Monday, August 27, 2007

Kinski, Hezog and Re(s)training the Eye

Fitzcarraldo Dir. Werner Herzog (1982)

Yesterday I saw My Best Fiend (German: Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski, literally My Dearest Enemy - Klaus Kinski) the 1999 documentary about the professional and personal relationship between German film maker Werner Hezog and actor Klaus Kinski. It was a fascinating protrait of two manic and dedicated artists. Dedicated to the point were life seemed secondary to the vision of creation. I have seen ( a long time ago) two of the five films Hezog and Kinski made together, Fitzcarraldo (above) and Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972):

These films are like hallucinations which seep through a rip in the fabric of time. Ghosts emerging from the mist swirling round the riverhead of consiousness. After I watched My Best Fiend at a friends place we emerged from the apartment to an oncoming rain storm. As the large drops began to fall I cycled fast through the forest to get home, everywhere my eye fell upon seemed wonderous. Green leaves holding water as they slowly bowed beneath the crystal weight. A plastic toy tractor left in a parking space in a full carpark. The playground deserted outside our home. Ín the documentary Herzog said he had trouble directing Kinski when the latter came to realize he was just a speck on the landscape and not the focus of the film image. The jungle, river, mountain were the stars of these films. The Kinski figures which gesticulate (á la Artaud) in the landscape, attempting to escape or master it are actually in a death struggle and are unaware of it. I think these films are important documents which witness the emergence of a new subjective state in the western ideal; I suppose one could say postmodernist but I think the term is fast becoming redundant. Perhaps posthuman is better:

N. Katherine Hayles, whose book How We Became Posthuman grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanism - which separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a "shell" or vehicle for the mind - becomes increasingly complicated in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries because information technology put the human body in question. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technological advancements while understanding information as "disembodied," that is, something which cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices. [4]

The posthuman is a being that relies on context rather than relativity, on situated objectivity rather than universal objectivity, and on the creation of meaning through 'play' between constructions of informational pattern and reductions to the randomness of on/off switches, which are the foundation of digital binary systems

Thursday, August 23, 2007

J. Krishnamurti, Ojai, California 1980 Talk 1 of 6

“Society can only be changed if human beings who have created it ... all change themselves. That is the real problem, the real core of the problem.… Unless humanity, of which we are, changes fundamentally you cannot bring about a society which is healthy, sane, rational. The materialists won't accept this. They say, change the environment then man changes. That is the totalitarian attitude.” J. Krishnamurti

Sunday, August 12, 2007


This is the Mu-Mesons a group which centered around the younger of the two singers in this film, Jaimie Leonarder. I saw the Mesons play maybe 10 times in the early 1990s including at a wedding at the old Journalists Club near Central Station (like no other wedding I have ever been to, Liz and Nick where are you now??) In 1994 I accompanied the Mesons and Phlegm, Lucas Abela and various other Sydney noise identities on a tour of Melbourne. A week away it was a turning point in my life, as I wrote an article about it for the fanzine I would work on the following year, Gar Gah Gag. We published some of Dr Bill's poetry (he is the pirate looking member of the Mesons). The genius of the Mu-Mesons was the freedom one experienced at their gigs; nobody was ever sure what would happen. Elvis numbers could follow a 40 minute noise wave and then space age bachelor pad music until the band removed their clothes and sang nursery rhymes. True joy. Here is a trailer for a film about jamie.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tony Wilson is Dead

Tony Wilson has met God. They are working on opening a new club soon. R.I.P. Tony.

Velvets on Film

Velvet Underground documentary in six parts. Amazing.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Paul Keating - The Redfern Address

On December 10, 1992. The Hon. Paul Keating Prime Minister of Australia gave the following address to launch the International Year of the World's Indigenous People. This speech was recently voted as the most important speech ever given in Australia. (more)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol)

Narrated by Leonard Cohen!

