An Exciting Lumberjack Story

Available in full from Canadian project Gutenberg.

Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966)

Is There a Feminine Genius? - Julia Kristeva


Reefer Madness

One sees, starting with the 19th Century, gaining speed into the 20th, the merging of interest in an unlimited, visionary subjectivity (a la Romanticism) and the recreational use of perception-altering drugs. Conveniently, the ritual serves as a leisure-time demonstration for what is being said by an emergent psychology field: that subjectivity is a chemical, biological process, not a transcendent one.

A notable contribution from the 19th is the European and North American para-literature on opium use and the confessional of addiction. Thomas DeQuincey establishes the genre. Charles Baudelaire adds to the correspondence between drugs and psychological states a hammy, character-actor's brogue. Writerly observations of opium dens become faddish.

Into the 20th, there is Celine whose take on hardboard realism is tantamount to hallucination (the subject of literal drug use is not explored). Aldous Huxley is perhaps the prominent idealist and optimist of drug use, holding it dear for tapping into hitherto under-experienced adventures in subjectivity, explorations aligned with mysticism. Shortly later, Timothy Leary follows his example. William Burroughs is less rosy: drug use being the commodification of subjectivity--subjectivity given an external, material form--turns subjectivity over to the laws of commodities: trade, regulation, policing, negotiable ownership.

Hashish and Opium Literature

Other Narcotics Literature

Contemporary Resources

In Film
Curious Alice - 1970s After School Special

Reefer Madness 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grand Guignol: Resources, Film, Texts

Meaning "Giant Puppets," pulp genre horror owes a great deal to this early 20th C French, live action schlock theater, as does the furnishings of the carnival fun-house and our contemporary sense of the eerie, gory and the macabre. For a history and some cultural context, GrandGuignol.com has a lot of helpful articles and links to resources online. 

Other Resources

Andre de Lorde's: At the telephone is an online Grand Guignol play, in English translation. This mini-drama is pretty smart on why communication technology always seems to contain within it an uncanny sense.

Devil Doll. An American film that borrows stylistic cues from this French horror theater, Devil Doll is also notable for the inclusion of Rafaela Ottiano, a former Grand Guignol actress whose somewhat bizarre performance gives a good idea of the broad, melodramatic acting style presented on the Grand Guignol stage. Not the best film ever made, this version was shown as part of the sadly defunct comedy-cult program Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Hacks, Hustlers, Charlatans, Liars, Fiction Writers and Thieves

These writers, similar to Laura Albert, blur the line between hoax and reportage. They become actors, game players in their own fictions and grandiloquent memoirs, to a lesser or greater degree.

Laura Albert is more of an enigma, Warhol showman, that shoplifter of persona. The contours of opportunism, financial, careerist, are much more clear in these cases. In most cases because there's less art to the con.

This is reportage through the lens of resentment, coupled with a despairing fascination with the fleetingness of Truth, despite all the mass industries set up to present their spin on it.

Others seem to have worked out a sophisticated theory of how the sentimental potboiler intersects with a culture's trauma, with a view towards commercial success. In the cloyingly sentimental yet disquieted climate of an affluent post industrial landscape, impoverished, hopeless and/or abused youth began to suit the sentimental criteria for privileged subject.

This doomed urchin, upbraiding wealth and material accomplishment by her or his very existence, honour a latent but recurring Rousseau-like theme in America: the corruption of society by virtue of shattered innocence.

This newer genre, obeying the dictates of good showmanship, posits: always better if that abject youth is real than a story.

The prose can be titillating, sensational, excruciating, sadistic, erotic, repugnant, heart-tugging, with borrowed flourishes from the movies.

Certain motifs and conventions abound: Addiction then twelve step programs, unwholesome parents, sexual and physical abuse portrayed graphically, one might say luridly, punishment and enduring, a call for mass-cultural healing.

The redemption sought becomes not coincidentally an economic and professional boon for the writer.

