Tag Archives: hyperbolic transcendentalist poetry

“Boom!” (1968), by Joseph Losey

by Chris Randle

An aging, infamous figure dies isolated at their elaborate compound. Elizabeth Taylor in Boom!, that is, which I happened to be watching last month around the same time that Osama bin Laden made his unmourned exit. The film was presented by my friend David Balzer, an elegiac climax to the “Lizploitation” series he screened with his boyfriend Derek Aubichon. Joseph Losey adapted Boom! with Tennessee Williams from the latter’s 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, which had already flopped twice on Broadway. Whatever the medium, Williams rendered his symbolism in neon: Liz’s rich, expiring grotesque is named Sissy Goforth. She says things like “he was wildly beautiful and beautifully wild.” John Waters called this “the greatest failed art film ever made.”

Every actor seems to be inhabiting a different film. Christopher Flanders, the uninvited poet-stud who may be the angel of death or just a helpfully symbiotic parasite, is supposed to be much younger than Goforth, but the role went to Richard Burton, seven years Taylor’s senior and looking it. Burton wanders around in a samurai costume, reciting Kubla Khan and, one imagines, yearning for a drink. As Goforth’s martinet of a security chief, Michael Dunn makes with the quasi-fascist salutes and smug grins favoured by generations of Bond henchmen. Then our socialite is visited by “the Witch of Capri,” and it’s Noel Coward (!!!), playing a camp vampire from some unwritten Derek McCormack story. When Coward assures his hostess that “I have always found girls to be fragrant, in any phase of the moon,” the delivery really cannot be improved upon. Let’s call it indelible.

Liz herself is a bit of a mess, her accent going to so many places simultaneously that it proves the existence of quantum mechanics. Certain moments anticipate this unforgettable scene (1:21:00 or so) from her ’80s TV movie There Must Be a Pony, a highlights-reel highlight described by one of David’s friends as “the burrito of pain.” But a naturalistic actor probably wouldn’t have found whatever skewed pathos Williams’ script contains. Taylor imbues the role with all her dissolute charisma. As Chris and Sissy take their death-dance to its predictable conclusion, they seem ever more like Dick and Liz, starring in a hopelessly glamorous home movie.

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Tea With Chris: A Secular Hymn to Atoms

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: This clip has already gone viral, but that doesn’t make it any less charming. Who knew that Waka Flocka’s bitterly reflective line about saying “Fuck school” could be repurposed for kindergarten adorableness? (Okay, different songs, but still.)

The Singles Jukebox righteously tears apart Katy Perry’s “E.T.” in the process of giving it a 2.45: “Then you start singing lyrics about wanting to be with an alien, a time-tested metaphor for race even if you hadn’t clarified that he was ‘foreign.’ And then you sing about wanting to be a victim and being abducted. In other words, you’re spouting some really fucking racist bullshit, Katy Perry.”

Margaux: Toronto’s best friend Becky Johnson has launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money for her 2011 summer tour. There are rewards. The campaign closes April 27, 2011. Here is the link if you would like to know how Becky usually makes money.

Carl: Lots of tea from me to try to compensate for my lack of posting:

This beautiful and popular YouTube video, a Japanese ad for a wooden cellphone, glorifies nature not just in its cinematography but in its reversal of the abstraction of music – taking the mathematical mysticism of Bach’s praise cantata, and turning it back into one piece of matter striking another and producing a tone, over and over again. The materiality of the forest encounters the materiality of the ball rolling down the ramp and both are mediated by the materiality of vision, making it all a secular hymn to atoms. And yet there’s the underside: Seeing this enormous wooden ramp built in the middle of the woods, for an elaborate lark whose pleasure is ultimately comercially motivated, can’t help conjuring up the reality that forests are vanishing, that we’re wasting a shitload of wood all the time and emperiling the very natural beauty the ad celebrates. And it’s all for a wooden cellphone, an object that’s itself a punchline to a bad joke about technology and luxury and human (un)nature. It’s perfect, and also perfectly ridiculous.

Montreal journalist Eric Rumble has a newish site called LPWTF, where he looks into the story behind Canadian record covers. I like this entry about the above-reproduced cover of Colin Stetson’s amazing sax-barrage set New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, in particular, because all the little joints and bends in it articulate so much about the artistic process: how it often proceeds very haphazardly to the retrospectively inevitable. Stetson had one idea and the artist took it completely another way, then found out her idea had already been done, and so came up with another version, which she then realized by finding a company in China that made something she didn’t know existed… And the result was much better than anything anyone would have conceived in the absence of all the accidents. It’s a nice way to write about art, although artists aren’t always willing or able to be so transparent and helpful.