Part 1: A Way Of Life
Part 2: The Great Liberation

According to Buddhist scholar and translator Robert Thurman (father of Uma), The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thodol, “organizes the experiences of the between—(Tibetan, bar-do) usually referring to the state between death and rebirth.” While The Book of the Dead has, of course, a long and illustrious history in Tibetan Buddhist life, it also has its place in the history of the West, particularly among 20th century intellectuals and artists. In the 1950s, for example, there was talk among Igor Stravinsky, Martha Graham, and Aldous Huxley to turn the Bardo into a ballet with a Greek chorus. Huxley, who famously spent his final hours on an acid trip, asked that a passage from the book be read to him as he lay dying: “Hey! Noble one, you named Aldous Huxley! Now the time has come for you to seek the way….”

In another, less trippy, example of Eastern mysticism meets Western artist, the video above (continued below) features poet and troubadour Leonard Cohen narrating a two-part documentary series from 1994 that explores the ancient Tibetan teachings on death and dying. As Cohen tells it above, in Tibetan tradition, the time spent in the between supposedly lasts 49 days after a person’s death. During that time, a Buddhist yogi reads the Bardo each day, while the consciousness of the dead person, so it is believed, hovers between one life and another, and can hear the instructions read to him or her. The film gives us an intimate look at this ceremony, performed after the death of a villager—with its intricate rituals and ancient, unbound, hand-printed text of the book—and touches on the tricky political issues of Buddhist practice in largely Chinese-controlled Tibet. In this first installment above, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life, the Dalai Lama weighs in with his own views on life and death (at 33:22). Before his appearance, the film provides some brief context of his supposed incarnation from the 13th Dalai Lama and his rise to governance, then exile.

The second installment of the series, The Great Liberation (also above), follows an old Buddhist lama and a thirteen-year-old novice monk as they guide another deceased person with the text of the Bardo. The National Film Board of Canada, who produced the series (you can purchase the DVD on their website), did well in their choice of Cohen as narrator. Not only is his deep, soothing voice the kind of thing you might want to hear reading to you as you slipped into the between realms (or just slipped off to sleep), but his own journey has brought him to an abiding appreciation for Buddhism. Although Cohen has always identified strongly with Judaism—incorporating Jewish themes and texts into his songs and poetry—he found refuge in Zen Buddhism late in life. Two years after this film, he was ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk at age 62, at the Mount Baldy Zen Center east of Los Angeles (where Ram Dass, Oliver Stone, and Richard Gere also practiced). Cohen’s “Dharma name”? Jikan, or “Silent One.”

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Cyberpunk Documentary

Perhaps the overriding theme of Gibson's work is the knowledge that, as Bukatman (1993: 5) (rather clumsily) puts it '[t]echnology and the human are no longer so dichotomous'. The boundaries between subjects, their bodies and the 'outside world' are, like everything else, being radically reconfigured (Haraway, 1991; Plant, 1993). The division between technology and nature is dissolving as the analytic categories we draw upon to give structure to our world - the biological, the technological, the natural, the artificial, and the human - begin to blur (Stone, 1991: 101-2). The mainstreaming of cosmetic surgery and the rise of biotechnology, genetic engineering and nanotechnology have led some to contemplate that the next 'generation could very well be the l ast...of "pure" humans' (Deitch, 1995). A programmatic users guide on new technological developments (Rucker et al., 1993: 100) puts it like this: 'We are already cyborgs. My mother, for instance, leads a relatively normal life thanks to a pacemaker. Beyo nd that, genetic engineering and nanotechnology...offer us the possibility of literally being able to change our bodies into new and different forms...a form of postbiological humanity can be achieved within the next fifty years'. Cyberpunk as Social and Political Theory
RJ Burrows, March 1995

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Very Nice, Very Nice

Very Nice, Very Nice is a 7 minute long avant-garde film made by Arthur Lipsett in 1961. It was completed with funding from the National Film Board of Canada. While working at the National Film Board, Lipsett collected pieces of audio and pieced them together as a hobby. When his friends heard the product of this they suggested that he add images to it. This film is the result. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject in 1962. This film brought Lipsett much acclaim and for a time allowed him great freedom in the Canadian film industry, however, his follow up films were less mainstream and the public quickly lost interest in him. By 1970 this film had 200 prints in circulation. It is often shown at film festivals and in film schools.