Each of these authors understand journalistic realism with an eagle eye for convincing detail and colourful character. Embarked on a professional thrill ride where real money or status is at stake (one reality consistent to all these stories), charged with the gung-ho, high spirits of gamblers, they remain relatively unapologetic of their actions to the last, self-cast anti-heroes in a morally erratic capitalism gone off the rails.

Psychologically, they are often deferring, evasive, charming. In the last, they are an empty byline.

Often, the permission the author feels he or she needs to invoke begins with that convention, now invisible if  practically everywhere in our culture: I am a survivor. A noteworthy subject should also physically manifest symptoms of worrisome decline in puritanical or Utopian America: poverty, crushed egalitarianism, broken homes, suburban disillusionment, addiction, violence, moral squalor, sexual permissiveness, AIDS.

The villain in this story is unrepentant abuser (abuser both of people but also of substances, physical pleasures, sex, drugs). Heroes are the abused who have admitted their helplessness before destiny, renouncing decadent worldly pleasures, expressed in a way that touches the heart. The view is protestant, religious through and through.

In response to a hunger for such material, material that, in the words of Oprah has a "dramatic impact" on other morally sick, trembling lives, these writers inaugurate the new genre: poverty, abuse porn; tiny exploitation films cast as credible journalism, warbled or barked from the pulpit.

If one wishes to consider the contemporary lie as a naive art, here are some of its masters.

The Dubious Borderline Affair of Mr. Daisey Going to China
Transcript of the original This American Life episode: "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory."
‘This American Life’ Retracts Episode on Apple’s Suppliers in China

Dave Pelzer
Excerpts from a Child Called It.

James Fray
Also: In the New York Times
Excerpts from A Million Little Pieces.

Stephen Glass
Also, in Vanity Fair.
Also, in Slate.
Also, the original article which caused the trouble.
Other amusing hatchetjobs:
 "A Day on the Streets", for The Daily Pennsylvanian, June 6, 1991
“Mrs. Colehill Thanks God For Private Social Security”, June 1997, for Policy Review magazine. PDF format.
“Probable Claus”, published January 6 & 13, 1997
"Holy Trinity", published January 27, 1997
“Don't You D.A.R.E.”, published March 3, 1997
“Writing on the Wall”, published March 24, 1997
"Slavery Chic", published July 14 & 21, 1997
“The Young and the Feckless”, published Sept. 15, 1997

Jayson Blair
(April 19, 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: VETERANS; In Military Wards, Questions and Fears From the Wounded".
(April 7, 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: THE FAMILIES; For One Pastor, the War Hits Home".
(April 3, 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: THE HOMETOWN; Rescue in Iraq and a 'Big Stir' in West Virginia"
(March 27, 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: MILITARY FAMILIES; Relatives of Missing Soldiers Dread Hearing Worse News"
(March 3, 2003). "Making Sniper Suspect Talk Puts Detective in Spotlight" 
(February 10, 2003). "Peace and Answers Eluding Victims of the Sniper Attacks".
(October 30, 2002). "Retracing A Trail: The Investigation; U.S. Sniper Case Seen As A Barrier To A Confession"

Viki Johnson
Excerpts from a Rock and a Hard Place

Jonah Lehrer Charmed Me, Then Blatantly Lied to Me About Science

50's Slang (Abridged)

Actor — Show-off. 

Agitate the Gravel  — To leave (hot-rodders).
Ankle-biter  — A child.
Antsville  — A place full of people.
Ape — Used with go - to explode or be really mad.
Are You Writing a Book — You're asking too many questions.

Baby — Cute girl, term of address for either sex.
Back Seat Bingo — Necking in a car.
Bad News  Depressing person.
Bash  Great party.
Bent eight — V-8 engine (hot-rodders).
Big Daddy — An older person.
Big Tickle  Really funny.
Bit  An act.
Blast  A good time.
Blow off  To defeat in a race (hot-rodders).
Bobbed  Shortened.
Boss  Great.
Bread  Money.
Bug     "You bug me" — to bother.
Burn Rubber  To accelerate hard and fast (hot-rodders).