I read quite a few poems this week by Noah Eli Gordon. A few years ago he published a book called Inbox made up of emails he’d gotten, stripped of context, over a period of time. His latest book is called The Source, and it’s composed of texts he found in thousands of books in the Denver Public Library, always on page 26. The results are tender and philosophical while also, appropriately enough, a little bit stubborn and elusive-feeling. I like this conceptual-writing thing, but I wonder about its emotional limitations that way, and also whether the people who stump for it are concerned about those emotional limitations, and if not why not.

And then I become very glad that Ken Babstock has a new book of poems called Methodist Hatchet – I am glad both that it exists and that it’s called that. (Along the LPWTF lines, Bill Douglas explains how Methodist Hatchet‘s cover was designed).

Here, as part of a project by How Pedestrian of people reading poems in public places, someone named City T at the DMV in North Miami reads a poem from the book (text here) called “To Inflame the Civic Temper.” Its first line is, “Hey, Assface in the Hydroplane!” All the nouns in the poem are capitalized, a nice Victorian touch to balance out all the cursing.

And here is Ken himself reading in front of St. George subway station in October. His book launches as part of the annual Anansi Poetry Bash, Thursday, April 28, 8 p.m., upstairs at LeVack Block, 88 Ossington St., Toronto.

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Tea With Chris: Control

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: John Darnielle and Kathleen Hanna, two of my cultural heroes, spoke/performed at a rally for the threatened women’s-health organization Planned Parenthood. Until reading Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front this week, I hadn’t realized just how urgent riot grrrl was in its political moment: the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

Abortion rights aren’t imperiled to the same extent now, but slashing funding for birth control and family-planning programs suggests that conservative congressmen (sic, sic, sic, typically) are less concerned with “life” than control over the female sexuality that generates it. As Hanna makes clear, the group they’re targeting saves people. Just ask an abortion provider.

Geoff “BLDGBLOG” Manaugh interviewed novelist China Mieville about architecture and urbanity, with predictably great results, but their best exchange might be the one knocking around allegory:

“I’m always much happier talking in terms of metaphor, because it seems that metaphor is intrinsically more unstable. A metaphor fractures and kicks off more metaphors, which kick off more metaphors, and so on. In any fiction or art at all, but particularly in fantastic or imaginative work, there will inevitably be ramifications, amplifications, resonances, ideas, and riffs that throw out these other ideas. These may well be deliberate; you may well be deliberately trying to think about issues of crime and punishment, for example, or borders, or memory, or whatever it might be. Sometimes they won’t be deliberate.

“But the point is, those riffs don’t reduce. There can be perfectly legitimate political readings and perfectly legitimate metaphoric resonances, but that doesn’t end the thing. That doesn’t foreclose it. The text is not in control. Certainly the writer is not in control of what the text can do—but neither, really, is the text itself.”

Marvel once decided to publish this comic where the Punisher was surgically transformed into a black man before reliving the Rodney King beating. Oh, the ’90s.

Carl: Fans of David Foster Wallace are going to have reasons to be a little less sad this spring (and then, one imagines, a little sadder still). The first sign is this previously unpublished story this week in The New Yorker, which will only make us more impatient to read The Pale King. Though part of me wants to wait as long as possible to do that.

All right, now. So, sure, there’s a fascinating aspect to Charlie Sheen’s toxic sheen, especially the sort of hyperbolic transcendentalist poetry that is coming out of his mouth. But he’s still a misogynist, woman-beating, probably racist scumbag who’s never done anything to warrant all the attention. John Galliano at least has made some things worth looking at. But Cintra Wilson, swoon-worthily, gets the lesson right:

“In the lack of a dialogue about political economy and its effects on individual psyches, capitalist nations instead indulge the delusion that these things are unrelated. We are tacitly encouraged, as a society, not to see corruption as the product of elitism and power — not class-related, in other words — but accidental every time, a result of the personal weakness of the powerful individual, who we are encouraged to view as an aberration — mentally ill, an addict — an exception to the rule, rather than the norm.

“The super-rich are so over-engorged, so coddled, so disgusted with themselves, they are turning into demons, because they have lost all touch with reality and all faith in the boundaries of a sane world. And when tyrants and stars, nation-states and classes believe they are Nietzschean ubermenschen, beyond good and evil, there is, quite frequently, a body count.”

I’m reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids right now, which is a wonderful memoir, moving on every page, and it really makes you wonder how we get suckered into thinking about dickheads like Charlie Sheen when we could be thinking about Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith.

Because, sorry, Charlie, but this is what tiger blood really looks like:

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