Cast an Eyeball — To look.
Cat  —  A hip person (Beats).
Chariot  —  Car (Beats).
Cherry  —  Originally, an unaltered car. Later, anything attractive (hot-rodders, originally).
Chick in Skins  —  Woman in a fur coat.
Chrome-plated  — Dressed up (hot-rodders, originally).
Circled  —  Married.
Classy Chassis  — Great body.
Cloud 9  — Really happy.
Clyde  — Term of address, usually for a normal person (Beats).
CookCookin' —  Doing it well.
Cooties  —  Imaginary infestations of the truly un-cool.
Cranked  —  Excited (Beats).
Cream   Originally, to dent a car. Later, to badly damage (hot-rodders, originally).
Cruisin' for a Bruisin'  Looking for trouble.
Cube —  A normal person.
Cut the Gas  — Be quiet!
Cut out  —  Leave.

D.D.T—  (Drop Dead Twice) Response: What, and look like you?.
Deuce   A 1932 Ford (hot-rodders).
Dibs  —  A claim - as in "got dibs" on that seat.
Dolly  —  Cute girl.
Don't Have a Cow  —  Don't get so excited.
Drag     (hot-rodders) —  A short car race; (Beats) A bore.
Duck Butt or D.A. —  Hairstyle of greasers where hair in back is combed to the middle, then with end of comb, make a middle part.

Earthbound  —  Reliable.
Epistle  — Letter.
Eyeball  —  Look around.

Fake Out  —  A bad date.
Fast  —  Someone who was sexually active.
Fat City  —  A great thing or place; Happy.
Fire up  —  Start your engine (hot-rodders).
Flat out  —  Fast as you can.
Flat-top  —  Men's hairstyle. A crewcut which is flat across the top.
Flick  —  A movie.
Flip  —  To get very excited.
Flip-top  —  A convertible car.
Floor it  —  Push the accelerator to the floor (hot-rodders).
Fracture  —  To amuse.
Fream —  Someone who doesn't fit in.
Front Burner  —  Current crisis.
Frosted  —  Angry.

Germsville —  An illness - Buzzed by germsville means put in the hospital.
Get Bent—  Disparaging remark as in "drop dead."    
Get with it  —  Understand.
Gig  — Work, job (Beats).
Ginchiest  —  Coolest.
Go Ape  —  Get very excited.
Go for Pinks  —  A drag race where the stakes are the car's pink slip (hot-rodders).
Goof  —  Someone who makes mistakes.
Goopy —  Messy.
Goose it  —  Accelerate the car fully (hot-rodders).
Greaser  —  A guy with tons of grease in his hair, which later came to describe an entire. group of people.
Grody —  Sloppy, messy or dirty.

Hang  —  As in "hang out" which means to do very little.
Haul Ass  —  Drive very fast (hot-rodders).
Heat  —  Police (Beats).
Heels on Fire  —  In a hurry.
Hopped up  —  A car modified for speed (hot-rodders).
Horn  —  Telephone.
Hottie —  A very fast car (hot-rodders).

Illuminations  —  Good ideas, thoughts.
In Orbit  —  In the know.
International Intrigue Dodge  —  Private eye business.
Ivy Leaguer  —  Pants style. Also any person who attended an Ivy League college.

Jacked up  —  Car with raised rear end. (hot-rodders).
Jacketed  —  Going steady.
Jelly Roll  —  Men's hair combed up and forward on both sides, brought together in the middle of the forehead.
Jets  —  Smarts, brains.
Kick  —  A fun or good thing; Also, a fad.
Kill  —  To really impress.
Knuckle Sandwich  —  A fist in the face
Kookie  —  Nuts, in the nicest possible way

Later, also LaterGator  —  Goodbye. See ya later, alligator. Response: after while crocodile.
Lay a Patch  —  To accelerate so rapidly that you leave a patch of rubber on the road.
Lay on  —  To give (Beats).
Lighting up the Tilt Sign  —  Lying.
Like CrazyLike Wow  —  Really good, better than cool.
Long Green  —  Money.

Machine  —  A car (hot-rodders).
Made in the Shade  —  Success guaranteed.
Make out  —  A kissing session.
Make the Scene  —  To attend an event or activity.
Meanwhileback at the Ranch  —  From TV Westerns. Usually used to get a storyteller back on track.
Mirror Warmer  —  A piece of pastel fabric (often cashmere) tied around the rear view. mirror. A 50s version of the Medieval wearing your lady's colors.
Most  —  As in "the most" - high praise usually of the opposite sex.
Mushroom People  —  People who come out at night to play.

Nerd  —  Same as now. Bill Gates without the money.     
Nest  —  A hair-do.
Nod  —  Drift off to sleep.
Nosebleed  —  As in hey, nosebleed - hey, stupid. Not a compliment!.
No Sweat  —  No problem.
Nowhere  —  Opposite of cool. Nowheresville was a boring, bad place to be. (Beats)
Nuggets  —  Loose change.

Odd Ball  —  Someone a bit off the norm.
Off the Line  —  Start of a drag race (hot-rodders).
On the Stick  —  Pulled together. Bright, prepared.

Pad  —  Home.
Paper Shaker  —  Cheerleader or Pom Pom girl.
Party Pooper  —  No fun at all.
Passion Pit — Drive-in movie theatre.
Peel out — To accelerate hard and fast (hot-rodders).
Peepers — Glasses.
Pile up Z's — Get some sleep.
Pooper — No fun at all.
Pop the Clutch — Release the clutch pedal quickly so as to get a fast start.
Pound — Beat up.
Punch it — Step on the gas (hot-rodders).
Put down — To say bad things about someone.

Radioactive — Very popular.
Rag Top — A convertible car.
Rap — To tattle on someone (Beats).
Rattle your Cage — Get upset.
Raunchy — Messy or gross in some other way.
Razz my Berries — Excite or impress me.
Real Gone — Very much in love. Also unstable. Hmm, there's a difference?
Reds — The Communists.
Righto —  Okay.
Rock — A diamond
Rocket — A car (hot-rodders).
Rod — A car (hot-rodders).
Royal Shaft — Badly or unfairly treated.

Scream — Go fast.
Screamer — A hot rod.
Shoot LowThey're Riding Shetlands — Be careful.
Shot down — Failed.
ShuckShuckster — A deceiver, liar or cheat
Sides — Vinyl records.
Sing — To tattle or inform on someone (Beats).
Smog in the Noggin' — Memory loss.
Sounds — Music.
Souped up — A car modified to go fast.
Spaz — Someone who is uncoordinated. A clutz.
Split — Leave.
Square — A regular, normal person. A conformist.
Stable the Horses — Park the cars.
Stacked  — A woman with large breasts.
Stack up — To wreck a car (hotrodder).
Submarine Races — While waiting for the submarines to race, which might take quite. awhile :>) couples found creative ways of killing the time.

Tank — A large sedan (usually driven by parents).
Tear Ass — Drive (or go) very fast.
That's Close — Something wrong or not true.
Think Fast — Usually said right before someone threw something at you.
Threads — Clothes.
Tight — Good friends.
Total — To completely destroy, most often in reference to a car.
T.T.T.S— Take two their small.

Unreal — Exceptional.

Wail — Go fast.
Washington — A dollar.
Wazoo — Your rear end.
Weed — A cigarette.
Wet Rag — Someone who's just no fun.
Word from the Bird — The truth (Beats).
What's BuzzinCuzzin — What's new?
What's your TaleNightingale  What's the story?
Wheelie  Lift the car's front wheels off the ground by rapid acceleration.